Psalm 41: What Judas Received from Jesus

Read Psalm 41.

In the ancient Near East, sharing a meal was more than a nicety. It created a special bond between two people. Eating with someone was a means of honoring that person. So, when David writes, “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me” (Psalm 41:9), the detail about the bread is not an incidental thing. He has been betrayed by a good friend.

Jesus quoted this verse during the Last Supper. Judas was about to hand him over to the religious authorities. Jesus would be tried, falsely condemned, beaten, and crucified. And Judas would initiate it all in just a few minutes. Jesus, knowing this, chose to hold out love to His betrayer. “Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot” (John 13:26). During a Passover meal, bread was often dipped in a bowl of bitter herbs. To dip a piece of bread and give it to another person at the table was a way of honoring the recipient.*

Judas had been given everything: He was chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve apostles, and he had a front row seat to the miracles and teachings of the Lord. Not only that, he was loved and honored by Jesus. I see no reason to doubt that the initial commitment Judas made to Jesus was anything but genuine. But somehow, he couldn’t give his heart to Jesus—not fully anyway. He allowed sin to fester, embezzling here and there (12:6), listening to the prompts of the devil (13:2), and eventually agreeing to betray the Son of God (Matthew 26:14–16). “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him” (John 13:27). And it was done. Satan had a hold on Judas and wasn’t about to let go.

In David’s lament over his friends’ betrayal, he says, “But may you have mercy on me, LORD; raise me up, that I may repay them” (Psalm 41:10). He wants God to raise him from his sick bed in order to get even with those who have hurt him. We don’t know what happened, because we don’t know when in David’s life this incident took place. I suppose we can assume that David recovered, as this doesn’t appear to be the illness that ended his life (see 1 Kings 1:1–2:12), but we don’t know if David repaid these enemies. What we do know is that Jesus was raised, not from His sickbed, but from the grave.

Jesus rose from the grave not to punish His enemies, but to extend forgiveness and eternal life to all the world, including the very men who wanted Him dead. I have no doubt that would have included Judas Iscariot, had he stuck around. But sadly, Judas wasn’t there to see the Lord in His resurrected glory. He had already decided his guilt was too much to bear, his shame too heavy to wear, and he ended his own life (Matthew 27:3–5).

The Bible tells us there is another meal coming—a wedding feast in the kingdom (Revelation 19:6–9). At that table, there will be every kind of sinner you can imagine, with plenty of betrayers in the mix. But they will have been forgiven and washed clean. Their sins will be no more. They will be as pure as a beautiful bride in white. Judas could’ve been there. He could have been made new. Perhaps he would’ve gotten to sit near Jesus once again. The greatest tragedy in Judas’ life was not the vile thing he did, turning Jesus over to be killed; it was that he couldn’t accept that Jesus loved him. If he could have taken hold of that love as he received that bread, it would have made all the difference.

* See Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Second Edition (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2014), 289.

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