To read the texts click on the texts: Isa49:1-6; Jn 13:21-33, 36-38
The text of today begins after the action of the washing of the feet of his disciples by Jesus and the words that he speaks explaining the meaning of the event. Thus this text must be read with that background in view.
It begins by an announcement of the betrayal in the context of Jesus’ emotional distress. This announcement is greeted with confusion on the part of the disciples. This confusion is an indication that betrayal can lie in the heart of any disciple and that no one is really exempt or can take for granted his/her fidelity. This confusion leads to questioning on the part of the disciples. Each wants to know who Jesus meant. “The disciple whom Jesus loved” is introduced for the first time in the Gospel and plays a prominent role from now on. The fact that the disciple is not named points to the fact that it is not so much the person, but his relationship to Jesus that defines and determines who he is. Like the Son who is in the bosom of the Father (1:18) so this disciple reclines in the bosom of Jesus. Prompted by Simon Peter’s nod, the beloved disciple asks Jesus who the betrayer is. Through the gesture of giving the morsel to Judas and his words, the contrast between the intimacy of the meal on the one hand and the betrayal by Judas on the other is brought into sharp relief. Even as he is offered a sign of friendship, intimacy and fidelity, Judas chooses distance, betrayal and infidelity. Though Jesus “knows” who will betray him, he still reaches out in love and friendship.
The mention of Satan entering Judas indicates that the real battle is not between Jesus and Judas but between Jesus and the powers of evil, between light and darkness, and between falsehood and truth. Jesus is willing to face head on and immediately the powers of evil and so instructs Judas to act quickly. Jesus alone understands the significance of the hour. The disciples remain ignorant and even misunderstand.
That Judas leaves immediately is an indication that his commands are followed even as he is going to be betrayed. Jesus remains in control of all the events of his “hour”. The phrase “and it was night” can mean on the surface level a chronological notation. However, it has a much deeper meaning in John. On the deeper level it means that Judas has cut himself off from Jesus who alone is the light and also that he has sided with the darkness which tries to overcome the light.
The verses which follow and complete the reading of today can either be seen as a conclusion to the previous episodes of the washing of the feet and the prediction of the betrayal or as an introduction to the Farewell Discourse. They speak of the glorification of Jesus as Son of Man and also of the glorification of the Father. While it is true that the mutual glorification began when the father was manifested through the Son at the incarnation and continued in the words and works of Jesus, it will be completed and reach its fulfilment in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus to the Father. This final departure from the world and return to the Father is here seen as a seal of the disciples’ new relationship with God, with him and with one another. Jesus responds to Simon Peter’s question about his final destination by predicting Peter’s denial of him. Though Peter protests by offering his life to Jesus in keeping with the command to lay down one’s life for one’s friend, he speaks more from a misplaced enthusiasm than from the reality of the situation. When confronted with reality, Peter will in fact deny Jesus three times.
There are numerous times in our lives when things do not go the way we plan. It is as times like these that we tempted to throw in the towel like Judas and Peter did. However, the challenge is that even at times like these to continue to trust and believe that even though we may not fully understand why things happen the way they do, that God is still in control and will never let anything happen to is that is not for our good and for his glory.
Remaining with Jesus, following his commands and living the life that he demands is thus not an easy task. The numerous laws, rules and regulations of the Jews have been summarized into one command which is to love God by loving neighbour. This reduction of the numerous into one does not mean that the one is easier; it means that the focus has changed from external observance to internal disposition and from personal achievement to grace. That grace is at the heart of the command is made evident in the cases of Judas and Peter who both fail in keeping it. While Judas’ betrayal may be seen as a dramatic and extreme case of refusing to remain with Jesus and follow his commands, the denials by Peter indicate that every disciple is at risk of failure if he/ she depends on his/her own strength and not enough on the Lord.