Select Wisdom Brand
(John 13:21–30) Cloak and Dagger

(John 13:21–30) Cloak and Dagger

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in John
Ref: John 13:21–30

At this point in John's historical account, we are less than 24 hours away from the cross. Everything is coming to a climax. Judas is sitting next to Jesus thinking he is about to get away with a devious scheme. He thinks Jesus doesn't know about his betrayal. But he was dead wrong. Jesus knows everything . . . and He has waited til the very last moment to unmask the wolf in sheep's clothing.


Cloak and Dagger

John 13:21-30

A certain patriot officer had begun to establish himself as a military genius.  In fact, in only one battle did he taste defeat.   He had already become a wealthy man, living in Connecticut, before America declared a war of independence from England.

When he heard about the outbreak of hostilities in Lexington, Mass. he immediately volunteered for service and participated in the successful colonial attack on the British held Ft. Ticonderoga, New York.  General George Washington took note of this man's courage and willingness to sacrifice everything for the cause of the colonies.  In February of 1777, Congress created five new major generalships, but he was actually passed over by younger, healthier men.  This began a deep bitterness and he would have resigned the military had not George Washington pleaded with him to stay on.  He agreed and accepted a position to help stem the British advance into upper New York.  He commanded advance battalions at the Battle of Saratoga in September, fighting brilliantly and decisively until he was again seriously wounded.  This time, his wounds left him crippled; he was finished with fighting.  His bitterness continued to grow into secret resentment, and ultimately hatred for the American cause.  In May, he was promised command of West Point but Washington himself.  But by now his hatred for the colonies had turned his heart.  That month, Benedict Arnold made plans with the British to give West Point over to them.  It would have worked, giving the British a strategic command post, except for one thing.  That one fateful night when British contact agent was supposed to deliver the final arrangements to a British war ship.  It had slipped into the Hudson River and was anchored nearby.  That British contact was captured on his way with the details of betrayal in hand.  Benedict Arnold soon found out and quickly escaped on that same British war ship, appropriately named, The Vulture.  He would live his days in England and eventually die, a crippled old man, inactive, ostracized and unloved.  Yet, forever famous, for being a traitor.

While no American would ever name his son Benedict, still further, no one who knows anything about the Bible would ever want the name Judas.

That name, Judas, to this day still carries the stench of betrayal.

While Benedict Arnold betrayed America, Judas betrayed God!

Now you may remember that our study of John's Gospel has brought us to the final acts in Jesus ministry.  We are less than 24 hours away from the cross.

And it is during that last supper - that upper room experience that Jesus pulls the mask off Judas and stops his charade.

Let's turn together to John 13

I told Marsha, "Of all the passages to preach from after being away for 5 Sundays - the next verses ahead are on love - that would be so much nicer to come back to - it's kind of like being away on a trip and coming home..."I don't know what you've done wrong, but I know you've been up to something, so no T.V. for a month."  Of course I know you've all been good . . . haven't you?  I know you have. . .let's make sure!  If you were a real bad sinner these past five weeks, stand to your feet.  See!   I'm so relieved.

Well, this passage is next in line as we make our way through this great gospel.  And I will warn you, I intend to apply and challenge all of us with Judas story. 

You see, becoming a traitor isn't all that far fetched!  In fact, betrayal is the logical extension of selfishness. 

Let me explain that - if you are determined to come in first place - if you are always number one - then everyone else can only be second place and whenever you are forced to choose, you will gladly lay down someone else's life for your own.

You work next to people who would stab you in the back, climb over your desk, lie cheat or steal to move up the ladder one more notch.  Betrayal comes easy to them.  

Traitors are simply people who have to be first.

Now, let's start back at verse 17.

Verse 17.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.  18.  I do not speak of all of you, I know the ones I have chosen, but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, "He who eats my bread has lifted up his heel against Me."  19.  From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that w hen it does occur, you may believe that I am He.  20.  Truly, truly I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives him who sent Me."

Now immediately this passage raises some questions about Judas' Call - Question #1 - If Judas would betray Jesus, and Jesus knew it, why did Jesus choose Judas?

First of all, remember that Jesus did indeed choose Judas to be his follower.  Judas was joined with 11 other men and then hundreds of others who also claimed to be Jesus' disciples.

As it related to the twelve, Jesus chose them purposefully and sovereignly.  Mark 3:18 tells us that he called unto him his 12 disciples.  It was His choice, His will, His sovereign purpose.  He didn't travel through Judas asking for resumes. . .he didn't stand up before a crowd of Jewish men and asked, "How many of you would like to be apostles?"  Let me see a show of hands. . .1,2,3,10,11,12 - is 12 all - okay, you 12 are the ones.

Oh no.  Jesus knew who he was calling and what they would do and why He chose them. 

He knew that his disciple Mark would serve Him in Alexandria.  Jesus knew that Peter would preach the first sermon in the new dispensation of grace; He knew that Matthew would plant churches in Ethiopia before being killed by the sword; He knew that John would be exiled to Patmos where he would write the book of Revelation before being martyred in a boiling cauldron of hot oil.

And Jesus chose Judas because He knew what Judas would do.

That makes me ask Question #2 If Judas was chosen to ultimately serve as the fulfiller of prophetic scripture, did Judas have a choice?  Answer - YES!  He wasn't a puppet on a string; he wasn't divinely set up! 

Jesus Christ gave Judas every chance in the world not to betray him.  He discipled him for 3 years; He washed Judas' feet just like He did Peter's; at this supper He gave him the seat of honor; in the garden he called him friend.  For three and a half years Jesus showed no partiality against Judas - so much so that no disciple was able to detect any animosity between them. 

What Judas would do was as much a prophetic fulfillment as what Peter would preach.  But Peter, from the human side had to choose to preach; John had to choose to write, Judas had to choose to betray.

Question #3  What attracted him to Jesus?"  Simply put - the potential of Romes overthrow and a position of power.

You need to understand that the scriptures make it very clear that Judas was not a believer. He was a classic hypocrite, a false disciple who pursued Christ for selfish reasons.

Turn back to John 6:64. Jesus is speaking, "But there are some of you who do not believe."  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him."

Jesus knew all along!  Now to everyone else Judas looked and talked and acted like a disciple.  He in fact preached, healed, cast out demons along with the other 11 disciples. 

And that's happening today!  There are people who say they are Christians who act like they are Christians who talk it, but the Lord knows that in there heart they are hypocrites, following Him only for what he will give them and as soon as God doesn't give them the life they wanted, they like Judas will walk away from Him, revealing they had never accepted Him.

What I find interesting is that when Jesus announced the betrayer was in that room, not one person looked at Judas and said, "Aha, I knew it was you;  I could tell all along that you were a fake!" 

NO!  They all said, "Lord is it me?"

Look at verse 21.  "When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, "Truly, truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.  22.  The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking.

No one said, "I knew it was Judas..."  Truth is, they so respected Judas that they put him in charge of the common money bag.

You need to remember, Judas stuck it out for 3 1/2 years.  He was not the kind of person who slips into church and sits on the back row. . .no offense back there.  Judas would have volunteered

to teach or preach; we would have selected him as an excellent candidate for deacon or elder; on the outside he was a committed disciple willing to go through the ridicule and deprivation of being one of Jesus' disciples; on the inside he was a traitor in the making.

HOW COULD THAT BE?!  Why would he become a betrayer?

How could Judas turn against Jesus. 

I believe there are three reasons:

                  1) his attraction to money - turn back to chapter 12:4-6  But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray him, said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii, and given to poor people?"  Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. - the greek word John uses to describe him is the word kleptomaniac.  Judas had been secretly stealing from the disciples community pot for 3 years.

How vile - he was interested in Christianity only for how Christianity could profit him financially...sound familiar?

But there has to be more to it than money.  Let me suggest another:  2) his affection for Jerusalem - it's clear that Judas, like any Jewish patriot desired the kingdom of God.  They were looking that very time for the Messiah.  Here's Jesus with divine power, he was claiming to be God incarnate - "I'll throw my lot in with him and bring in the kingdom!"

But something strange happens.  Instead of rushing for the          Roman emperor's throne, at the height of his popularity, when all the thousands are shouting hosanna, Jesus starts talking about dying!  DIE???!!!  Judas knew then and there that Jesus was not the Messiah he had been waiting for!  And because Judas was an opportunist, looking for his own self-advancement, he recognized that he'd better reestablish ties with the leaders of Jerusalem, so that when Jesus did die, he would not die along with him.  Let the other 11 fools die with Him.

REASON #3  his avid hatred for Rome

There is an interesting thought about Judas.  In chapter 12:4  he is referred to as Judas Iscariot.  The word Iscariot may be a greek form of the Hebrew ish kerioth - man of Kerioth.  If Judas was from Kerioth, he would have been the only disciple who was not a Galilean.  However, the word Iscariot could have been a designation that reflected on Judas' past association. 

Its possible that Iscariot is related to the Latin term sicarius,       used as the designation of a radical Zealot, a member of that party that violently opposed Roman rule in Palestine.  They              were called sicarii, in honor of the sica, a dagger that they concealed in their robes and used. In the book of Acts, they are called Assassins.

Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived during the time Paul was defending himself in Rome, wrote about the sicarri - listen: "There sprang up in Jerusalem a gang of robbers called Sicarii, who slew men in the daytime when they mingled with the populace at the festivals and hiding short daggers in their garments, stabbed with them those that were their enemies.  The Sicarii were implacable in their hatred to Rome and those Jews who were suspected of leaning toward Rome."  Judas fits the profile - a thief who would slit the throat of Gentile, Roman or Jew in his passion to overthrow Rome & attached to his name & the name of his father Simon was this badge honor; "Judas Sicarri - Judas of the Dagger". 

His attraction, his affection, his emotion. . .these things have made many a person a traitor.

Now go back to verse:  21.  When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me." skip to 23.  There was reclining on or "at" Jesus' breast one of His disciples, whom jesus loved. (this is John the author).  24.  Simon Peter therefore gestured to him, and said to him, "Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.  25.  He leaning back thus on Jesus' breast, said to Him, "Lord, who is it?"

In those days, they ate on the floor propped up on one elbow and scooping up the food with the other.  John is evidently to Jesus' right and Judas to Jesus' left.

Peter can't stand the suspense - besides, his blood is boiling - a betrayer in this room - John, find out who he is - I believe that if Jesus had told in clear terms, Judas wouldn't have gotten out of that room alive. . .we know that Peter needed the sword practice

26.  Jesus therefore answered, That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him."  So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 

Now you need to know that this statement was made to John alone - in fact, John didn't really connect it all until later.

Now freeze the picture for just a moment.

The host of the passover supper would give some matzah bread with bitter herbs to be received first by the guest of honor.  Who was Jesus' guest of honor - Judas.

I believe that this was one more invitation for Judas to repent and confess.

I wonder at Judas' pulse rate - his pounding heart, his guilty conscience.  According to Luke's Gospel, Judas had already met with the leaders and agreed on the price of betrayal. . .there was yet to be the final arrangements.

There's still time to stop before he seals his doom.

But Judas took the bread - he hardened his heart against this loving invitation - one wonders if Judas could look into Jesus' eyes.

Now that Judas has made his choice...

27.  And after the morsel, Satan then entered into him.  Jesus therefore said to him, "What you do, do quickly"   28.  Now no one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this to him.  29.  For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, "Buy the things we have need of for the feast; or else, hat he should give something to the poor.  30. And so after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night.  For Judas, the dawn never came.

By way of APPLICATION - I want to say basically the same thing 3 different ways:

1) It's possible to be close to the truth without accepting the truth.

2) It's possible to associate with Christ without accepting Christ.

To anyone here who has simply come to church for all the wrong reasons - to look respectable to the family; to meet business contacts; to find a position of power; it's possible to associate with the church without being a child of God.

3) It's possible to personally hear the truth without ever personally applying the truth.

What a thrill last week to sit in the home of a medical doctor and his wife. . .to share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ; after a hour or so this man said something like, "I understand now what you've meant when you referred to Jesus as a personal Savior. . .he said, "I've always believed that Jesus was the Savior of the world, but I never have asked him to be mine.  What a thrill it was to hold hands around that kitchen table and hear them both pray to personally receive as their own Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

To the believer, there is a warning here:

It's possible to rebel against God's plans, when they violate our plans.

Now Judas was never a believer, and as soon as he was sure Jesus was not going to fulfill Judas' life-long ambition, he betrayed Jesus.  

But what about Peter, Matthew, Andrew. . .they all were committed to following Christ, but not to the extent of death...not now...not to wooden crosses!

They were all disappointed by God!  Did you hear that?!

Jesus had let them all down. . .and they all, except for John, scattered for the hills in disillusioned fear.  What in the world, God are you doing?!

Is God disappointing you?  Are His plans surprising you, filling you with disappointment, or even anger.  Is God just not cooperating?!

I think of Dr. R. T. Kendall, a pastor from England who coined the phrase "The betrayal barrier."  In his opinion, 100% of believers eventually go through a period when God seems to let them down.  It may occur shortly after becoming a Christian.  The new convert loses his job, or his child becomes ill, or business reverses occur.  Or maybe after serving Him faithfully for many years, life suddenly starts to unravel.  It makes no sense.  It seems so unfair."

Philip Yancey tells the story of family friends named the Woodsons in his book, Disappointment with God.  The Woodsons had two children - Peggie and Joey - both born with cystic fibrosis.  Peggie and Joey stayed skinny no matter how much food they ate.  They coughed constantly and labored to breathe.  Twice a day Meg had to pound on their chests to clear out mucus.  They spent several weeks each year in a local hospital, and both grew up knowing they would probably die before reaching adulthood. 

Joey, a bright, happy all American boy, died at the age of twelve.  Peggie defied the odds by living much longer.  Yancy writes that he joined Meg in desperate prayers for Peggie.  Peggie survived several health crises in high school and went away to college.  She seemed to grow stronger, not weaker, and our hopes rose that she would find healing after all.

But there was no miracle:  Peggie died at the age of twenty-three. 

One night sometime later Philip Yancey came across the letter Meg had written to him after Peggie's death.

Here's what the letter said:


"I find myself wanting to tell you something of how Peggie died.  I don't know why except that the need to talk about it and I have run out of people to tell.

The last time Peggie was in the hospital and things were not going well, she looked  around at all the paraphernalia of death to which she was attached and said, "Hey Mom remember that quotation?"  A quotation from William Barclay her minister had used.  "Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory."

Peggie's commitment to Christ was evident, even in the end.  Once, the president of her college came to see her and asked if there was anything specific he could pray for.  She was too weak to talk, but nodded to me to explain the Barclay quote and ask him to pray that her hard time would be turned into glory.

"I was sitting beside her bed a few days before her death when suddenly she began screaming.  I will never forget those shrill, piercing, screams.  Nurses raced into the room from every direction and surrounded her with their love.

Eventually with their words and their touches they soothed her (though as time went on and the screaming continued, they could not comfort her).

Nurses can only stay on that floor so long--because they can't do more to help--because God, who could have helped, looked down on a young woman devoted to Him, quite willing to die for Him to give Him glory, and it seemed He decided to sit on his hands and let her death top the horror charts.

If I've been telling you all this in an effort to come to some kind of resolution to the problem of Peggie's and my pain, perhaps I've been brought once again to the only thing that helps me experience God's love:  His words to me saying, "I'm here, Meg."  But, again I wonder, how could He be in a situation like that and seemingly do nothing?

As I think of it, I've never expressed all this to anyone before, for fear of disturbing someone's faith.  Thanks for listening.  Most people have no idea how much that helps.





One of the greatest frustrations is knowing that God created the entire universe by simply speaking it into existence and He has all power and all understanding.  He could rescue.  He could restore.  He could heal.  He could cause conception.  He could open that job's door. . .He could with one stroke of His finger.  Why won't He do it? 

Is he, like Mrs. Woodson wrote, "sitting on His divine hands?"

At that point ladies and gentlemen, you have two options.  One option is to listen to the voice of accuser and that little part of all of us that resembles self-centered Judas and say, "God you have betrayed my expectations, you have discomforted my life, you have not given me my demands - I will take matters into my own hands, thank you for nothing."

Or - you can say, "Lord I do not understand what you're doing in my life, but I'm willing to accept whatever you do even if you choose never to explain why.

We all have a little bit of Thomas, a little bit of Peter and even a little bit of Judas inside us. . .we can all play a little cloak and dagger. . .by God's grace we won't with Him.

Even when we do not understand Him.




By the way the stunning, amazing thing about this passage is not Judas' hatred for Rome or his hardness toward Jesus or the lack of discernment among the disciples; the most amazing thing is the compassion and love of Jesus.

Perhaps you've been the one betrayed.  Maybe you've come to the conclusion that you deserve a little revenge...a little bitterness.  Well, Jesus knew what Judas would do . . . yet he called him friend; he washed his feet and he honored him with the potential of His friendship.

Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus. . .who humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.


Lord Jesus, help us to be willing to die to selfish expectations; oh help us to put to death the wretched desire to be first. 

My friend, the Lord is giving you another opportunity right now to say, "Lord, I'm fooling everyone with my spiritual hypocrisy. . .my wife, my children, my parents. . .forgive me - I set my selfishness and manipulation aside and admit to you for the first time that I am a sinner who needs to be saved - I want to accept the truth!


Add a Comment

We hope this resource blessed you. Our ministry is EMPOWERED by your prayer and ENABLED by your financial support.
CLICK HERE to make a difference.