While at supper with his disciples, Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, ‘I tell you most solemnly, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, wondering which he meant. The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus; Simon Peter signed to him and said, ‘Ask who it is he means’, so leaning back on Jesus’ breast he said, ‘Who is it, Lord?’ ‘It is the one’ replied Jesus ‘to whom I give the piece of bread that I shall dip in the dish.’ He dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. At that instant, after Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus then said, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’ None of the others at table understood the reason he said this. Since Judas had charge of the common fund, some of them thought Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’, or telling him to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the piece of bread he went out. Night had fallen.
When he had gone Jesus said:
‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,
and will glorify him very soon.
‘My little children,
I shall not be with you much longer.
You will look for me,
And, as I told the Jews,
where I am going, you cannot come.’
Simon Peter said, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now; you will follow me later.’ Peter said to him, ‘Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ ‘Lay down your life for me?’ answered Jesus. ‘I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’
And to think that the disciples thought they were going to a celebration; that the fellowship would be made stronger; that Jesus' influences would make some change. If Jesus intended to use his influence surely he would have kept Judas near, made Peter stay away- his foresight could have saved him (saved them) but he leaves them their freedom and neither of them can help themselves.
The betrayal by a trusted friend; the foolishness and misunderstanding of his best friend. No wonder Jesus calls them 'little children' - still they struggle with his message even though they have been with him all this time.
And yet he still loves them; intends to die for them; sees in them the glory of his time on earth. The betrayer who is fed from his hand; the fool who doesn't listen; the rest of them 'wondering what he meant'. Several glasses of Passover wine may have made them befuddled - but not really any worse than usual.
If there was a sign of the authenticity of the Gospels it is how openly inadequate Jesus' beloved friends and disciples are at dealing with whatever he asks of them. And yet how much he loves them; how he never stops loving them even in their failing.
It is one of the greatest signs of hope; knowing that we are often no better; rejecting, betraying, misunderstanding what it is that Jesus wants of us; allowing sin into our hearts and our decison making, not once but many times in many situations far less serious that this one.
I suppose that, as little children, it is recognising that we can only do our best and that our best may not good enough - but doing it, or not doing it, anyway. It is knowing that 'perfection' is not how we are judged - we ar not judged. It is knowing that even when our actions are completely against what God wants - Jesus loves us. That the place where he has gone - perhaps we may not follow by ourselves- but, when the time comes , he himself will bring us home.