John 13.21-32 NIV
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.” The 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.
A Word of Hope
This is Holy Week, and we are right between the festivities of Palm Sunday and the celebrations of Easter Sunday.
Our Scripture tells the story of Jesus meeting with the disciples in the Upper Room, a familiar place for them to gather and have difficult conversations. In the middle of a shared meal, Jesus speaks his truth and informs them that one of them will betray him. He is troubled in spirit and testifies to truth. He confronts the realities of his situation and gives voice to highlight what is going to happen.
This betrayal would lead to Jesus’s arrest and charge of blasphemy, which would leave him hanging on a cross on Good Friday; placed in a tomb that was to be found empty three days later.
For the faithful this week is a necessary part of the journey – to get to Easter Sunday, we must journey through this week of grief and sadness, of sorrow and betrayal and on this Holy Wednesday we pause to see the significance of the journey then as we can now.
Our world today is facing many difficult conversations and the model that Jesus uses here might be useful for us. He speaks his truth, his experience, his spirit. He confronts the systems that brought Judas to the ultimate decision to give up his loyalty to Jesus and collude with power and Jesus was willing to go to the cross for something bigger that would ultimately bring down these systems and bring about freedom – welcoming in a new day that would be good news for all people.
On this Holy Wednesday we also might consider what we are willing to go to the cross for. What systems of power and oppression are we willing to confront and work to bring down for the betterment of others and welcome in a new day, a day of Good News?
Holy Week is not just the story of Jesus. It is a story of those who follow Jesus today as we understand that our message is of both Jesus and Justice – that Jesus’s death and resurrection is a recurring story of our world, lived out in each of us creating a more just, more loving, fairer, a freer world that leaves the tomb empty of death and shame and replaces it with life and hope and pride.
Let us not skip from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday without understanding the fullness and complexity of the journey in-between – a journey that we are living ourselves if we are truly following Jesus to the cross, and beyond.
God of Easter, and Christmas, and Pentecost, and Sunday – let us not neglect the in-between times that teach us so much more about our faith and our life as followers of Jesus. Help us to seek out opportunities to confront the systems of oppression that keep captive our world in the tomb of death and shame, so that we might once again open the tomb on Easter’s resurrection that promises life and hope and pride. Let us strive to be that world – that representation of “heaven, here on earth”. May it be so. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Neil G. Thomas
Senior Pastor, Cathedral of Hope UCC, Dallas