The writer of Mark doesn’t condemn Judas. Not like the others. They need Judas to kill himself or bear the brunt of a Godly vengeance: the scapegoat for his betrayal. Like a true villain, more heinous than Pilate (they can’t wait to get him off the hook), more vile than the leadership Jesus spent three days condemning. We put all of our scorn upon the back of Judas and send him out into the desert to die.
Betrayal & Desertion (Day 38 of A Simple Lent) | Thursday
Judas’s name doesn’t appear here, but his presence looms large. They have gathered to share the Passover together. Jesus announces that one of them will betray him. They all protest Not me! Of course! It couldn’t be me! and yet one of them will. We know it will be Judas, but the mystery of betrayal, the question of it, is still present.
And then they eat. All twelve. Even Judas, with them. About to betray Jesus, betray them all. And Jesus lets him eat as an equal, as one of the twelve.
The lectionary doesn’t reflect the whole of Maundy Thursday: not the events we symbolize in worship, with the stripping of the altar, the coming darkness, the night vigil. We get the trip to the Mount of Olives again, to the Garden of Gethsemane and the arrest of Jesus. It stops before all that. It is almost as if they want us to stop at Judas, the betrayer, to see his singular departure and failure as the epitome of evil.
It is on the way to the Garden, the very next verses
When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written,
“I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.”
But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’
And again, the protests, this time Peter comes forward. And Jesus assures him. Yes, even you. And not once only, but three times.
The Betrayer and the Deserters
Judas and the Disciples
How different are they, really? I know, I know, what Judas did was worse. But in the gospel, it doesn’t really play out that way. It doesn’t play out in the way we expect.
The subtle reminder remains throughout, that they are The Twelve, even as there are only eleven who remain.
And remain is a funny word when they have all run away. Even Peter, who runs when he gets caught. The Twelve, all of them leave Jesus.
The women don’t. The women stick around. Theirs is the picture of discipleship. Theirs is the example for us.
As we gather tonight around tables, sharing the final meal together, a literal or figurative Eucharistic feast, let us do so with the clarity of our present lives. Without scapegoats and hands washed clean of the blood of division. Without question of who is responsible for pain and evil. Without the blind indifference of our confident beliefs.
Let us eat together. Let us celebrate what is both a Passover and a Eucharist mixed with a family feast. And may we remember that we are not perfect. We are The Twelve.
[For further reflection, read last year’s meditation for Thursday of Holy Week!]
Daily Office Readings
Or visit the alternative Daily Office I often use.
This week’s homework is to simply be present in prayer, giving this week to GOD.
[No worksheet this week!]