Brett Jordan (Unsplash.com)
After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus 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. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some 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. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.’
John 13:21-32 (NRSVA)
Our passage opens with an insight into Jesus’ the state of mind. The Christ is ‘…troubled in spirit…’
Yet, there is no talk of his upcoming scourging, the humiliation of dragging a beam through the streets, or the pain of penetrating nails, or the exhaustion of asphyxiation. None of this is news to Jesus. His predictions make that clear.
So why is Jesus troubled? The answer is clear: ‘…one of you will betray me.’
With all that is about to unfold, it is the deception of the snitch that hurts most. Jesus is deeply wounded by this friend’s choice to trade him for silver.
Perhaps it is helpful for you to know that this unfaithfulness hurt Jesus. Deeply. Maybe you understand. A colleague to work sold you for a promotion. A spouse you now know deceived you. A friend who told.
Betrayal is all too often part of our experience in this world. Friends are not always what they seem, expect, or hope.
This is especially the case for Jesus. Judas, after a night of prayer, was chosen by the Christ. Many were following Jesus by then. Being selected as one of the twelve was a privilege. There were other possibilities. Jesus invited Judas into all the private parable explanations, entrusted him with the common purse, allowed him to know his rhythms and movements.
Judas was trusted. No wonder that, for now, it is this upcoming sell-out that hurts the most.
So I wonder what went on for Judas as Jesus raised and exposed his secret plans? Jesus words ‘…one of you will betray me’ must have come as a shock to this son of Iscariot. No wonder he is silent. Perhaps he is, at least momentarily, confused. How did Jesus find out? How much does he know?
For Judas this is a point of revelation. An unveiling of the hidden.
It is for the rest of the disciple’s swell. They struggle to comprehend, wonder who Jesus is referring to, perhaps even question their own potential. Could it be me?
Publicly naming the culprit, however, is not the purpose of Jesus’ raising the source of his heartache. There is no exposure to the wrath of Judas’ peers. Only a nod from Simon and a whisper from John – ‘the one whom Jesus loved’ – brings about the question they all wanted to ask: ‘Lord, who is it?’
Jesus answer: A sharing of bread and wine.
Only John understands the significance of this gift. It is an act that holds a thousand echoes of the mealtime ritual Jesus will reunite this soon-to-be scattered community with. Bread. Wine. Sharing.
And the meaning of these symbols: blood spilled, a body broken. This Judas – now accepting Jesus’ offering – is the very one determined to be the link between Jesus and the authorities. He will play his role in making this blood flow. He will do his part to break this body.
How potent that these symbols will soon remind of more than the murderous events that are about to unfold. They will also become a community forming call to eat together. They will be reminders of radical forgiveness.
And yet, this giving becomes very the moment of opportunity for all the forces of evil. Without elaborate explanation, our text points to what is happening on a cosmic level: ‘Satan entered into him’.
Jesus’ words, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do’, finally reveal to Judas that Jesus is not only able to speak generally about betrayal. Jesus knows Judas is the one. Again it is a cryptic revelation. For everyone else it is unremarkable, a likely reference to another upcoming purchase or gift.
So Judas leaves. And Jesus’ responds. He knows exactly where Judas is going: to enact his cowardly plan. This night walk will spark a chain of events that will gain an unstoppable momentum.
Yet Jesus, still heavy in heart, speaks no more of betrayal nor resorts to further exposure. Rather, he is strangely focused on the ‘glory’ of God that is soon to be revealed. Five times over two sentences we see the word ‘glorify’ on the lips of Jesus.
After all, this is no longer about betrayal. It is now about revealing the heart and purpose God.
Do you find it comforting to know that Jesus was human enough to be troubled by the pain of betrayal? To what extent do you find this knowledge disturbing?
Why do you think Jesus chooses to raise this topic and yet address it so cryptically? Why does Jesus not confront – or prevent – Judas’ sin? Why only this partial revealing?
Why would Jesus choose to expose Judas (to himself) with a sharing of bread and wine? What do you see as the link between this and communion?
How would you describe the coming glorifying of God Jesus finishes this passage pointing too? How is this revealed in Jesus’ suffering and death? Is it revealed differently in the resurrection?