The Tragic Story of Judas Iscariot, Pt 3
It was the 14th of Nisan. That night the disciples would eat the Passover with their Master. They knew the drill. Preparations had to be made. They just needed to know where. So, they asked Jesus, “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” (Mk 14:12, NAS). Jesus takes two of them aside, Peter and John (Lk 22:8), and gives them instructions.
Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, The Teacher says, “ Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?” And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there. The disciples went out and came to the city and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover (Mk 14:13-16 NAS).
At first, this may seem like nothing more than a passage providing us with historical information. It is much more than that. It is a highly significant incident in the Passion narrative. This is underscored by the fact that three gospel writers record it in almost identical detail (see Mt 26:17-19; Mk 14:12-16; Lk 22:7-13). What is its significance?
All three gospels which contain this account record it immediately after Judas’ cold blooded deal with the chief priests. All three end their account of Judas’ treachery by telling us that from that point forward Judas began to look for a good opportunity to commit the betrayal (Mt 26:16; Mk 14:11; Lk 22:6). Remember, Judas’ was privy to Jesus’ schedule and habits and he could deliver Him to the chief priests in a private situation where there would be no chance of a riot. What better scenario could there have been for the betrayal without incident than the privacy of the upper room? It was perfect!
This passage makes you want to hum the tune to Mission Impossible or Johnny River’s Secret Agent Man. As I was explaining the significance of this passage to one brother, he referred to it as “Operation Upper Room.” By these instructions, Jesus was keeping the location of the Passover meal hidden from Judas to prevent a premature betrayal. How do we know that?
First, the treasurer was left out of the loop. The Scripture indicates that it was the norm for Judas, the treasurer, to go and make the purchases for their ceremonial meals together (Jn 13:28-29). However, for this particular meal, apparently, Jesus had made other arrangements. It seems, according to these instructions, the items were already in the upper room. Why? Had Judas been sent to purchase them he would have known the location and tipped off the chief priests.
Second, Peter and John did not know the location until they had fully followed Jesus’ instructions. Think about it. Instead of sending them directly to the upper room he instructs them to do something else first-wait for the man carrying the water pitcher to meet them. Had they decided skip that first step they would have been lost. Why didn’t Jesus just tell them the location? Well, can’t you imagine Judas going to Peter and saying, “Peter, Jesus told me to go head of the rest of the group in order to help you guys finish setting up for the meal. So, I need some directions to the place.” Peter responds, “I have no clue where we are going.” No chance of Peter and John unwittingly spilling the beans.
Third, Jesus is careful to give only enough information for the task to be completed without disclosing the location. He does not identify the place where they would encounter the man carrying the pitcher of water. He does not identify him or the owner of the house by name. He gives not the slightest clue by which their identities could be determined. Yet, there was enough information to complete the task. In those days a water pitcher was for the purpose of transporting water from a well to a house. It was a domestic chore ordinarily performed by women (Jn 4:7). Out of all the thousands upon thousands of men crowding the streets of Jerusalem that day, Peter and John would know when they had met this nameless man. He would stick out. Once their paths crossed all they had to do was follow him to the location. There is no doubt as to why Jesus gave these instructions. The location of the upper room was classified information.
The Proper Perspective
The central lesson of the story of Judas Iscariot is not the bad news concerning hypocrites. Everything recorded in the gospel accounts has as its main purpose to validate the central truth of the gospel message-Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. This incident is no exception. It reveals his unique person, power and matchless glory. In this passage, we get the proper perspective. In one scene, Judas makes his plans with the chief priests under what he thought was a veil of secrecy. In the next scene, Jesus gives instructions under a veil of secrecy revealing that Judas was powerless to bring his plans to fruition. Jesus was not the helpless victim of Judas. As the God-man, he was in control of his own betrayal.
Who Can We Trust?
The hypocrisy of Judas may leave you asking, “Is anyone worthy of my unqualified trust?” We have the answer in this incident. Yes, we can implicitly trust Jesus Christ, the Son of the God.
First, we can trust that he controls the outcome of our obedience. Often, as in this account, when we obey our Lord’s directions they lead us down paths which seem like unnecessary detours. It doesn’t always make sense. It is at such points that we are tempted to help him out and alter the directions, or to stall until we have more information. However, when we trust him and fully follow His will, things turn out just as he told us (Mk 14:16). Usually, it is not until then that looking back we see the wisdom of his plan and why he guided us as he did, and faith in His unique person and power is confirmed.
Second, we can trust and obey him knowing that he controls every single detail in the path of obedience. Think of the man with the water pitcher. It is possible this man was clueless that he was being used as part of Jesus’ plan. For some reason, on that day, at that moment, he did what was ordinarily a woman’s job. Perhaps, unknown to him, his steps were pre-determined and being guided. Or, it could be that that this was a prearranged signal. However, Peter and John were not told to go to a specific place (Mk 14:13). For them to have been at the right place at the right time, someone had to determine before hand, and be in charge of every step and turn they would make.
It is neat to think of how the Lord has often advanced his purposes by using some of the most seemingly insignificant details of life. This account makes me think about a dear brother who has gone to be with the Lord. Much of my present life and ministry can be traced back to a chance meeting with him in an antique store 16 years ago. Do you not all have similar testimonies? Of course you do. For some reason, you decided to zig instead of zag. You came early. You stayed late. That led to this, which led to that, which led you to something else. The Son of God is in control of all such incidental details in bringing about his purposes in and through you.
May this incident cause your faith in the Son of God to be strengthened, knowing that nothing can thwart his purposes and everything is subservient to them.