The words, “And it was night,” aren’t just telling time. John’s Gospel opens by celebrating the light that “shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (1:5). Only John’s Gospel records Jesus’ saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (8:12). Now John ushers us into the darkness that will overshadow us until the women come to the tomb on Sunday morning (20:1).
Jesus and Judas know what the rest of the disciples do not know. “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas . . . to betray him” (13:2). Jesus knows that the decision has already been made. Judas’ betrayal that night begins in his heart sometime earlier.
How did the darkness work its way into Judas’ heart? Selfishness? Greed? Pride? Resentment? However it began, Judas allows it to overtake the light he had once seen in Jesus. He could choose to follow Jesus and walk in the light, but he allows the darkness to overcome that light. Having mutated in Judas’ heart, it leads to that moment when he leaves the table and goes into the night.
We can easily miss the ways in which we are like Judas. Like him, betrayal begins in our hearts. It takes root in shadowy temptations in the deep, hidden desires we try to deny. Over time, we make our choices. We either allow the light of Christ to overcome the darkness or we allow the darkness to overcome that light. But if we walk with Jesus, we will find the light that darkness can never overtake.
O God, who calls us from darkness to light, help us to acknowledge the subtle temptations that draw us away from Jesus. Strengthen us to walk in his light. Amen.
The readings for Holy Week focus our attention on the sacrifice made by the Messiah. The prophecies in Isaiah speak of it. The Psalms tell of confidence in God even in the midst of betrayal and suffering like that experienced by Jesus. The author of Hebrews celebrates Jesus’ death as the final and perfect sacrifice. Paul describes crucifixion as the center of our teaching as Christians. We follow these events through the eyes of two Gospel writers, particularly John. Jesus foreshadows his death in multiple ways, but even his closest followers struggle to understand and accept its meaning. Why would the Son of God experience such alienation and suffering? It is all for us, the ultimate work of love. But then he conquers the grave! Praise be to God!
Read John 13:21-32. When have you noticed darkness planting seeds of betrayal in your heart? How did you follow Jesus’ light?
Read John 13:1-7, 31b-35. What status symbols do you hold on to that keep you from following Jesus’ example of humble service?
Read Isaiah 53:1-5. On Good Friday, God enters into human suffering. When have you felt God’s presence in your suffering?
Read John 20:1-18. How has Christ found you?
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