Jesus is responding to a question from Peter:
Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. (John 13:26)
One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means." Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" (John 13:23-25)
Why was Jesus asked this by Peter?Jesus was asked this after saying that someone at the dinner was going to have Jesus arrested.
This means that Jesus' statement is in response to the questioning of his disciples, who were incensed that one of their own would turn Jesus in to the High Priest's guards for persecution.
This indicates that Jesus' disciples felt committed to their teacher.
It also indicates that Jesus knew precisely who was going to turn him over to Caiaphus the High Priest. And that Jesus wanted his other disciples to know who it was. Why is this important?
Jesus was their teacher. He was trying to teach them something.
Some interpretations of these texts have made this event refer to some complex scheme of Jesus being some kind of sacrificial lamb to cleanse everyone's sins.
Cleanse everyone's sins?Different sects have slightly different interpretations, but many suggest that if we join their institution we will be saved by Jesus' crucifixion. Some teach that this is because a certain ritual must be done, such as confession and communion. Others teach that we have to come into their church and proclaim that we 'accept Jesus into my heart.'
Whatever the ritual, the interpretations of many sects that claim to follow Jesus say that we can be saved if we accept that Jesus died for my sins.
The problem is not only that different sects claim different requirements. There is also a problem of Jesus' teachings. If all anyone had to do was contemplate upon Jesus' crucifixion to be cleansed of sins, why did Jesus never teach this?
Why did Jesus teach to ask God to forgive our sins:
"and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us." (Matt. 6:9 NLT)In other words, Jesus taught that God can forgive (cleanse) our sins (called "debts" in some translations). We just need to ask Him through prayer, and forgive others for whatever they have done against us.
Why did God allow Jesus to be crucified?The answer lies within another question: How can someone love God if they cannot reject God?
If we accept that Jesus is God's messenger, sent by God to teach us to love God, then we would accept that crucifying Jesus is essentially the same as rejecting God. It is the quintessential rejection of God.
If someone cannot reject God then there is no freedom to love God. Love requires having the freedom to love. If we were forced to love someone that could never be love. It would be a form of slavery.
The Supreme Being wants our love, but He never forces us. He gives us the ultimate freedom to love Him or not.
And the freedom not to love Him means having the freedom to persecute those who teach love of God.
This all means that the arrest, trial and persecution of Jesus was essentially an event that allowed everyone involved to get on one side or another. This event was - and still is - a test of everyone: Do we want to love God or not?
The Supreme Being does not force Himself upon us. God is not a bully. He is a kind, gentle God – contradicting the Biblical translations of institutional scribes who have tried to scare and threaten their followers with fearful depictions of God. Nor does God force us to accept His representative. We always have the freedom to accept or reject God and His representative.
This is in fact why so many messengers of God have been persecuted over the centuries. Because God does not want to force Himself nor His representative upon anyone.
In fact, if God did not allow those around Jesus the freedom to reject His representative – or threaten us if we didn’t – then how could we truly love God? We couldn’t. We would be forced. And love cannot be forced.
For the Supreme Being loves us so much that He only wants us to love Him when we make the choice.
He even presents us with so many reasons not to. He presents us with material gains, sexual gratification, fame and so many other temptations. Why? If God wanted to force us to worship Him why would He present to us so many temptations?
Because He only wants those who are serious about re-developing their loving relationship with Him.
But doesn’t allowing God’s representative to be persecuted mean the Supreme Being is mean or doesn’t care?
Jesus did have the option to evade arrest and avoid capture. Jesus could have also cooperated with Caiaphus and Pilate, and likely have gotten let go.
But Jesus didn't want to. He continued to stand his ground and maintain his positions, regarding his teachings. This is ultimately why they persecuted Jesus - because of Jesus' teachings - teachings about love for God.
Jesus loved God to the extent that he would allow his body to be tortured and killed on behalf of his teachings. This illustrates that Jesus' teachings and relationship with God were important enough to "die" for.
While Jesus did not "die" - only his physical body died - Jesus' sacrifice does have the ability to save us and cleanse our sins - should it serve to underscore the importance of Jesus' most important teaching:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38)