St Luke 22: 1-23
Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present. Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’ They asked him, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for it?’ ‘Listen,’ he said to them, ‘when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’” He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.’ So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’ Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.
Betrayal is probably one of the most hurtful experiences of life. When someone we trust betrays our trust, the relationship is fractured. What might we learn from Judas’s betrayal of Jesus? John Calvin makes the following comment about Judas: “in this mirror we can see the blindness of human desires and their effect of bewitching the mind.” Is Calvin suggesting that Judas is a kind of mirror in which we might see a reflection of our own actions and desires? If so, we might protest that Judas’s betrayal is so treacherous that we cannot possibly see anything that remotely reflects our actions and motivations.
Yet, upon further reflection, can we honestly claim that none of our actions are self-serving and all our motivations good? Perhaps, then, we can learn something from the way in which Jesus relates to Judas. Judas conspires with the chief priests and temple police to hand over Jesus to them in exchange for money. Although not specifically named, we assume that Judas is present when Jesus celebrates his supper with the disciples. If so, Judas shares in the loaf of bread and hears Jesus say, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Judas drinks from the cup and hears Jesus say, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Immediately after this, Judas also hears Jesus say, “But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table, For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!”
Karl Barth argues that the relationship between Jesus and Judas at this point is only a heightened example of the relationship between Jesus and all people. Namely, Jesus chooses and loves Judas as his covenant-partner; but Judas, and we, often reject the intensity and demand of this love. Yet even our rejection can be redeemed.
O God of grace and glory,
we thank you for covenanting to be our God.
In so doing you have claimed us as your people.
Forgive our betrayals and rejections, small and large.
Tell us again of Jesus’s body given for us
and his blood poured out for us.
Restore us as your covenant-partners
who may dare to believe that no one is beyond redemption
through Jesus Christ our Lord