20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered, “You have said so.” Matthew 26:17-25
There was a clear distinction between denial and betrayal. A little later we’ll see bold Peter deny Jesus three times, but that’s very different than betraying him. One just was trying to save his own skin while the other wanted Him dead.
In mere hours, Jesus would be handed over to the soldiers and tried. This supper was clearly the calm before the storm. The next few days would change history forever, though I doubt the disciples had considered that.
Of course Judas knew he was the betrayer. He had been plotting this for some time. Was he nervous about the final betrayal or was it just one of many compromises in his life?
“It would be better for him if he had not been born” should have cut him deeply, but not enough to stop the leaders from acting on his betrayal. Judas didn’t know when or where it would happen, but with Jesus telling him this, he had to realize the time was getting close.
In all the national security training I’ve been through, we were told that you can stop any time during a betrayal because the longer you go, the more you hurt yourself and the country. Yes, it will hurt now to confess to the authorities, but it’ll hurt much worse when you to continue to give away more secrets.
At any point prior to the ultimate betrayal, Judas could have put a stop to the leaders’ attempt to kill Jesus. Yes, they would have found another way but they didn’t have to. They had a willing accomplice in Judas. Judas had a choice in how far he would take his sin.
We all do, though, the deeper we go, the more difficult it is to extricate ourselves.
The one person in the entire world at that moment – or any moment in history for that matter – who could have helped Judas was Jesus, the man he was betraying.
It’s certainly something for us to consider as well.