This is a very short meditation for based on the lectionary reading John 13:21-32. The context is a communion service with an afternoon fellowship group.
The one who is to hand Jesus over to the authorities is the one to whom Jesus gives the bread that he dipped in the dish.
Why did Judas hand Jesus over the authorities? Well, nowhere in the Gospel do we have any information about why Judas did what he did. There is some hint in scripture that perhaps he did it for money. Other people speculate that Judas wanted to force Jesus’ hand to become the political Messiah that so many people wanted. But the Gospels don’t give us any kind of a definitive answer as to Judas’ motivation.
I don’t know, but I am of the school that thinks that the reason that Judas handed Jesus over to the authorities was because he thought that he would force Jesus’ hand. I reckon that Judas thought that Jesus was being ineffectual and that Jesus’ mission needed to take on some kind of meaning. And I reckon that Judas thought that, through his action, the meaning of Jesus’ mission would be revealed.
Of course, the meaning of Jesus’ mission was revealed, but not in the way that I think Judas hoped.
I think that Judas understood that Jesus’ choice was either to stand up to the Romans or to die. The one thing that he didn’t reckon on was that Jesus would choose to die.
To see Judas as some kind of super-villain is to misunderstand who he was. Judas was nothing more than one of the group.
It’s easy to misunderstand who Judas was when we read that ‘Satan’ entered into him. It’s easy to cast Judas in the role of super-villain when we read words like that. But ‘Satan’ means ‘the accuser’. I don’t think that we are to understand here that Judas suddenly became demon-possessed and filled with some kind of extraordinary evil. I think that this was simply a man who had his own ideas and ambitions about what Jesus’ Messiahship was about. This was simply a man who thought that he knew better than God how God’s purposes were to be fulfilled.
I say ‘simply’ because, of course, we all do this.
The one who is to hand Jesus over to the authorities is the one to whom Jesus gives the bread that he dipped in the dish. But, of course, Judas was not the only disciple to whom Jesus gave the bread of friendship that night. Judas was not the only disciple whose feet Jesus washed that night.
Who is going to betray Jesus? One of us. Each of us. We are each guilty of thinking that we know better than God how his purposes are to be fulfilled. We can’t help it – this is part of our human condition. Judas is not a super-villain, he is an ordinary human being. One of us.
So where is the good news?
The good news is that Jesus chose the cross. He chose the path of forgiveness rather than the path of vengeance. And in doing so, he brought salvation into the world. In choosing the cross, he also demonstrated to us that even while we were still sinners, he died for us.
I believe firmly that Jesus’ forgiveness was available to Judas, although Judas could not see it. The good news is that no matter what we do, God’s forgiveness is always available to us. The good news is that we are forgiven sinners.