Judas, beloved like us
My beloved and I created the video above as part of The Open Table's Good Friday service. It's a shortened, updated version of a homily I wrote a few years ago. You can find the original written version here, or read the text from the video below.
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.” While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
The reality of betrayal is nothing new to the LGBTQIA community, or to God themself. It seems to be part of the human condition, easy for us to see in others but hard to recognize when we ourselves do it as we look around our tables, muttering, “surely it isn’t me?”
So what do we see happening in this scripture reading?
Jesus has planned the Passover feast, and acts as host for this meal Christians call the Last Supper. Before the scene opens, Jesus strips down and washes the apostles’ feet, John’s version of the story tells us that Jesus was troubled in spirit, when he says someone would betray him. He uses the same phrasing when talking about the death of his good friend Lazarus.
But he positions Judas close by, in a place of honor, where they might eat from the same bowl. He then presents his flesh and blood for the first time in the form of bread and wine.
In an Eastern custom which is still in practice, a “sop” is offered to the most honored guest. The sop is the tastiest morsel of food tucked into a bit of bread, or a piece of bread dipped in the communal bowl. It's offered before anyone else begins to eat. Sometimes it’s delivered directly to the guest’s mouth.
What an intimate action that is...
John’s gospel reports Jesus saying:
“It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.
Jesus appears to be offering the “sop” to Judas, singling his betrayer out as the most honored guest.
At the Passover Seder, prayers are offered before each course. Cups of wine are blessed and drunk.
The closing words of the scripture passage Declan read were Jesus offering his body in the form of bread. His body, the sop.
When we put all this together we can see the stories might be trying to tell us something very important. Jesus may have offered up his body and blood, for the first time ever, to Judas.
Judas, the betrayer.
Judas, who Jesus later calls friend in the Garden of Gethsemane.
People in the queer community are betrayed by those who don’t understand us, and we betray others within our own community. We even betray ourselves. Each of us bearers of the Christ-light and worthy of so much more.
Judas symbolizes all the betrayals that have taken place since the beginning, and those we'll continue to inflict until the end of time. We would bite that irresistible fruit if a snake told us to, just like Adam did. And like Judas we turn our backs on Christ in our own lives.
We deny him as Peter did, and leave him alone as the rest of the disciples did. We take the bread that God delivers and kiss him before succumbing to our own selfishness.
The story of Judas is difficult. But in considering Jesus’ relationship with Judas we realize God knew US from the beginning. They know all the evil we’ve done in the past, and all our temptations in the future.
And yet they wash our feet.
And feed us spiritual food, lifting their own hand to our mouths.
And call us friend at the very moment we disown them.
And wait for us to remember who we are,
and pull our awareness back into the circle of the heavenly kindom
where we join the twelve in the perpetual feast
with those who betrayed us
and those who we’ve betrayed.