Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!

Judas and Peter
April 20, 2011, 12:24 pm
Filed under: Sermons | Tags: ,

A sermon preached at All Saints, Clifton, April 20th, 2011

“Jesus was troubled in spirit.” Six days before the Passover, on Palm Sunday, our Lord had said to Philip and Andrew, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified;” and he had gone on, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.” Now, at the Last Supper, Jesus was troubled in spirit again.

This time, it seems clear what especially troubled him: “One of you will betray me.” One of you, my closest associates, one whom I myself have chosen. Did our Lord choose Judas simply in order that Judas might betray him? Surely that is not to be thought of. At the human level, when Jesus chose Judas it was because he saw in him great potential for good. Here was a man who had it in him to be a true Apostle, a messenger sent to proclaim the Good News. The human tragedy is that potential for good always implies equal potential for harm. Judas betrayed Jesus, but any one of the others might have done so, if they had made the wrong choices. The other Evangelists seem to suggest that the Twelve understood this, asking, “Is it I, Lord?” as if they had looked into their hearts and seen the possibility.

Mark, Matthew and Luke imply that our Lord spoke generally: “One of you sharing bread with me will do this.” Only John says that he made a point of offering a special morsel to Judas- perhaps only he noticed and drew a conclusion. We do not need to suppose this was the Eucharistic Bread, yet it was in some sense a symbol of Christ the Bread of Life putting himself into the hands of his betrayer. Even at this moment, shown this special favour, Judas could have drawn back; but he hardened his heart. “Satan entered him:” what a fearful remark! He goes out, and it was night. He goes out into the darkness in more ways than one.

Once Judas has gone on his errand, Jesus returns to the theme of glory: “Now has the Son of man been glorified.” The glory of Jesus is the Cross, for John, not just the reward of the Cross. It is in accepting the Cross, whole-heartedly and of his own free will, that Jesus manifests his total obedience to the Father, and his total love for us: “Jesus, having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end.” The Cross is the full expression of his love, his love is the full expression of his glory.

Peter does not understand, and asks where Jesus is going. “You cannot follow me now,” he is told, “you will follow me later.” After the Resurrection, when Peter has experienced the humiliation of his own denial, and has three times been asked about his own love, the Lord will tell him that he too will walk the way of the Cross; “And after this he said to him, Follow me.”

Judas and Peter: both fail Jesus, but one deliberately, hardening his heart against the Lord’s mercy; the other through weakness, which he never ceased to regret. We too often fall like Peter, because our love is weak; may God grant we never fall like Judas, going out into the darkness. As we move on through Holy week, let us embrace the Cross, take it up, and follow Jesus.

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