“For I have set you an example . . .
21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23 One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”[g] So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.[h] 27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 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. 30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
Judas, the Betrayer
Gazing across the table Judas watched in fascination as Jesus stripped off his outer robe. Taking a towel, he wrapped it around his waist.
Judas wondered what he was up to now. No doubt there will be another lesson here.
There was always a lesson with Jesus – another thing to learn, another mysterious statement, another parable. Everything with him was, well, so deliberate, as if everything hinged on the next word which came out of his mouth. It was always life and death and it had become so confusing for Judas, so dangerous.
As Jesus took the bowl and towel Judas was reminded of the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus shouldn’t have spoken to her. It was wrong. It was unclean and Jesus had kept drawing the disciples in and spiraling them down, down, down into his well of intrigue and mystery.
Something had to be done; someone had to bring some common sense to the situation. Surely not everything the Pharisees and Scribes said was wrong; they were the leaders after all… people chosen by God.
Judas knew the Temple authorities wanted to bring Jesus in for questioning; it had been playing on his mind and weighing on his heart. Was this the right time for Jesus to rise as the Messiah? Maybe if the authorities listened to Jesus, listened properly, they would see some sense in it all and back his claim to be the Messiah.
But who would let the authorities know where Jesus was? How could the situation be brought to a head? How could Jesus be forced to play his cards more openly and be the Messiah they all wanted him to be?
Judas pondered these questions as Jesus began to wash John’s feet.
John was the favorite of Jesus, the most loved of the disciples. Yes, Peter was their leader, but between John and Jesus there just seemed to be a special bond.
Judas caught himself thinking I wish I were that close to Jesus. He remembered the day that Jesus had invited him to be a disciple, to follow, to join, to learn. He had felt special that day and many times since, but he had also grown to feel that he was not part of the inner circle.
So often he didn’t quite get what Jesus went on about and that’s why Judas had been siphoning away some of the funds just in case things went south. After all the attitude of Jesus at the home of Lazarus, when Mary wasted that perfume on his feet, was simply irresponsible.
But Judas wasn’t the only one who struggled with the actions of Jesus. As he surveyed the others around the table, Judas remembered how imperfect they were as well. Even James and John jockeyed for power, as if they were not favorites already. As for Peter, he was always questioning what Jesus was up to – once Jesus had even called him Satan.
Just as this thought struck him, across the room Peter began arguing with Jesus again. Peter didn’t want Jesus washing his feet. Judas tried to concentrate on the words of Jesus, words about what he was doing seemed to seep into Peter, but as always, to Judas his words seemed elusive, more images and ideas than concrete reality. What did Jesus mean when he said that ‘not all of you are clean’?
The Messiah was supposed to be leading them into power not groveling at their feet. It just felt wrong.
Jesus moved around the room, and finally came to the feet of Judas. Tired of being confused, Judas stretched out submitting to this humble act of Jesus and let him wash his feet. It was normally the task of a slave; but Jesus had kept going on and on about serving others. As Jesus dried the feet of Judas with the towel around his waist, Judas felt a sense of relief, a release even. It was more than having the grime of the day washed off. Maybe it was simply that the awkwardness of the act was over, but Judas felt as if a weight had been lifted.
Finally, Jesus settled again, washing so many feet took time and they were all hungry. But Jesus kept speaking; he was always speaking, always teaching, but in these last few days even more so, as if things were coming to a head.
Judas recalled that the disciples had tried to warn him from returning to Jerusalem; but Jesus wouldn’t listen, and even now he was speaking in riddles about his demise.
‘The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’
What did that mean? They had all broken bread with Jesus, they were all his companions!
To Judas, Jesus seemed particularly agitated this night and lying as close as he was to Jesus, who was just beyond John, he could almost feel how Jesus was dealing with the troubles weighing on him. Judas felt like reaching out and taking the hand of Jesus as a sign of support, maybe even reassurance. But Judas wondered what the others would think about him doing this, so he held back, and waited.
Then Jesus went quiet, and the disciples cast glances at each other.
Judas could sense the emotions in the room: fear, expectation, curiosity, trepidation and more than a little confusion, but there was something else too, it was love. They were an intimate group, they had become close friends on the road together, and they looked to Jesus to lead.
Judas looked at Jesus across the table and their eyes locked for just a moment, a moment which seemed to unfold into an eternity for Judas. It was as if he were standing before Jesus and Jesus could see his soul.
Judas knew that he couldn’t hide his doubts or fears from Jesus But Jesus had not acted as the Messiah. He wasn’t taking God’s people to the glory that Judas expected. So Judas looked away.
But not before he saw a wash of pain come over the face of Jesus; and, Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
Around him, Judas saw the disciples looking at one another. Suspicion and fear were growing in the room. Judas fixed his stare at the bread in front of Jesus, it was better than looking into anyone’s eyes.
Peter was gesturing at John, who then leaned back into chest of Jesus, and whispered a question. Because Judas was so close, he heard the question too. “Lord who is it?”
As Judas continued to fix his gaze on that bread in front of Jesus, Judas wondered too, wondered if the others had heard the question, wondered who was going to hand Jesus over to the authorities, wondered what would happen if Jesus was handed over.
Secretly, this is what Judas had wanted. Someone to hand Jesus over so things would come to a head, so that God’s will would be done – so that the Messiah would shine for all the world to see.
Jesus replied, “It is the one to whom I give the piece of bread when I have dipped it into the dish.”
Judas, who had been gazing at the bread, watched as Jesus took the bread from the plate and dipped it into the bowl. Who? Who will take on this dreadful responsibility?
And Judas watched as Jesus reached out his hand, offering the bread to Judas. Judas thought to himself: The Lord has broken bread for me, we are companions, I must take this bread and I must eat.
As he was receiving the bread from Jesus, Judas heard the words: “Do quickly what you are going to do.” There was pain in those words that Jesus spoke, but trust as well, hope and acceptance, as if things were accomplished.
At that moment, Judas knew it was he, himself, who would go against Jesus, he would go and let the authorities know where Jesus was, he would change the course of what it meant to be faithful, by being faithful and obedient to the words of Jesus, to do quickly what he was going to do! And, he turned away. Surely Jesus knew what Judas was going to do, sending him out in such a way.
With a new hope in his heart, that Jesus would be the Messiah he had always dreamed Jesus would be, Judas left the room – and went out into the night. But despite the fullness of the moon, and the illusory hope in his heart, Judas felt a blackness descending around him, and there was this fear and trepidation, which he wore like a cloak, as he scurried towards the temple – yet, he believed that he was being faithful to the words spoken by Jesus and he vowed that he would “do quickly” what he was going to do – this dark and terrible thing, to betray Jesus.