By Sally Lombardo
“When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, “Where I am going you cannot come.” A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’” (John 13:31–35)
Our Scripture today tells the story of Jesus in the upstairs room after the disciples have shared their final meal with him. We pick up where Judas has just gone out, and Jesus explains that the Son will be glorified. Jesus goes on to explain that he will be going away soon, and the disciples will not be able to follow. “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’” (John 13:33).
I’ve always wondered about the timing here and thought I would hate to have been Judas who went out from the fellowship with Jesus. The entire moment seems to hinge on Judas’s exit, in fact, and be dependent on his leaving the group. How sad to be that person. I would never want everyone to be waiting for my exit or for good things to happen after I left! The role of Judas is quite sad, as he paves the way for Jesus to live out his earthly purpose in pain, crucifixion, and death.
Thankfully, the heavenly role of Jesus is bodily resurrection and freedom. Judas was a man who simply did not want to know God. This week's theme of our Lectionary studies is “knowing God better,” and Judas provides a negative example for us. Judas missed all the beauty and the romance of Jesus’s love story with the people he came to serve. He missed Jesus’s laughter and his calming presence; he avoided hearing the wisdom in his words. Think of the many times Judas’s heart might have been pierced with conviction that he ignored or a deep well of joy he couldn’t handle because he had made up his mind to sell Jesus to the religious leaders for a fee—the price, in fact, for a slave.
Judas had a hardened heart. Even the beauty of the Last Supper of sweet communion with friends and his Rabbi did not melt his heart of stone. If he had doubts, we don’t know about them; only several days later does Judas realize what he has missed so many times—that all the wisdom and love that emanated from Jesus was available to him every day. But Judas followed his flesh and left the Lord. As believers, we are no longer of the flesh but protected by the Spirit to trust and follow Jesus forever.
“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:9–11).
Reflection: How does the Holy Spirit help you resist the flesh and abide in Christ? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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