Jesus was deeply disturbed and testified, “I assure you, one of you will betray me.”
His disciples looked at each other, confused about which of them he was talking about. One of the disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was at Jesus’ side. Simon Peter nodded at him to get him to ask Jesus who he was talking about. Leaning back toward Jesus, this disciple asked, “Lord, who is it?”
Jesus answered, “It’s the one to whom I will give this piece of bread once I have dipped into the bowl.”Then he dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son. After Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”John 13:21b-27
At this point in Holy Week, the timeline gets a little bit screwy. The scripture appointed for today actually falls after the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet in the narrative of John’s gospel, and we won’t hear the footwashing bit until tomorrow evening. That’s ok though, because John’s whole timeline is a little bit screwy. It’s almost as if the Jesus we meet in this book doesn’t experience time as a straight line. Some things he seems to have already finished before they even start. Other times the past is more than present.
Jesus isn’t simply being nostalgic. He’s not wearing snap bracelets and teased hair to a cocktail party in 2023. It’s more like he sees all that we have been and all that we will be as present in this particular moment, and he knows that to change us without our cooperation, or at least our consent, would be to inflict a kind of violence on our dignity as children of God. But we are also children, prone to make tragic mistakes that will harm ourselves, the people we love, and the creation that God has called good.
Judas’ betrayal may not be casual, as Taylor Swift sings, but it is cruel and I can imagine Judas justifying it in the name of honesty. Maybe he is scared that what Jesus contemplates is a fanatical act of self-destruction to prove a point. Maybe Judas thinks he has to save Jesus from himself. Or perhaps Judas has simply lost faith in the masterpiece Jesus is creating and is taking an off-ramp in the name of self-preservation. Either way, Jesus knows he must let Judas go and only asks that Judas rip off the band-aid quickly.
Jesus will be ok, but he’s not fine at all. Because he knows that Judas will remember. Judas will think back to the time when their work together began, not so long ago in Galilee. Judas will hold on to that memory like a talisman, like a scarf that is not big enough to keep him warm but carries the scent of the one who warmed his heart. And while Christ’s work will continue, Judas will never be able to move on.