(Thinking about the texts for Holy Wednesday, particularly 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
After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus
said to him, "Do quickly what you are going to do." Now no one at the table knew
why he said this to him.
an Episcopal girls' school, an older girl wrote a column for the school paper
called "The Devil Made Me Do It." I remember being a 7th grader and grappling
solemnly with the notion of a Devil who could make you do bad things. I thought
of cartoon images, in which an Angel version of Goofy and a Devil version of
Goofy sat on his shoulders, tempting him to do right or to do wrong. It's
perhaps a poor way to develop an understanding of evil, to base it on a cartoon,
but I think the basic principle was correct: the capacity to choose well or to
choose poorly lies within each of us.
that someone had to betray Jesus? Was this his fore-ordained role to play? Did
Satan come into him and cause him to act this way? Although John's gospel would
have us believe it, the groundwork has already been laid for the idea that Judas
is out of sync with the rest of the disciples. He's the money-grubber, and as
anyone who has ever been in charge of the books for a family or an organization
knows, that's not the most glamorous job around. It requires attention to
details and sometimes a brusque truth-telling. The bookkeeper cannot afford to
rise above reality.
disciples he lived alongside Jesus for three years, and in the end found a way
to betray him to the authorities, going against all they had learned and shared
with others. He sold out Jesus and made a bad end himself.
him, or any of us, but perhaps in this story it's true. Perhaps we needed to see
betrayal played out in such a terrible way in order to understand its magnitude.
Perhaps we can learn from Judas to be on the watch for the inclination to wrong
choices in our own lives. When we hurt another person, or hurt ourselves,
when we disappoint God, may we not let the Devil be an excuse. May we own up to
what we have done or thought, make amends if we can and ask God's
(Image from Vanderbilt Divinity School's New Revised Lectionary Website.)