Loved and Leaning Back

John 13:18–30

The total control of Jesus and His troubled spirit are two sides of the same mountain. It is hard for our minds to grasp. If He has total control, why would His spirit ever be troubled? Or, if His spirit is troubled, certainly He cannot have total control? Yet, we see both are true in John 13:18–30 as Jesus testifies to His beloved disciples that one of them would betray Him.

It was known from the beginning. From the very moment that Judas is chosen as one of the twelve, Jesus knows he is the betrayer (John 6:70). After a night of prayer, He chose the twelve. Out of them, He chose the eleven He would keep to the end. He knows whom He has chosen to be blessed and sent in His name to the nations (John 13:18). He is in control.

The betrayer is not the one in control. Cursed Judas does not surprise Jesus in any way. The One who can read hearts has read his completely and is not left reacting to every move of His betrayer. After a moment of deep searching of heart by the disciples at the table, Jesus is asked, “Lord, who is it?” “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it,” was the answer of the One who was in total control (v. 25–26).

Soon after, He would take the same bread and say, “This is my body given for you” (Luke 22:19). Then, it would be given to consume to remember His broken body that heals. Now, it was given to the blood-thirsty betrayer to consume to eternal destruction. Jesus was giving away His body to the betrayer and His enemies. No one was taking it from Him. He was in total control.

Yet, the betrayal troubled His spirit (v. 21). There are many reasons for this that we cannot know completely, but there are clues that He was troubled for His friend, the betrayer. He calls Judas His friend in the garden a few hours later as soldiers come to take Him away. He had given Judas His bread (v. 30), which goes much beyond the morsel that was given to him at this last supper. Jesus had given Judas the bread of His life-giving teaching day in and day out for three years. He was offering the Bread that leads to eternal life with arms wide open. Judas rejected this bread, and, instead, lifted his heal against its Giver. This troubled the spirit of the Giver.

So, too, Jesus washed the feet of His betrayer. What a sign of humility and love to His beloved brothers! He did not wash with a cold heart, even as He approached the feet that would soon betray Him. Yes, He was in total control and chose who would remain and who would betray, and, yes, His heart was troubled at the thought of His friend rejecting His love and walking out the door to eternal destruction. As the Psalmist laments, Judas had returned “hatred for my love” (Psalm 109:5). The One who does not wish any to perish and desires all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) was troubled in spirit.

So, with complete control, Jesus dips the morsel of bread. John is leaned back into Jesus side and feels the troubled spirit of Jesus as He raises His hand. Knowing the weakness of his own heart, John must know that the bread could go to any one of them born with a betrayer’s heart. That was all of them in Adam. In his helplessness, all John can do is lean back. The divine hand passes to Judas. It was heart breaking for Jesus, yet not in a way that was out of control.

John felt the warm love of Jesus, even for an enemy. He also felt the warm love that kept Jesus from handing the bread to himself. Soon after, John would see it more clearly as the Bread of Life was nailed to a cross to die for His enemies. He was always in control, yet with a troubled heart towards those who would reject Him.

We must not weaken either side of the mountain or it all falls over. Instead, let us keep climbing into the heights of His sovereign love as we lean back and learn from His heart.

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