Tuesday of Holy Week

Lectionary: 258


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.


Centuries after the crucifixion of Jesus, Shakespeare would describe betrayal as the most unkindest cut of all. More brutal than the beatings, scourges, spitting and mockery of enemies is the spiritual assault of one's trusted friend. Whereas the others are playing out their parts, acting with all the blindness and stupidity of their assignments, the betrayer knows intimately his victim. He knows which word to use, where the hurt will be deepest, and acts without remorse.
The Evangelists, as they contemplated Salvation History, saw that the death of Jesus was necessary, inevitable and certain. His death was a sacrifice, like that of the firstborn, spotless lambs in the temple, like Isaac offered on Mount Moriah.
But the sacrifice could not be simply the execution of a man, like the American practice of capital punishment. Nor could it be voluntary, like suicide. (A suicide takes his life; he does not give it.) 
We know that Mayan princes enjoyed a year of feasting and feting before they were sacrificed on their pyramid altars. Jesus' death must be more complete than that. First, he must be despised by his own people, denounced, condemned and convicted despite his perfect innocence; and despite his manifest love for his people. Secondly, he must be betrayed by a trusted companion.
Finally, he is not just a prince, an elite member of his tribe; he is the Son of God. This One does not represent some people. Because, he is infinitely more valuable in the sight of God than all people -- than all the universe -- he represents and saves fallen Creation. And not only the people of his time; he saves all time, all history from the fall of Adam, the murder of Cain, the Shoah to the end of time.
This is necessary because sin resides in the innermost recesses of the human heart, in the center of one's being. To be removed sin's roots must be discovered and eradicated by a perfect sacrifice which is remorseless in its relentless assault. No one could endure such violence unless he were the Son of God, unless he were willing to surrender everything to his most loving and trustworthy Father.
When we consider Judas' betrayal we contemplate the depths of sin and realize how deeply, passionately our God loves us; that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.