Betraying a close friend who welcomed you into his inner circle and treated you like a brother is high on the list of his biggest blunders, especially when it leads to you being brutally tortured and murdered, but it’s not the most serious indiscretion of this well-known traitor.In the Gospel reading from John 13: 21-33, 36-38 when Jesus informs the Twelve that one of them will betray Him, they all look at Him confused. Peter nudges John, who was reclined at Jesus’ right hand, to ask who will do this. In response, Jesus says He will hand the morsel to the person who will betray Him, then He dips the bread and hands the piece to the disciple sitting at His left hand, the spot given to the guest of honor, Judas Iscariot.
Guess who’s coming to dinner?
I hadn’t realized this before, but Fr. Kauffman explained in his homily on Tuesday of Holy Week that the two people sitting closest to Jesus at the last supper were John and Judas. This really struck me. I have a hard enough time being around people who have lied to me, betrayed me, purposely hurt me in some way, so it hit me hard that Jesus kept Judas close to Him and lavished love upon him, knowing that he was about to hand him over to the people who would torture and kill Him.
Jesus wasn’t like that at all. Jesus knew well in advance that Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot were going to betray their allegiance to Him, yet He kept them close by. Jesus didn’t start distancing Himself from the two He knew were going to give in to temptation and turn their backs on Him. He treated them as beloved brothers before, during, and after their betrayal.
What’s the main difference between Peter and Judas, the two disciples who Jesus indicates will betray Him?
Peter denies his connection with Christ not once, but three times when the stakes of discipleship are quite high. When he realizes what has happened, he weeps bitterly, painfully aware of his desperate need of Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy.
Judas hands Jesus over to the soldiers and the police of the chief priests and the Pharisees. When he acknowledges that he’s made a tremendous mistake, Judas despairs, condemns himself as one whose sin is greater than God’s mercy, and takes his own life.
Not only has Judas betrayed Jesus, he makes the ultimate mistake in believing that his sin, the darkness within him, something he’s done in a moment of weakness has cast him outside the bounds of the Lord’s mercy, love, and salvation. Judas decides that he cannot, shouldn’t, or wouldn’t be forgiven by Jesus for the evil he committed, so he rejects all faith and hope in exchange for despair and eternal damnation.
Peter royally screwed up, but he had faith enough to believe in Christ’s message of mercy and forgiveness, to trust in His unconditional love and promise of salvation. He held on to hope and allowed himself to be forgiven.