Matthew 26:17-30 Part 2


What we now have before us is the dialogue between Jesus and His disciples while they were eating the Passover.  The usual topic of conversation at the feast had always been God’s mighty acts in bringing Israel out of bondage in Egypt – the plagues, the slaughter of all of Egypt’s firstborns, the first Passover meal, the massive Exodus of over two million people, the parting of the Red Sea and the subsequent inundation of the Egyptian army….  There was no shortage of awesome events about which to converse, and due to which the family could give praise and thanksgiving to God.

The Passover meal was a remembrance and celebration of all those things… and a foreshadowing of that future Passover Lamb which had been promised to Abraham hundreds of years before the first Passover.

But the head of the house was to make sure that, while they were feasting, the topic of conversation was God’s mighty deeds in saving Israel from its bitter existence in bondage to Egypt.

But the prophet Jeremiah (chapter sixteen, at verse fourteen) had foretold the time when that conversation would cease, and a new topic of conversation would take its place.  And the Church would come together as it was commanded to do.  And it would commune in a new sacrament.  And that new topic would be the suffering and death and burial of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

After this night the sacramental meal of God’s people would take place in every nation of the earth, and not just Israel.  And when the children of the world would ask their fathers, “Why are we doing this?” they wouldn’t explain the Exodus from Egypt: they would speak to them of the crucifixion of Jesus and our salvation from bondage to human sin!  From Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria to the uttermost parts of the earth, fathers would speak to their children of the body and blood of God’s Christ, and the union we have in Him because He suffered and died for us on the cross.

But in this last Old Covenant feast, which was the transitional meal from Passover to the Lord’s Table, there was also a transitional topic of conversation.  In the midst of eating the lamb, and during the rejoicing and remembering of God’s mighty deeds, Jesus (again) informs His disciples (verse twenty-one) that one among them was a traitor and would deliver Him over to the priests and elders of Israel (to suffer great humiliation and pain and death).  (It wouldn’t happen during this meal, because great measures had been taken for secrecy.  But it would be during this very night!)

Jesus knew!  He knew the treachery that was coming in a few hours (and His shame and suffering and death) and He knew who it was who would do it.  And He went on hosting the Passover… and ate and sang and prayed.


“Amen I say to you, one of you will deliver Me up.”


It was His Father’s will.  He knew.  And He carried on… knowing the full extent of what was about to happen to Him.  His Father loved His elect people; and His wrath was to be poured out in full measure upon a substitute for them Who would bear all their sin.

And one man among the close, inner circle of His associates would betray Him and deliver Him up to be slaughtered.  And he would do so with malice and avarice.  A man who had been rebuked in public would get revenge; a man who had wasted three years in a quest for wealth and power would now get something… anything… for that wasted life and wasted aspirations.

(All of His disciples would deny Him and leave Him alone in His suffering… as it had been prophesied; and His shed blood would be trodden under foot as an unholy thing… as it had been prophesied.  But there’s much, much more to say about those things at a later time.)

But there was only one who would take Jesus’ life in his own hands and deliver Him up to those who sought to kill Him… which was also prophesied.

But in verse twenty-two we see that the disciples were grieved at what He had just said.  There would soon be a time when one of them would do this deed.  One of them was a traitor, and Jesus knew it.  All of them had followed Him and served Him and lived with Him, and they knew of His holiness and perfections and power; and they had all harbored these great expectations of power and glory for themselves and for Him.  They had seen His great miracles of healing and his control over the creation; they had witnessed His mighty authority over demons; and they had heard His great command of the Scriptures when dealing with the priests and pharisees.  They had heard Him speak of the coming destruction of the temple and His raising it up in three days.  In response to His probing questions they had responded in truth to the fact that He was the Son of God!

They had lived with Him and loved Him and worked for Him; they, themselves, had gone out into the towns and villages of Israel and preached the arrival of the long-awaited Kingdom; and they had seen the healing and awakening of the ruined masses of Israel’s sick and destitute!  And they, themselves, had fed many of them with an unending supply of fish and bread!

And daily they experienced the crowds clamoring to hear Him and touch Him and be with Him.  And they were all there at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem with the huge crowds following Him and those who met Him from Jerusalem.  Through all those experiences, and having developed the tight bonds of love and friendship and fellowship and devotion….

And yet Jesus had spoken to them often of His suffering and humiliation and death at the hands of the priests and scribes and elders of Israel… hadn’t He?  And now He says to them that one of them would deliver Him over to those people!

And emotions and experiences and expectations come to meet the reality of His words.  It was about to happen.  And He knew; and He knew who it was; and they were shocked and grieved by His words.  How could one of them do this?  They didn’t believe Him  before, when He spoke to them of His coming suffering.  Peter even denied that it would ever happen… he wouldn’t let it happen!

But now they believed Him.  Their hopes and aspirations were being dashed as they heard His words, “One of you will deliver Me up.”  It was all coming to an end; and one of them was going to be responsible for it.  The One they had called “the Son of God” was going to be delivered up for the authorities to do with as they wished; and one of them was going to be the traitor who would help them do it!

And then… the guilt.  The collective guilt.

Many times Jesus had demonstrated His omniscience.  It seemed that He always knew the hearts of men… what they were really like… down deep.  And weren’t they all guilty?  “One of you will deliver Me up.”

When it’s revealed that there is a thief in the group… or a liar… or one guilty of some other dark deed committed in secrecy, will not the whole group experience the discomfort?  The face and ears flush and burn with all the sensations of exposure and discovery.  The pupils widen and the fidgeting begins as the shocked mind quickly searches for ways to cover up the guilt.

It’s fear.  Fear of exposure.  What will the light reveal when it gets to the darkest parts?  I am a liar at heart.  Deep down I have the soul of a traitor.  Is it cowardice?  Doubt?

Each one of these men feared for himself, and what would be revealed about himself, for there was not one there that night who was free from guilt.  There was not one who hadn’t doubted the course he had taken; there wasn’t one who hadn’t thought about leaving and doing something else; there wasn’t one who hadn’t been thoroughly disappointed and disheartened over the direction of this whole three-year ordeal.  There wasn’t one man there that night who, deep down, didn’t fear what might happen… and what he would do if it did happen.

And Jesus knows.  And He said it.  One of them would actually do this thing.  And they all suffered greatly in the consciousness of their own guilt and in the fact that one of them would actually go through with it.

And they all began to ask Him, one by one… “Surely it isn’t I, is it Lord?”  “Surely it isn’t I, is it Lord?”  “Surely is isn’t I, is it Lord?”

Conscious of their own guilt; and abhorring the crime that’s going to take place, all of the disciples become very uneasy about being blamed indirectly.  And they want to clear themselves from any suspicion of it.  And their real need is to be acquitted from His Own mouth (which is what all men need so desperately to occur).

Did you hear those two things?  All men want to clear themselves of guilt and suspicion… to cover it up and deny it, and to be seen as guiltless.  But our real need is to be pronounced not guilty… acquitted… from His Own mouth!  Even though the guilt is there; even though we are worthy of sanctions; even though the case against us is open and shut!

You see, the case against us is iron-clad.  Even though the guilt itself, and the denial of guilt and the persistent claims of innocence, and the desire for self-acquittal are so easily perceived in human nature, the real necessity, the requirement of the soul, the heart’s deepest need, it to be pronounced not guilty… even though we are!

You see, these men are guilty – as is insinuated by their question to Jesus.  Although only one is guilty of the crime for which all have been indirectly accused, all of them are guilty; and all are capable of greater sin.  “Surely it is not I, is it Lord?”

He does not say, “Surely it could be, John, but it is not you.”  “Surely it could be, Andrew, but, no, it is not you.”  And even though they might have thought it was hard, or unjust, to be left in suspicion and suspense, He neither confirms their doubts nor alleviates their fears; but He leaves them to contemplate the atrocity which is about to be committed.

But they are soon to learn the reason for that.  For it is for the purpose of fulfilling the prophetic Scriptures.  Jesus’ answer to them is a direct reference to Psalm forty-one which says:


“Yea, mine own familiar friend in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against Me….”


Jesus says to them, “This one… this one who dipped his hand in the bowl with Me will deliver Me up….” 


The one about whom it was prophesied; the one that David foretold… this one will deliver me up.  The one ordained by God and prophesied in Scripture a thousand years ago.

We might say, while we’re here, that there are those in the Churches who pretend (feign) to be intimate friends and brothers.  But should that occasion arise… with good opportunity… they might turn on you and prove somehow to be what they really are.  And to those whose trust and friendship is betrayed, it is often a devastating experience.

But let this passage of Scripture be an encouragement to us all.  How could it possibly be an encouragement?  In this way:  our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the whole Church, suffered the most atrocious betrayal… the trusted friend delivered Him to be crucified!

And since the Head of the Church suffered in that way, why should we be relieved of that kind of suffering?  “Are we better then He?”, it was asked.  Should we expect to be free of traitorous friends if He suffered the final blow from one of His closest allies?

In fact, it’s just the opposite.  Since He suffered the most bitter betrayal of all, we should expect to suffer in Him and with Him in His suffering!  And when we do suffer in the same way, and in His Name, then we are to give thanksgiving to God our Father for allowing us to fill up His suffering!  As we see in the text, this is a “communion” passage in which the sign and seal of our union in Christ is signified.  And if we be in union with Him, then we have a share in His suffering (as well as a share in His death, burial and resurrection).

So this passage can be an encouragement to us.  Not that we look forward to suffering, or look forward to our closest friends and allies in the Church betraying us (that would be asinine); but when it occurs it won’t be unexpected.  And the hurt from the intimate betrayal, it can be assured, is shared with you by Christ.  And that understanding, along with the thanksgiving to God for Christ’s suffering, is the salve of healing, and the balm of the Spirit to an aching and dispirited heart.

Jesus continues to speak to them, verse twenty-five”


“Indeed, the Son of Man goes away even as it is written about Him….”


Here our Lord meets a possible entrapment squarely.  I say “entrapment” because, even the pious, who won’t comprehend the Scriptures, can lose heart and become completely dejected.  And in this situation that could become the case, because what could be more unreasonable than that the Son of God should be betrayed by a disciple, and abandoned to His enemies, in order to be dragged off to an ignominious death!

Could the sovereign, covenantal plan of God for the salvation of the world be so easily interrupted by a traitorous disciple?

Well, we have dispensationalists all around us as proof that people can be crushed on their own foolishness.  Without sufficient knowledge of the Scriptures they actually propose that the plan of God was interrupted by the unanticipated crucifixion of Christ, and that we’re now in an interim period (until He figures out what to do next!)

But to the disciples (eleven of them) it has been given to hear, and to see, and to know.  And their minds were not to be shaken!  For Jesus says to them that all of this is happening “even as it was written”.  In other words, the “decree’ of God, the proof of which is that it is written in the Scriptures, has determined that Christ should be crucified, and that He should “go away” to receive His Kingdom.

And the disciples should not imagine that His life, or His death, could be determined by “chance”!

No man is ever fully confirmed in the death and resurrection of Christ until he is convinced that the sacrifice was appointed by God from eternity for expiating the sin of the world!  And Judas, and all other wicked men, although they have a totally different view, and a totally different end in mind, are compelled to obey!  They obey our Father’s sovereign decree!

But nowhere does Christ affirm that Judas was freed from blame on the ground that he did nothing but what God appointed.  God, by His Holiness and Righteousness and Justice, appointed the death of His Son as the price of our redemption; yet, Judas, in delivering Jesus to the priests, brought upon himself righteous condemnation.  He was full of himself, and full of treachery and malice and avarice.

So God’s free determination that the world should be redeemed doesn’t interfere whatsoever with Judas being a wicked traitor.  Even though the decree of God appointed it, it doesn’t free Judas from his wicked desire to sin!  Nothing could have been further from his intention than to obey God’s decrees; he was following his own will and his own intent and his own heart.

He was a sinner from the beginning; and he was cursed and doomed from the beginning.  And God regulates the affairs of men by His Providence in such a way (says Calvin), that nothing is done but by His will.  And yet He condemns the reprobate by whom He executes His intent! 


“Woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is delivered up.  It would have been good, where he is concerned, if that man had never been born.”


“Surely not I, is it Rabbi?”


We begin here next Lord’s Day with Judas’ question… and Jesus’ answer.  Does he want Jesus’ absolution?  We’ll find out.  And then we’ll move to the Lord’s Supper in the text.

But this morning don’t be fainthearted or dispirited by what you see around you; or by what some traitorous friend or acquaintance might do.  The King of Kings is in control of it all.  Even the wind and the waves obey His Word.

Baptism isn’t a sign of regeneration (as Baptists and others imply).  It is a sign of covenantal inclusion!  And then we who are included come to the Table to participate in His body and blood!  With thanksgiving we’re included; for we are all guilty.  It is only in participation in Him that we receive that so-desperately-needed judgment of acquittal.