Please explain the “sop” the writer John mentioned as it related to the Last Supper. Why didn’t the other Gospel writers mention it?
During His last observance of the Passover with His disciples, Jesus announced that one of them was a traitor and would betray Him. Curious as to the traitor’s identity but not realizing the impact or seriousness of the statement, Simon Peter asked John (who reclined near Jesus’ breast) to ask Jesus to identify the betrayer. Jesus answered John, “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it.” Then “when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot” (John 13:26).
The sop was a piece of the bread used in the feast. Jesus dipped it into the sauce for the paschal (Passover) lamb. It was common in those days for the host to offer one of the guests a morsel of bread as a gesture of love and friendship. So what Jesus did was not unusual, but because of the circumstances it was unusually significant.
First, the sop revealed Jesus’ love for Judas. Verse 21 indicates that Jesus was troubled over His traitorous disciple. He could have named Judas in front of everyone. Instead Jesus quietly gave a sign to John. Giving Judas this friendship morsel was as if Jesus were giving Judas one more opportunity to repent before He closed the door on him to carry out the plot.
Jesus, as the Bible reveals, was always aware of Judas’s heart. Referring to Judas Iscariot in John 6:70 and 71, Jesus noted that one of the disciples was “a devil.” In John 12:4–6, Judas revealed his hypocrisy by being concerned over the fact that Mary washed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume, when the money for the perfume could have fed poor people. In John 13:2 and 27, we see how Satan controlled Judas.
Second, the sop revealed once more Judas’s utter hypocrisy. Judas knew what he was about to do, yet he accepted this token and pledge of friendship and ate it. Accepting the sop paralleled what he did in the Garden a little later: he kissed the Son of God, using expressions for love and affection to betray Jesus.
Third, the sop calls our attention to the disciples’ naiveté. The Eleven had so much to learn about many spiritual truths (and they would learn much more in the following days). John 13:28 states, “Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him.” They apparently understood neither the significance of the sop given to Judas nor the reason why he left suddenly. They thought Judas was going out to give some money to the poor or to pay for the food used in the meal (v. 29). If they had discovered his intent, they might have seized Judas, restrained him, or even killed him in defense of the Lord. However, Christ did not allow that to happen.
Verse 31 suggests a changed atmosphere in the Upper Room after Judas left. Jesus had referred to Judas when He said after the foot washing, “Ye are not all clean” (v. 11). But after Judas left, Jesus could give further revelation to the rest of the men, and indeed He could call them “little children” (v. 33).
Regarding your question about why the other Gospel writers don’t mention the sop, note that they mention either the dish that the sop was dipped into or the hand of the betrayer (see Matthew 26:23; Mark 14:20; Luke 22:21). Also, the beloved disciple might logically mention the sop somewhat more specifically than the other writers did because he was reclining right next to Christ when the event took place.
Keep in mind that this incident with the sop and Judas fulfilled prophecy concerning Christ: “He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9; John 13:18).
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