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March 29, 2018

Lent 2018: Day Forty Four

John 13:21c, John 13:25b

“One of you will betray me.”

“Lord, who is it?”

The full text of John 13:21-25 begins with a powerful phrase, “Jesus was troubled in his spirit.”13:21. It is a stirring phrase for many reasons. Clearly one reason is that we who know the story immediately go to our feelings about Judas and his betrayal of Christ. Did he have to do it? Was it a choice he made or was he just cast in this role as a part of the divine drama of Christ’s predicted crucifixion, death and resurrection? In any case, it is a bitter moment in our story as Christians.

There are few experiences in life as disappointing and painful as being betrayed. The very concept speaks of a trust broken, a relationship lost, a reality shattered. At the very least it can lead to self-examination and at the most to self-doubt for trusting one who violated that trust. In this sense it is easy to relate to how Jesus felt. But, what about Judas?

I raise this question because it is important that we not spend all our time on this text identifying with Jesus — feeling betrayed, getting angry and wanting the betrayer to pay. There is far too much anger and blaming in our world. Perhaps our time would be better spent examining how Judas came to betray Christ. After all, he was first a chosen disciple. At one point he was so trusted he was given the responsibility for the keeping “the money bag” (John 13:29) for the disciples. What changed?

From what I have read, in human terms, at the very minimum Judas lost focus. It may be he began to think more of how he thought things should go. If you think about it, you have to admit there is not a single scripture text that recounts a single one of the disciples expressing the idea that Jesus’ prediction that he would die on the cross was a GOOD idea! Perhaps that is how betrayal begins — when we turn our minds to what we want, to what we think is the way things ought to be, closing off to what others believe. When Judas betrayed Christ, he broke ranks with the path of self-giving love to which each disciple had committed when he began to follow Christ. Judas closed his eyes to what Christ wanted him to see.

And so on this Maundy Thursday, this holy day when our Lord was betrayed, I confess; I have betrayed him. More often than I would like to admit, I have acted according to what I want, to what I think should be, to the way I see things, rather than taking the time to deeply examine if my decisions are truly Christ-centered. I know I need to hear this story of betrayal as a reminder to examine myself, not condemn another. I believe that is what Christ would want of one of his disciples then, and today.

Prayer: Lord, give me the mind and heart of Christ, so that I may not stray too far off the path he has forged for all who seek to follow him. Amen.

Rev. John Farley
South District Superintendent
California-Pacific Conference