Maundy Thursday 2014: Treason (John 13:18-30)

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When did Jesus know that Judas had turned traitor?

It’s hard to discern from the gospels, partly because it’s hard to get a grip on Judas’s motivations. Was he in it for the money? Was he a nationalist who wanted to force a confrontation between Jesus and the authorities? Did he finally get tired of listening to teachings he disagreed with? We don’t know, and a thousand and one theories and apocryphal texts don’t make things any clearer.

But Jesus knew, and that puts a scandalous slant on the story of the Last a Supper and washing the feet of the disciples. It’s not just the fact that a king kneels to serve his servants, controversial as that may be; no, here we have a king serving his betrayer, which is far more tragic and horrifying.

Our ideas of grace and love sometimes only extend so far. Embracing the broken and the lost is one thing; extending that to those actively plotting against us is something else entirely. What are you doing Jesus? At least tie Judas to a chair so he can’t go and sell you out.

But no; he washes Judas’s feet. He shares the Passover meal with him, and the implication is that Judas had a place of honour – it sounds like he’s sitting next to Jesus, which means that the Son of God is intentionally sharing a meal with a traitor.jesus said love your enemies – this is him living that out. It may even be the greatest example of that philosophy – after all, this betrayal came from within. This betrayal was personal.

This is not how we live. It’s alien, the idea that Judas should be here, among the Twelve, among all the other disciples who went out and performed miracles in the name of Christ. It’s not right. It’s not fair.

But this is Easter, and at Easter the rules lie broken in the shadow of the cross. The king rides a donkey. The traitor receives fellowship. ‘Tis mystery all, the immortal dies. And death? Death no longer has the last word. There are moments throughout the Easter story when we have to push aside our instinctive human reactions and see things like the washing of Judas’s feet not as crazy or tragic but as the coming of God’s kingdom.

Amid the blood and horror of Gethsemane and Golgotha, the kingdom comes; the Son takes his throne. And this is expressed through strange moments we struggle to understand. But that’s why grace is a scandal – it offends our sensibilities, yes, but is that because our sensibilities are forged by Earth more than they are by Heaven?

Judas walks away from the Last Supper and John makes it clear that the night has come. But this is not the end – a new day starts at nightfall; a new order is being born. A traitor is loved and, In this, the kingdom comes ever closer.

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