Thursday, April 21, 2011


Posted a day late. Lessons are for 4/20/11.

I have always found John’s version of Judas’ betrayal at the Last Supper fascinating. In today’s gospel lesson (John 13:21-32), Jesus tells his disciples, “One of you will betray me,” but then refuses to say who that person is. Then, before giving it to Judas, he says pseudo-enigmatically, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Satan enters into Judas, and he leaves the table. Mystery solved, right? But the disciples still didn’t get it. They’re still thinking that Judas must have gotten up to go buy some supplies. Stupid disciples?

Although the disciples are a little slow on the uptake, we can forgive them. Jesus was intentionally oblique. I think that’s because he partially wanted to differentiate between Judas and the remaining 11 “faithful” disciples but also wanted to allow each of them to consider his own role in betrayal. In the dark hours that followed, it was important for each disciple to realize, as he hid from the authorities and watched his master undergo incredible pain, that he too played a role in the Passion. And with them, so do we. All of humanity puts Jesus on the cross through our betrayal of God’s love.

When I read the events of Holy Week, it’s easy to identify the villains—Judas, Pilate, the High Priest, and the angry mob. But the danger of singling them out is that we lose our place in the story. Forgetting our role in the betrayal isn’t only dangerous because we lose touch with our own brokenness, but that amnesia leads to an emptier experience of the resurrection. Jesus’ victory over death isn’t just to defeat the wickedness of the few who handed him over, put him on trial, or demanded his execution. Jesus redeems all of our wickedness. When Jesus tells his disciples, “One of you will betray me,” he does so to break their hearts so fully that only he could put them back together again.

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