Was Judas present at the institution of the Lord


Was Judas present at the institution of the Lord’s Supper?

This is a much debated point, on which godly men have differed, so one would hesitate to dogmatise. Before giving what I believe to be the correct answer, I would say that the anxiety to prove that Judas was not present seems to rest on the false assumption that his presence would sanction to-day the admission of the ungodly to the Lord’s table. I believe this to be an entire mistake. Judas was a professed disciple of the Lord and one of the twelve apostles. He had passed all the tests and was apparently the most trusted of all by his fellow apostles, though the Lord knew from the beginning that he was a devil and would betray Him (John 6:64, 70). He did not, however, use His omniscience to expose Judas before the time, in fact not till he had irretrievably committed himself. His presence then at the Lord’s table would no more justify the reception of those known to be ungodly, than his being sent forth to preach would sanction the sending forth of the ungodly for this purpose. Matthew 26:25 seems to shew he was present up to the institution, and verse 26 begins, “As they were eating.” That is, the passover was not yet formally over; is it conceivable then that Judas would have left the room thus prematurely, as he must have done, to bar his being present at the institution of “the supper”? However, whether he did or not is not clearly stated in this Gospel, nor yet in Mark 14:22.

It is true that before that, the Lord had said plainly that the traitor would be found “among them that dipped with Him in the dish”; and He had said to Judas, “Thou has said,” in answer to his query, “Master (not Lord) is it I?” which for very decency’s sake he must have felt bound to make, lest he should draw attention to himself by his silence (Matthew 26:25). But this was probably only to Judas’ ear, who sat next to Him. This must not be confounded with the Lord’s definite sign to John, in answer to what I believe was his subsequent question, “Lord who is it?” “He it is to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it.” This revealed definitely to John the name of the traitor, and he alone narrates the incident (John 13:26, 27).

When we come to Luke’s Gospel we have a definite statement which must be allowed to have its influence, and I believe, its determinative influence with us. After the Lord has instituted the supper of remembrance, He immediately adds, “But, behold the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.” The force of this definite statement is met at once by some who assert that Luke does not give us things in historic, but in moral order. Certainly there is a measure of truth in this, though it can not mean that the historic order in some detailed account by Luke is never to be followed, but only has weight when Luke gives us an order of events (as he does, e.g., in the last journey to Jerusalem) which seems to clash with the other Gospels. But what moral order is concerned in such a statement as that of our Lord? (Luke 22:21). It would seem to be going out of the way to introduce confusion, rather than moral order, unless we are to take it literally. If Matthew and Mark had clearly stated that Judas had left before the supper was instituted, then such an argument might have force, and Luke’s testimony be discounted. John 13 does not seem really to help us, as there is no hint that Judas went out before the first “breaking of the bread,” for nothing is said of it. He did go out when the Lord had given him the sop and that was, I believe, after he had par- taken to his own condemnation of the bread and the wine, symbols of that very body and blood, of which by his betrayal he became guilty.