Wednesday of Holy Week | Gospel Reflection
Today’s Gospel can be painful to read. The passage begins with Matthew relating Judas’ explicit betrayal of Jesus in exchange for thirty pieces of silver—the same price lawfully given to a slave owner if his slave were killed (Exodus 21:32). Judas, purportedly one of the people on earth closest to Jesus, abandoned Jesus and cast him into the role of a slave sent to his death.
Yet time went on for Judas and the other disciples as it always had. Following Jesus’ instructions, they made preparations to eat the Passover meal with him. It was at this meal that Jesus revealed something that must have stunned all but one of the disciples: “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Jesus knows that he is to be betrayed by one of his closest friends, and yet he continues to carry out the duties of his Jewish faith normally, and even invites his betrayer to eat with him.
It is more than just Judas’ betrayal that is tragic here. When Jesus reveals that a betrayal is about to happen, the disciples each ask, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” In the face of this shocking and terrible revelation, the disciples do not think about Jesus or what the betrayal might mean for him—they think about their own role and their own potential guilt. It is reminiscent of their arguments from Luke’s Gospel about which disciple is the greatest, occurring both on the road (Luke 9:46) and at the Last Supper (Luke 22:24).
Reading this passage today, we have the privilege of knowing what Jesus is about to endure because of Judas’ betrayal. We know, also, that Jesus’ suffering will all be done out of a profound love for us. Though the disciples did not understand what was going to happen, they still failed to comfort or defend their friend at his hour of need. Instead of preventing the betrayal or looking for a way to protect Jesus, each sought to protect himself. This had to have been another occasion of heartbreak for Jesus.
Even at this time of great distress, Jesus presents an image of hope. When Judas asks, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” he responds, “You have said so.” Jesus almost seems to be saying that he knows what Judas has done and what he will do, but that at this moment, Judas can make a different choice in accordance with what his conscience seems to be telling him. As modern Christians, we know the path Judas chose. But we also know that Jesus invited Judas to a special place of closeness with him right up until the end, when Judas irrevocably rejected that closeness.
Today, as we read this Gospel, I pray that we may sit with Jesus in his suffering. May we be blessed to console the heart of Jesus with our prayer and love as we prepare to enter more deeply into his Passion.