Loving Father, may I have the power to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19).
After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.
Why? Why? After mass murders, shooting sprees, and serial killings, people crave answers. We want explanations! We want to know why? Why? But usually we are left without answers, rational answers, for explaining the madness of evil. We are face to face with what the apostle Paul called “the mystery of evil” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Such nefarious acts are labeled ‘senseless’ because we can never make any sense of them.
Today’s Scripture raises questions! Why? Why did Judas betray Jesus? In these verses we confront the incomprehensible mystery of evil in Judas alongside the incomprehensible mystery of love in Jesus. We search vainly for clues as to Judas’ motivation. Was it Judas’ greed for the thirty pieces of silver? Was Judas disappointed that Jesus did not play the role of a revolutionary against the Romans?
Perhaps John uncovers a clue when he says of Judas earlier in his Gospel: “he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it” (John 12:6b). Jesus invited Judas into that smallest, innermost circle of followers and called Judas “Friend” to the end (Matthew 26:50). Jesus understood from the beginning what was in Judas’ heart, and that Judas was “the one who would betray him” (John 6:64b). Yet Jesus did not force His will on Judas, but respected Judas’ freedom to make choices, all the while protecting him from the other disciples.
We see the mystery of Jesus’ incomprehensible love in His actions towards His betrayer in today’s Scripture. When the disciples fearfully asked Jesus who would betray Him, He whispered to John reclining to His right: “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” In Jesus’ giving Judas the first piece of bread He is acting as host of the Passover meal. The bread He presented to Judas was according to custom “a mark of special favour…the place of special honour. For one last, lingering moment Judas’ destiny hangs in the balance as the love of God incarnate shines one more time into his benighted heart.” (John Milne, The Message of John) Jesus continues to reach out in love to Judas, proving His love even for betrayers right to the end.
As He did with Judas, Jesus respects your human freedom. His love makes Him totally vulnerable, letting you make the choice. Will you let Jesus love you? Will you follow after Him?
- Why do you think Jesus awarded Judas the place of honor at the Passover meal?
- What does this gesture of love say to me about Jesus?
- What does this gesture of love say to me about Jesus’ love for me?
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.
Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)