July 26, 2015 Leave a comment
I was reading this morning from the Book of John, searching for an appropriate passage with which to frame my song selections for worship. I was looking through Jesus’ great teachings on the night of his betrayal. He delivered his “new” commandment that his disciples love one another. John’s opening to the scene of that Last Supper in 13.1 included a statement that I have not heard discussed frequently, if at all. There, he tells something about Jesus’ character when he says, “…having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
In the course of John’s writing, he mentions “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” If John were speaking of himself, perhaps he was focusing on how that love felt to him, as if he were indeed special. But here in 13.1, he says,” …he loved them to the end.” Plural. Jesus practiced what he preached. He emphasized that further in his symbolic act of humility in washing the disciples’ feet.
But as I read through chapter 13, another phrase caught my eye, and it was as if I had never before read the verse, or at least not paid much attention to it. The scene shifts to Jesus announcing that someone in the room would betray him, and that he would pass a morsel of bread to the one who would do it. It would have been a scene of great suspense for the company reclining at table that night. Perhaps they sat up straighter as he mentioned the traitor. Perhaps each one was wondering if he would be the implicated party. But only Jesus knew. And Judas.
Judas had reached a point of no return. He could have refused the bread. But he didn’t. He was locked on the target of turning over this dangerous man to the Jewish authorities.
At that point, John reflects that Satan entered into Judas. Whether literally or figuratively, it doesn’t matter. He had colluded with Jesus’ enemies, and this night would bring the fruition of that dark collaboration. Perhaps John means that Judas’ devilish scheme was no longer secret, and that was why Jesus then encouraged him to finish his task.
Judas took the bread, acknowledging that he was indeed the one. He turned his back on Jesus and walked out. In the first chapter of his gospel account, John had said of Jesus, “4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
He turned his back on the true light. And in doing so, John says of Judas’ condition both temporally and spiritually, “And it was night.”
Judas had entered the darkness. He led the contingent of soldiers and representatives of the High Priest and council to the Garden where Jesus would be arrested.
In Matthew 27, as the next day dawned, so did the realization of what he had done. Judas tried to return the blood money paid to him by the chief priests and elders because he was responsible for the condemnation of an innocent man. They refused. In his guilt and shame, Judas hanged himself.
Judas was not the first man to betray a friend, nor would he be the last. But each time one turns on another, he enters the darkness, the night, where his shameful deeds may be hidden, but where there is also confusion and uncertainty. A person in darkness can easily lose his way. A person who has a sense of morality would have pangs of guilt, as apparently Judas showed. But those sins were laid bare in the light of day.
I had never noticed those four little words before, but they speak volumes about the events that would soon transpire and about the darkness that would consume a one-time friend and disciple of that teacher from Galilee. In I John 1, the apostle writes, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Judas failed to appreciate the light of Jesus. But the darkness did not satisfy in any way. Those four little words teach a powerful lesson.