Today's reading from John inspires multiple reflections, falling as it does in the section unique to John's Gospel where Jesus met with his disciples on the brink of his betrayal. The five chapters (13–17) encapsulate what I named yesterday as Jesus' great Summing Up. Through Jesus’ words and actions with his disciples, John’s Gospel invites us to become part of the story.
In addition to Jesus’ teaching and example in this larger section, today's reading takes us into his heart, a broken heart. When he said, “One of you will betray me,” he was referring to Judas. Much has been said about Judas in meditations like the ones I write for this week of Disciplines.
But today, I want to keep the focus on Jesus and what it must have been like for him to realize that the final piece of the betrayal puzzle would be inserted by the hand of one with whom he had journeyed for several years. The Gospels make clear that Jesus was under attack early on in his ministry. The religious/political leaders formed plots and made plans to destroy him. (See Mark 3:6.) But it was one from his own fellowship who did him in. The underlying emotions in today’s reading are palpable.
Yet Jesus offered Judas the same bread and wine that everyone else received! Judas ate and drank at the Lord's Supper! Of all the examples of inclusion offered to us by Jesus in the course of his ministry, none is more powerful than this. Radical love. Amazing grace.
Some of us know the heartache of being “turned in” by our friends. We know the pain of being rejected by those who have known us the longest. In such times, we must recognize and express this piece of Jesus’ witness—the piece that refuses to exclude or withhold grace.
Dear God, give me a tender heart toward everyone, including those who no longer want to have anything to do with me. Amen.
The readings for Holy Week focus our attention on the sacrifice made by the Messiah. The prophecies in Isaiah speak of it. Psalm 22 tells of confidence in God even in the midst of betrayal and suffering like that experienced by Jesus. In First Corinthians Paul describes crucifixion as the center of our teaching as Christians. We follow these events through the eyes of the Gospel writer 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 13:1-17, 31b-35. What status symbols do you hold on to that keep you from following Jesus’ example of humble service?
Read Isaiah 52:13–53:12. 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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