Betrayal seems to be so common place these days in the public sphere.
In politics we have seen Prime Ministers betrayed by their parties ousting them for someone more popular. In relationships we’ve seen families betrayed such as our former Deputy Prime Minister betraying his wife and family. In the celebrity world we have seen people in positions of power betray the vulnerable through sexual abuse. In the church we have seen betrayal of trust in light of the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse.
Have you ever been betrayed by a close friend or family member? After opening yourself up and becoming vulnerable to another person. Has that person betrayed the trust you placed in them? A betrayal of trust can hurt more than a physical hurt and can take much longer to heal if in fact it can be healed. When a person you love turns around and hurts you deeply, you probably do what most of us do in that situation — you look at ways to hurt them back. Could you, like Jesus, choose to spend your last night alive with that person and share Holy Communion with him? If you knew it was his betrayal that was going to lead to your death, a death you didn’t deserve would you include him together your loved ones for one last meal together. Would you treat him with all the love and compassion that you showed to all the other guests at your table? Would you get down on your hands and knees and wash his feet? Would you break bread with him and offer him the same blessing you give to all the others who have left everything to be with you? Would you give yourself, your very body and blood, to this one who betrayed you.? That is exactly what Jesus did and continues to do today.
On the night when he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body given for you.” In the same way, he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, given for you. He offered the bread, his body, to all of them. — 1 Corinthians 11:23b-25 Jesus knew of Judas’s betrayal and included him in this most sacred time together. Judas had gone to the chief priests and asked, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” And they paid him off with thirty pieces of silver – that’s all it took to betray his friend.
It’s hard to believe that Judas could have turned on Jesus like this and gone through the charade of participating in Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. What’s even more amazing is that Jesus himself knew exactly what was going on, and he still gave himself to the one who had been paid to have him arrested and killed. “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me,” he tells his disciples. When they want to know who it is, Jesus says, “It’s the one to whom I give this piece of bread.
So he gives it to Judas. Only Judas understood what was really going on at that moment. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” And Judas got up from the table and left (John 13:21-30).
Why didn’t Jesus dismiss Judas at the beginning of the meal and not until after he had shared such an intimate time with his closest friends? Isn’t that what we often do at Holy Communion? People often ask me – would you commune such and such at Communion – or would you commune so and so at communion. I never want to have in my mind people or certain groups of people that I wouldn’t commune. Imagine if Jesus was asked – would you commune someone who was going to betray you and have you arrested? There may be times when a situation arises but Jesus shows that our focus is on how do we include rather than exclude. I’m sure there are reasons why we too could easily have been excluded from Holy Communion. If we knew what was going on, we would probably have asked Judas to leave earlier, so he would have been excluded from this loving encounter between Jesus and his followers. But Jesus intentionally chose to include Judas.
Jesus would also have known how the other disciples would react at his arrest: They will all fall away from him. When Jesus is arrested, three times Peter denies even knowing him. After Jesus is crucified, they all hide out for fear of being recognized as his followers. Not only did Jesus share his last supper with the one who would betray him, he shared his last supper with all who would desert him and deny him. And yet, he loved every one of them enough to give them his body and blood.
This same Jesus loves us enough to give us his body and blood, even though he would have more than enough reason to exclude us. Just as he didn’t turn any away at the table on the night when he was betrayed, he doesn’t turn any of us away at his table tonight. St Paul says: Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
How would we feel if the result of that examination was made available for all to see? Would you be ashamed at what might be revealed for others to see? Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion “on the night when he was betrayed.” It was a meal he shared with those who betrayed him. From the very beginning, this sacrament was shared with people who were unworthy of the gift. And that’s what makes it such a special sacrament, because it is all about God’s grace poured out for the undeserving. No matter how strong or weak your faith may be, no matter how much you read your Bible or pray, no matter how many commandments you have kept or broken, no matter how well or poorly you’ve done at following Jesus; no matter who you are or what you’ve done, Jesus offers you his body and blood. And the more unworthy you may feel about receiving it, the more it has been given for you because it is given for the forgiveness of sins.
The forgiveness of sins isn’t for perfect people. It’s for people like Judas, who betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver.It’s for people like Peter who promised he would never leave Jesus and then turned around and denied even knowing him.It’s for people like the disciples who cowered in fear as soon as Jesus left them. It’s for you and me. That’s the way this holy meal began. It’s a meal given for the unworthy, where no one is excluded. It’s a meal where all are loved and forgiven. It’s a meal where all are given the gift of Jesus himself, so come for all is made ready.