John 13:18-38: Shared Bread
Even my close friend,
someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
has turned (lifted up their heel) against me.
The thing about betrayal, the thing about denial that allows both of them to deal damage is intimacy. Truth be told, I give as much credence to ridicule or rejection from someone I don’t like or know as I give consideration to the amount of toilet paper I use after the second time I flush. If I have to flush twice, I care about being clean not about how much shit there was. If I am to be betrayed or denied “……^”
“That’s crude,” you say.
I say, “True and perhaps unnecessary, but I am far more willing to tolerate crude than cruel.”
To be crude is to have disregard toward or to jest about the outward appearance of things, whereas to be cruel is to have disregard for or the intent to harm the internal disposition of things.
Cruelty, whether intentional or not targets identity through apathy or vindictiveness. To be crude only considers the surface. It is intentionally unaware of depth. Cruelty either disregards depth selfishly or digs deeper than it needs to without care.
Now we can discuss betrayal and denial.
In John 13:18-30 Jesus announces that a disciple will betray him. And in this room full of men, John gives us insight into some of their personalities.
Scripture tells us in v. 21 that Jesus was troubled in his spirit and says, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” He is telling them this to strengthen their faith so they would believe in who Jesus says he is, but Jesus is still troubled by this.
John, who was reclining comfortably leans again Jesus to ask him, “Lord, who is it?” John does this because Simon Peter gives John a nod and says, “Yo, find out who.”
In this scenario, I kind of imagine John having a little too much wine. He was just looking to have a good time at the party. He’s chilling out and then Peter disrupts his chill and then he leans back and asks seemingly to appease Peter’s nervous curiosity.
Or is Peter not nervous, but rather seeking to prevent the betrayal by roughing up the betrayer?
Jesus then gives a piece of bread dipped in wine to his betrayer Judas. V. 27 reads, “as soon as Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him” and v. 30, “he went out.”
Jesus also told him after he gave the bread, “What you do, do it quickly.”
What he says makes sense for a man to say. I say man because in my experience, if a person is going to betray me or reject me I’d rather you get to the point rather than drag your feet with the deal.
Being strung along just to be hung out is like taking your dog for a walk before killing it with a shovel and refusing to bury it. What’s the alternative? Just take your dog for a walk or don’t betray someone. Be a quality person.
The Difference between Betrayal and Denial
I’m going to get to denial in a minute. But I want to define betrayal just so we are clear with the terms. Because someone can reject you or even go so far as to kill you without betraying you. For example, random woman I meet on the street finds out I’m awesome, kills me for no reason after greeting one another. She didn’t betray me, she certainly surprised me but nothing she did indicates a betrayal, unless we are strictly talking on an existential plain in which she betrayed mine and her own humanity for deciding at randomly to kill me.
This is me defining in long-hand that betrayal assumes a certain kind or level of intimacy and the greater the bond of intimacy the deeper the betrayal goes. For example, a marriage vow followed by adultery > (greater betrayal than) making a blood pact in 5th grade with your friend who stopped talking to you in middle school.
The action of betrayal is the willing handing of someone over or selling someone out, or intentionally tripping them up along their path. It is the moment while walking alongside someone with certain expectations, they hinder you from where you intended to go. Betrayal happens when one agrees to the parameters of the journey and then tries to hinder another from the journeys intended goal.
The Sting Without War
Now for denial. Denial is sometimes the passive more weaselly of the two actions but typically without as severe a consequence. Denial is not stringing the noose, but it is watching someone be hung.
In v. 31, Judas had left, and now Jesus talks about His glory to come, his exit (death) and gives the disciples a command to love one another. He makes a statement that if true contains unimaginable power. V. 35 reads “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Rather than pausing and thinking about the implications of that statement, Peter is more concerned with where Jesus is going. And because Peter is weak and lacks understanding He misses what Jesus is getting at. Rather than going where Peter wants to go, Jesus wants Peter to be faithful to where He wants Peter to go.
Peter wants to die before he fully lives as Christ. In order for Peter to die like Christ, Jesus has a massive internal work to do first in Peter’s life. He asks this sincere question, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
You know how it ends, Jesus predicts Peter’s inevitable denial. Sometimes we “can’t” (or just don’t) follow through on our best laid schemes. But here we actually are not looking at Peter’s denial just yet. That happens 5 chapters later.
This is Jesus’ denial. Jesus denies Peter’s ability to fulfill an empty promise without the power of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus’ denial has been immersed in prayer and preceded by demonstrations of genuine love. Jesus knows Peter’s end which is why He denies his intentions in the now.
Jesus says, “you will follow later.” The denial does not presume permanence, but it expects obedience. In other words, Jesus is telling Peter to “let it play out.”
It won’t be easy nor fun, but it will lead to perfecting and refining and new joy. But Peter is not that deep yet. Eager but not deep and unaware of what is required of him.
He is a fisherman, not a fighter and that is fortunate because the kingdom of God is not won in the way he is expecting.
Jesus cleans Peter a few verses prior and that cleansing functions as a reminder for what’s about to hit the fan in spite of his future denial.