Wednesday, March 19, 2008
A short meditation
Hebrew Bible: Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm: Psalm 70
Epistle: Hebrews 12:1-3
New Testament: John 13:21-32
13:21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me."13:22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.13:23 One of his disciples--the one whom Jesus loved--was reclining next to him;13:24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.13:25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?"13:26 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.13:27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "Do quickly what you are going to do."13:28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.13:29 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.13:30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.13:31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.13:32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.
Betrayal. It cuts deepest of all the sins we commit against each other in community. It is often detected only after the fact – once the betrayal has been committed and the damage done. The betrayer often expresses as much sorrow as the victim experiences – as if there were no other choice. It had to be done. No other option.
The ethic of the greatest good for the greatest number sometimes requires the sacrifice of one. The betrayer, however, betrays even this ethic by making the choice of and for the one who must be sacrificed.
As bad as that is, the betrayal often does as much damage to the betrayer as it does to the victim. Catherine Myss, former Roman Catholic nun, psychic healer, author and teacher, writes about “The Judas Effect” which, she says, can be experienced by anyone whenever we put our faith in the institution rather than in God. In that moment, she says, when we make that choice, we set ourselves up for betrayal – of ourselves and others.
Faith in anything, be it positive or negative, produces results. Putting faith in fear generates destructive results, beginning with the disintegration of our ability to relate confidently to the external world. We have a choice to make about where we place our faith: in institutional power – even the institutional power of the church - or in the power of God.
My ordaining bishop was fond of reminding me that just because the church is not of the world, it is still in the world and we should not be surprised when the ways of the world become the ways of the church. It’s taken me years to learn that lesson.
Both Jesus and Judas provide us with important lessons that are fraught with irony on this Wednesday in Holy Week. Jesus illustrates for us that when you do not seek or need external approval, you are at your most powerful.
Ironically, being that powerful can often set you to be envied by others, and where envy is, betrayal is often not far behind.
Judas provides a lesson in the cost of betrayal. Ultimately, his betrayal brought suffering to Jesus and himself. Ironically, his betrayal also set in motion the events which led to the redemption of the world through the resurrection of the very one he betrayed.
As we walk through these last few Holy Days in our journey to Easter, today’s gospel story provides us with some important insights that point us to the power of resurrection and lead us to hope.
In the midst of the Passover meal of Jesus and his disciples, they discover something they could not have known in that moment: that nothing is beyond the power of God, God can even take the evil of betrayal and use it for good.