Dip This Piece of Bread

Photo by Melissa Walker Horn on Unsplash

Gospel of John 13:18-14:14

18 “I am not speaking about all of you—I know the men I have chosen. But let this scripture be fulfilled—‘He who eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me’. Phillips

Back in verse 10, Jesus said, And you are clean, though not every one of you. NIV Here we have much the same phrase, both referring to Judas. When Jesus says he knows the men, he means he knows who will betray him; and who will run and hide but then will come out to be the saints he chose them to become.

Jesus then quotes a short passage from Psalm 41, telling us that it is a sign of the Messiah. Yea, my familiar friend, whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up the heel against me. Genea Bible 1599

Many modern translations do not write heel, even though it is the exact Hebrew word. The reason is a good one. Few Americans are familiar with the meaning of lifting the heel.

There are two things included in the statement by Jesus. When two people eat bread together, they make a covenant between themselves that must never be broken. Should their tribes go to battle against each other, the two men will watch for each other and never strike a blow against the other.

The second part regards striking that blow. That is literally what the phrase, lifting the heel, means. Judas raised his heel against Jesus by selling him out to the authorities. Judas would have known that he was in a covenant with Jesus and that his action broke that relationship. One of today’s greatest insults in the Middle East is throwing a shoe at someone. It is the descendant of the heel.

19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” NIV

Jesus, in these two verses, is telling us different things. First, he says there will be a betrayal, and I am telling you before it happens so you will know I see the future. In addition, Jesus intends to share more about the near future with them—Peter’s denial, etc.

Second, Jesus is speaking to the eleven saying—still in the future—I will send you as witnesses of the Son of Man. Anyone who accepts your testimony will become a child of God. You will stand in for me when I am gone from this world.

These two verses are a bridge to prepare us for the long soliloquy by Jesus to follow.

21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. ESV

In this translation, Jesus says, ‘truly, truly. In fact, he said, Amen, Amen, as we have seen before. This is the twentieth time he used the phrase in John. Most modern translations use solemn truth, tell you plainly, very truly, or something similar, but I believe they should stick to the amens because of the ancient connection with the Word coming from God. Jesus testifies here as a witness of God’s Work—Judas will soon begin the greatest Work yet done by God.

When Jesus used the double amen, the disciples realized it was both serious and imminent. In 6:70, we read, Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” In 13:2, John said Judas would betray Jesus. In 13:10, Jesus said, ‘not all of you are clean.’ In 13:18, he pointed to the one who ‘shares my bread.’ These three statements build the intensity of the betrayal leading to, ‘Amen, amen, one of you reclining at this table right now is about to betray me.

These Twelve had lived together for three years. They knew each other and trusted all. No one of them could possibly do such a thing. Their next reaction might have been, ‘Jesus has never been wrong before,’ as they began to assess their friends in a new light.

23 One of his disciples, the one Jesus loved, was at the table to the right of Jesus in a place of honor. 24 So Simon Peter gestured to this disciple to ask Jesus who it was he was referring to. 25 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved leaned back against Jesus’ chest and asked him, “Lord, who is it?” NET 

Here is the first use of the phrase, The one Jesus loved. In the early centuries of the Church, few questioned that John was the author of the Gospel. Almost all believed John was the one Jesus loved. Only in the last four centuries have questions been raised and other names put forth for the author and the one loved.

I do not think we should place too much stress on the ‘place of honor.’ It is, I think, likely that the Twelve rotated through the two couches of honor, one on the right and one on the left. Even as they ate around the campfire, they likely continued the rotation. Remember John and brother James tried to get Jesus to name them his right and left chair-men in Heaven.

We should notice that the Synoptics agree, as Matthew puts it, 26:20When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. There were only thirteen men in the room and at the table. The women would have been serving the food. John says nothing to disagree with that number. Even though John does not name all the Twelve, the Synoptics do. We know the names of the men reclining with Jesus. Peter is exempt (verse 24), but any of the remaining eleven could be the one; yes, Judas included. But I cannot see how any other disciple could be considered, as many suggest.

Peter gesturing is, I think, another of the little bits that only John would know. You can get the image from verse 25 that the men were reclining close together. John was leaning on his left arm and looking at the back of the disciple to his right. They were free to turn and look around as they conversed and ate. John simply leans back and—probably—whispers the question to Jesus. 

26 Jesus replied, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread after I have dipped it in the dish.” Then he dipped the piece of bread in the dish and gave it to Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son. 27 And after Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 (Now none of those present at the table understood why Jesus said this to Judas. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him to buy whatever they needed for the feast, or to give something to the poor.) 30 Judas took the piece of bread and went out immediately. (Now it was night.) NET

Dipping bread in a dish was the usual way to eat in their culture. It is still common in the Middle East today. The Romans, at least the wealthy, used plates and cutlery. The richest ate from gold plates while the lessers ate from gold-plated lead plates. The lead killed many.

Francis J. Moloney, as quoted by Karen H. Jobes, wrote, Eucharist is a subtheme to the meal and the gift of the piece of bread . . . just as baptism is a subtheme to the footwashing. John was adept at placing these little signposts in among the larger ones.

It seems that only John could hear what Jesus said, likely because he did not want the rest to freak out at the news. At the same time, he wanted the record to include the prior knowledge of Jesus—he knew Judas was going to betray him, and he wanted all of us to know he knew.

There is no big production about giving the bread to Judas, so he must have been close by, perhaps on Jesus’ left, but just as likely a space or two away. They were close enough to reach that far.

Jesus gave the bread to Judas and told him to go quickly. We know what Jesus meant by the words, but John was the only other who knew. Probably, he did not yet understand what betrayal meant—surely not death. Apparently, John said nothing until much later, although Peter would have insisted at once.

Judas is the classic example of a man who wants to be with Jesus, but on his own terms. He rejected Jesus’ teachings about the Heavenly Kingdom in favor of an earthly one. I believe he represents all the people who believe the government or charitable organization can create heaven on earth. They put all their energies into that goal while ignoring the only real Kingdom.

Now to Satan entering Judas. We should note earlier in this chapter this sentence. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray JesusNIV There may be a difference in encouraging and entering. We know that Judas expected Jesus to claim David’s throne on earth, so had mixed thoughts about what was happening. It all came to a head when Jesus entered Jerusalem to the shouts of the crowd, but Jesus sluffed it off without going anywhere near Herod’s palace. That is likely when Satan prodded Judas—again.

Satan could not enter Judas without God’s permission. He was a follower of the Son of God. When Jesus handed Judas the bread, that was the signal to Satan.

The last four words are more important than just setting the scene. Judas left the Light and went into the darkness. One of John’s favorite images.

31 When he had gone, Jesus spoke, “Now comes the glory of the Son of Man, and the glory of God in him! 32 If God is glorified through him then God will glorify the Son of Man—and that without delay. 33 Oh, my children, I am with you such a short time! You will look for me and I have to tell you as I told the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow.’ 34 Now I am giving you a new command—love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 This is how all men will know that you are my disciples, because you have such love for one another.” Phillips

Jesus does not give the Eleven time to gossip or even think about Judas. He begins a new theme. Glory refers to Jesus’ death and resurrection and will reflect the Glory of God. Jesus then states the idea in the opposite terms. God will be glorified, and He will glorify Jesus.

Next, Jesus said, ‘you cannot follow me.’ They had followed him everywhere for three years; of course they would follow him now. Jesus, what do you mean? He did not mean his death. Ten of them would be executed. As nasty as it was, the crucifixion was the easy part. Jesus was going to do what no human could do—he was preparing to enter the lair of the Father of Lies, the Evil One, Lucifer, the Devil, Satan. He would carry out the long-awaited battle between Good and Evil.

As a replacement for Jesus when he was gone, he gave them a new commandment—Love. The Greek word used should not surprise us; it is agapao. That is the word used three times in verse 34. It means to love in a social or moral sense. A slightly different word is used in the next verse—agape, meaning charity. Paul’s beautiful passage about love uses the second word eight times, but never the first.

1 Corinthians 13 If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no agape, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no agape, I amount to nothing at all. 3 If I dispose of all that I possess, yes, even if I give my own body to be burned, but have no agape, I achieve precisely nothing. This agape of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. Agape has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. 6 It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevailsPhillips

The kind of love Jesus commands us to practice is easy if we take his words literally without splicing in all his teachings on love. Jesus seems to tell Peter to love John, etc. yet, his whole life is an exhibition of loving everyone in his path. We just witnessed Jesus showing unexplainable love to Judas; how can we expect to do less?

36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times. NET

With this speech, Peter has forgotten Judas for now. He asks a natural question, one the others wanted to ask. This time, Jesus adds a word, you cannot follow me now. He goes on, but you will follow afterward. Now he hints of the deaths among them, but he does not say that nor explain his meaning.

Peter speaks his heart when he promises to die for Jesus if need be. Later, in chapter 18, we will see Peter draw a sword to stop the arrest of Jesus. Only after Jesus reprimands him does he become confused and begin to hide. He would have gladly gone down fighting. We too often give him a hard time for his impulsive words and actions, but he is the leader of the Twelve, now Eleven. Unlike the others, he risked arrest to follow the trial and just did avoid arrest—sadly, by denying his Master.

14 1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” ESV

Again, Jesus does not allow them time to mumble, grumble, or worry. Believe!

The Greek word mone means residence, abode, or mansion. The King James Version for verse 2 reads, In my Father’s house are many mansions. It seems the KJV is more accurate than the more modern translations.

I think the point is that God has a New Jerusalem that will seem like we jumped from Motel 6 to the Ritz. The good news is that we will most likely not remember our old lives or how we mistreated people on earth when we meet them again in the New Jerusalem.

Jesus promises to come back for us. He will get us through the gate, using his passport, and guide us to our new mansions.

Verse 4 requires more thought. How can the Eleven know the way? How can you and I know the way? Jesus tells them they already know the way, but when did he tell them? If all we read is GJohn, we hardly notice the disciples in the first dozen chapters. Part of the answer is in the preceding sentence; Jesus will come to get us. The other part is, Believe!

“Lord,” Thomas remonstrated, “we do not know where you’re going, and how can we know what road you’re going to take?” “I myself am the road,” replied Jesus, “and the truth and the life. No one approaches the Father except through me. 7 If you had known who I am, you would have known my Father. From now on, you do know him and you have seen him.” Phillips

Peter gets a break when Thomas speaks up for the group. He asks the question we considered above, how do we know? You want to know which road to travel? I am the road. Tread on me. Just to make sure you understand who I am, I am both truth and life; there is no other road to the mansions. ALL other roads lead to Hell.

Just in case you missed it the three hundred times I told you in the past three years, if you have seen who I am, you have seen God. If you know me, you know God. If you know God, you know the road.

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. ESV

Now Philip jumps in where even Peter fears to tread. You just said seeing you is to see God. That does not work for me; show us the Father. We know you are the Messiah from the Father, but you are a human; you can not be the Father.

Even in these printed words, we can hear the weary tone Jesus must have used with Philip. How many times must I tell you, YOU HAVE SEEN GOD.

If you do not believe my words, which are the words of God, at least believe all the witnesses and all the miracles. I know your belief will have some limits, but you must believe.

William Barclay makes five points on Philip’s question. I have freely condensed two pages.  (i) God entered into an ordinary home and into an ordinary family. (ii) God was not ashamed to do a man’s work. He knows the difficulty of making ends meet; He knows the difficulty of the ill-mannered customer and the client who will not pay his bills. (iii) God knows what it is to be tempted. (iv) In Jesus we see God loving. In Jesus we see God caring intensely, yearning over men, feeling poignantly for men and with men, loving men until He bore the the wounds of love upon His heart. (v) In Jesus we see God upon a Cross.

12 “Truly, truly [Amen, amen], I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. ESV

Doing the works of Jesus is easy to understand, but doing greater works? No one can do better than Jesus did.


The disciples went to Samaria, Syria, Greece, Rome, Spain, even Britain. It was the work of the disciples that the Word of God found its way to the New World. So, yes, the disciples surpassed the work of Jesus—in volume.

I turn again to William Barclay to bring understanding to the last sentence (condensed). [Jesus] said that our prayers made in His name would be granted. The test of any prayer is: Can I make this prayer in the name of Jesus? But the prayer which is based on self cannot expect to be heard, because it is prayed in the name of self and not in the name of Jesus.

Be Righteous and do Good

Mike Lawrence

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