Betrayed -- Reflection for Holy Wednesday

John 13:21-32New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23 One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”[a] So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.[b] 27 After he received the piece of bread,[c] Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. 
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him,[d] God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

Holy Week is moving along. The hour of Jesus' death is closing in on him. He's gathered with his disciples for a meal. He has already washed the feet of the disciples (John 13:1-20). In the midst of this meal that follows the foot washing, which in John takes place on the evening prior to Passover (for Jesus is the Passover Lamb), Jesus reveals that one of them sharing in the meal will betray him. Peter and the Beloved Disciple want to know who Jesus is speaking of. Who would do such a thing? Surely not them.  I'm wondering if they are asking the question because they're not sure if Jesus means them.  All that Jesus will say is that the one to whom he gives the bread dipped in the dish (what is in the dish we're not told -- is it wine or oil or some other part of the traditional meal?). Whatever it is Jesus gives the bread to Judas Iscariot, says something to  him, and Judas leaves. The other disciples aren't sure what it is that Jesus has said. They have their theories, and they think nothing of it.  Could it be that they're still wondering if Jesus could be speaking of them.  

As is so often true with Jesus the story of the betrayal is a complicated one. Judas is going to do a dirty deed, but is it necessary?  We have word here that Jesus' spirit is troubled. But why? Is he concerned about his own death or Judas' betrayal?  If his concern is with Judas, is it because of what the betrayal leads to? Or is it because he loves Judas and can't bear to see Judas suffer like this?  These have been perennial questions. It is difficult to make sense of Judas' betrayal. Why would someone who knew Jesus so well do this?  Of course, John says that Satan led him to do this. But does this get Judas off the hook? After all, he was likely playing with fire here.  Besides, what would have happened had Judas not acted as he did?  Where would that leave the rest of our history? After all, Jesus himself says that the betrayal leads to him being glorified, and God through him.  So, in the end, everything works out!  Right?  

The questions keep coming. After all, it's only Wednesday. We still have much to discover about this whole thing.  But, as we consider these passages along the way to Good Friday and Easter, it is fitting to ask what they say to us. In what ways am a I a betrayer? We like to vilify Judas, but is there some of Judas in each of us?  If we say no, are we deceiving ourselves?  This kind of self-examination can prove rather self-defeating. We can easily adopt the view that we are of little value to God or anyone else. So, yes, there is some of Judas in us, but also a bit of Peter and the Beloved Disciple, Thomas and Mary Magdalene (yes, we need the courage of Mary). We can also take heart in the sense that Jesus loved Judas, even if he was the betrayer. No one it would seem is beyond redemption.    


John McCauslin said…
Does not Jesus' plea from the cross also apply to Judas, and to us as well? "Father forgive them for they know not what they do?"

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