John 13:21-33, 36-38 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus Foretells His Betrayal
21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23 One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”[a] So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.[b] 27 After he received the piece of bread,[c] Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some 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. 30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
The New Commandment
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him,[d] God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’
Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.
In Roman culture, it was only the free who reclined on couches during meals; servant slaves ate sitting or standing up. We have a beautiful picture of deep friendship cultivated over many long months of traveling together in this scene. Imagine the warmth, the relaxation they were enjoying, the good food, the laughter as friends. The intimacy of these friends was just prior revealed stunningly as Jesus washed their feet, even knowing one pair would soon trod straight toward betrayal.
These were brothers. And Jesus was no ordinary leader.
The leading edge of Jesus’ leadership is a sacrificial and vulnerable love that indiscriminately washes over even the Judases among us.
Jesus’ act of dipping the bread into the dish and handing it to Judas was a revered cultural act of respect, friendship and kindness during those times. Jesus moves toward betrayal in love.
Imagine how vulnerably open to love one must be to receive this sort of pain willingly, from a friend even. Jesus is modeling something for us here even more profound than the typical lesson this passage paints for us of how fickle our own faith can be as we watch Judas betray and Peter deny. If our eyes only fall there in this encounter we miss a deeper truth Jesus is living for us so that we might also live like Him in this Kingdom way of love.
During this Holy Week, Jesus is living for us the truth that the fullest and deepest love must always be open to the fullest and deepest wounding.
So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. (v. 30)
What a haunting picture John paints for us here.
We have this beautiful, hearth-warmed scene – one can almost sense a fire quietly crackling in the corner as they recline and talk – of friendship, freedom and the deep, rugged-journey-earned love between these men drawing us in. Oh how we wish we were there! And then suddenly, and for reasons only Jesus and Judas seem to know, Judas leaves the warmly lit scene and exits into the darkness.
Once Judas is gone, Jesus draws His beloved disciples even closer into His love, calling them little children, and tells them even more intimate details of what is to come. Jesus is always drawing us in, always opening His arms, always disclosing more and more of Himself – even if His intimate offer of His life dipped in the blood of His own sacrifice is met with a desire on our part to depart into the cold night.
In what areas of your life has it been easier to exit into the darkness alone instead of risking opening yourself up to a deeper love that may wound?
Spend some time reflecting on the painting by the Italian painter, Caravaggio. What stirs in you as you prayerfully reflect on the postures, tones, expressions in Caravaggio’s depiction?
Have you experienced warm periods of connection and friendship with Jesus only to immediately follow those times with denial or a quick forgetting of what you just experienced?
Why do you suppose we are more at home, or feel more protected, in the darkness?
How is Jesus inviting you to stay with His warm love, even if it means exposing yourself to deep hurt, during this Holy Week?
You read more about the artist and this painting here.