Maundy Thursday - Sue Moll
What comes to mind when you hear the name Judas? For most of us, I suspect, the first thing we think of is betrayal. Judas is the one who betrayed Jesus. Judas is the one who made a deal with the authorities. Judas is the one who sold out. Judas is the one who “went out” into the “night.”
Maybe the second thing that comes to mind is a sense of relief. “The disciples looked at one
another, uncertain” who among them was the betrayer. “Lord, who is it?” one of them asks,
but they all want to know. Their uncertainty and that question betray the possibility it could
be anyone one of them. I’ll bet Peter and the others breathed a sigh of relief when Jesus gave the piece of bread to Judas.
You know what that’s like, right? Did you ever sit in class knowing the teacher was going to
call on someone, looking at all the other students, and hoping it wouldn’t be you, but
knowing it might be? Have you ever been called to one of those meetings after something
happened, someone was in trouble, and the boss began by saying, “Who…?” And everyone
looked around. Have you ever been in a situation where you knew someone was going to be
named and you held your breath hoping it was anyone but you? And do you remember that
sense of relief when it was Judas and not you? (At least not this time.) And you said to
yourself, “Whew, that was a close call.”
We’ve all shared the disciples’ sigh of relief. The betrayal of Judas lets us off the hook. We
can point to and look at him as way, a reason, an excuse, to not look at ourselves. We refuse
to see that there might be more to Judas than his betrayal of Jesus. And I wonder if that’s our betrayal of Judas. We so often hear “the betrayal of Judas” as meaning Judas is the subject, the one who betrays. But what about “the betrayal of Judas” in which Judas is the object, the one betrayed? Here’s why I ask that.
The only time we hear about Judas in the scriptures is at the end of the story. We know the
end-of-the-story-Judas, the Judas who betrays Jesus, but what about the beginning-of-the-
story-Judas? I want to hold these two Judases in tension. They go together. They are two
aspects of his life. To privilege one over the other is a betrayal of his life. Would you want
someone to pick out a single event from your life and say that it defines who you are, who
you’ve always been, and who you will always be? I don’t. (Not unless I get to pick the
event!) And yet that’s what we’ve done to Judas, what we do to people in our lives, and
sometimes what we do to ourselves. No one is ever just one thing; not Judas, not you, not
Judas’ name appears in the four gospels twenty times. Nine times he is identified as a traitor,
the one who betrays Jesus. And nine times he is identified as one of the twelve, one of the
chosen, a disciple.
I wonder what Judas felt the day he was chosen and numbered among the twelve? What did
he feel when Jesus called his name? What were his hopes, and dreams? What excited him
about Jesus? What gifts was he given? What was the promise he sought and followed in
Jesus? He was one of just twelve men who were called to share the journey with Jesus, to be
his closest companions.
And let’s not forget this one last thing about Judas. His feet were washed just like the feet of
the other disciples. He was loved by Jesus with the same love as were the others. With all the complexities and contradictions of his life he had a seat at the table with Jesus.
And so do we.
There is a short Maundy Thursday reflection from 6 tonight here on the blog.