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"As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, 'What you are about to do, do quickly.' But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread he went out, and it was night." John 13:17-30 NIV.
What was it about that little piece of bread that tipped Judas over the edge? Jesus' gesture was packed with meaning.
It was Middle Eastern custom for the two most honoured guests to sit on the right and left of the host. John would have been seated on Jesus' right because he described himself as leaning on Jesus; resting on his left elbow and reclining on Jesus, leaving his right arm free to eat his meal. Judas was probably reclining on Jesus' left, the other place of honour, because Jesus would have dipped morsel of bread into the common bowl of sauce and put it in Judas' mouth. This gesture was the host's way of expressing his greatest love and esteem for one of the guests at the table.
Why did Jesus choose Judas? Why not Peter; or John or one of the others? Did He love one disciple more than the others? I think Judas did not feel a part of the group. His guilty conscience alienated him from Jesus and from the other disciples. John knew that he was a thief; most probably so did the others. Jesus must surely have been aware of his dishonesty.
Was Jesus being hypocritical or did He have an ulterior motive? Not likely because it would have been completely out of character for Him to act underhandedly. I believe that in true "Jesus" style, He was reassuring Judas of His love no matter what he was planning to do, and giving him an opportunity to change his mind, even at the last minute. In spite of the prophecies about him, they were not set in stone.
Judas was as much a son as all the others in spite of his behaviour. It was up to him to come clean, confess his sinful attitude and behaviour, and become one of them again. By giving him the sop, Jesus was offering him the opportunity to reconnect with Him and with his fellow disciples. But how did Judas read the gesture? Would his hard heart be melted by it or hardened into a resolve to carry out his plan?
Jesus must have watched Judas' face as He deliberately placed the bread in his mouth. There is no evidence that Judas refused it. This makes his action even more heinous. In that moment when he received Jesus' act of pure love in spite of what he was planning to do, Satan clinched the deal by taking over his mind and his body. Judas had dabbled in the thoughts of the demonic realm for too long to back pedal. In that final instant Satan gave him no choice. He had him and he would not allow him to back out. The iron doors of his heard clanged shut and Satan was inside.
Jesus read the expression on his face -- cold, hard and empty. 'Okay, Judas, you've made your decision. Now get on and do it!' Judas clearly read the grief in Jesus' voice but he felt nothing. Pure love and pure hatred had collided at the table and Judas has chosen to side with hatred. His action would set in motion a chain of events in which the Son of God would receive and absorb in His own body the worst that humans and hell could do to a fellow human.
Was Judas caught in a web of destiny from which he could not escape? Was he predestined to be a traitor? If that were so, God would be responsible for his sin. No, Judas had chosen his path and had walked on it from the first moments when he stepped off the trail to go his own way and make his own rules. Satan gently lured him on until he had him in his grip and could simple step in and take over.
This should be a warning to us to beware of those first thoughts of rebellion and disobedience. Like Judas, we might be followers of Jesus but that does not immunize us against the devil's deception. When we foolishly take the first steps on the wrong path, we have no idea where we will land. Our only safeguard is to stay close by our Master and to check every inclination against the infallible truth of His Word.
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