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. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.’
Jesus said: Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.
Many of us can recall a time in our lives when we have been betrayed. Perhaps a friend at school, a work colleague, or a person with whom we were romantically involved suddenly said or did something that betrayed our trust. Perhaps, as you read and hear these words, you can recall the feelings of hurt and desolation as that moment of betrayal dawned upon you. In today’s reading we hear of just such a moment in Jesus’ life. Jesus knew that for all God’s plan to come about he had to be betrayed, and that that betrayal had to come from one of those who were closest to him. We are not told how Jesus felt, instead we are left with the feeling that he just understood that this was how it would have to be. But surely the human Jesus shared in the feelings of disappointment and pain we feel when we are betrayed.
Down the centuries many arguments have been put forward to justify the actions of Judas Iscariot. Without his betrayal, how would Jesus have come to the point of fulfilling the ancient prophecies? If Judas’ role in Christ’s mission was long foretold, how can it be fair that he now languishes in the fires of eternal damnation? The convoluted arguments go on and on, but we should not allow those human-centric arguments to cloud our thinking and our attitudes to matters of faithful discipleship.
It is a core feature of Jesus’ teaching that we should remain constant in our faith. He teaches us that we should resist all that tempts us away from the narrow path that has been laid for us by God himself. He shows us what a life of true faith might cause us to have to endure. But, even if it is our lot to have to face persecution or worse, we are still called to remain firm in our faith.
Throughout the gospel narrative Jesus calls us to set self to one side, to love and serve in his name, to stand firm in our witness to the divine truth and wisdom we see in him. To ignore any aspect of this call is to join Judas in betraying our Lord and Saviour. This is a challenge because we constantly see politicians and other leaders distorting truth to further their personal ambition. Even those amongst whom we live will ‘betray’ friendships if it provides a route to greater prestige and wealth. It is the calling of the true Christian to resist such temptation and to stand out as a person of faith in God.
To be a true disciple of Christ calls for us to find great inner strength. Let us pray that we might open our hearts and our minds and allow the Holy Spirit to provide us with that inner strength, the inner strength that will, in our time, bring us into the closest of relationships with our loving heavenly Father.