Hope for the Betrayers

Hope for the Betrayers

Homily for Wednesday in Holy Week

March 27, 2024

Hope for the Betrayers

Homily for Wednesday, March 27, 2024
Wednesday in Holy Week
John 13:21-32

Both tonight’s and tomorrow’s Gospel readings come from John chapter 13. Tomorrow’s reading (the reading in which Jesus washes the disciples’ feet and commands them to “love one another”) is a “donut” reading, as it were,composed of the first and last parts of the chapter but omitting the middle.  Tonight’s Gospel (the story of Judas betraying Jesus) is the middle part of the chapter. So in the middle of a beautiful chapter in which Jesus washed the disciples’ feet and commanded them to love one another is tonight’s story about one of those disciples betraying him.

The truth that John in his account helps us clearly see is that we often betray not only in the context of trust but of love – even when we love or are loved deeply, we can betray.  And John – who in his Gospel pays close attention to night and day – makes clear his thoughts about Judas’ betrayal: “After receiving the piece of bread,” John writes, “[Judas] immediately went out.  And it was night.”  To betray, suggests John, is of darkness and brings darkness.  

But still there is hope for Judas; the light that Jesus shed in Judas’ life was not completely extinguished.  Matthew in his Gospel writes that Judas repented:  “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” he told the chief priests and elders (27:4).  All that was pure and noble that Judas had received from Jesus yet remained imprinted on Judas in the depths of his heart. And even though John reports that “Satan entered into him,” yet John does not close the door on Judas.  For unlike in Matthew’s Gospel, in John Judas does not go and hang himself; in John there is still hope for Judas in Jesus’ abundant mercy.  

Likewise, if we have betrayed, there is hope for us, too, in Jesus’ abundant mercy..

And if we have been betrayed, know that Jesus knows what it’s like; he is there with us.  And Jesus bears witness that betrayal need not be the final word.  Though betrayal may in some ways lead to “death,” yet it may also lead to “resurrection,” a “resurrection” that may not have been possible had we not first gone through the “death” of betrayal.

So John chapter 13 is a scene of intimate love, and it is also a scene of betrayal.  In this chapter John reminds us of the reality of betrayal, how we can betray not only where there is trust but even where there is love.  John reminds us who have betrayed that there is hope in God’s abundant mercy.  And he reminds those who have been betrayed that betrayal need not be the last word, that it need not define us.  Our God is a God of new life, and God may yet work “resurrection” in spite of betrayal, perhaps even using betrayal to work a greater good.

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