Failure to Repent
Dipping the Sop
He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.—John 13:26
The hour was late. Earlier that evening Jesus had come to the upper room for the meal we know as the last supper, “and the twelve apostles with him” (Luke 22:14). Not long after they arrived, Jesus had passed a “cup of blessing” to the twelve. He told them to “divide it among yourselves,” explaining that he would “not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come” (Luke 22:17,18; 1 Corinthians 10:16). True to his word, even upon the cross when he tasted the sour wine intended for his relief, he would not drink it: “They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink” (Matthew 27:34).
After a time the small group settled down to dine. It was during that time that Jesus took some of the bread from the meal and used it to represent his body, his flesh, which he had told them a year earlier, he would “give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). The world will receive their benefit from this priceless gift during the Millennial kingdom of Christ. But first, during the present Gospel age, his disciples receive their benefit of the ransom provided by Jesus. This is available to all who hear and accept the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
Jesus invited his disciples to partake of the emblematic bread because it was near the time they would receive the value that it represented, to be cleansed from sin. That time was fifty-two days away, at Pentecost, but near enough for Jesus to symbolize it on this last gathering with his disciples before his passion.
The Luke account says, “Likewise also the cup after supper” (Luke 22:20). This expression distinguishes this cup from the former one in verse 17, which was merely light refreshment at the opening of the evening. Paul distinguishes these two cups also. He puts the “cup of blessing” before the loaf in 1 Corinthians 10:16,17. But when speaking of the cup taken later, “after supper” (NASB), he puts that cup after the loaf (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). In this distinction Paul and his companion Luke give the same testimony.
However, both cups had the same meaning: “My blood, which is shed for you.” The cup went among the disciples, and each received it. Matthew tells us that Jesus told all of them to drink of the cup: “Drink ye all of it” (Matthew 26:27). Other translations are even clearer: “drink all of you out of it” (Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott), “drink from it, all of you” (NASB, Weymouth). Mark in particular records that they complied: “And they all drank of it” (Mark 14:23, KJV). Mark was not there, but as the amanuensis of Peter, he recorded the words of a reliable witness.
We are all familiar with these symbols of the body and blood of Jesus, which depict the wholeness of his perfect human life, given for our redemption. Jesus did not invent these symbols, for they are the same as those mentioned in Genesis: “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God” (Genesis 14:18). Melchizedek as king and priest represented Jesus. He gave bread and wine to the men of Abraham, as Jesus gives his body and blood to the seed of Abraham. The sacrifice of Jesus, pictured in the bread and wine, were essential to fulfilling God’s covenant with Abraham. These same symbols appear also in the dreams of Pharaoh’s butler and baker in Egypt (Genesis 40:1-19).
A Betrayer Among Them
Jesus then adds these ominous words: “But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table” (Luke 22:21). This must have stunned the disciples. They did not know whom Jesus had in mind. We know it was Judas, who was still present with them.
As the disciples wondered at this statement, our Lord confirmed the point: “And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!” (Luke 22:22).
Naturally they began to question “among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing” (Luke 22:23). Then Luke notes something the other evangelists do not mention: “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest” (Luke 22:24). Perhaps their self-examination induced them to assure themselves and each other of their loyalty, leading to comparisons among themselves.
Luke does not record the lesson of feet-washing; only John does. Possibly that experience took place next in the order of events, for Jesus reminded them that the greatest should be the servant of all, and “I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:27). This he demonstrated by the kind service he rendered upon their feet. We know from John’s account that Judas was still present during the feet-washing. And there is this: “Ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him” (John 13:10,11).
He That Eats Bread With Me
After Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, John records that Jesus continued to speak about his betrayer: “I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me” (John 13:18). All of the disciples would flee, but only Judas would plot his betrayal.
Notice that this text mentions “eating bread.” Jesus would not have eaten the bread which he passed to his disciples as token of his life given for them. But it is likely he would have eaten bread that evening during the meal he shared with them, for though he specifically told them he would not drink of the fruit of the vine, he did not say this about the bread on the table.
The Scripture Jesus said was fulfilled by his betrayer is from Psalm 41. This is a psalm of David, evidently when his son Absalom revolted and was temporarily successful in unseating his father: “All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise my hurt ... Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:7,9).
The “familiar friend” to whom David referred was Ahithophel, his trusted advisor: “And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counsellor, from his city ... and the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom” (2 Samuel 15:12). In the aftermath, Ahithophel, “brother of folly” (Strong’s #302), would take his own life by hanging, just as Judas did (2 Samuel 17:23; Matthew 27:5).
Troubled in Spirit
The matter at hand did not affect Jesus lightly. He followed up his previous comments with an even more pointed one, and the emotion of the matter affected him: “When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me” (John 13:21).
As the disciples continued to wonder who it would be, Peter beckoned to John, who was nearer the master, to ask him whom he had in mind: “Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it” (John 13:26).
Probably Jesus answered in a low voice so that John was the only one who heard these words. Only the Gospel of John reports this interchange, and if everyone at the table heard it, presumably no one would have dared accept the sop Jesus would then offer: “And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon” (John 13:26). Judas must have been not too far away, within the reach of Jesus, so it is all the more likely Jesus’ mention of the sop would have been privately to John.
What is a Sop?
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary says a sop is “a piece of food dipped or steeped in a liquid.” It might have been any of the solid food on the table that evening: fish, perhaps bread (but presumably unleavened according to the season), vegetable, or whatever. The Greek word is psomion, for which Vine’s Expository Dictionary says “a morsel, denotes a fragment”—in this case a fragment of food which was dipped in the sauce at hand. The word appears four times in the context of John chapter 13, and nowhere else in the New Testament.
What was in the mind of Judas on this occasion? For some time Jesus’ direct words about a betrayer had been the subject of discussion. The feet-washing must have taken time as Jesus went from one to another, Judas among them, and subsequently Jesus announced that one of them was not clean. Apparently the motive of Judas was money. Probably he supposed Jesus would evade any dire trauma in the event, as he had escaped on other occasions, for “Judas ... when he saw that [Jesus] was condemned, repented himself ... saying, I have sinned” (Matthew 27:3,4). But in the hour of temptation, before the fruits of a bad deed have ripened, the mind and moral judgment can be suspended in view of some tantalizing attraction for the flesh. So it seems in this case.
“And after the sop Satan entered into him” (John 13:27). It appears that this interaction with Jesus brought the matter to a head, especially the words of Jesus which followed: “Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly” (John 13:27).
What would Judas do? Had the discussions heretofore not dissuaded him—and they did not—something was needed to trigger his action. Here it was. Here was the opportunity to exit the room and proceed on his errand, in a way that did not rouse the suspicions of his fellows. The words Jesus spoke were evidently in a louder voice than before, to engage Judas directly, and the others apparently heard the words. But they did not perceive the meaning: “Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor” (John 13:28,29).
So Judas went. The die was cast. Judas went out to complete the plan laid days before: “He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night” (John 13:30). It was the hour for darkness to have its way. As for Judas himself, whatever may be his future, here ended all his hopes for sharing in the blessed kingdom of his master in glory. The unspeakable privilege of being a foundation stone in the greatest edifice ever to be created—the very Church of God—was now forfeited for the paltry mess of pottage he treasured.
When the deed was finally done and the fruits ripened, the excitement dimmed and Judas began to see things as they really were. That is the way with sin: when the force of the occasion subsides, and we see the results in their frank starkness, the former attraction becomes repulsive and shame swells up. Judas cast the treasured silver down on the temple grounds and departed to take his life.
When Judas Departed
When Judas went out into the night, Jesus knew it signaled his coming death: “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him” (John 13:31). Whenever people think of the crucifixion of Jesus, they are struck with the love he thus exhibited for the will of God, and the love of God to give his son for us. Both Jesus and God are glorified by this means in remarkable ways that will endure in the appreciation of mankind forever, when at last the human race is lifted up during the Millennium to appreciate what was done for them.
Up to this point the focus has been on Judas. But after he departed, John tells us that Jesus had words of warning for Peter, the stalwart leader of the group whom Satan would have liked to have as well. That record is in John 13:36-38. Luke records that interchange beginning with Luke 22:31. The verses immediately preceding this apparently also followed the departure of Judas (Luke 22:28-30).
Judas would have just taken a “sop” or morsel from the hand of Jesus. It would be his last in any semblance of fellowship with the master. But the eleven who remained would be dining in a spiritual sense at the table of the master forever after: “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29,30).
John adds something more, the remainder of John chapter 14 and all of chapter 15, before Jesus would leave the upper room with his disciples. Among the tender and comforting promises Jesus gave to them was one whose meaning escapes us unless we recognize what it meant in the culture of the day. When a man betrothed a woman to be his bride, he would offer her a cup of wine; if she accepted his proposal, she would drink from the cup. The disciples had done that.
Then the groom would return to his father’s home to construct a new portion for himself and his bride, and then return sometime later to complete the marriage and claim his bride. This is the point, when, after referring to his father’s house, Jesus added: “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2,3).
We have a remarkable opportunity which the world knows nothing about: the opportunity of the High Calling. We have been called to be part of the “bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Revelation 21:9). Along the way are snares laid by the adversary. If we resist these snares, our characters will be strengthened as a consequence. If we weaken, God will provide us pointers in the right way. Even to the edge of failure, God may align circumstances to warn us of the peril at hand.
He did this with Judas and he did this with Peter. But there was a difference. Judas had planned his course and persisted in it, attracted by the gain promised for his deed. Peter was taken in a fault contrary to his wishes or expectation.
And there was a difference in their remorse. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says “godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation,” and this is what Peter experienced. Matthew 27:3 does say Judas “repented,” but the English translation misses a distinction in the Greek for “repent.” In Corinthians the word is Strong’s #3341, metanoia, “compunction (for guilt, including reformation).” In Matthew the word is Strong’s #3338, metamellomai, “to care afterwards, i.e., regret.” Judas regretted his decision. Peter sought reformation.
If we fall, God will encourage us to rise again: “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again” (Proverbs 24:16). Some opportunities may be lost in the process, but God will graciously reinstate us and encourage us forward if we repent and we attempt to reform. The lovely story of the prodigal son from the lips of our master himself assures us that God stands ready to embrace our efforts when we turn back toward him. If our wish is to follow the Master, then through all the experiences for our learning and testing we will receive the benefit. Even in failure we may glean a lesson of experience and a resolve for the future.
We have decisions to make to keep our hearts in the way of holiness. God advises us to “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).