John 13:21-32 https://my.bible.com/bible/111/JHN.13.21-32
“After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.”
Meals should be a time of community that create comfort and ease. When we sit down to eat with others there should be some sense of awe and gratitude because it’s a chance to share your life with someone. That’s why it’s so disheartening that so few people really eat meals together. Too many times, it seems that to sit down and have a meal together is seen as a distraction from our endless daily pursuits of self-absorption. To stop and eat together means that I have to stop, look, and listen to the way others experience life and to be quite frank, I’ve got too much going to do that.
In today’s text, Jesus and his disciples sat down to have what may have been a traditional Seder meal in preparation for the Passover festival. Originally the meal was designed to allow Jewish families time to reflect on the Exodus of Israel from Egyptian slavery into the promised land. It was a way of remembering God’s presence with them and looking forward to a day when He would establish an unending reign. The meal was meant to reconnect families to their heritage and then point them to God’s future promises. Little did the disciples know that following this meal, God’s promises would be finally coming to fulfillment.
But how could they know, they were so consumed with their own lives. The Gospel of Luke reveals to us that as they were eating the meal they were arguing about who was more important to Jesus and his work. (Luke 22:24) Most likely this was an ongoing debate that Jesus had to deal with more times than not. (Mark 9:30–34). As we look in on the meal, we see Jesus struggling with something and it’s a deep sadness. His pending death will be initiated by a betrayal. His statement of betrayal would first create conflict and then concern. I find it intriguing that the disciples began asking who it was–assuming it wasn’t themselves. Peter motions to the disciple Jesus loved to get an answer. When the disciples leans in to ask Jesus privately, Jesus tells him somewhat quietly that the person he gives a piece of bread to will be the person who will betray him. While the disciple would know, the others would not have suspected anything. It was a common act of courtesy for the host of a meal to take a small portion of flat bread, dip it in a main dish of the meal and give that to a guest. He could have done that several times that evening. So when he gives it to Judas, most of the disciples could have just seen it as an act of generosity being completely oblivious to the implications.
In the end, people might have been paying attention, but not entirely. Maybe Peter was going to seize upon the moment but it happened too fast and maybe it was just to ‘normal’ to pick up on it. Maybe he was too consumed with protecting Jesus that he forgot Jesus had already been promising this almost a year before (John 6:70). However, it’s recorded that Judas’ heart was settled at the moment of receiving the bread. Satan entered and he was sent to do what he must and because everyone else was consumed with personal matters, they thought nothing of it.
And we should all be both thankful and saddened by it. Saddened because like Judas we have all managed to betray Jesus in some way or another. Perhaps it was a direct betrayal–by simply denying his presence and goodness in our lives. Perhaps it was more indirect–by denying the dignity others are due because we fail to treat them with kindness and generosity or worse by just paying attention to them at all. But we are thankful for it as well. Because Judas followed his darkened heart which ultimately led to his betrayal of Jesus and Jesus’ journey to the cross to break the chains that darkness holds over all our hearts.
Ironically enough, it’s at a meal that we learn an important lesson for all of life. Pay more attention to people because you simply never know what’s going on in someone’s heart.
Go in Peace!