Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reflection for Holy Wednesday

Gospel for Holy Wednesday: John 13:21-32

21After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me." 22The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.

The disciples looked at one another. This could mean that they couldn’t imagine one among them betraying their Teacher or they wondered who had caved under the pressure. It’s easy to think the disciples were slow on the uptake or unwilling to believe. It’s harder, though, to realize that perhaps they did believe, but were surrounded by distractions, pressures and emotions- similar to the disciples of today (us). Maybe the disciples were confused or maybe they were afraid they were going to be found out.

23One of his disciples — the one whom Jesus loved — was reclining next to him; 24Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?"

The disciple whom Jesus loved remains unnamed, but has a prominent place in the Fourth Gospel. This disciple, along with Peter, may have played a significant role in the Johannine community (the community for whom John, the Fourth Gospel, was formative and normative). I have read some radical ideas toward the notion of the Beloved Disciple being later followers, like you and me. In this reading, we are present, resting against Jesus in the narrative. In this story, the beloved disciple rests “in the bosom” of Jesus, just as Jesus is “in the bosom” of God the Father. (John 1:18) As we rest in Jesus, so we rest in God.

26Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. 27After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "Do quickly what you are going to do."

This is one powerful Jesus, a Jesus who instigates his own betrayal. The appearance of Satan here helps us to understand that the ultimate battle, in this gospel, is between Jesus and the forces that oppose God, not between Jesus and Satan or even Jesus and the authorities. Interestingly, in this portrayal, Satan can’t even act without Jesus/God allowing and starting the action. This stirs up all kinds of questions about theodicy and the presence of evil in the world. The Evangelist, the gospel writer, has taken pains, though, to set up Judas as a suspect character. However, he was not capable of thwarting God’s intention in Jesus of his own accord, without heavenly consent.

28Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the festival"; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

You’d think there would be a stronger reaction to the idea that one whom they had known was going to betray the Rabbi, but it’s not recorded.

31When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

Good. Did we all understand that? What is to come isn’t simply a magic trick or intended to be a dazzling display of God’s capabilities. What is to come is going to help people truly and fully understand who Jesus is- in relationship to God and as God. Thus, God’s name will be glorified through the actions and the reactions. Furthermore, in the glory, people will be drawn to the power of new life in God through Jesus.

Expectant God, you bear us with patience, hoping toward the day when we are birthed into the new possibilities of life in you. Even now, we grow and are shaped by you. You nourish us, shelter us, speaking softly and tenderly words of mercy, grace and truth. In this time of anticipation, we hold back in fear of the fullness that comes through being born. Help us to shed our reluctance and trust your guiding hand, leading us into green pastures and beside still waters. In this holy week, restore our souls and the joy of our salvation. Birth us anew. Amen. 

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