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April 8, 2020

“After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.'” John 13:27

There is nothing quite so painful as betrayal. Whether it’s a friend making fun of you in the middle school hallway, a business associate doing deals behind your back, or a spouse’s discovered cheating, betrayal cuts like a knife. Sure, there are obvious degrees of difference. Not all pain is equal. But to have a relationship you value undone by the other person hurts, plain and simple.

Relationships fall apart. It’s been true since the Garden, when Adam and Eve turned on each other in an attempt to save their own skin. Sometimes we can work our way past the betrayal; sometimes it stalks us forever.

On this Wednesday in Holy Week, in the midst of the story of salvation, we find this oh-so-common sin. Judas, disillusioned with Jesus, has made up his mind to hand him over to the authorities. He opens himself to the evil one, sells his soul for thirty silver pieces, and hands over his friend to certain death.

But watch what Jesus does. He sees it coming, knows Judas will do it. Just as he knows Peter will deny ever knowing him. Still, he doesn’t try to stop Judas. After Judas has gone out into the night, Jesus does not talk about how Judas will be punished. He talks about the glory of God, shown forth in death. He talks about love, the new commandment that matters most.

As Jesus dies to undo the power of death, so does Jesus die to undo the power of betrayal. In succumbing to death and forgiving those who bring it upon him, Jesus creates forgiveness. This is not simply juridical, a declaration of freedom and forgiveness. It is certainly that, but it is also more. It is the transformational power to bring healing to our relationships, to enliven us with the Spirit to live in new, better ways. To live lives that seek not our own gain at the expense of others, but that seek the good of the other above all else.

Maybe, Dante notwithstanding, the self-giving love of Jesus can even redeem Judas at the end of all things. It has certainly redeemed you, and it has certainly redeemed me. May the life-giving power of Jesus love overwhelm the brokenness in our relationships as he invites you into the life that is really life.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

“Almighty God, your Son our Savior suffered at the hands of men and endured the shame of the cross. Grant that we may walk in the way of his cross and find it the way of life and peace; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Lutheran Book of Worship, p. 20)

The image, of course, is a detail from The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, late fifteenth century (public domain).

From → COVID-19, Lent/Easter

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