21 After he said these things, Jesus was deeply disturbed and testified, “I assure you, one of you will betray me.”
22 His disciples looked at each other, confused about which of them he was talking about. 23 One of the disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was at Jesus’ side. 24 Simon Peter nodded at him to get him to ask Jesus who he was talking about. 25 Leaning back toward Jesus, this disciple asked, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Jesus answered, “It’s the one to whom I will give this piece of bread once I have dipped into the bowl.” Then he dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son. 27 After Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 No one sitting at the table understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Some thought that, since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus told him, “Go, buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So when Judas took the bread, he left immediately. And it was night.31
When Judas was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify the Son of Man in himself and will glorify him immediately.
…Well that was awkward.
If my life had a refrain, it would be that. You see, as one who is of a nerdy persuasion, the default social stance for me is “awkward.” It’s somewhat inevitable, I’m afraid, for many reasons. 1: I’m clumsy. 2: My foot always seems to wind up in my mouth. 3: I’m nerdier than almost all of my friends, and sometimes I forget that, which leads to SO MANY AWKWARD MOMENTS.
So yeah, I kind of know what I’m talking about when I say this is a really awkward moment in the Gospel of John.
For one, it takes place right after Jesus washes everybody’s feet, which was pretty awkward in and of itself. Seriously, Jesus just got up from the table, threw a towel around himself, got down on the floor, and started washing people’s feet. Needless to say, this freaked out the disciples, especially Peter.
Peter protests that Jesus, their teacher, their master, should not debase himself so by washing their feet. This turned into a teachable moment about service and humility, a very necessary one at that. If you’ve ever had your feet washed, you know what I mean.
It feels… weird.
We don’t let people touch our feet, more often then not. They stink, they’re dirty, and they usually aren’t on your mind unless you step in something or have a blister. To have someone wash your feet for you is a disorienting experience. To wash someone else’s feet is just as disorienting. It gets right to the heart of our discomfort. It challenges our much-cherished boundaries.
So after all that, what does Jesus do? As if things couldn’t get more awkward, he cranks it up to eleven by outing the person who’s going to betray him, who will eventually hand him over to the authorities.
I love how the disciples react. They exchange glances, quietly, recognizing that Jesus just made an already awkward scene more awkward. They share nonverbal nods and headshakes to see who is going to ask Jesus what he meant. Finally, if falls on the Disciple Who Jesus Loved (DWJL) to ask who it might be.
Then, just to make sure everybody knew who was going to betray him, Jesus GIVES SOME BREAD TO JUDAS AND TELLS HIM TO DO IT.
I wish I could have seen Judas’s face when that happened. Obviously, the gospel writer think the disciples are not too bright and says some of them thought he was going on a grocery run, but we all know what happened. Jesus just outed Judas.
After Judas skedaddles, Jesus proceeds to go on talking about glorification, in very vague and ill-defined terms, AS IF NOTHING HAD HAPPENED.
I seriously have no idea what to do with this text. None at all. This is one of the most awkward stories about Jesus I have ever read. As a reader and interpreter of scripture, I am often at a loss for words regarding the goings-on in the biblical narrative. I’m sure most people would read this as solemnly and as characteristically serene, but seriously?
This was so awkward, I can’t even imagine it.
How do we deal with this kind of text, then? How do we deal with Jesus acting not just abnormally, but downright weird? I guess we have to chalk it up to the 3-dimensionality character Jesus, or perhaps the rhetorical style of the Gospel writer, I’m not sure. Maybe I just have an over-active imagination, or perhaps not enough imagination to see what’s going on here.
Jesus knows he’s going to die because Judas betrays him.
Jesus doesn’t stop him, but instead tells him to go ahead and do it.
I really want to say this all points to the idea of the inevitability of the cross, but I’m having a hard time with it, to be honest. Perhaps this proves the prophetic ability of Jesus. Or maybe this passage is just going to be one of those unresolved loose ends, indefinable and impossible to wrap up with a tidy little bow.
I guess, in the honesty of the scene, it causes us to realize that not everything can or will be resolved in life. Sometimes things just get weird, and we have to move on. We can’t ignore this weirdness; it’s there, and we’ve got to deal with it.
Maybe the best we can hope for before Maundy Thursday is a really awkward dinner party.