Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el!
"I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.' Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me'. When Yah'shua (Jesus) had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.' Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke. Now there was leaning on Yah'shua's (Jesus') bosom one of His disciples, whom Yah'shua (Jesus) loved. Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke. Then, leaning back on Yah'shua's (Jesus') breast, he said to Him, Master, who is it?' Yah'shua (Jesus) answered, 'It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.' And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Yah'shua (Jesus) said to him, 'What you do, do quickly.' But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Yah'shua (Jesus) had said to him, 'Buy those things we need for the feast,' or that he should give something to the poor. Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night" (John 13:18-30, NKJV).
Today is one of those sabbaths where Yahweh didn't suddenly lay on my lev (heart) what it was I should be preaching to you today. I woke up this morning without a clear word. The lazy part of me hates it when He does that because I know exactly what He is saying. As I was doing my morning ablutions, a question suddenly popped up in my mind: 'What wouldn't you like to preach on today? What would you, as a minister not like to hear? What would you like to avoid preaching about?'
You see, many ministers read these devotionals and sermons because I try to take time to address their needs. Most ministers don't have someone to counsel them in the way that they need. Oh, to be sure, many ministers have fine wives who are excellent counsellors, and friends in congregations whom they can trust and confide in. But sometimes a minister needs someone not in his congregation, who is not involved in the various issues of that congregations, who can see the wood from the trees and separate issues from personalities, who can offer impartial advice - a father figure to whom one does not often go to because he is 'far away'.
Then I asked another question: 'What subjects do you as a minister avoid because they're too close to home?' Ministers are flesh and bones like the nearest man or woman. They put their pants on the same as any other man. They have issues even if they don't care to talk about them so as not, as they suppose, to disillusion their followers or weaken the faith of their congregation because they know they are sub-standard as regards to what Scripture requires of them in their office.
That's a double-edged sword, actually. Sometimes a congregation needs to hear about a Pastor's struggles so that they can empathise and see him as a human being and not as some distant god-like creature there in yonder heavens. And as the ministry of King David showed, the best leaders are men of the soil, those who are down-to-earth, those who can idnetify and share with the common man. Ministers in ivory towers wearing expensive suits, driving fancy cars and owning luxurious homes are of little use to anyone. Yah'shua (Jesus), the One we are supposed to imitate, had none of these things. And neither did the apostles.
As I pursued this line of questioning, I realised that most of the things I didn't want to preach about weren't just issues unique to me but common to almost everyone. Many a time when I preach on a subject Yahweh has given to me, the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) is preaching to me too, even if I might not always tell you. I am listening and digesting even as I convey the words given to me for you.
Sometimes it is right for a minister to confess struggles and issues, sometimes it is not, because some things are between certain people only and should not be spread across the whole messianic community. He must listen carefully to the Ruach (Spirit) to make sure he does right in this matter. The sin of lashon hara or the 'evil tongue' is still poorly understood by most believers, and is a wicked practice that devils delight in. It's their home environment. So we have to be careful, we have to be circumspect. Messianic Israelite assemblies are not gossip halls. They are for worship and edification. And yet there are times when ministers need to come clean if their secret - and sometimes not so secret - behaviour is impacting the whole congregation, or if they are in violation of a serious mitzvah (commamndment). Most refuse to do it. Many make a grand theatre out of it in order to win sympathy. And only a few do it the right way, allowing Yahweh to make themselves object lessons for proper repentance. There should always be a prophet to do that, when necessary. David had Nathan to keep him in line, and Saul had Samuel.
Today I want to talk to you about one of the original twelve apostles whose name is indellibly stamped on the gates of infamy. I am not as interested in what this man did, because everybody here knows, as I am in the way Yah'shua (Jesus) treated him. This particular insight is not my own, but that of an Orthodox Rabbi from Jerusalem who converted to Messiah and who wants to remain anonymous for now because of the dangerous environment in which he lives. This insight comes from a Judahite tradition when guests sit at table to eat which I didn't know about until I stumbled across it yesterday. I filed the fact away not supposing I would have need of it today. But more of that in a moment.
In today's passage, which recalls the Last Supper, we are painted a picture of a tragic scene. The Master announces He is about to be betrayed by one of the inner circle - the 12 apostles. Had a conversation been underway when Yah'shua (Jesus) made this unexpected announcement, you can be sure that it quickly ended it. One can only imagine the stunned silence that fell upon that upper room. Only Peter (viā John) dared to ask who the guilty party was (Jn.13:25), and then only in a private whisper so that no one else could hear. You can imagine the tension as the others watched this private conversation between Peter, John and the Master. If ever there had been a Yom Kippur-like self-examination at that moment of time, this must have been it, as everyone present wondered if they were the guilty one.
When Yah'shua (Jesus) dipped the bread and handed it to Judas, Peter and John (two of the three presiding apostles) knew the answer. The others must have wondered what was going on since He didn't answer them. There are those who say that Yah'shua (Jesus) spoke these words aloud to everyone, and not privately to Peter, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me, for one supposes Judas would have refused the bread if he had heard. If Yah'shua (Jesus) had spoken these words aloud, and if everyone - including Judas - heard them, then it is even more amazing that the others said nothing at all and even more incredible Judas was willing to openly identify himself before his brethren as the Master's betrayer. I guess it is possible that it happened this way and yet we are told Satan did not take full possession of Judas until he has eaten that piece of bread.
The sharing of meals is a set-apart or hold sacrament . It's a very intimate thing indeed. Yah'shua (Jesus) was here representationally sharing the body and blood of His atonement in the most intimate ordinance of all. And if that bread contained salt, as we suppose it must have done, then we know that in eating the bread Judas was entering a covenant he had no intention of ever keeping . And as Yahweh once showed me in a vision, a person who so breaks a covenant has heaped upon his head coals of fire . Judas, without any feelings of guilt, violated the most sacred covenant of all. So maybe Yah'shua (Jesus) did speak aloud but he was so numb to any residual conscience because his mind was fatally made up. In which case the other apostles must have been aghast.
This was brazen betrayal. A decision had earlier been made, and many more after it as Judas progressively descended into darkness. Whatever his original motive was - and many believe it was because he felt that if he forced Yah'shua (Jesus) to His death on the Cross it would force Him to display His power, forcing the people to accept Him as a kind of 'superman messiah' of the kind sought for by the zealots. Whatever his original reason was, it was based in a lie, and lies continued to be added to that lie until he was envelloped in neare complete darkness.
But at that communion table - that last Pesach or Passover - Judas had one last chance to be saved. His Master exposed Him and he could have made teshuvah (repentance). Yah'shua (Jesus) knew He would not and so spoke the fateful words:
None of the other talmidim (disciples) knew what Yah'shua (Jesus) was saying and thought that it was some financial matter, since Judas was the keeper of the purse. If Yah'shua (Jesus) had indeed whispered to Peter viā John and not spoken aloud to the whole assembly, then this explains the apostles' perplexity even though it did not answer the question as to who the betrayer was. My belief is that they still didn't know after Judas had left otherwise they would not have said what they did.
"What you do, do quickly".
But that is not the point. The point is that Judas made the conscious choice to betray his Master and had taken the ultimate step, the point of no return, that had marked him for hell.
Betrayal is a terrible thing. I know that some of you here have been betrayed. And the more intimate the relationship, the more painful the betrayal. My best friend once betrayed me, sharing all my personal confidences, because his acceptance by an impersonal institution was more improtant to him than the sacred bonds of friendship. He turned out to be no Jonathan. I have been betrayed by fellow believers who have spread all kinds of lies and lashon hara about me on the internet and elsewhere. And I have been betrayed by my dearest bosom companions, the most painful betrayal there is. So I can only imagine what Yah'shua (Jesus) was feeling in that set-apart assembly as they celebrated Passover, a sacred moed (appointment) with Yahweh which at its end was transformed into the Master's Last Supper, that which would be their most enduring memory of Him before He took leave of this world.
How many of you, when betrayed, have had anger, bitterness and a desire for revenge mingled in with the pain of betrayal? I have and that is why I did not want to talk about this subject today. I have wanted retribution for the agony and desolation brought into my life for being betrayed. In fact, what was perhaps the most horrifying experience of all was seeing all that vile satanic nature emerging from the flesh at that moment, making you realise that forgiveness was not properly there. Yes, we may have said it with out lips because we knew that was what the Master expected of us, and because we were afraid that he would not forgive out sins if we did not forgive their against us , and yet we knew deep down that we have not 100% meant it. We wrestled with it, seeing our own sinfulness, desperate to have a right lev (heart) yet frustrated in not being being able to muster the power to do it. We sought for reasons, we found excuses, we were in turmoil. The most fundamental first principle of the saved life was eluding us and condemning us. What were we to do? We importuned for grace, we sought for that ahavah (love) but could not find it. And we adjudged ourselves failures, poor Christians or Messianics. We were in despair.
People in war soon numb their hearts in order to cope with the horror around them. It is not an easy thing to retain tender-heartedness in such a situation but neither is it impossible. It's just that sometimes we can't cope with the health issues that result from the strain of all the pain. So we bury it.
Time, they say, heals, but as I have discoursed elsewhere, that's not actually true. Time merely aids us in burying deep hurts. It doesn't actually heal. Time is not the Messiah. Time can never heal, only postpone inevitable confrontation with the issue being buried. At some point all those old hurts will surface, sometimes violently, as unresolved issues stemming from betrayal - or any other issue for that matter - suddenly break loose into consciousness and into outward behaviour. People like this whom you thought you knew can asuddenly change personality when these things happen, a frightening experience for loved ones who feel they are dealing with a complete stranger. Maybe it will break to the surface gradually, a little at a time, or maybe it will simply arise like a giant tidal wave or tsunami. But either way it will break and cause consternation amongst loved ones and friends who may be completely unprepared.
However, when this happens, and you are confronted by rage mingled with deep pain, realise that only the pain is the real person - the anger, the rage, is from the demonic which has seized the opporunity afforded by an open spiritual door to enter inside and take possession of the lev (heart). Unforgiveness is the major issue. Unforgiveness is the legal ground for the enemy to make trouble and sabotage a life. Unforgiveness is the killer.
Now I want to share something quite amazing.
What you have to understand is that Yah'shua (Jesus) deliberately made His betrayer His guest of honour. He took the morsel of bread, dipped it, and fixed His gaze on Judas. Can you imagine what was going on inside Judas as he realised how Yah'shua (Jesus) was honouring him while he was about to do the most dishonourable and dispicable thing imaginable? Yet he could have refused and confessed but he chose not. He chose to continue being honoured in this matter while intending to go ahead with what would lead to the murder of his Host. This was a display of ahavah (love) that he had not expected, a gesture of forgiveness even at this late stage if only he would repent and claim it. But he would not. His last opportunity to choose salvation was slipping away, and he chose to let that happen.
"There is an ancient [Judahite] custom which directs the head of a family or the host of a festival to acknowledge his most honoured guest with a specific gesture of respect. Just as washing of a guest's feet was considered a mark of honour and hospitality in those days (Luke 7:36-50) so also at the meal itself certain rules applied. Among them was the practice at the Passover of taking a small piece of bread, dipping it according to the prescribed manner and offering it to the one person at the table that was singled out as the most honoured guest on that occasion" .
The moment he swallowed that piece of bread, the final decision to betray was irrovocably taken. He had blasphemed and dessicrated a sacred moed (appointment) with Yahweh by accepting the Blood of the Paschal Lamb for his redemption while at the same time absolutely refusing it. In that one moment Judas had brought Yahweh and Satan together in an attempted echad mix which was utterly impossible, since you cannot serve two masters, and made the fateful decision to become Satan's slave.
We, who have been betrayed by those who were intimate companions and friends, and who have sat at table with them and shared covenants of immutable fellowship and ahavah (love), and who have broken those salt covenants, can perhaps gain a little glimpse at what Yah'shua (Jesus) went through. Can we, like the Master, give the one who is about to betray us, most favoured status based on complete trust, opening our breast up to the sure knowledge that it is about to be mercilessly stabbed, and endure it without yielding to anger?
I'm afraid we have to. That is what Yah'shua (Jesus) meant when He said:
Betrayal is a feature of life and you young ones in particular need to be aware of it even if you can never ever adequately prepare for it. We saw the other day how the Samaritan woman had to cope with successive betrayals by husbands and how, at a key moment, Yah'shua (Jesus) stepped into her life and gave her the only hope of resolution she could ever hope to find - forgiveness of her own sins through trusting in Him as Messiah.
"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matt.5:44-48, NKJV).
Yah'shua (Jesus) not only washed Judas' feet but He gave him the position of guest-of-honour at the Last Supper. Was this to indivate the heights to which he could have climbed, become one of the presiding apostles, had he chosen right? Or was it simply Yah'shua's (Jesus') way of telling him how much He loved him even though he was about to do the most despicable and traitorous thing of all?
We need not suppose, as some fatalists, determinists and Calvinists are wont to do, that Judas was helpless and that all of this was decided by Elohim (God), in spite of human will, at the very beginning. Judas always had genuine free agency but Yahweh, knowing his lev (heart), knew what he would choose in the end. Thus Judas could fulfil a ghastly prophecy without his agency being violated.
Forgiveness is the first principle of the talmid (disciple) after salvation but I suggest it is also the last. In fact, it's the Alef and Taw - the Alpha and Omega - of the Besorah (Gospel) which is why the New Covenant is so completely different from the Old Covenant - they are like night and day by comparison.
I did not want, as I said, to preach this sermon. I too struggle to forgive. I too have buried traumatic pains. But I am trying and can only encourage you to do the same. For if we cannot master this one thing, then nothing else we do ultimately matters. Forgiveness is the hallmark of the true talmid (disciple) and we cannot circumvent it and still claim to be a follower of the Nazarene. No amount of Torah-correctness can ever compensate for unforgiveness of heart, no amount of doctrinal rightness, no amount of success in anything. Without this pillar the whole edifice of the Christian/Messianic life collapses making all our good works in vain.
"And forgive us our sins, as we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" (Luke 11:4, NKJV).
 See The Breaking of Bread: The Spiritual Significance of Sharing Meals
 See Salt Covenants: Legalities When Eating With Others and The Two Salts: Understanding Life and Death
 See The Burning Table I: Vision of a Covenant-Breaker
 See Forgiveness: The Firstfruit and Perpetual Obligation
 Barbara Richmond, Jewish Insights into the New Testament (1996), p.39