Did Judas partake of the Lord’s Supper? The Gospel accounts seem contradictory. Luke seems to imply that he was there, but the others seem to imply that he had already left by the time the sacrament was administered by Christ. Theologians have landed on either side of this question, but the orthodox affirm that even if Judas did partake of the sacrament he did so eating and drinking damnation unto himself (1 Cor. 11:29) and that his partaking is by no means license for Pastors today to permit known unworthy partakers to the Lord’s Table.
Q. Who may be admitted to the Lord’s Table by men?
A. Such as are in appearance saints, and faithful; but such as are ignorant, and openly wicked cannot, without great sin against Christ, be admitted thereto.
Q. Why ought ignorant, profane and scandalous persons, to be refused admission?
A. Because their admission would tend to the destruction of their souls, and to the dishonour of Christ and his church (1 Cor. 5).
Q. Did not Christ admit Judas to the Lord’s supper?
A. It doth not appear that he did; but though he did, that only infers that hypocrites may be admitted.
– John Brown of Haddington, Questions & Answers on the Shorter Catechism
Chronologically Explicit Statements
We must assume the harmony of the Gospels such that even historical details are not contradictory between them. Additionally, the simple mentioning of one thing after another does not necessarily indicate chronology. Therefore, we need to look at phrases that explicitly communicate chronology. When we do so we find that Judas could not have partaken of the sacrament because he had already left when it was instituted.
“Satan entered into” Judas (John 13:27) and he left “immediately” after Jesus revealed he was the betrayer by giving him the sop (John 13:30). The sop was “as they did eat” (Matt. 26:21; Mark 14:18) the Passover meal, but the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was “after supper” (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25). Therefore, Judas left before the institution and distribution of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
Luke’s Account of the Supper is not Chronological
Luke places the exposing of Judas after the institution and distribution of the sacrament (Luke 22:21-23), but Matthew and Mark place it beforehand (Matt. 26:21-26; Mark 14:18-22).
The Gospel of Luke is not always in chronological order, sometimes things are arranged topically. For instance in Luke 3:19-20 John the Baptist is arrested before he baptizes Jesus. Also, Luke 22:17-18 is topical rather than sequential because not drinking “until the kingdom of God shall come” is being grouped with not eating until then as well (v. 16) and He is not speaking of the wine in the ordinary supper because the same things said of that cup in Luke are said of the sacramental cup in Matthew and Mark. This tendency in Luke further supports the explicit chronological language explained above and strongly indicates that Judas did not partake of the sacrament.
Theological Reasons Judas Did Not Partake
If Pastors know that someone is in unrepentant sin it is their duty to fence that person from the Table (1 Cor. 5:11). Since Jesus knew infallibly that Judas was reprobate and eternally damned “that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12), how much more would He not say to him, even conditionally: “this is my body broken for you…my blood, which is shed for you”?
Pastors today declare the covenant promises and blessings in the Word to all upon condition of belief, not knowing who is reprobate. But Christ’s promise of His body was particularly given to all who were present, unqualified and particularized to those men. Therefore Judas couldn’t have been a partaker.
“And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it… But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Matthew 26:27, 29
“Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Supposing a Pastor today could know infallibly that a particular person was reprobate and had sinned “the sin unto death” (1 John 5:16; Mark 3:29), would he be right to admit that person to the Table and apply Christ’s words to him conditionally, “This is the Lord’s body broken for you; this is the blood of the new covenant shed for you unto remission of sins“? If even a Pastor wouldn’t do such a thing, how much less would Christ in reference to “the son of perdition“? If Christ would not even pray for Judas (John 17:12), why would He offer Him His body and blood? “It does not become either the wisdom or goodness of God to will and intend a thing upon such a condition as neither is nor can be” (Spanhemius, de Gratia Universali, p. 76).
Elsewhere when Jesus gives a statement about His disciples He makes an exception for Judas. If Judas was at the Lord’s Supper, wouldn’t Jesus have made an exception even more poignantly than the following?
“Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.”
“I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.”
“Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?”
Denial and Abandonment
So then why would the knowledge of the disciples’ abandoning Jesus (Matt. 26:31-35, 56) and Peter’s denying Him (Matt. 26:69-75) not also be cause for Jesus fencing the Table from them? First, they were not reprobate like Judas and had not sinned the sin unto death as he had. Secondly, they could take the sacrament in good conscience because they had examined themselves when Christ had warned that one of them would betray Him (Mark 14:18-19). Future moments of weakness and sin do not make someone an unworthy partaker. Jesus fenced the Table properly and caused them to examine themselves (1 Cor. 11:28).
Understanding the Gospels in theological, historical, and factual harmony, and considering explicit chronological statements about the events of the Last Supper lead us to the strong conclusion that Judas did not partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Further, when we consider the theological and practical implications, our conclusion provides a more substantial and consistent basis for the fencing of the Lord’s Table. However, even if Judas did partake, we must still hold that it would have been to his own condemnation and he would not have gotten any spiritual benefit from it, just as unworthy partakers today.
For a more detailed explanation of this, see George Gillespie, Did Judas Partake of the Lord’s Supper? excerpt from Aaron’s Rod Blossoming, or the Divine Ordinance of Church Government Vindicated, Book 3, Of Excommunication from the Church, and of Suspension from the Lord’s Table, Chapter 8, “Whether Judas Received The Sacrament Of The Lord’s Supper.”