By David Timms
Perhaps nothing hurts as much as betrayal.
A wife discovers a string of e-mails and realizes her husband has been intimate with another woman. Or a man receives a note from his wife saying she and one of his longtime friends plan to start a life together. Or someone at work gives the boss information that was shared in confidence.
Betrayal cuts deeply for all of us, and no less so for Jesus. That last night with his disciples, Judas sat close to Jesus. The plot was in place, and Judas had managed to keep it secret. The other disciples had no idea. But Jesus knew. The apostle John wrote, “Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.’ His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant” (John 13:21, 22).
“One of you is going to betray me.” And Jesus knew exactly which one—Judas.
We typically respond to betrayal with anger and hostility. It’s hard to keep one’s cool when trust and love get tossed on the scrap heap. But, remarkably, Jesus barely reacts. As the scene unfolds, Jesus hands Judas a morsel of bread dipped in wine—an astonishing gesture of hospitality—and urges Judas with the words, “What you are about to do, do quickly” (v. 27).
As the disciples looked back on that night for decades to come, how could they forget such an extraordinary act of grace? And as they passed the bread and the cup to each other, they surely recalled Jesus’ powerful display of forgiveness. The bread and the cup evoke strong memories of Jesus’ gentleness, and challenge us to be gentle as well.
How often have we betrayed Christ with our words or actions? How often have we wounded him afresh with our schemes to force his hand? Yet, as we eat and drink, we receive his grace again—and we’re called to extend his grace to each other, again.
As followers of Jesus, we remember him so we might become like him, not just when all is well but even when betrayal stings us. And each time we eat and drink together, we commit ourselves to grace; forgiving those who wound us, blessing those who curse us, and yes, even showing hospitality to those who betray us. Only the power of Christ can do that within us, and these elements become our request for that power.
David Timms serves as professor of New Testament and theology at Hope International University in Fullerton, California.