The Last Supper, Carl Bloch, late 19th century, public domain, Wikipedia Commons (Notice Judas on the right fleeing the supper.)
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“So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.” John 13:30 NRSV
Have you ever been betrayed? Some say it is “like sticking a knife in your back.” The betrayal comes quickly and strikes you from behind. You didn’t know it was coming.
Sadly, I’ve been betrayed on a couple of occasions in my work environment. It came so unexpectedly. When I realized that moment, I felt a rush of sadness and emotional pain. I felt betrayed.
In St. John’s Gospel, Jesus had just washed His disciples’ feet. That was the first surprising moment of the evening. The master, Jesus, humbled Himself, and did the work of a slave. Roles were reversed, but Jesus showed His disciples what it meant to be a servant.
But the second moment of surprise was at hand. It shocked the disciples in another way. It was not enlightening like the washing of feet, but it still sent a shock to them. Jesus spoke of His betrayal and it was not from the scribes and Pharisees at this supper. The betrayer would be one who was close to Jesus. He would be one of His disciples.
In a moment of fear and curiosity, Peter spoke up and asked, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered and said it would be the one to whom He would give a piece of bread after it was dipped into a dish. All eyes focused on Jesus’ next move. Who would receive the dipped piece of bread? Who would be the betrayer? Who would be the one who turned against their master and lord?
We usually don’t know when we are going to be betrayed, but Jesus did, and he knew the one who would bear this overwhelming guilt. Jesus gave the dipped bread to Judas, the holder of the common purse, the one the disciples trusted to buy their food or give to the poor on their behalf. Someone so trusted, so held in high esteem to keep their money, was the one who fled quickly into the night.
The dark night was a symbol of chaos, sin, and deception. Judas fled into it and Satan sped into Judas’ heart. In the dark of the evening that same night, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss and the Roman authorities hauled Jesus off and onto the road of His crucifixion.
But in that ugly crucifixion there was new life for all, for you and for me. Jesus took upon Himself the sin of Judas’ betrayal, the sins of all those who ambush others with deceit and hate and Jesus forgives them. Jesus’ death gives life anew to all who feel the anguish of betrayal. Jesus promised to us all the Holy Spirit who daily forgives all sins and who raises us up to newness of life.
Through Jesus’ death, betrayal has lost its eternal sting and we will not have to flee into the night alone, afraid and lost in the guilt of sin.
Thanks be to God.