John 13:18 and Psalm 41:9

During his explanation of his humble service, Jesus says that not ever disciple present is a true follower. One will betray him in order to fulfill scripture (13:18). Since Jesus uses a text which may not have been seen as explicitly messianic, we have an opportunity to see how a scriptural citation works in the context of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus cites Psalm 41:9 as fulfilled in Judas’s betrayal.

In the context of this Psalm, The psalmist is lamenting the oppression he faces from enemies, but more specifically, his betrayal by all of his supporters. It is possible the Psalm refers to the rebellion of Absalom against David, although David’s psalms often speak of betrayal. Since the Psalm ends with the writer restored to the presence of God forever, it is possible that the whole context of the Psalm is the betrayal of the king and the ultimate vindication of the King.

Mephiboseth, the son of Jonathan, ate at David’s table and was implicated in Absalom’s rebellion. It is not just that David’s supporters have shifted allegiance to the rebel Absalom, but even those who were his closest advisors have betrayed him. In an ancient near-eastern context, if David has shown hospitality by sharing meals with someone, they are under his protection. To betray that protection is the height of disloyalty (in Mephbosheth’s case, it is treason!)

The verse prior to the one quoted by Jesus is remarkable. The enemies mock the king, saying that he has suffered a “deadly thing,” a disaster so great that he cannot possible rise (Ps 49:8). This may refer to a disease which threatens to kill the king, proving that he was not God’s chosen one in the first place. Yet the psalm ends with a vindication of the king. He does in fact rise up from his deadly defeat and is place in the presence of God.

The point of the allusion to Psalm 41:9 is therefore to highlight the treason of one of Jesus’ disciples. The betrayer has not just shared Jesus’ food and enjoyed his protection, he has witnessed the seven signs and heard Jesus’ teaching. By betraying Jesus, this disciple is rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, the son of God.

In fact, it may look (for a short time) like the betrayer was right, Jesus is not the son of God. He has succumbed to death, proving that he is not the Messiah! Yet, like the psalm he quoted, Jesus will be restored to the presence of God when God raises him from the dead.

By looking at the larger context of the Psalm, we see that Jesus may have had more in mind that a prediction of a betrayer. He was predicting his eventual vindication at the time of the resurrection.

9 thoughts on “John 13:18 and Psalm 41:9

  1. It is amazing how similar the passage in Psalms is to this one in John. They both have this person that betrays the trust that was there. They both ate together. They both have a one-sided commitment to protect and love the other person. There is no wonder in my mind as to why Jesus referenced this passage in Psalms. But there is no way that we could have made that connection if Jesus had not pointed it out. Jesus knew Judas would betray him, and he was not surprised by the betrayal, but I have to imagine that Jesus would still be hurt by the choice that Judas made to betray him. He was a close friend of Jesus.
    It is also interesting that the passage Jesus refers to talks about a man that suffered something so great, that he would not be able to rise. But in the end, he rises still, and is placed in the presence of God. It is another subtle allusion to his death and resurrection. He is saying that it will seem he is defeated, that there is no way that he could possibly overcome death. But he will, and he will be exalted to the right-hand of God.

  2. To me this is an odd piece of scripture to reference when looking for a passage to fit Judas betraying Jesus. But hey who am I to argue with the Lord. Anyway Psalm 41 is referencing a darker time in King David’s life, betrayed by someone in his own family, his son no less. When Jesus references this and Judas later accepts the role as the betrayer then could it be argued that Judas was like a son to Jesus, someone he cared for? All in all the two scriptures are very similar and connect in multiple ways. At the end of the Psalm David ends up back on his throne, and Jesus does as well the difference being that Jesus’ throne is in Heaven at the right hand of the Father.

  3. Quite a few of the Psalms written were fulfilled by Jesus. Was this another one of the Psalms that both Judas and Jesus fulfilled? It was prophesized that someone would betray Jesus, unfortunately someone had to do it. But with it being someone who Jesus knew and spent the last two or three years traveling with, how betrayed was Jesus? It must have been hard for him knowing that one of the people closest to him who he trusted was the one to turn him in. And yet while Jesus knew that it was going to be Judas to betray him he never treated Judas any differently. That must have been hard for Jesus to deal with. Jesus even washed Judas’ feet with the other disciples. He shared a meal with him and in the end it was one of his friends that turned him over to be crucified. During the Passover instead of celebrating what God did for the Israelites in the past Jesus was preparing for what God was about to do for not just the Israelites but for the whole world. And yet he did so knowing what was going to happen. And knowing who would be responsible for his death. But nowhere it says in scripture that Jesus blamed or hated Judas for what he did. That just shows the love that Christ has.

  4. its something that most don’t or won’t think about, Why did Judas betray Jesus? the easy answer would be to say “because it had to happen” but that’s the easy route that does not take into account anything more than basic prophecy. Judas like everyone in his day would have had expectations of what the messiah would bring and when Jesus did not do what was expected Judas could have felt like he needed to act. Judas may have thought getting Jesus killed would allow for the real messiah to arrive. it also could have been that Judas believed in who Jesus was but not understanding what Jesus was trying to do simply wanted to push Jesus to do what Judas thought he should. by getting Jesus arrested maybe it would push Jesus to destroy the romans or something of the like. instead Jesus allowed himself to be killed and we know that Judas then took his own life possibly because Jesus’ death was not the outcome he had hoped for.

  5. Throughout the gospel of John, Jesus makes a bunch of allusions to other Old Testament accounts that give us a description behind the meaning of his actions. We see a lot of these allusions being connected with the miracles Jesus performs in John, which provides us with a deeper understanding on the implications of his miracles. So no doubt that Psalm 41:9 is a verse that Jesus is referencing to during his final moments. Through class discussion and reading John 13, I made my own conclusion that God needs Judas to play this role of a betrayer. Without Judas’s role as a betrayer, Jesus couldn’t have died on the cross for us and redeemed us for our sins. Jesus could have stopped Judas, but then the significance of his death and resurrection would not have been presented to us. Jesus had a lot more to tell us about himself through his crucifixion and resurrection. It almost seems as Jesus put this moment in his timeline because He needed to show us the theological significance behind his death. So through class discussion, I got the idea that Judas was a necessary factor in the ministry of Jesus (P. Long).

  6. The fact that Jesus still got to share in the food at dinner with Jesus and not have his cover blown is just crazy to me. Jesus could’ve stopped his death in a heartbeat, but he chose to even humble himself before Judas and serve him wholly. Jesus knew that his mission needed to be complete, which is why he had to serve. Jesus knew his mission, and this was the only way that he could finish his mission.

  7. I did not realize that Jesus referenced a Psalm however why are we surprised that he did so? Jesus knew everything and thus he must have been hinting to his disciples that look this is going to happen almost word for word. It makes me wonder if any of his disciples, later on, went back to the temple to read that Psalm and had an aha moment where they realized what Jesus was referring to. It is a good thing that Jesus was not just fully human but also fully God because any human would have stopped Judas from going to betray him because we would not want to die for the whole world. However, Jesus knew what was going to happen and what Judas was about to do and he loved him regardless without wavering. If we all loved like Jesus did this world would be a totally different place than it is today. Jesus’ love is so radical and countercultural that it is hard for us to wrap our minds around how he could love us all so much even the ones that would never acknowledge or love him.

  8. I was not unaware that Jesus had referenced a Psalm; but I am shocked at the fact that people are surprised He did reference the Old Testament. We see that all throughout the Bible that there is refences to a lot of other Scripture when trying to explain a situation better. Jesus may have done this so His disciples would have a better understanding of what He was talking about; this way they could go back and read Psalm so they could put two and two together. Jesus fully understood what was going to happen, and could have stopped Judas from going to betray Him; but if this was done salvation may have never been a thing we would have received. But because Jesus is fully God he still loved and forgave Judas because He of the Lord’s mercy and grace that was and is upon Him.

  9. In John 13:18 Jesus predicts the fulfillment of Scripture that one of His disciples will betray Him. The Scripture that He predicts will be fulfilled is Psalm 41:9 which says, “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.” In the context of the Psalm, the writer is speaking about the oppression they are facing from their enemies as well as the betrayal of those close to him. “It is possible the Psalm refers to the rebellion of Absalom against David, although David’s psalms often speak of betrayal” (Long). The Psalm could be about Mephiboseth who was Jonathan’s son and who ate at David’s table. He was also possibly involved in Absalom’s rebellion. David’s supporters and closest advisors sided with Absalom and betrayed David. With ancient near-eastern society in mind, since David showed hospitality to Mephiboseth by sharing meals with him and considered him to be under his protection. For someone in this position to betray David would be considered treason. Psalm 41:8 is an important part of the context of what Jesus quotes. The enemies/betrayers mock the psalmist saying that he suffered from something deadly and will not be able to rise again. However, at the end of the Psalm it says that the king does rise again and is placed in the presence of God. “The point of the allusion to Psalm 41:9 is therefore to highlight the treason of one of Jesus’ disciples” (Long). Just as Mephiboseth shared David’s food and benefited from his protection and betrayed him Judas betrayed Jesus. In addition to food and protection, Judas witnessed Jesus and His ministry and therefore not only rejected Jesus, but he rejected Him as the Messiah, the son of God. At first, when Jesus died, it may look like the betrayer was in the right and that Jesus really had committed blasphemy because He wasn’t the son of God. However, just as the king rose again, Jesus rose from the grave. When Jesus quoted Psalm 41:9 he may have also been predicting His vindication that would come with His resurrection (Long).

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