Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Judas (Tuesday of Holy Week, John 12:1-11)

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified,“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,was reclining at Jesus’ side.So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him,“Master, who is it?”Jesus answered,“It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas,son of Simon the Iscariot.After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him,“Buy what we need for the feast,”or to give something to the poor.So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.

* * * * * * * *

The stage is set for a most tragic act of betrayal. Judas leaves Jesus and the other disciples before Jesus’ final meal with them. We know of course where Judas is heading: to the high priest in order to betray his friend. The gospel of John even manages to set the ‘mood’ for Judas’ horrific act: “It was night”.

We must not, however, think Judas to be a totally vile and evil man. In spite of what the gospel says may have been his motive, he remained a faithful follower of Jesus, at least up to this point. The very fact that he was made the treasurer of the group shows how Jesus trusted Judas, his stealing notwithstanding. He belonged to the inner circle of Jesus, perhaps not as close as John, but close to Jesus nonetheless.

We must not think Judas to have hated Jesus so much that he chose to betray him. In fact it is more likely the case that Judas, being one of the more intelligent disciples, knew in his heart that Jesus was the Messiah sent by God. But like the other disciples, and many others whom Jesus encountered, Judas could not and would not accept Jesus’ unique understanding of his role as Savior, that is, a suffering role.

And so Judas betrays Jesus, perhaps in the vain hope that should God see his Messiah suffer, he would intervene and smite all his enemies, thereby showing Jesus to be who and what he truly is, the Savior of Israel. But once again Judas miscalculated. The way of the world was not to be the way of God’s Son. For him, there was only the way of the suffering servant. This Judas could not accept. And hence, he betrayed Jesus.

We too betray Jesus at times, when we put in place of the values and principles we’ve learned from him, the values and principles of the world: that of power, of prestige, of wealth, of greed. Like Judas, we show ourselves unwilling to accept that the way of Christ is different from the way of the world, and following him means turning our backs to it.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)