He was the one they had waited for. They had grown up hearing stories of his coming. Then one day he showed up and chose them to be his friends and students, to follow and learn. He took them new places. He taught them new ideas and ways of living. He revealed God and showed them things they had never before seen. Water was turned into wine, a crippled man got up and walked, five thousand were fed with a few pieces of bread and a couple of fish. One day he walked on water. A blind was made to see and a dead man came back to life.
They believed in him. They followed him wherever he went. They spent all their time together. They walked together. They talked together. They ate together. They worshipped and prayed together. They lived together. They were a part of each others’ lives. Jesus wouldn’t have it any other way, then or now.
It was the perfect combination. Friendship, love, and intimacy. They are, I think, what we most long for. They are the ways of God and they show his presence in and among us. They are also the ground in which betrayal takes root. We can never betray one who has not first given and entrusted himself or herself into our hands and life, and Jesus knows that. “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” That Jesus can even be betrayed is proof of his love. Jesus has made his own betrayal possible not only with the disciples but in all times and in all places, even here, now, with us.
There is an obvious question to Jesus’ statement but no one wants to ask. So Peter prompts another to ask, “Lord, who is it?” Why didn’t Peter ask if he really wanted to know? Was he afraid of the answer? Did he wonder, somewhere deep within, that it might be him? Did he say to himself, “It could be any one of us?”
Regardless of why he did not ask, Peter and the others must have been relieved when Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to Judas. Perhaps we all are. It’s always easier to look for a Judas than to look at our own lives. We would rather blame a Judas than consider our own responsibility. Most of us have a love and hate relationship with Judas. We hate him for what he did. We love him because he takes the rap, draws the attention away from us, and we can excuse ourselves.
Judas will go out into the night, but the question remains, “Lord, who is it?” That question is never answered once and for all.
Tonight a piece of bread is dipped in the dish and Judas will betray. Tomorrow a rooster will crow and Peter will deny. And the next day? “Lord, who is it?”
“It is one with whom I have spent time, with whom I have shared conversation, to whom I have given bread and drink. It is one whom I love and to whom I have given myself.”
This sermon is for Wednesday in Holy Week and is based on John 13:21-32.