“But the hand of the one who is going to betray me is with mine on this table.” Luke 22:21
“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the very end.” John 13:1
The whole narrative of tonight is love. The washing of the feet, the serving of the bread and wine. You loved your friends to the very end. You were intentional with your last moments.
And Judas was there. He was still invited to the table, though you knew what was coming. He ate the bread and drank from the communal cup, a brother among your friends. You washed his dusty feet.
How you must have loved him.
As you knelt in the garden, I have to wonder if you prayed for Judas. I wonder if you begged your Baba for mercy on his behalf.
I’m wondering if the cup that drew blood-tinged sweat- the one you asked Papa to take- I’m wondering if that was the burden of love for the people who would turn against you.
Because nobody can break your heart like a friend.
I have no doubt that you, our High Priest, interceded before the throne for Judas that night in Gethsemane. I have no doubt that you wept out your love for him under those olive branches.
And, Jesus, I have no doubt that you now weep and intercede for the other betrayers of your heart.
For Turkish smugglers.
For suicide bombers.
For military police with tear gas, apathetic political leaders, Turkish officials with lined pockets, and American fear-mongers.
For the complacent, greedy, fearful, and silent among us.
Because no matter how the story ends, we are ALL still invited to the table of grace.
Because no matter how we have betrayed and will betray you- you, the very incarnation of God, still bend low to wipe the grime from our feet.
When Judas approaches Jesus in the garden to betray him, an alternate translation cites Christ as saying, “Friend, why have you come here?” (Matt. 26:30)
He calls this man friend, and I believe that it is without the slightest hint of sarcasm. He loved him until the very end.
And I can hear the sorrow in his voice as he offers on last opportunity for Judas to choose love. “Why?”
Throughout many of the gospels, Jesus is portrayed as very resigned and sure of the fact that Judas’ betrayal is necessary to fulfill prophecy and lead to the salvation of many. However, in this question I hear Jesus’ struggle. I imagine that Judas’ arrival came as a heartbreaking disappointment after hours of prayer, as Jesus realizes that despite the extravagant offers of love made around the table that night, Judas has still chosen isolation.
And I think that Jesus knew that the consequence of this choice would ultimately be death. Because there is no life outside of Christ.
I am convinced that Jesus is still calling out to the traitors and would-be traitors among us. I am convinced that he continues to offer life to even the vilest offender. And I am convinced that his heart breaks for those who choose to live in isolation, fear, hatred and greed- those who ultimately choose death.
Tonight we remember the night that Christ knelt to wash the feet of the one who would betray him and then knelt in prayer on the Mount of Olives. After Greece, I have my own memories and images of olive groves, and tonight Jesus has asked me to “keep watch” and kneel beside him there under the weight of his love for us. Tonight I’m joining our High Priest in intercession for the traitor- for those who stand against the love and justice of Christ. And I’m praying that they hear the love in his question, “friend, why?”, that they are convicted, and that they accept the invitation to love. And I'm praying that Papa use my life to get that invitation across.
Brothers and sisters, there is room for you at the table.