A communion meditation with the student group of St. James Anglican congregation, Kingston, Ontario before breakfast on Wednesday April 15, 1987.  Our reading today focuses on Judas. When does ordinary badness turn to deliberate evil?
by Robert Brow  (www.brow.on.ca)

The hardest thing for a minister is when people get miffed because something has gone wrong. They feel they have been slighted or ignored, and they quit in a huff, or quietly stay away. Most of them still pray and are very loving people. You will find those who have quit church engaged in many good works that are needed in the city. If the crunch came, many of them would accept being martyred rather than deny Jesus.

Even the Messiah had this problem with his disciples. After he had spoken some tough words, we read that "many of his disciples turned back, and no longer went about with him" (John 6:66). What is the dividing line between those who no longer continue as disciples of Jesus and Judas who betrayed him? Simon Peter even denied before a servant girl that he had ever known his master. How did he differ from the betrayer? You can see in our reading that the difference was not apparent to the other disciples. He appeared to be an enthusiastic disciple like the others.

Read John 13:21-27

In every family there are those who no longer enjoy family gatherings. They can't stand the pettiness and bickering and fault finding. But they would never think of betraying the family. When does betraying begin? The aunt of one of my friends was determined to get for herself the inheritance of their helpless but very wealthy old father. She kept visiting him in hospital, buttering him up, and taking care of his needs. Then in the week before he died she got someone to witness a change in the old man's will so that she became the sole legal beneficiary. She carefully and deliberately betrayed the family. But her heart had turned away from the family to her own agenda long before she managed to get the will changed.

There are similar stories of family betrayal, as for example in Thailand where a man sold his daughter into prostitution to pay for a more impressive house for his girlfriend. Or under Stalinist Communism in Russia when a Christian accepted a good position from the KGB in exchange for a list of his church members to be sent off to the Gulag death camps.

In the previous chapter of John's Gospel we read that Judas Iscariot complained about the waste when Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus with her very expensive perfume. "Why was this perfume not sold for 300 denarii (say $20,000) and the money given to the poor?" (John 12:5). John also commented that Judas kept the common purse and used to steal what was put in it" (John 12:6). This may not mean he kept the money for his own pleasure, but he may have used some of the common purse for a political agenda that Jesus did not have in mind. But there came a point at the Last Supper when "After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him" (John 13:27).

I imagine Judas' own ideas, about what the Messiah should be and do, had begun to control his heart long before the actual betrayal. We do not know Judas' eternal destiny. Matthew tells us that "When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. He said 'I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.' But they said, 'What is that to us? See to it yourself.' Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself" (Matthew 27:3-5). We cannot imagine what was going through his mind when he did that. And happily we do not have to judge the agenda of others. But it is good from time to time to check our own heart longings.

Prayer: "Jesus, you know my heart. I do love you. But if ever the longings for my life begin turning in the direction of betraying my earthly family, or your heavenly family, please warn me and bring me back on track."

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