A simple offering of words this night as we enter into the troubled state of Jesus’s heart and his disciples’ turmoil and anxiety ….
After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”
His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 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?”
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. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.John 13:21-32 NIV
Scripture gives us some insight into the kind of man that Judas was. We met him on Monday as a liar and a thief who would criticise a woman for an extravagant act of worship because of what it cost him … and lie about his motivation for doing so.
We will meet him again tomorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane when he betrays his teacher and friend with a kiss. We know his end – how he regretted what he had done and hung himself because there was no way to take it back.
Yet, as we look around the table in this particular passage tonight we see a gathering of very anxious, very human men who – at Jesus’s proclamation of the coming betrayal – do not rush to point the finger at another or protest their innocence but want to know which one of them it might be.
They were a close group who had journeyed together intimately over a number of years – from different backgrounds, yes; with vastly different personalities, certainly – but bound in wonder and belief to this man: Jesus. There would have been squabbles and conflicts, smaller cliques developing between those with a natural affinity, and an understanding of each person’s gifts and shortcomings that physical closeness and camaraderie brings.
As they listened to those words, as they scrutinised each other, I wonder what they saw in one another’s hearts and minds? I wonder if they considered what was truly going on within their own and that gave them pause.
What strikes me most, time and time, about this story is how Jesus acts from the turmoil within his spirit. He speaks the truth and then dips a piece of bread into the dish and gives it to the one who will betray him. This act is not just a means to out the betrayer in the midst but, culturally, a tradition performed by the host of a table to honour a special guest.
It is a radical, intentional gesture of affection that includes him for eternity in the meal of broken bread and shared cup which proclaims that, by a love and grace that we are freely given, we are forgiven and bound to the eternal life of Christ.
Still, Judas chooses to leave the table and to cloak himself in the shadow of night. And soon, Peter will choose to deny any association with the Messiah to save himself.
We all make our choices. This Easter, what life do you choose?