18I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”21After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, 24so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26Jesus answered,“It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”36Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times. John 13:18-38
This intimate meal that only moments ago included Jesus washing his disciples’ feet in so humble a portrait of amazing and unconditional love has veered dramatically, offering what feel like stolen glimpses of the Lord’s heart, his soul, his turmoil. But there is an elevated tension, too.
To say that the mood has shifted doesn’t really convey what’s happening around this table right now. Unlike a few moments ago when watching Jesus took my breath away, this feels like someone just knocked the wind out of me.
The disciples are relaxed, rapt in the company of their Teacher. Their friend. Their Lord. Including Judas. If he is conflicted at all about what he is about to do, it doesn’t show. At least not on the outside. Not like it does in his heart, apparently. The heart that Jesus sees. The heart that the Enemy claims.
My heart beats faster at the mention of a betrayer. The disciples look more perplexed, more concerned with who it is than what it means. But even that concern seems, well, a bit cavalier. Peter, normally so outspoken, catches John’s eye. A tilt of the head, a raised eyebrow, a subtle signal: ask him, John.
Reclining against Jesus, seemingly still wrapped in the intimate, unconditional love of this man who is God who only moments before washed his feet, John asks him simply, Lord, who is it?
Jesus’ answer seems straight forward. Simple. Obvious, even. It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.
He then dips his bread and hands it to Judas.
But there is no reaction from the disciples. No one turns to Judas and demands answers. No one grabs him by his robes, gets in his face and asks him how he can possibly betray this man, this Jesus that they follow. That they love. No one gets up and follows Judas to see where he’s going or what he’s up to.
In front of everyone, Judas takes the bread from Jesus. Jesus tells him to go and do what he needs to do quickly and then, Judas leaves.
Why do none of the disciples ask him where he’s going?
Why are none of the disciples riled up when Judas takes the incriminating piece of bread?
Why do none of the disciples seem to get it?
I can’t help but wonder if it’s because it just didn’t matter. If it hadn’t been Judas, it would have been someone else. Or it would have come about in some other way. But no matter what happened around this table, or anywhere else for that matter, Jesus is going to die.
The disciples were about to have plenty enough to wrestle with; they didn’t need to be distracted with what Judas was about to do.
And they would each betray Jesus in their own way. No, maybe not to his death. But they would break his heart. They would desert him. They would deny him.
Each of them, including Judas Iscariot, would have to wrestle with their own demons when their time came.
Judas sold his loyalty for 30 pieces of silver. But how many times have I sold out to the crowd, to the Pharisees of my time, to the easier way?
The disciples scattered and hid themselves because they were afraid. Because they couldn’t face the possibility of their own arrest or death because of their friendship with Jesus. But how many times have I hidden my faith or refused to die to myself for the sake of something greater than me because I was afraid?
Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Even though he had walked on water with Jesus. Even though Jesus had healed his mother-in-law. Even though he loved Jesus fiercely. But how many times have I denied my love for Jesus by my words, by my actions, by my fear.
We all have our own demons with which we need to wrestle. We don’t need to take on the sins, the perceived wrongs, the assumed bad choices of others.
Jesus died for Judas just like he died for the 11 other disciples. Just like he died for me. It’s not up to me what Judas does with that gift. Whether he accepts it or whether he rejects it. It’s only up to me to choose what I will do with that gift.
No matter how many times I stumble.
No matter how many times I hide my Light.
No matter how many times I deny him.
No matter how many times I betray him.
No matter how many times I sell out.
The gift remains. His gift remains.
And so I get to try again. And again. And again.
Because I am forgiven. Because I am loved.
I am loved. Intimately. Unconditionally. Divinely.
I am loved.