RAW EVIL IN ANCIENT JERUSALEM
By: Frank Tunstall, D. Min.
Raw evil has existed ever since Cain murdered his brother (Genesis 4:8). People can nurture sin to the point they live with a heart that is totally evil. This condition was on full display at Jesus’ last meal with His disciples. A person can continually reject the gracious overtures of the Holy Spirit until in an opiate-like addiction he surrenders his ability to say “yes” to God and “no” to the devil.
Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, fitted that mold and proved to be an unprincipled man with no moral compass.
“…Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.’ His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant” (John 13:21).
It is amazing the tender care Jesus extended to Judas at the Passover meal, knowing he was a traitor (see John 13:10, 19-21). The Lord’s comments showed He already knew all about Judas’ selling His Messiah for thirty silver coins, and the betrayal would follow that very night (John 18:4). When the disciples heard Jesus’ prophecy, they did not respond in the unbelief that said, Jesus has gone off the deep end this time; not a one of us disciples would do that. Instead, they had learned Jesus was always right in His prophecies; but they were at a loss to know which of the disciples the Lord meant. They could not believe one of them – surely not a disciple – could be that evil.
Jesus did not stand up and curse Judas, or threaten to damn his soul in hell, or arrest him on the spot, or have the disciples search him and take any of the silver coins out of his pocket. A Roman emperor with that kind of knowledge would have immediately ordered a sword run into Judas’ sin addicted heart. Not Jesus. He fed Judas, washed his feet, spoke to him with kindness, and prophesied in his hearing what Judas would do that very night.
At the same time, the Lord’s words, full of emotion, could not have been stronger. Jesus was “troubled,” and told his disciples why He was so upset. “One of you is going to betray me!” The Greek word, tarasso, is translated “troubled” in 13:21 in the KJV and the NIV. The Message paraphrase portrays Jesus as “visibly upset” (13:21 Msg). The words disturbed and agitated also fit. Jesus in His true humanity could have been trembling and with good reason – He knew what was ahead.
As for Judas, one can wonder how he felt hearing Jesus’ prophetic statement about the traitor at the Passover meal. Did Judas’ demeanor remain passive so that he showed no emotion or response of any kind? Not even a slight smirk that might at least make the disciples suspicious.
The eleven disciples were totally caught off guard by Jesus’ prophetic bombshell, saying a traitor was at the table, they just “stared at one another” (13:22). They did not have a clue who Jesus meant. But one can imagine at that moment they all felt a knot ball up in their stomachs as their appetites flew out the window.
John recorded Satan entered Judas when “Judas took” his portion “of the bread” from Jesus’ hand (John 13:27). Yes, Satan crashed the Last Supper; raw evil went uninvited to the dinner the Son of God was hosting with His disciples. One can wonder if a wicked look came on Judas’ face and his whole demeanor changed. Obviously, the disciples had not yet learned to recognize the presence of Satan who is the essence of total evil; hence, they did not perceive the major spiritual attack Jesus was already facing.
Satan had tight control of Judas’ will-power.
It should not be missed that the statement, “Satan entered into him,” reveals Satan as a personal, spiritual being who is the essence of evil and can enter a willing person to control him (John 8:44). This understanding is the core explanation of demon possession.
Right before Jesus’ eyes, Judas as one of the Lord’s disciples sealed a partnership with Satan. It meant Judas no longer had control of his free will. In the disciples’ fondest imagination, they did not get the significance of the exchange between Jesus, His traitor-disciple and the devil: “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told Judas (John 13:27).
John asked Jesus and He did share with John who the traitor was.
When God created Adam He gave him the gift of free will and it has been handed down to all of Adam’s posterity. For free-will to be totally free, a person must be able to choose to use it for good or for evil and be responsible for the consequences This meant a person could even betray his Savior and Lord. Judas surrendered his free-will to the devil and proceeded to do wickedness of the evilest kind.
Judas walked out of the room heart to heart with the devil and with the piece of bread in his hand. The betrayal money was probably in his pocket.
The Apostle John showed great insight when he recorded, “It was night.” In the darkness of that night long ago, Jerusalem was in the evil grip of deep spiritual gloom. The scene portrays the monumental war being fought for the souls of humankind. The conflict was between light and darkness, with the latter often illustrated by the dark shadows of the night. In fact, darkness seemed to have gained the upper hand and held it for the next three days (see John Chapter 20).
Darkness had settled over Jerusalem as the sun had disappeared over the western horizon; “It was night.”
It was a dark, dark, night in Judas’ soul; a dark, dark night of high treason. One of Messiah’s own disciples was guilty of sedition.
It was a dark, dark night in the hearts of the Jewish religious leaders who were mortal enemies of their own Messiah.
It was a dark, dark night for the disciples who were in the dark, not perceiving what was going on, and about to be hit extremely hard.
It was a dark, dark night for the prince of darkness who enjoys doing his most evil deeds under the umbrella of night – and, for him, the fewer of God’s sparkling stars the better (Ephesians 5:11; Colossians 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9). The devil thrives in the dark.
It was a night of darkness for Peter, who would deny his Lord three times before the night was over.
It was a night of darkness for the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas who had already paid the traitor the thirty pieces of silver – blood money. The Sanhedrin’s vote was unanimous.
It was a night of darkness for Pilate, who was woefully unprepared to manage the capital trial about to take place in his courtyard.
Pilate’s wife, a pagan woman, had more spiritual light in her than did the combination of her husband, and the Sanhedrin, and Judas (Matthew 27:19; Romans 2:14-15).
Yes, it was a night of “darkness and gloom… of clouds and blackness” (Zephaniah 1:15).
Does this reality of raw evil motivate you, dear reader, to treasure God’s gift to you of free-will, and fill you with determination to use it for good by honoring Jesus with a deep and abiding love?
A millennium earlier, Ahithophel was a trusted friend and counselor of King David, and Absalom was David’s son whom the king loved. Each became an Old Testament traitor. Absalom was consumed by ambition to take his father’s throne. Ahithophel wanted revenge because of David’s tryst with his granddaughter, Bathsheba, and his murder of Uriah, her husband who was loyal to David (2 Samuel 11:3; 15:1-6; 23:34). Their choices foreshadow Judas in the New Testament whose crime was far, far greater because Judas betrayed His Messiah.
I have thought betrayal is the hardest evil to forgive and overcome.
Ahithophel, Absalom, and Judas each enjoyed the blessing of free-will but surrendered it to the dictates of a totally evil Satan. As for Judas, he sold his soul and His Lord for a cheap thirty pieces of silver. Each of these three men met their end the same way – by hanging. And again, the Scriptures were fulfilled.
Raw evil showed its ugly head another way – Satan had no feelings for Ahithophel, or Absalom, or Judas. Instead, the devil used them and then destroyed them. That’s how Satan always operates.
Raw evil. Jesus was about to be arrested. After a few more of the morning hours ahead, He would be given a mock trial, mercilessly beaten, and then crucified on a Roman cross. There He would hang on three crude nails, Israel’s Messiah and our Savior, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the entire world.
But raw evil did not win the war.
Three days later the Heavenly Father raised His Son from the dead in an immortal, glorified body. Jesus made the atonement for sin with His own blood in the tabernacle in heaven (Hebrews 8:5; 9:12). There would never be a need for another sacrifice (Hebrews 10:14).
It is finished, the battle is over.
It is finished, there’ll be no more war.
It is finished the end of the conflict.
It is finished and Jesus is Lord.
By: Bill and Gloria Gaither