Even Judas

judasMaundy Thursday – Even Judas

John 13:1-17; 31b-35

April 17, 2014

 

In my last church there is a relief on the front wall –

It’s a sculpture of sorts of the Last Supper.

The silhouette of Jesus’ head is in the center

And the other disciples are on each side of him.

 

There is a loaf of bread broken in half,

And a cup on the table in front of the figures.

 

Members told me that the relief is especially meaningful to them at Holy Communion

because they feel connected to Jesus and his last supper as they receive the bread and wine.

 

One thing that I’ve always found interesting about the relief

is that each silhouette is surrounded by a halo.

Each of them has a halo…except that is, Judas.

And that has always bothered me.

Jesus has the largest halo,

and there are smaller haloes for Peter and James and John,

(those disciples who fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus told them to stay awake).

 

There is a halo for Thomas,

(who said he would not believe Jesus unless he saw and touched him for himself.)

 

There is a halo for Matthew, the tax collector, Andrew, known for little else than being  the brother of Peter, and Philip and Nathaniel the disciples who heard the news and came but then are rather silent for the rest of the gospels.

 

And then there are haloes for those disciples who are easy to forget

because we hear so little of what they did or said.

We know that they followed Jesus at first,

But when the events of Good Friday came upon them,

They left him too – just all of the rest.

Nevertheless, there are haloes for James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Thaddeus.

 

There are haloes for everyone…

but no halo for Judas.

 

Now I want to be clear that it was not a conscious decision at the church to skip the halo on Judas.

There was no congregational vote to see which of the figures was deserving of a halo and which was not.

 

Over the years, traditional artwork depicting the last supper has often done the same thing…

haloes over everyone but Judas.

 

In fact if any of you were on Facebook today,

you might have noticed that I posted a picture today of the Last Supper

a 17th century icon – and there’s haloes on everyone – except for Judas.

 

But as we hear this text from the gospel of John about the last supper,

As we listen to the events of the evening,

As we pay attention to what Jesus does,

We might decide if we think about it,

That Judas ought to have a halo too.

 

So let’s go back to the text.

It’s time for the celebration of the Passover.

Like all faithful Jews, Jesus decides to celebrate the Passover with his closest friends…

and Jesus invites Judas.

 

During supper, Jesus does something rather amazing.

He gets up from the table, takes off his cloak, ties a towel around his waist,

And kneels to the floor.

He pours water into a basin and starts to wash the disciples’ feet,

much as a slave would do in a family household.

Jesus washes everyone’s feet….

Jesus washes the feet of Judas.

 

As we heard in our Corinthians reading,

When Jesus is having the meal with the disciples,

He breaks bread with them and says to them…

This is my body given for you.

Jesus gives his body to Judas.

 

When Jesus shares the cup with his disciples

and says, ‘this is my blood shed for you.’

Jesus sheds his blood for Judas.

 

And as our gospel reading ends,

Jesus talks about a new commandment.

The word ‘maundy’ on this Maundy Thursday comes from Latin meaning ‘commandment.’

 

This new commandment that Jesus gives

is the heart of Maundy Thursday.

Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

And Jesus has just shown us what it means to love one another.

Kneeling down and washing their feet.

Kneeling and washing the feet of disciples

who fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane

when Jesus told them to stay awake.

 

Kneeling and washing the feet of a disciple

who said he would not believe Jesus

unless he saw and touched him for himself.

 

Kneeling and washing the feet of a tax collector,

a brother of a disciple,

and disciples who heard the news and came to hear

but then don’t say much.

 

Kneeling and washing of the feet of disciples

who run away when following Jesus means trouble for themselves.

 

But perhaps the best image of this new commandment on Maundy Thursday,

Is Jesus, kneeling and washing the feet of the disciple who will betray him.

 

Jesus washes the feet of Judas.

 

Jesus invites Judas.

Jesus gives his body and his blood to Judas.

Jesus washes the feet of Judas.

Even Judas…

 

Is Judas beyond the reach of God’s love?

Is Judas beyond the reach of God’s redemption through Jesus?

 

I don’t think so.

And that gives me great hope.

 

Because so many times I’ve fallen asleep –

I haven’t been awake to the needs of the world Jesus places in front of me.

 

So many times I’ve wanted to see and to touch Jesus myself

before I fully trust in him.

 

So many times I’ve listened to what Jesus has to say

but then don’t say much to others about what I’ve heard.

 

So many times I’ve run away from places Jesus needs me the most

when it could mean too much trouble for me.

 

So many times I’ve been like the disciples when they’ve been less than faithful to Jesus.

 

And so many times I’ve even been like Judas..betraying the love of Jesus

when Jesus needs me most.

 

Why does it bother me so much that there’s no halo on Judas?

I need Judas to have a halo,

Because I need to know..and to see…that no one is out of the reach of God’s love – even Judas, the betrayer of Jesus… and even me.

 

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