When he (Judas) had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.” – John 13:31
I’m trying to imagine this scene. A little context is important in hearing the Gospel lesson for today. In John 13 Jesus is assembled in the upper room with his disciples on what will be his last time with them all together.
He will wash their feet.
He will break the bread and pass the cup, and tell them to remember him.
He will give to his disciples the instruction to “love one another” – more than once.
Jesus will do all of this with the betrayer still close at hand.
Let’s not kid ourselves, for despite the turmoil pictured in Leonardo’s “Last Supper” and the objections of “Is it I Lord?” from all the disciples when Jesus indicates that one of them will betray him, I think that pretty much everyone around the table knew what Judas was up to.
There were no surprises in his actions, in fact the Gospels want to make it clear that Judas has been suspect all along. In all of the Gospels he is identified early on as the one who betrays Jesus. It’s practically his last name. “Judas the betrayer.”
When Judas pops up in Gospel stories he is usually noted for his contrary position on things.
He is way too preoccupied about finances. As keeper of the common purse we are told in John there are allegations that he dips from it for his own personal use while criticizing the expenditures of others.
That Nard, don’t you know, could have been sold for 300 Denarii, not wasted on Jesus’ feet.
We can say, “poor Judas, he never had a chance.”
But, truth be told Judas hangs out with Jesus this whole time, and despite his seeming to be a pain and a betraying scoundrel, we’re told in this passage that his actions or presence somehow “glorifies” the Son of Man and God in the end.
“Betrayal must be necessary?” We quizzically ask, and then we get into that whole pre-determined and pre-destined messiness of Jesus just keeping Judas around for the necessity of having a scapegoat. Someone had to turn Jesus in, it was dirty business, but then that is what Judas was known for all along, that is why Jesus kept him around… to do the dirty business in the end.
I don’t like that explanation of Judas much. I reject a simplistic explanation that leaves Judas “on the outs” and condemned.
I reject it, because I don’t see it in Jesus. I can’t imagine Jesus cynically just putting up with and keeping Judas around for this one awful moment where someone had to betray him. That lets the other disciples off the hook way too easily.
I reject it because at any given time the same concerns expressed by Judas are also on the lips and minds of the other disciples.
It isn’t just Judas who is bent out of shape about money and costs.
Philip is the one who protests that “six month’s wages couldn’t buy enough bread to feed all these people” when Jesus suggests that the disciples give the crowds at the feeding of the 5000 something to eat.
Peter is the one who tells Jesus in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t want to be talking about things like going to Jerusalem to suffer and die, that’s just bad for recruiting!
Matthew the tax collector probably had more than one raised eyebrow at the cost of Jesus’ actions.
Thomas is the one who shrugs his shoulders before the Lazarus event and says, “let us also go, so that we may die with him.”
John and James are either arguing over where they get to sit when Jesus claims his throne, or they are trying to call down fire to fry hapless bystanders.
In the Garden of Gethsemane they all fall asleep.
Despite being shown by Jesus how to deal with demons, when pressed to take on the task, they fail because they forget to pray.
No, it isn’t that Judas is alone in being a disappointment to Jesus, or is singled out for this particular task from the beginning. As the Gospels unfold you get the distinct feeling that at any given time any one of the disciples might have been the one to betray Jesus, and they all did in their own way. It was just Judas in the end who made the last great one.
So, I am trying to imagine this scene, what it must have been like when Judas left the room and Jesus piped in with these words about him being “glorified.”
And it occurs to me, I know this scene. I have lived it.
It has happened when the Bishop (or in your case maybe, the boss) has gotten up and left the room and there is this collective sigh of relief let out because now you can talk freely and openly, and it’s not just you that was feeling the tension. Not that the Bishop (or the boss) is going out to betray you, but as long as that person was in the room, the conversation is guarded, and tense. There was a sense in which you couldn’t say what you wanted to say.
It has happened in the meeting when the antagonist, the one who is always looking over everyone’s shoulder gets up and finally leaves and the work group breathes a sigh of collective relief. “Now we can talk about things freely again.”
It happens in the unspoken rules of relationship, when there is tension in the family, or a breach in the covenant between lovers. The icy cloud descends. We care, but do not feel we can express it. We assume or expect the other will come clean, or apologize first, or will back down.
It happens when the illness strikes one member of the family, and the fog of silence fills the room so that no one dare breathe a word about the fears or dreads are that everyone is feeling. No one dares speak out loud or acknowledge what everyone in the room is actually thinking.
I know this scene, probably too well.
When Judas, who is “on the outs” walks out, finally the opening appears that will allow the others to vocalize what needs to be said.
What needs to be said can be said, and so Jesus leads off here, and what he says is breathtaking.
It is said out of love, and with a directive for all who are also breathing this collective sigh of relief as the betrayer leaves the room.
“Love one another.”
This is the real test you see, what is said when the person who is “on the outs” leaves the room. This is the measure of whether the Son of Man is glorified, or whether God is glorified.
We have this all backwards. It isn’t Judas’ actions of betraying that will be glorify anything. Betrayal is betrayal, plain and simple.
It is what happens now inside the room. That is about the Son and God being glorified.
Look, we all know where he is going. We all know what he is going to do, but knowing that, can we still love him? Can we still love one another?
The Son of Man IS glorified in this, because Jesus knows what Judas is up to and still chooses to love him, and to call his disciples to do the same!
God IS glorified in this, because God is going with Judas even in the midst of this most unsavory and unfortunate decision he is making.
God does not abandon him, but walks with him.
Perhaps YOU cannot go where Judas is going.
For sure YOU cannot go where Jesus is going.
But, this you can do. You can choose to love, even knowing what he is up to! Even knowing about what is about to come.
In that God is glorified!
In that the Son of Man is glorified!
In that everyone will know that you are Jesus’ disciple, if you have this kind of love for one another. Love that is active even in the midst of and in the face of the betrayal you know is coming.
Love, even in the midst of being “on the outs” with one another.
Love for one another, even when every fiber of your being screams that you want to do is reject, throw out, disassociate yourself, and let that S.O.B. rot in his or her own private hell of their own making. They made their choice, let them live with it!
That attitude glorifies no one.
Oh yes, I’ve lived this scene, over and over again, and I am not proud to say that I have failed it.
I’ve made other choices than the choice to love.
In the moment of anger, in the moment of frustration or hurt or disappointment, loving that person is not what has come into my mind, and no one was glorified in my actions.
I’ve gossiped when that person has left the room.
I have joined in the jeering and cheering and the derision of them.
I have spoken the disparaging words, criticized, rolled my eyes, probably even plotted how to get back, or entered into the “we’ll show him/her…” conversation… what to do with the Judas in our midst.
But that is not what happens in the Gospel.
That is not what is shown to us by Jesus this day.
There is no “meeting after the meeting,” when Judas leaves the room except to hear Jesus say that curiously now it is like he has passed a test.
Now he is glorified, and God is glorified… because he chooses to love and calls his disciples – calls us–to do the same…. to love one another even in the face of betrayal!
Most of the time I think this is just too high a calling, how can I even attain it? I know my natural tendencies, where I tend to “go” first.
But still, Jesus is adamant.
This is what we will be known for.
This is what will be the mark of who and whose we are.
This is the proof of a resurrection life. A life that is no longer bound to the limits of the expectations of this world.
It could have been any of the disciples that betrayed Jesus.
It could still be any of us, on any given day.
But still Jesus persists in saying in this he, and God will be glorified… when we choose to love when loving is the hardest thing to do.