Scripture Text: John 13: 21-32
21After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. 27After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29Some 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. 30So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. 31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.
What was Judas thinking? Did he really just go completely bad or was it something else? Had he somehow convinced himself that he could control the situation, that he could somehow force something to happen so that Jesus would have the chance to show once and for all that he was the Messiah? I don’t know. I guess we’ll never really know. The Gospel According to Judas depicts it as if it was the plan all along, somehow, I suppose, in a fail-hearted attempt to save Judas from eons of blame. But this passage from John’s Gospel, written in hindsight, doesn’t leave much room for speculation. Judas becomes the quintessential bad boy, the pinnacle of all badness in the world. Dante would later relegate him to the 9th circle of the inferno, destined to spend eternity in the bowels of hell with Brutus and Cassius (I suppose, then, putting Julius Caesar’s murder on equal footing with Jesus’! How odd!)
I actually feel sorry for Judas. I mean, don’t you think the world is a little too quick to jump on him and portray him as the son of darkness. And we are ready to follow along and release the other disciples from any wrongdoing. (After all…it was apparent, they really didn’t get what was going on anyway!) I really do think that Judas loved Jesus. Think about this as a possibility: Soldiers come to Judas in the dark of night. This had to be scary. After all, the tension of the week is mounting. “Show us Jesus; show us your Lord.” Judas hesitates. “Why are you afraid? Because if Jesus really IS Lord, he can prove it…he can get out of it…just show us. And here…here’s some money for your trouble.” You know, thinks Judas, they’re right. He is Lord. He can get out of it. And then, as the writer of Matthew’s Gospel account depicts, when Jesus was condemned to death, Judas could not face himself. What had he done? How could he live with it? How could he ever be forgiven? And so he hanged himself, a victim of his own choices and his own action.
And as for the blameless others, think about Simon Peter, so eager to be a part of Jesus’ “inner circle”…but, three times he was asked…and three times he denied even knowing Jesus. Is it that much worse to betray a trust then to deny that trust altogether? We assume not, because we are much more likely to be the culprits of this denial, going our own way, following the ways of the world. But surely, that can’t be as bad! So Judas remains the fall guy, the poster child for the worst sin imaginable, and the focus of all the blame for crucifying the Savior of the world.
Do we really think that it was ALL Judas’ fault? Was it Judas’ kiss that started the cycle that would end on the Cross? I don’t think we’re that naïve. All of the disciples played a part. All of society played apart. All of us play a part. We are all betrayers; we are all deniers; we are all beloved children of God. So, is this story supposed to be about betrayal or about forgiveness? None of us are innocent. All of us are forgiven. Holy Thursday does not end in betrayal; it ends in love. Perhaps rather than trying to lay blame for what happened at the Cross, perhaps rather than using Judas as the scapegoat for all of our own sins, we should let the Cross be what it is—a place of healing, a place of reconciliation, a place of forgiveness, a place of life recreated. Because of the Cross, all of us are invited to the table—even the Judases among us.
The soldiers are there with their swords and lanterns. The high priest’s slave is whimpering over his wounded ear. There can be no doubt in Jesus’ mind what the kiss of Judas means, but it is Judas that he is blessing, and Judas that he is prepared to go out and die for now. Judas is only the first in a procession of betrayers two thousand years long, If Jesus were to exclude him from love and forgiveness, to one degree or another he would have to exclude us all. Maybe this is all in the mind of Jesus as he stands with his eyes closed, or possibly there is nothing in his mind at all. As he feels his friend’s lips graze his cheek for an instant, maybe he feels nothing else…It is not the Lamb of God and his butcher who meet here, but two old friends embracing in a garden knowing that they will never see one another again. (Frederick Buechner)
“I Hope You Find It” (Cher)
FOR TODAY: In the Name of Christ, you are forgiven—all of you. Imagine yourself forgiven.
Grace and Peace,