20.  “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

The Lord again begins this statement with the solemn phrase, “truly, truly,” translated here “most assuredly.”  He is emphasizing what He is saying here as of great importance.  Then He tells them that whoever receives one whom He has sent (and the word is pempo again here) receives Him, the One Who sent him.  Moreover, the one who thus receives Him receives the One Who sent the Lord Himself, that is, God the Father.  This is a stunning fact that we need to always keep in mind when reading the book of Acts.  These men, these apostles and those who joined them, were the ones whom the Lord Jesus Christ had sent.  And during the Acts period, to receive an apostle was the same thing as receiving the Lord Jesus Christ, and the same thing as receiving God Himself.  That means that contrariwise, to reject an apostle was the same thing as rejecting Jesus Christ and rejecting God Himself.  This is an amazing truth, and yet one that we can see being acted out in the book of Acts.

Now this is something that does not apply in any way to today.  There is no one on earth at this time whom God has sent in this manner, or who can say that to receive him is to receive Jesus Christ and God.  For anyone to claim such a position would be arrogance and self-misrepresentation of the highest order.  But this was true of the apostles, and this is the credit that we too should give them.

21.  When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”

Once the Lord finishes speaking these things, He becomes troubled in His spirit.  I believe this indicates that His thoughts were troubled.  This was because He knew that one of these disciples whom He had chosen and to whom He had just shown love to the uttermost was going to betray Him.  He now verbalizes this thought and reveals to the disciples that this is going to happen.

22.  Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.

Of course, Judas knew exactly what He was talking about, but this was probably the first time the rest of the disciples had even entertained such a thought.  Surely, though they may have expected betrayal from outside, they never would have thought that it would come from their own little group of twelve.  Thus, they are perplexed, not being able to guess of whom He might be speaking.

23.  Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.

There can be little doubt that the disciple referred to here is John.  As we saw back in John 1, John tends to speak of himself in this book as if he were talking about someone else.  That is because of the purpose of this book: to set forth Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and so that we might believe this and have life in His name.  Since this book, then, is written for the purpose of exalting God, the author minimizes himself consistently throughout the book, so that no one could accuse him of using this book to glorify himself instead of glorifying God.

This matter of “leaning on Jesus’ bosom” does not mean that he was literally leaning against Him, as the translation seems to indicate.  The custom in Israel was that they would recline to eat, rather than sitting up as we like to do.  John here was reclining in front of the Lord…in other words, the Lord was reclining toward His right side, and John was reclining on that side of Him.  This was the position of honor, along with the left hand side, where Judas was reclining.

John calls himself one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.  Indeed, this phrase could have applied to any one of His disciples, and yet John takes this specifically for himself.  Indeed, each one of us can take a similar place, as one whom the Lord Jesus loves, for He loves us all, His children.

24.  Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke.

Simon Peter was on the Lord’s other side beyond Judas.  Therefore, the Lord was not facing Him, but John was, since he was reclining on his left side.  Thus, Peter leaned forward and signed to John that he should ask the Lord who it was of whom He was speaking.  Remember, Peter and John were both members of what we might call the “inner circle” of three disciples within the twelve who were closest to the Lord (along with John’s brother James.)

25.  Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”

The word for “breast” here is not the same word as “bosom” in verse 23.  This probably means that John was leaning over the table when Peter signed to him, and lay back so as to be directly in front of Jesus and be better able to speak to Him when he asked Him this question.

26.  Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.”  And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.

The Lord answers John’s question, telling him that the betrayer was the one to whom He would give a piece of bread after He dipped it.  The idea here in Greek is a “morsel,” perhaps of bread or perhaps of meat or something else they were eating.  They were apparently dipping their food, much like we might eat a “French dip” today.  For the host to give a portion to one of his guests was a high honor.  Thus, the Lord was appealing to Judas’ heart by this action, even as He had appealed to His conscience earlier when He revealed His knowledge of the coming betrayal.  Could Judas carry through with his plan even after the Lord had shown both that He knew of it and that He was willing to show such love and honor to Judas in spite of it?  Surely if there had been any real love for the Lord in Judas’ heart, it must have melted at such an action.  Yet no such melting occurred, but rather this loving act only hardened the heart of the betrayer even more.  How could even a man like Judas reject such an appeal by the Lord?  It is hard for us to imagine what Judas’ motives must have been.  Recently, in writing a play of these events with my pastor, I was tending to write motives into Judas, yet Pastor Mark advised me not to, telling me that for him, Judas’ motivations have always been a mystery.  Indeed, for us perhaps they must be.  Could it really be that mere money was enough to turn this man away from such a loving Lord?  What was the real reason behind such hardness of heart?  Those of us who believe might never be able to grasp the answer to this until the Lord reveals the nature of unbelief for all to see.

27.  Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him.  Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”

This was the last appeal of the Lord to Judas to turn from his wicked plan.  When Judas rejected even this, there was no hope left for him.  It seems that the Lord had held off Satan’s entrance to this point, but once Judas hardened his heart even to this appeal, the Lord’s protection of him was taken away, and Satan entered him.  Notice that Judas was given every chance first.  It was only when he rejected the Lord’s advances again and again that Satan was allowed to control him.  We cannot blame what he did solely on Satan, for he was given more than his fair chances to change his mind.

Now that he has rejected the Lord’s final appeal and Satan has entered him, the Lord knows there is no longer any use of keeping him back from the wickedness he was set to perform.  Thus, He dismissed Judas, urging him on to perform quickly the task before him that was all in accordance with God’s plan.

Was Judas saved?  This is a question many ask.  They point out that the Lord chose him as a disciple.  Why would He have done so if he did not truly believe?  Although we cannot answer for the Lord, I would tend to say to this that He chooses whom He will, and we cannot always say why He does so.  But as for Judas, Mark 14:21 states:

21.  The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born.

I know one thing for certain, and that is that if Judas is ultimately to be saved and receive eternal life, then it was very good for him that he was born.  I don’t care what kind of punishment or purgatory or anything like that you imagine he might receive first.  If Judas ultimately receives the blessing of outflowing life from the Lord, then still in the long run it was better for him to have been born.  So I simply cannot believe that Judas was saved.  If it would have been better for him that he was never born, then it cannot be that his ultimate destination is eternal life.  Judas was not a believer, and his fate will be the fate that happens to all unbelievers.  He may have been a disciple, but he will have no part in eternal life!

28.  But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him.

None of those reclining at the table with the Lord understood why He said this to Judas.  Perhaps they were so used to the Lord saying profound and mysterious things that they missed this saying simply because it was open and obvious.  This might still seem strange to us, since the Lord had so clearly just proclaimed that whoever He gave a morsel to would be the betrayer, and then He gave it to Judas.  It may be that, Judas being the treasurer, being in the position of honor, and being further honored by receiving this morsel, the disciples could not imagine that he was really the one the Lord meant would betray Him.  As the treasurer Judas obviously had a position of respect among the disciples, though he was not one of the three “inner circle.”  But whatever the reason, it seems the disciples totally missed what the Lord was saying, in spite of how clearly He seems to have said it.
 
29.  For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.

Instead of thinking of betrayal, some of them imagined that He was instructing Judas of things he needed to do for them, since he had the money box as their treasurer.  They imagined that He might be instructing Judas to purchase things they would need for the upcoming feast.  Remember, the feast of Passover immediately preceded the feast of unleavened bread (Leviticus 23:6,) and was indeed the preparation day for that feast.  Others thought that the Lord was referring to some donation to the poor that He wanted Judas to make.  As the treasurer, Judas no doubt often received instructions from the Lord as to things to do with their funds.  Therefore, this assumption was not so unreasonable, though they totally ignored the words of the Lord leading up to this that indicated that what He was referring to was a far different matter entirely.

30.  Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately.  And it was night.

When he had received this morsel with the command from the Lord that went with it, he went out immediately in obedience both to the Lord’s command and to Satan’s inspiration.  How strange that they both coincided here!  Surely Satan had no idea that his clever schemes were playing right into the plan that the Lord had to fulfill.

It was night.  Remember, days in Israel began in the evening when the sun went down.  Thus, they would eat their Passover supper after dark when, to them, the new day had just begun.  Then, the rest of the day of the Passover, which for us would be the next morning, would normally be given to the preparations for the feast of unleavened bread, and the sweeping out of all leaven from their houses that it entailed.  At this point, as they were finishing the Passover meal, it was probably getting close to what we would call 9:00 PM.

31.  So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.

This seems a strange statement, coming as it does between His humiliation in washing His disciples feet, and His humiliation in taking upon Himself to die on a cross.  Yet even in His humiliation He was glorified, for His act of humiliation was turned by resurrection into His act of greatest glory, and God was glorified in Him.
 
32.  “If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.

If God is glorified in the Son of Man, then God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.  Notice the interaction between the two.  When One is glorified, the Other is glorified as well.  There is no sharp distinction that can be drawn between the two.  What happens to one happens to the other.  This glorifying of each other is mutual and immediate.  No solid line can be drawn between God and His Son!

33.  “Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you.

Now the Lord reveals to them that He will only be with them a little while longer.  He calls them “little children.”  This is a term of endearment, yet how true it is, for we are all nothing but little children next to the One Who is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end!  Then He reveals to them that they will seek Him, but that they will not be able to go where He is going.  This is just as He had earlier told the Jews (John 8:29.)  Notice that these disciples were all Israelites.  Clearly here, “Jews” does not mean “Israelites,” but rather refers to the ruling class in Israel.  How almost traumatic it must have been to the disciples to imagine that their Lord was going away and leaving them!  That He would leave them just as He had told His enemies He was leaving them!  No wonder they seemed not to hear any of the rest of what He said, but focused only on the fact that He was leaving them, as we can see from Peter’s response in verse 36.

34.  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

The Lord now gives them a new commandment.  Some have called this “the eleventh commandment,” as if it somehow tied in with the “Ten Commandments.”  Yet those commandments were the ten terms of the Old Covenant, which this commandment certainly was not.  There were six hundred and thirteen commands in the Old Testament, and so there is no reason for us to identify this commandment with the Ten Commandments any more than the rest of them.

The word “new” here is the Greek kainos, which means not something that is new as if it had never been before, but new as in different in character from what had come before.  Indeed, this was a different kind of commandment from what they were used to expecting.  This commandment was to love one another as He had loved them.  What a great commandment this is, and yet how difficult it is to perform!  How impossible would it be for us to love even a fraction as much as the Lord does!  Yet if we could, how much different would this world and His people be!

35.  “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This was what the Lord wanted to be the distinguishing characteristic of His disciples: that they have love for one another.  What a great characteristic that would be, and how truly indicative of our Lord and what He is like!  The word for “love” here is again agape, and indicates the highest kind of love, the love that the Lord had modeled to them.  This was a great admonition to His disciples, and it is likewise a great admonition to us today.  For we too should love one another in this same way!

36.  Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.”

It is obvious from Peter’s words that he hadn’t heard a word that the Lord had said about loving one another, but rather was stuck back on the words that the Lord was leaving them now, and that they could not come where He was going.  This must have been a great shock to Peter, who had given up his life to follow the Lord Jesus.  One can almost sense his anguish at the thought that his Lord would leave him.  He asks the Lord the question that must have been burning on his mind: where was the Lord going?  The Lord does not answer him, but instead reiterates that he cannot now follow Him where He is going, but that he can follow Him afterward.  Of course, the Lord was going to His death, a place where Peter could not yet follow Him, although he did afterward.  Yet I think there is far more to this statement than this, for someday, in the resurrection, Peter will be able to follow the Lord, and the time will come when He will be with the Lord Jesus Christ once again, and will once again be able to follow Him wherever He goes.

37.  Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now?  I will lay down my life for Your sake.”

This was the natural second question out of Peter’s mouth, and was really the question he wanted to ask, although he asked the question about where the Lord was going first.  Peter, of course, wanted to follow the Lord wherever He might go, and so he wonders why he cannot follow the Lord now.  Of course, he had no idea where the Lord was really going.  Then, he protests that he will lay down his life for the Lord Jesus’ sake.  Of course, in a way he already had done this, leaving all that he had, including his family, to follow Him.  Yet now he protests that even more literally he would be willing to die for the sake of His Lord.  No doubt at the time he really meant it, although as time would tell he was not so dedicated as he thought he was!

38.  Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake?  Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.”

The Lord knew better than Peter did what he was truly prepared to do.  Thus, the Lord questions Peter’s statement.  Surely He knew how Peter felt about Him, but He also knew that Peter’s strength and conviction would fail, and He reveals this to Peter, predicting that before the rooster crows he will have utterly denied the Lord three times.  Surely Peter did not believe that such a thing could be!  Little did he imagine what was ahead both for himself and the Lord in the hours to come.  Yet even in the darkest time the Lord had a plan to follow, and Peter was part of that plan in spite of his own failures.  How comforting to know that, though we may not know what the future holds, the Lord always has a plan, and will be there for us no matter what!

Notice that the account here in John totally skipped the matter of the bread and the cup that is gone over so significantly in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Some have tried to make a big deal out of this.  Yet we might ask: what is the reason?  Why did the other three gospels treat this element of the last supper as being so important, when it is totally ignored here?  For the answer to this, I believe we have to go back to the great purpose of this book: to convince us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we might have life in His name (John 20:31.)  This being the case, the account of the bread and the cup is useless to the purpose of this book.  The topic there is the new covenant (Luke 22:20,) a matter which does not concern John in writing his treatise on who and what Jesus Christ is.  This is an appropriate topic for the other gospels, but not for John, where this one, great objective must ever be in mind.  Thus, we cannot draw any too profound conclusions from the absence of the bread and the cup account in John.  This event merely does not fit in with John’s subject and purpose.

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