This was my Maundy Thursday sermon this year. It was largely inspired by an insight I received while watching Adam Hamilton’s 24 Hours That Changed the World DVD study. In it, he asserts that Jesus and Judas must have been sitting next to each other at the last supper. As the story is told, it was Judas that was seated at a position of honor, even as he was the one that was to betray Jesus. Knowing Judas’s heart, what did Jesus do? He broke bread with him. This was an incredible act of grace, and forms the heart of this sermon.
Tag Archives: Judas
Mark 14:12-22 “On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, the disciples said to Jesus, ‘Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover meal?’ He sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the city. A man carrying a water jar will meet you. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks, ‘Where is my guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?'” He will show you a large room upstairs already furnished. Prepare for us there.’ The disciples left, came into the city, found everything just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
That evening, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. During the meal, Jesus said, ‘I assure you that one of you will betray me – someone eating with me.’
Deeply saddened, they asked him, one by one, ‘It’s not me, is it?’
Jesus answered. It is one of the Twelve, one who is dipping bread with me into this bowl. The Human One goes to his death just as it is written about him. But how terrible it is for that person who betrays the Human One! It would have been better for him if he had never been born.'”
There is much debate over whether or not Jesus’ last meal was a Passover meal as we envision it. While the historical likelihood that what Jesus and his disciples did had any resemblance to a modern Passover Seder is low, it is clear that Mark’s gospel wanted to show the last supper was connected to the Passover. My understanding of the Passover meal is that it is a re-presentation of God’s saving work as found in Exodus.
A modern Passover Seder is full of symbolism, reading, prayer, and meaning. All of it has the purpose of pointing to the fact that God saved the Hebrews from slavery. God stood by the promises made to Abraham. God stood with a people that were oppressed. God stood against the greatest power the world had ever known – and triumphed. This is the message of Passover, and this is the message of Jesus’ last meal as well. This is the parallel that Mark is trying to convey.
During the meal Jesus announces that one will betray him. He announces that the betrayer is there, and that he is one with whom he will dip bread. This tells us two things. Jesus knew Judas would betray him. Jesus ate with him anyway. And not only did he eat with him anyway, but he sat next to him. Otherwise, how could they have dipped the bread together?
Mark does not tell us when Judas leaves, but we know that they started the meal together. Jesus knew what Judas was thinking, and still he broke bread with him. Still he offered him friendship. Still, they dipped the bread together. I can only imagine the heartache that Jesus must have been feeling. Some read Jesus’ words toward Judas as words of reproach, vengeance and anger. That’s not how I read them.
Instead, I hear Jesus words as sorrowful. I hear them wishing that his betrayer would change his mind, but knowing that he won’t. I hear Jesus giving Judas one last warning – “you’re going to regret it,” not as a threat, but as a heartfelt plea. I see Jesus heartbroken that the time they spent together hadn’t been enough. The words, the healing, the signs and wonders – none of it had been enough. Still Judas didn’t understand. Truthfully, none of them did.
Sometimes I wonder if I do. Sometimes I wonder if I realize just how much Jesus loves me. How many times has Jesus seen me and wished he could change my heart. How many times has he seen me on the precipice of betrayal and screamed, “Don’t do it!” Only to be ignored.
Still, he invites me to this table.
Still, he calls me to his side.
Still, he breaks bread and shares it with me.
Jesus, friend and teacher, you prepare a place for me still. You invite me to your table still. Still, I fail. Still, I fall. Still, I cry to you. Please don’t stop calling. Amen.
The next few posts are going to be a running devotional, reading through the Gospel of Mark, with short commentary and prayer. I will post several of these over the next few days, leading up to Easter.
Mark 14:10-11 “Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him” (New Revised Standard Version)
What motivated Judas to betray Jesus? In Matthew, it seems as if Judas is looking for some kind of gain in order to betray Jesus. In Mark, the reward money seems like an afterthought. In both Luke’s and John’s gospel, the blame is placed on Satan, who enters Judas. The passage we find in Mark comes immediately after a story of a nameless woman that anoints Jesus was very expensive ointment. During this exchange, “some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way?’… and they scolded her.” John’s gospel names Judas as the one that was angry, “not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief” (John 12:6).
So what do we make of Judas? Was he possessed by the devil, not acting of his own accord? Was he under some sort of demonic control? Was he simply scheming for a way to make a little money? Was he, as some posit, disappointed that Jesus was not gathering an army? We don’t know what motivated Judas, but when I read “Satan entered him,” I understand this to mean that Judas was tormented. I may not understand how or why Judas betrayed his friend, but it seems clear that Temptation overwhelmed him.
And I understand that. I understand what it means to fall. I understand what it means to fail someone I love. I understand what it means to come up short when tested. I may never know the heart of Judas. I don’t need to. I know my own.
Holy and gracious God, I have betrayed you. I have forgotten your commands. I have ignored your pleas. I have turned away from the path that Jesus has shown us, and chosen my own path. Forgive me. Strengthen me in my weariness. Though I do not deserve it, I seek the power of your love, forgiveness, and grace. Amen.