Jesus Betrayed - John 18:1-27

Expositions by H. A. Wilson

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


Memory Verse — II Corinthians 6:17

In the 18th chapter of John we read of Judas' sin in betraying Jesus, and of Peter's sin in denying Him. The sin of Judas is typical of the sin of the unbeliever in refusing to accept Him as Saviour, and the sin of Peter is a sin of which many Christians are guilty, in one form or another. Judas' sin shows us some of the motives which actuate unbelievers in refusing to accept the Saviour, and Peter's sin shows us some of the causes for a believer's backsliding. Judas presents a picture of fleshly and unavailing sorrow, but Peter gives us a picture of true repentance. The results of unbelief are shown in Judas' experience, and the results of a Christian's backsliding are shown in Peter's life. We do not find all of these details in the lesson which we study, but the lesson itself becomes a starting point from which we may reach out into all the Word of God and gather together many other Scriptures which help to make the true significance of these two stories radiantly clear.


John 18:1-15

Judas' chief sin was that of unbelief. That was the sin which lay at the root of the terrible act of betraying Jesus. There can be no doubt that if Judas had believed that Jesus was the Son of God and that He was the One Who should die to save sinners, such as he, he would not have betrayed Him. It was because he did not believe in Him that Judas was moved to betray Him, and became a willing tool in the hands of Satan. The sin of betraying Jesus, as terrible as that was, was not the reason Judas was lost and condemned before God. It was because he did not believe in Him. This is clearly seen in the fact that even before he betrayed Jesus he was called "the son of perdition" (Jno. 17:12). And it was said that he was "a devil" (Jno. 6:70-71). Then too we know that Jesus tasted death for every man. The only sin which can bring condemnation upon a soul is the sin of unbelief. God has made full provision for every other sin, but He cannot forgive the sin of unbelief, nor can He save from it. This was the sin which caused Judas' downfall, and it found its fruition in the terrible sin of betraying Jesus into the hands of His enemies. Every man who will not accept Jesus as his personal Saviour is just as guilty before God, and just as truly condemned as was Judas, and for the same reason- — unbelief. Jno. 3:18; Rom. 5:12; Rom. 3:23.

One of the reasons for Judas' specific sin in betraying Jesus was the love of money. He bargained with the chief priests to betray Jesus to them for thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 36:15). The Scripture tells us that, "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (I Tim. 6:10 R. v.). How many men are letting their business or money-making crowd all thought of spiritual things out of their minds. They do not stop to think about their souls' salvation. They do not, in most instances, even attend church services, and if they do they sit throughout the service thinking how they can enlarge their business, or increase their profit, and they do not benefit by the message which may be given forth. Many men are "too busy" to talk with a Christian worker about the things of the Lord. Talk with them about some chance to make money and they will give you hours of time, but just mention the name of the Lord Jesus, and they are too busy to talk with you. They are putting money before God. They have no time for Him, but much time for money. How sad it is that so many, like Judas, are selling their Lord for a few paltry pieces of silver or gold. Matt. 13:22.

Another motive which actuated Judas was love of popularity. Possibly he thought, when he first came into Jesus' company, that He was going to become a great leader, and was to receive much honor from men. Perhaps Judas expected to share in this human honor. But he did not have to be long in that company before he realized that to follow Him meant that one must share His sufferings, and persecutions, and the scorn of men. It was too much for him, and he sought to curry favor with the chief priests and Pharisees by selling Jesus into their hands. How many people there are today who refuse to accept Jesus and to live for Him because they are afraid of the opinions of men. They realize that a truly Christian life is a lonely life. It is an unpopular life. It is a life which incurs the sneers and jeers of an unbelieving world. They are afraid of what their friends may say if they make the necessary decision. Consequently they will not receive the Saviour. It is pitiful when men consider the opinions of other men, rather than the Word of God. It is sad that they seek the favor of men rather than accepting the love of God. Matt. 13:21; II Tim. 3:12.

Still another motive was hatred of Jesus. Judas had entertained sinful thoughts in his heart. He was a thief, though entrusted with the money of the little company (Jno. 12:6). Jesus' holiness and unwavering love must have rebuked him terribly. We know too that on at least one occasion Jesus had openly rebuked him because he put money before love for Himself (John 12:4-8). We know that Jesus had spoken of his secret purpose to betray Him, and that must have increased his bitterness of heart (Jno. 12:21-27). That hatred rankled in his heart until finally it came to light in his betrayal of the Son of God. Unbelievers are sinful by nature. Their works are evil, and they will not come to the light, for fear their works will be made manifest. Men see, in the holiness of Jesus a rebuke of their own sinful lives, but instead of recognizing their consequent need, and seeking for His salvation, they turn away from Him, unwilling to admit that they are sinners, and hating Him in their hearts because He is holy. Jno. 3:19-21; I Jno. 2:9-i I; I Jno. 4:20.

Perhaps they are sorry for their sins, but that sorrow cannot save them. Judas was sorry after he had betrayed Jesus, but it availed him nothing. There is a vast difference between the sorrow of the world and the repentance of God's children. The sorrow of the world may recognize wrong doing. It may even confess it and resolve to cease from doing it, but the sorrow of the world worketh death. It is concerned with the results of its sin, rather than with the Person against whom that sin was committed. Judas confessed his sin. He said, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood" (Matt. 27:3-4). But it was too late. His sin was committed, and it could not be undone by such sorrow. So many people in an hour of great danger, or sickness, when they face the possibility of being soon called into account for their sins, are sorry that they have been so wicked. They weep bitterly over them. They confess them. They determine to cease from them. They make many fair promises to 'the Lord in the hour of sickness or danger. But when health comes again, or when the danger is past they forget and do the same things again. Their sorrow has amounted to nothing. It could not save them. Instead of such sorrow they needed to accept the Saviour, but they did not, so they are condemned already before God. II Cor. 7:10.

Judas lost all he had hoped to gain and more. He lost his soul. His money did him no good, for he soon took his own life, and instead of receiving the plaudits of men, he was laughed to scorn when he confessed his sin. Many men, like him, hope to gain by continuing in their course of unbelief and sin, but the day is coming when they must leave this old world. They cannot take their money with them then, and they will discover that the praise of men \vas a vain delusion which robbed them of the salvation provided for them in the love of God. They will learn too late the answer to the question, "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" Matt. 27:3-7; Jno. 17:12; Mark 8:36.


John 18:16-27

It is significant that God should have seen fit to give us the story of Peter's sin in the same chapter in which He gave us the story of Judas' sin. Peter's sin itself seems to be very similar to that of Judas, but between the two men, and between the consequences of their sin is an infinite gulf. It is the difference between the saved and the lost. And this difference is emphasized by the proximity of the two stories. Jno. 3:18.

Peter's sin was a sin of failure to separate from the world. He stood among the enemies of Jesus, and warmed himself at their fire. He did not intend to deny his Lord, but he was willing to associate with His enemies, and thus placed himself where he would be counted as one of them. That failure to separate from the world led him to deny Jesus openly when he was challenged. Many Christians deny Jesus as definitely as did Peter by their sinful and worldly lives. They have trusted the Saviour, and have benefited by His salvation, but they refuse to live for Him, and their lives do not testify to His grace and power and holiness. They are guilty of denying the Lord. In principle there is no difference between saying by word of mouth, "I know Him not," and saying the same thing in the actions of the life. A worldly Christian is a living reproach to his Master. Jas. 4:4; II Cor. 6:14-18.

The motive of Peter was the fear of men. In this he was much like Judas. Judas sought the favor of men, and Peter also sought their favor in order that they might not do him harm. The poor man weakly sought the friendship of the world instead of seeking to maintain his fellowship with God. And many Christians go into worldliness for the same reason. They are afraid of what men will think. They are afraid of the opinion of their "friends." Many Christians are more afraid of being called "old fashioned" or "narrow" than they are of losing their rewards. They forget, or do not care, that the friendship of the world is enmity with God. It is a shame for God's children to have more respect for the favor of men than for the fellowship of God. Jas. 4:4; Isa. 51:12-13.

Peter lost in his sin. He did not lose .his salvation, for salvation depends not upon our works but upon our initial faith in Jesus. No, Peter was just as truly saved when he was swearing and cursing and denying his Lord as he was when he said in faith, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." But he lost. He lost his testimony for one thing. How much better it would have been if instead of denying Jesus he had told the servants simply and gently of what Jesus had meant to him, and of what He had done for him. But in choosing to deny his Lord he lost one of the best opportunities for testimony which he ever had. Again, he lost the joy of his salvation. There was no sweet consciousness of fellowship with the Lord when he was denying Him. And his sense of loss was so keen that he went out and wept bitterly. He also lost what reward might have been his for the testimony which he had the opportunity to give. So Christians who choose to live lives of sin and worldliness, selfishness and pleasure, though still children of God, lose their testimony and the joy of their salvation, and fellowship with God. They lose also the rewards which God wants to give them for faithful service. I Cor. 3:11-15; Jno. 6:37; Jno. 5:24.

Peter repented of his sin, and was restored. "He went out and wept bitterly" (Matt. 26:75). How different was his repentance from the sorrow of Judas. Judas thought only of his sin, but Peter realized that he had sinned against GOD. He realized in that hour the base ingratitude which he had shown toward his Saviour and Lord. And though we do not know all the details of his repentance we know that later Jesus restored and used him mightily. A condition of such restoration is repentance, consequently we know that Peter must have repented. After the resurrection, the message was given to the women, "Tell the disciples and Peter" (Mark 16:7). Jesus Himself talked with' him intimately afterwards (Jno. 21:15-18). Then on the day of Pentecost and subsequently He used Peter in a special way to bring blessing to the souls of men. The child of God who drifts away from Him may be restored into full fellowship and usefulness for Him if he will only confess his sin, and permit God to have His way in his life. God does not require a long period of penance, or such things as that. He just asks that we recognize our sin, and confess it, and yield to Him, and when we do that we have His wonderful and precious guarantee, "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I Jno. 1:9; Psa. 51:12-13; Acts 2:14-41.