In today’s Gospel lesson, John recounts the story of Jesus visiting with his disciples in the upper room. After humbly washing their feet, he foretells that one of them would betray him. In Matthew’s account of the story, we learn that Judas’ unfaithful act was motivated by thirty pieces of silver. Though Google’s currency converter hasn’t yet mastered the conversion of ancient precious metals to USD, a sampling of comically contradictory internet sources suggest perhaps that we’re talking about a few hundred bucks. Even Judas recognized this as poor compensation and tried to return the sum.
For thirty pence Judas me sold,
His covetousness for to advance:
Mark whom I kiss, the same do hold!
The same is he shall lead the dance.
– Tomorrow shall by my dancing day
Traditional Medieval Carol
For me, the very word betrayal is one that evokes a strong sentiment and perhaps a sense of drama. I think of the epic literary betrayals of Brutus in Julius Caesar or Guy Fowkes in The Gunpowder Plot. In our daily lives, however, betrayal can be experienced in novel-sized ways or in small daily micro-aggressions. How do we begin to understand the role of this ancient and emotional circumstance in our own lives? As a teacher, I encourage my students to approach any complex issue from multiple perspectives:
Who in my life has made me feel betrayed?
What did I do about it?
Where do I find comfort or support in the midst of these difficult moments?
When might I have betrayed myself?
Why might I have betrayed others?
How should I respond when I feel as though I’ve experienced betrayal?
As we’ve come to expect, Jesus teaches by example. Shortly after Judas departs the scene, rather than guffaw and gossip, Jesus shares with his disciples the edict now known as the new commandment—that we should love one another as he has loved us. In doing so, Jesus models not only a response to soured relationships, but an axiom that rings true for our daily lives and for most major world religions. In short, he leads us to the ancient notion of reciprocity expressed in the golden rule: to treat one another as you’d like to be treated.
How are we called this Holy Week to model Jesus’ example of radical love in our own lives?
Appointed readings for today: Isaiah 50:4-9, Psalm 70, John 13:21-32