Jesus Predicts the Betrayal

20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve.  21 And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”  22 Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?”  23 He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me.  24 The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”  25 Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.” (26:20-25) 

Matthew’s description of the entire Last Supper is sparse and to the point. There are two conversations: (a) one about the betrayer and (b) the other institutes the Eucharist. The reader already knows that Judas will betray Jesus – but this is the first time that the inner circle becomes aware that the traitor is in their midst. Many see an allusion to Psalm 41:10 (Even the friend who had my trust, who shared my table, has scorned me) where the righteous and just man is betrayed.  In any case, the disciples’ reaction is immediate. The reaction seems to be, not one of outrage, but a confident rejection of Jesus’ statement, yet they also seem to need reassurance. But none is forthcoming from Jesus. He simply mentions that one who has dipped his hand (v.22) is the betrayer. Since the meal was eaten from a common dish into which all those present would frequently dip their hands, this is no more specific an identification. It is hard to imagine that, if Judas had been openly identified as the traitor, he would have been allowed to leave the room unhindered.  Matthew’s intent here seems to be christological, i.e., Jesus’ announcement serves to let the reader know that Jesus is aware of events and his own fate.

There have been recent works that have leveraged the expression “as it was written” to indicate that Judas’ role is fated and that he was divinely predestined to this role. But the phrase refers not to Judas but to the Son of Man – and indeed it is the divine will that this unique person, Jesus of Nazareth, fully God and fully man, would be betrayed as a prelude to his redemptive death.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.