Tuesday, April 3, 2012

'What you are going to do, do quickly'

Tuesday of Holy Week

The Word:
Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified,
"Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me."
The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.
One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,
was reclining at Jesus' side.
So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.
He leaned back against Jesus' chest and said to him,
"Master, who is it?"
Jesus answered,
"It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it."
So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas,
son of Simon the Iscariot.
After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.
So Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly."
Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.
Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him,
"Buy what we need for the feast,"
or to give something to the poor.
So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.

When he had left, Jesus said,

"Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself,
and he will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
You will look for me, and as I told the Jews,
'Where I go you cannot come,' so now I say it to you."

Simon Peter said to him, "Master, where are you going?"

Jesus answered him,
"Where I am going, you cannot follow me now,
though you will follow later."
Peter said to him,
"Master, why can I not follow you now?
I will lay down my life for you."
Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me?
Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow
before you deny me three times."

(John 13:21-33, 36-38 (NAB))

On the surface, this passage leaves the impression that its main statement is that Judas Iscariot had reached the last straw. For some time now Jesus' mission and ministry had him thinking: When does this turn into the coup against the occupying Romans? How do we get the support of the local regime? By now it's clear to Judas that Jesus doesn't 'get it', when in fact it's the other way around.

All of this is ambiguous to the other apostles. It's not without reason: Jesus has been dropping large hints that something will indeed happen while they're in Jerusalem for the Passover, something nobody understands.

Peter, as the heir apparent and the control-oriented person he is, wants to get to the bottom of this. He said before that it was not his intention to let anything of an ill nature befall Jesus, for which he was rebuked. Still, he knows there's a lot at stake here. Not willing to get in trouble for yet another poor choice of words, Peter motions John to ask the question. Who's the bad guy? Drama is building.

Before I continue I am reminded that, of the four canonical Gospels, John's is the last to be written, some 65 years after the events. With three already accepted accounts in hand, John is not writing with a strict focus on one community or group of potential converts. Historical accuracy is likewise not a top priority. Furthermore, as is evident when reading any of John's epistles or especially Revelation, the style is largely symbolic. John is putting a very unique perspective into what took place; a perspective that is inclusive of many symbolic acts, so many that one can get a bit lost for a time.

It is not enough, therefore, for Jesus to simply blurt out "Judas is the one." John places the reveal as part of the meal - the meal that will be remembered countless times as the Eucharist and the Mass. In vv.26-27, Judas accepts the morsel (possibly the bitter herbs dipped in salt water at the Passover Seder) - but at the same time, rejects the very Real Presence of Jesus before him. At that point, he succumbs to the temptation, and leaves in haste. It even appears that Jesus encourages the departure. What frame of mind is Jesus in? Nobody can really be sure. Even John's passing comment "and it was night" (v.30b) is symbolic. Not only was it in the evening hours, but the long 'dark night of the soul' had begun.

Peter, seeing though unclearly that something is still very much wrong, once again states his ideal intention that he will protect Jesus, wanting to follow him to wherever he is going. Jesus knows he is about to die, and the manner in which it plays out. Jesus tells Peter that he will follow (to his own death) at another time; but for now, he too is in the grasp of confusion, and that to save himself he will deny he knows his Master three times before the night passes.

Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father; you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.

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