Fr. Dale Matson
Wednesday in Holy Week
I think it is useful to provide additional context for our Gospel reading for today (John 13:21-35), the narrative from St. John of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. So much of what John includes is the prophetic events found in the Old Testament that frame the events of the life of Jesus. Jesus was not just obedient to His Father, He was obedient to the prophets. In the beginning of the chapter we see our Lord loving and serving His disciples through the foot washing, at the same time Jesus was aware of His betrayal and who would betray Him. There is the ever present tension of His reluctance to take the cup of suffering, die and be separated from His Father. At the same time He understood well His destiny and imminent death. The living Word of God placed Himself under the authority of Scripture. Jesus understood that Scripture foretold His death and that the Old Testament Prophesy must take place. The events must unfold as prophesied. It also must take place to provide after the fact evidence for the disciples who at this time, simply refused to accept the fact that their master had predicted that he would be sacrificed for their sake and the sake of those who followed. As He washed the feet of Judas, how difficult it must have been to love and serve the one about to betray Him. He quotes from Psalms 41:9, “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”
Notice also that Satan had put the idea in the heart of Judas to betray Jesus but as we read in the latter part of chapter 13. Jesus offered Judas a choice. He could have refused the bread and called off the plan. By taking the bread Judas had decided on his own to betray Jesus and to follow through on Satan’s plan. It is at that point that Satan entered Judas. Yet, there is a final irony here. Judas had embraced Satan’s plan but was under the agenda of Jesus who told him “What you do, do quickly”.
Meanwhile the disciples had attempted to figure out who would betray Jesus. I believe Jesus kept them from knowing the answer because He knew that they would all betray Him. This was not like Judas but each one betrayed Him just the same, by deserting Him by falling asleep when He asked them to pray with Him and denying knowledge of Him after He was arrested. They hid behind locked doors until Pentecost. How many times have we betrayed Him also? How many times have we failed to say to others, "I know this Jesus"?
Finally, When Jesus commanded that His disciples love one another as He loved them; He had demonstrated not just a sacrificial love. He was loving those whom He knew would betray Him. He was a loving servant to His enemies. It is a love like this that can forgive us and bring us from death to life. Amen