When you read the book of John, you’ll notice the writer adds bits of commentary along the way. That’s what the parentheses are for. John translates words for us, sets backdrops and offers important details about who did what and why.
Remember when Mary anointed Jesus with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair? It was an act of worship that signaled to Jesus the sign of his imminent death. Judas questioned why the perfume wasn’t sold and used to help the poor. On a surface level, that doesn’t sound like a bad question.
Many of us today ask similar questions.
We know, however, that it wasn’t an inquiry as much as it was a complaint. Jesus told Judas, and maybe the others, “Leave her alone.” That sounds like Jesus is squashing an antagonizer. Before we know what Jesus thought of the question, John already explained to us why it was an issue for Judas. John said, “He (Judas) did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he helped himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6).
Fast forward to John 13 now. Jesus is alone with his disciples and trouble disturbed his spirit. My spirit might feel troubled, too, if I knew one of the people closest to me was about to ruin my life. As a reader of John’s story, by the time Jesus says, “one of you will betray me,” we have a good guess who it might be.
There’s no formalized list of disciples in John. So, we don’t know all their names. We’ve read about a few. At this point, who wouldn’t choose the known thief as the lead suspect?
If you guessed Judas, of course, you’re right.
But notice what John tells about what happened when Jesus announced a betrayer in the midst. “The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.”
Now, it could have been they didn’t know then about Judas and his dealings with the money bag. It’s happened before that pastors or other church leaders cheat entire congregations for years without anyone knowing.
But I also wonder if they weren’t so quick to assume Judas as the betrayer as we are. As much as they knew about him, they knew more about themselves.
That’s a real danger to our walk with God.
We assume the worst of other people and too easily justify ourselves. It’s helpful for me to assume that if I had been around that table with Jesus, I could be the one he spoke of. I can be as proud as Peter. As undecided as Thomas. I can also take too much comfort in being the disciple that Jesus loved.
As much as I may think I have my act together in my heart, I learn there are other big-picture ways I fail Jesus. I fail Jesus.
On this side of Jesus’ resurrection, there’s no shame in that. It’s a reality of our lives. Of course, there’s no glory in sin either. But we are forgiven.
Our church sang this line in worship this weekend: My sin was great. Your grace was greater.
You can’t sing that honestly if you don’t acknowledge the very real possibility you are the one who might betray Jesus.