Traitor or Ambassador of Christ?
Read John 13:18-20 (ESV)
“I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
Why did Jesus tell the disciples in advance that He knew someone was going to betray Him?
There has been a long list of infamous betrayers throughout history. Marcus Brutus who assassinated Julius Caesar. “Et tu, Brute?” Benedict Arnold, an American Revolutionary War hero turned traitor when he defected and sold out to the British. The Cambridge Five who worked at British intelligence agencies but passed secrets to the Soviet Union. Mildred Gillars, the first woman ever to be convicted of treason against the US when she used her job as a radio broadcaster to spread Nazi propaganda. These are just a few treacherous examples.
When we go back to the Bible, we also find stories of betrayal in its historical narratives. Ahithophel was King David’s most trusted advisor. 2 Samuel 16:23 records that “in those days the counsel that Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the word of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel esteemed, both by David and by Absalom.” Absalom was King David’s third son who betrayed his own father by conspiring to take over the throne. During Absalom’s rebellion, Ahithophel advised Absalom to sleep with his father’s concubines as a challenge to his father’s throne. Absalom followed this wicked advice on the rooftop of the palace so that all of Israel could see (2 Samuel 16:20-22).
Many biblical scholars consider Ahithophel a type of Judas Iscariot. Both Ahithophel and Judas betrayed a close friend by conspiring with the enemy to kill the king and both men committed suicide after their treachery.
David wrote about being betrayed by those he trusted most in Psalm 55:12-14: “For it is not an enemy who taunts me—for then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together: within God’s house we walked in the throng.”
He also wrote of his betrayal in Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” This is the psalm that Jesus quoted in today’s verses. He cited it as Scripture that had to be fulfilled concerning His own betrayal. Zechariah 11:13 predicted the exact amount of money that Judas would betray Jesus for—30 pieces of silver. Zechariah made this prediction 500 years beforehand!
Jesus was not surprised that Judas turned on Him. He knew all along that Judas wasn’t one of His true followers. In John 6:70, Jesus said that one of the Twelve was a devil. And in a previous study, in John 13:10-11, we read that Jesus said Judas Iscariot was not spiritually clean. All the other disciples only needed a “foot washing” because they’d been “bathed.” They’d been washed clean and made spiritually new. But not Judas.
Jesus knew that Judas was an imposter. The other disciples did not. But Jesus told them in advance so that when it turned out exactly as He said it would, their faith in Him as the Messiah would be strengthened. Judas was a traitor. He was not going to be one of twelve that Jesus sent out into the world as His representatives.
But the other 11 were chosen by Him to be His ambassadors. He said that whoever received them, received Him because He sent them. It’s a choice that we still have today. Jesus said we are either for Him or against Him (Matthew 12:30). If you are not on His side, you are a traitor of your own Creator. But if you have trusted Him as Your Lord and Savior, then you join a long list of ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). What list do you want to be on? Traitor or ambassador of Christ?
Lord, make me an ambassador for You. May many people receive You through me. Amen.
Reveal: 2 Corinthians 5:20 says: “We are ambassadors of Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Who can you implore on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God?
~ Pastor Nat Crawford