The collect and readings for Wednesday in Holy Week may be found here. The appointed gospel is John 13:21-32.
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. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now no32 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.
It is the last supper. Jesus is troubled in spirit. He has washed their feet. Everyone’s, including Judas’. “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me,” says Jesus. We hear those words and look at Judas. The disciples heard those words and “looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.” Their uncertainty betrays the possibility it could be any one of them.
Jesus knows he will be betrayed. He knows who. He knows when. So does Judas. Jesus is neither surprised nor caught off guard. Nor is Judas. They both know and they both know that the other knows. The only ones who do not know, the only ones who are surprised, are the other disciples.
Tonight’s supper is one of love and betrayal. The two always exist side by side. To deny that we can and do betray Jesus in some way denies that we are loved by Jesus or that Jesus has given himself over to us. We can only betray those who have given themselves over to us. We cannot hand over what has not first been handed to us. Authentic love always risks betrayal.
In giving Judas the bread Jesus has handed himself over to Judas. He has made himself “betrayable.” I suspect the other disciples and we are relieved when the bread is dipped and given to Judas. He’s the traitor. He’s the one to blame. Judas makes it easier to not look at ourselves. The truth is we have all been given the bread of Jesus’ life. We have all been washed in the water of his love.
Yes, tonight it is Judas. At the cross it will be Peter. A different time, different place, different circumstances it will be someone else. Judas is not so much the culprit as he is the mirror of our betrayals. It is not simply Jesus and his love that we betray. We betray ourselves. Every betrayal of Jesus betrays ourselves. We hand ourselves over to the night, betraying our life to death, our love to self-interest, and our hope to despair. We turn away from the light, the source of our life, and once again Jesus is troubled in spirit.
Of thy Mystic Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of thy Mystery to thine enemies, neither will I give thee a kiss as did Judas; but like the thief will I confess thee: Remember me, O Lord, in thy Kingdom.
– St. John Chrysostom