Teaching in the Upper Room: God’s Purposes are never Surprised
Have your plans gone awry? Even if you’ve paid attention to the greatest detail, your plans are still subject to change. In contrast to God, we’re neither all-seeing nor all-knowing. Yet God is never surprised by circumstances and His purposes are never thwarted. Satan’s schemes and man’s sinfulness doesn’t bewilder the Godhead, as we will examine in this passage. When we are stunned by life’s trials, we must seek closeness to Him in order to be reminded that God’s purposes are never caught by surprise.
V18-20 – One Among them is Different
Our previous lesson about footwashing didn’t apply to one of the disciples. This odd disciple was unclean, serving another master to an unprecedented degree. But the Lord was fully aware concerning the ones He chose for apostleship, and told His disciples what was about to happen so that they “may believe that I AM” (v19). The Lord indicates that what David wrote of Ahithophel in Psalm 41:9 would be fulfilled between another betrayer and Himself.
There are many suggestions about the “lifted heel,” yet remember the first promise concerning the Messiah, “[her seed] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). Now an instrument of Satan is attempting to circumvent the promise of God by allowing the serpent to crush the head of the seed. Instead, it was God’s purpose that through the betrayal of Judas the Son of God would destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), even rendering him powerless (Heb 2:14). Oh the wisdom of God!
The disciples would be reminded of their authority, and indirectly what Judas could have if only he would repent and seek forgiveness. Judas would be reminded in the last part of v20 that he had not received the Father.
V21-22 – One Among them is a Betrayer
The Lord declared to the disciples that one of them was a betrayer. The Lord was “troubled in spirit” for this reason. The fact that the Lord had a spirit that is distinct from the Holy Spirit helps us to understand that He was indeed fully human. Humanity connects with one another because we all have the same kind of spirit (1 Cor 2:11). The Lord was troubled in spirit because He knew the depths of the reality of the relationship between Himself and Judas.
If you are troubled in spirit today, know that the Lord understands your difficulty completely and lives to distribute mercy and bestow “grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). When the Lord was troubled in soul in John 12:27, He immediately turns His attention heavenward: “Father, glorify Thy name.” We must do the same instead of letting our mind churn with what ifs and self pity.
V23-27 – One Among them is Known by the Lord
Simon Peter knows that the only way of learning would to plainly ask the Lord. Peter likely has the seat of the lowest guest, while Judas reclined in the place of honour next to the head of the supper.[i] Meanwhile John sat leaning on the chest of the Lord in nearness; a place we should all seek to be. But not only did Judas occupy the seat of honour, he would also receive the sop as the privileged guest at the feast. This was the last offer of the Lord to Judas for atonement. Judas receives the sop unrepentant, likely ignorant of what the Lord whispered to John, and Satan enters in.
It seems the powers of darkness have the upper hand, yet it is all in the plan and purpose of God. The Lord encourages Judas to go out in haste. The prophetic aspects of the Feasts of Passover and Firstfruits depended on it (1 Cor 5:7, 15:23). Christ needed to die before the next sunset to raise the temple of His body on the third day (John 2:19). It was God’s due time.
V28-29 – One Among them is the Best of Hypocrites
The disciples are still in the dark in terms of how the night’s events are about to transpire. No one suspected Judas. This shows us at least two things:
The Lord loved His enemies. He was no hypocrite. The Lord knew whom he had chosen, knowing the hearts in full of each disciple He chose (v18). Yet He treated Judas just as the rest and perhaps even treated Him better. The goodness of God sought to lead Him to repentance, but he would not. Do we love our enemies? (Rom 12:17-21)
The spiritually dead can fool spiritually living men. We often remember that Judas was with the Lord for three years, but the other disciples were also with Judas for the same period of time. He was the best of hypocrites. While we shouldn’t actively hold suspicions against all other believers, we should be careful with anyone unknown to us (1 Tim 5:22, 24-25)
V30 – The Betrayer’s Departure
This gospel, which speaks often of darkness and light, refers to night seven times. In this reference, it is almost as if John is reinforcing the darkness of Judas’ heart and soul. Sadly, Judas goes out, leaving the Light and light in the Upper Room for the darkness of night; sealing his place under the authority of darkness possessed by Satan.
This was all according to the purposes of God. The troubling situation you’re in now may have caught you off guard, but not God. Judas never caught God off guard; neither will the beasts of the Revelation or the Satanic-led rally of rebellion at the end of the 1000 years (Rev 20:7-9). God has it all in control, desiring that you “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” (1 Pe 5:6-7).
[i] For a further discussion on the seating at the supper, see Albert Edersheim’s remarks and diagram in “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah,” Book 5 Chapter 10.