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Reflection for Holy Week - #3

John 13 21-32

'Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.' The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.' Betrayal comes easily to us. Each of the disciples at that moment clearly wonder if it is going to them and in a way each of the disciples will go on to betray Jesus. It is not a matter of us being habitually evil or hard hearted. We betray because we are lost, scared and we don't know what else to do. When we sense or see something so different, so luminous in loveliness and possibility, it is at that moment we feel the painful stirrings of betrayal, of the counterforce to what we have experienced. We can't quite believe this love is true so we betray it instead.

'So when Jesus had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him.' It seems strangely unfair that Judas has to bear the full brunt of the betrayal of Christ when he is only acting out the fears and dreads that will have lived in the heart of each of the disciples. 'What am I doing following this leader who doesn't behave as leaders ought to? Why am I spending time with this collection of misfits, idiots and absurdities?' And yet Judas will have also known that Jesus was opening up something overwhelmingly new, a kingdom of Spirit and love hidden before the foundation of the world. But in the end… 'Satan entered into him.' In the Gospels when we hear of demons or Satan we are not hearing about mythical monsters who creep around and trip you up when you are not looking. We are hearing about the secret impulses and drives and fears which sneak into the personality and slowly destabilise and subvert its best intentions. Satan is the shadow cast by good people like us.

Judas gives into the human impulse of fear and self-protection. He makes his move. He becomes the betrayer. 'So, after receiving the piece of bread, Judas immediately went out. And it was night.'

There is an old saying. Where is Jesus on Holy Saturday. The answer is, 'He is in hell looking for his friend Judas.' Of course, there is no hell that God sends us to, despite the years of bad and unbiblical theology to the contrary. But hell is the place we build for ourselves by a succession of actions which are formed out of our fear and our unconsciousness. Judas found himself in that terrible space of isolation.

But we are not left as betrayers in ultimate isolation. God comes and seeks us out, seeks us out in the depths of our mistakes, seeks us out in the depths of the hell which we have so carefully created over time. Jesus is in hell looking for his friend Judas. What the story doesn't tell you is the conclusion, so here it is. Jesus found his betrayer, Judas, and he kissed him, and he said this to Judas, he said, "I love you and I forgive you."

That, in one way, is the story of Holy Week. Despite everything, Judas has been forgiven, and so have we. BEN


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