Wednesday in Holy Week John 13:21-30
These verses from John’s Gospel are found within the narrative of the Last Supper, on the day we call Maundy Thursday, between the washing of the disciples’ feet and the call to a new commandment, to love one another. This isn’t an easy reading, or one we like to hear, because it speaks of ‘the betrayal.’ Judas: the very name means ‘a person who betrays a friend’. He is most frequently portrayed kissing Jesus’ cheek, the sign of identification he promised the chief priests, and that false affection makes the gesture seem all the more revolting. The character of Judas could have been such a different saint of history, if only…if only, he hadn’t sold his soul. I can’t read this passage without imagining how Jesus must have felt, knowing and yet so hurt, so wounded psychologically and spiritually, by the act. This was one of the twelve, one of his own who had travelled with him, as he taught and preached and healed. Yes, Judas had often taken a hard line but Jesus had just washed his feet, and was sitting at table with him. Then, betrayal.
Although I hope that most of us cannot recall a personal experience of this magnitude, I do think that we can relate, for betrayal is not limited to headline news. It means to give aid or information to an enemy. It means to be false, to violate a trust, be disloyal. It means to disrespect and to breach a confidence. Betrayal. It’s a sin of commission, not of omission. We don’t betray someone unknowingly. That’s what makes it so ugly. Often in Bible study we are encouraged to relate to a character, to imagine ourselves present. Have we betrayed our Lord?
Sadly, it is probable that each of us has been betrayed at some time and suffered accordingly but it is just as likely, albeit much more difficult to admit, that we have played the betrayer’s role. We might use other words, or even refuse to count ourselves in the same line up. Deception, triangulation, blame, unfaithfulness, gossip, cover-up, apathy, condemnation, neglect, dismissal, lies, even ‘white ones’, even the ones uttered because we don’t want to own up to our error, or ignorance, or pride or fear…betrayal lurks there. Betrayal, posing sometimes as something we can justify, superb at destroying relationships, at destroying people.
Not easy to confess and yet…our Lord who experienced such pain, and more, will he not guide us to penitence? Will he not listen to our plea for forgiveness? His grace will lead us into reconciliation, into wholeness, into newness of life! He will, by very virtue of his sacrifice, his own suffering and death on the Cross! By his Cross we have been redeemed, healed; we have been saved. As we continue the journey through this week, through life, may we stand before our Lord who knows every wart and wrinkle and excuse and dis-ease in us; may we stand before our Lord, confident in God’s mercy and in the full knowledge that God loves us ‘just as we are’ and too much to leave us there!
Photo: Blooming today in our garden! The spring crocus is also known as the ‘penitent’s rose’. It represents our heart or soul which blooms when someone we love forgives us.