October 8, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Luke 22:21-23.
“And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray me is with me on the table; for the Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed.” And they began to debate among themselves who among them would do such a deed.
This passage is one that is markedly different from the other gospel accounts of the last supper. Luke is the only one of the gospel writers who have the apostles questioning one another about the betrayal that Jesus revealed. The others have them questioning Jesus himself. Luke also doesn’t name Judas as the betrayer as do the other gospel authors. Last, Luke puts this revelation of betrayal after the Passover meal.
Luke Timothy Johnson in The Gospel of Luke writes, “It is by the giving of his life in sacrifice — donation to God for the sake of others — that a regeneration of the people can take place. This is why the moment of solemn announcement by Jesus is followed by reference to the betrayal. Luke is extraordinarily circumspect. He does not identify Judas as the betrayer or draw attention to him. The one who has invited Satan into his heart will not dominate this meal. But he must make mention of the ‘hand of the betrayer at the table,’ because in narrative terms this is how the sacrifice of the prophet will be accomplished. Because this covenant is being established anthropologically — in the very fabric of human freedom — the offer of the gift and the rejection of it as well must be carried out in the messy tangle of human decisions, and the decision of Judas to ‘hand over’ Jesus is pivotal.”
“The very fabric of human freedom” — the gift to choose that God gave to me at my birth — is, of course, the source of all human drama. I love how Johnson describes this drama as the “messy tangle of human decisions.” I do make a mess of things — of my own life and of those around me — regularly. I choose my will over God’s. I choose to indulge my desires over serving another’s needs. I choose to judge or disregard another because I think I am more righteous. I choose to hurt someone because they don’t fulfill my needs. My decisions are a messy tangle because I’m all about me; I’m egocentric, not God-centric. That’s the door for evil to enter.
Sanford writes in The Kingdom Within, “Evil approaches the human ego and forces it to choose. Human beings must exert their consciousness to the ultimate in order to avoid becoming a part of evil. Not only spiritual growth but consciousness itself requires evil and hard, real choices for its very existence. It’s not too much to say that Satan is the archetype of choice. This was certainly the way that he appeared to Jesus in the temptations in the wilderness. God, though intending the ultimate creativity and beneficence for humankind, allows Satan to operate in this way, evidently because only in such a world can human beings reach the kingdom. But there will be casualties on the way, and all of us can be expected to be exposed to the hazards made inevitable by the call to consciousness and choice….To say that Satan is the archetype of choice makes clear that all of us have built into us the necessity for moral choices and, operating primarily through our egocentricity and the one-sidedness to which it leads, the continual possibility of choosing against the will of God.”
So, what is the answer for me who is tempted to be the betrayer of Jesus? I think it is in prayer because in prayer I become conscious of the choices I am grappling with. In prayer I’m able to open my heart to God, to become vulnerable. And sometimes I hear His voice. It is often, “You are my beloved son upon whom my favor rests.” Sometimes I still strain against that love, yearning for something more immediately gratifying. As long as I continue to turn to God with my questions and my arguments and my pleadings, I will not betray Jesus. I will still sin, but I will still return to seek forgiveness. I will choose not give myself wholly and always to Satan.