April 16, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 13:18-20.
“I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.’ From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
The scripture cited by Jesus is Psalm 41:10: “Even the friend who had my trust, who shared my table, has scorned me.” According to John Shelby Spong in The Fourth Gospel, “The reference is to a story in the David cycle, in which a man named Ahithophel, who also ate at the table of the king, became a traitor.”
Jesus knew men’s hearts even better than they did. I try to keep that in mind about my own. It’s so hard for my human mind to grasp just what Jesus did — knowing that Judas was to betray him and allowing him to go ahead so that the scriptures might be fulfilled and his mission accomplished. Moloney in The Gospel of John writes, “Jesus knows whom he has chosen. He has no illusions about their fragility….Behind this choice of fragile disciples lies a logic that defies all human logic, and Jesus informs his disciples of the events that will fulfill the Scriptures before they take place, so that when they do take place, they might come to know and believe he is the unique revelation of God….Part of this revelation is his choice of a group of ignorant, failing disciples, one of whom will betray him. When this betrayal — foretold in the Scriptures — takes place, then the wonder of a God who does such things will be seen. Then the disciples might come to know and believe that Jesus’ choice of them makes God known. Not only has Jesus knowingly chosen fragile, failing disciples, but he sends them out as his representatives….To receive the disciple means to receive Jesus, and to receive Jesus means to receive God….Scripture will be fulfilled and God will be revealed in the events of an unconditional gift of self unto death for those whom he chose and those whom he will send, despite the fact that these very disciples fail and betray him. God is revealed in a love that surpasses all imaginable ways of loving. The narrative promises that Jesus’ death will be a moment of self-gift in love that will both reveal God and transform fragile disciples into sent ones of the Father.”
I had to include this long quote and read it over and over so that it could sink in, to try to understand as one of his fragile, failing disciples. God knows that I am fragile and that I fail repeatedly. However, that’s not the point. Every single one of His creations is fragile and failed. The point is that I am chosen and He wants me to be transformed by His love. He is sending me out; He wants to use me to reveal His love. That’s the point of Jesus’ death, not for my personal salvation but that I may reveal His unconditional love. If He can love me despite my fragility and failings, He can and does love everyone. If you can see God’s love in me, than He has achieved His purpose in choosing me. Likewise, if others can see God’s love in you.
I, too, am a betrayer like Judas. I have eaten at the table of one who has loved me, who has trusted me. Betrayal like that is the deepest wound of all. And yet, still God loves me and has chosen me. While my betrayal wasn’t His will He wants to use me in a way that will reveal His love. He wants to transform the wounds caused by my fragility and failure into healing by the gift of HIs unconditional love. I keep reading Jesus’ words over and over, “[W]hover receives the one I send receives me.” Is he really talking to me? Does he really mean me? Is that the way I’m supposed to understand it? Me, who has inflicted so much pain, who fails so often and so spectacularly? He really wants to use me to reveal his love? I can barely imagine that let alone believe it. It’s extraordinarily humbling, but yet I do somehow believe that’s what he wants. He knows my heart; he has no illusions about me. His choice of me defies all human logic as Moloney wrote. I’m sure I will continue to wrestle with this. Isn’t that the paradox of God’s love, though, that He loves me as I am and always will be, a fragile and failing sinner?