This lesson continues our study on the Lord’s Supper. In part one we defined communion and compared it to baptism and learned about the importance of both sacraments.
Part two saw us analyzing how communion was passed down to us by the Israelites and Jesus through the Passover meal. One of the key takeaways from this lesson was that God is a God of fine details.
Today’s lesson looks at the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, the scattering of the disciples after Jesus’ arrest and Peter’s denial of Jesus.
From each of these we learn that God can use all things and all situations, even things that appear to be bad in the moment, for his eternal plans and for good.
This lesson also teaches the importance of approaching communion with an attitude of reverence and reflection.
18) And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.Mark 14:18 (KJV)
As Jesus said this a passage familiar to him in the Old Testament was likely going through his mind. The Gospel of John clues us in to this because it reads…
18) 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 (KJV)
Jesus says here that a scripture needs to be fulfilled. That scripture, and the one he was probably thinking about in Mark 14:18 was Psalm 41:9…
9) Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.Psalm 41:9 (KJV)
We learn from this that one of Jesus’s closest friends is going to betray Him. It was going to be one who was eating with Him. “Self-examination or reflection should happen before we come to the Lord’s Supper.”
We can learn from Jesus here that self-examination or reflection should happen before we come to the Lord’s Supper.
“One of you will betray me…” by stating this Jesus gets them to search both their minds and their hearts.
19) And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I?Mark 14:19 (KJV)
The disciples were clearly moved by his words. They couldn’t believe that one of them, one who had been with Jesus for His whole ministry and time on earth, could betray Him. None of them wished it to be them, so they start asking, “Is it I?”
Jesus meant to teach His whole church throughout the world, that the time of drawing near to the Lord’s table should be a time of great self-inquiry, self-examination, reflection.
We are not told how many were in the upper room with Jesus. Instead of answering them all, He said to them:
20) And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish.Mark 14:20 (KJV)
Jesus says that the one who would betray him was of the twelve that He picked to be with Him. More than that it is one who is dipping bread into the dish with Him. At that moment I would not have wanted to be the one who was dipping bread into the dish!
Anyhow, we are told in Mark 14:10 that Judas was the one of the twelve that was going to betray Jesus.“We are no different than the disciples. We betray, we run in flight and we deny Jesus. Yet, he still calls us to be His followers, and He calls us to the come to the table.”
If ever there was a man who was a true disciple of Jesus it was Judas. He was chosen by Jesus Himself to be one of the twelve. He was privileged to be with Jesus. He was an eye-witness of His mighty works while Jesus was on earth.
Moreover, Judas was an associate of Peter, James, and John. He was sent out to preach the kingdom of God, and to work miracles in Jesus’ name. He was seen as one of the twelve by the other eleven. He was so like his fellow-disciples that they did not suspect him of being a traitor.
And yet this very man turns out, at last, to be a false-hearted follower of Jesus. He even helped those looking to arrest Jesus and left this world with a reputation as a traitor. This is where the popular phrase “don’t be a Judas” comes from.
Jesus continues with more hard words…
21) The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.Mark 14:21 (KJV)
The message is clear. What is inescapable for Jesus since “it is written of him” is not inescapable for Judas.
There is no other way than the cross for Jesus, but Judas did not have to be the betrayer. Judas’ betrayal was a grave evil, but it was deemed necessary for God’s plan to be fulfilled.
In response to Jesus’ appeal, Judas joins with the other disciples in their sorrow and asks, “Is it I?” It seems Judas is planning to play the role of the betrayer to the end.
Now Jesus and Judas are not just instruments of blind fate or pawns of divine strategy. Here we have the divine sovereignty of God and human freedom held in tension.
God’s foreknowledge which sees Judas as the traitor does not foreordain his act. Nor does it cancel human freedom nor does it relieve responsibility for moral choices.“There was no other way than the cross for Jesus.”
Both currents of divine foreordination and human freedom of will intersect. At this moment Jesus works for his redemption and Judas has a choice. What started out as an appeal turns into a warning.
Judas has the space to make a confession but it is slim. Jesus tries to turn Judas by appeal and warning, He can feel the decision of his betrayer.
“Woe” is the word that Jesus is going to use here. He speaks the words for the man who betrays his friend… “good were it for that man if he had never been born.”
Mark emphasizes Jesus’ predictive power thoughout this passage. For example, remember back to the man with the water jar, now it’s the betrayer and lastly, it is the flight and the denial.
The Flight and Denial
26) And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
27) And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.
28) But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.
29) But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.
30) And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.
31) But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.Mark 14:26-31 (KJV)
At this juncture they had finished the Passover meal. The meal ended with them singing a hymn, and now they were headed to the Mount of Olives – the place where Jesus is going to be betrayed and arrested.
Jesus tells His followers they are going to take to flight when the shepherd is struck and that they will be scattered. Jesus is once again referring to an Old Testament passage, this time it is from Zechariah 13:7.“Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him, He knew they would all scatter, He knew that Peter was going to deny Him.”
But then He tells them He is going to be raised up after that and He will meet them in Galilee, the place where he first called them to be His disciples.
Peter replies, saying that even if all of them fall away he will not. Then Jesus predicts that Peter is not only going to “fall away” but that he will deny Him.
Jesus is going to be betrayed by one of His friends (Judas), then His friends are going to all scatter, and finally another one of His friends (Peter) is going to deny Him.
And yet, in spite of all of this, in spite of the heartache that it caused Jesus, God’s plan would not be thwarted. Jesus would willingly go to the cross for the sins of mankind. What seemed bad in the moment, was worked out for good.
Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him, He knew they would all scatter, He knew that Peter was going to deny Him, and that He would be alone after He was arrested and on His way to the cross. Yet He still chose them to be His disciples.
Moreover, he still continues to do that with us. We are no different than the disciples. We betray, we run in flight and we deny Jesus.
Yet He still calls us to be His followers, and He calls us to the come to the table.
May we approach the communion table with reverence and reflection, and may we remember that God is always working out his plans for good.
In our next lesson in this series on the Lord’s Supper, we’re going conclude the series by looking at the context and usage of the bread and blood in the Lord’s Supper.
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