The Gospel Of Saint John – Chapter 13
21 When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
22 Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake.
23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake.
25 He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?
26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.
28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him.
29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.
30 He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.
31 ¶ Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
32 If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.
33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.
36 ¶ Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.
37 Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.
38 Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.
This is the third day of Holy Week. Through these verses of John’s Gospel, Jesus experiences great emotion, great sorrow, as he prepares for his betrayal and passion. He has given everything to Judas. He has washed his feet along with those of the other disciples. He shares an intimate and important meal with him. Judas has been one of the closest with Jesus for three years. Even now he shows compassion and does not name his betrayer to the other disciples. Instead he says: ‘One of you shall betray me.’
The disciples seem not to know each other as well as they might. There is not the perfect transparency between them such as Jesus shows of himself for them. Peter needs to ask John, the disciple whom Jesus most loved, and who now reclines closest to Jesus, to ask him who the betrayer is. There is an air of secrecy, as of collective fear. Jesus indicates Judas with a sign. During such meals as this, and through friendly companionship, it would be usual for people to offer each other food. Jesus even now offers Judas a sign of friendship, and Judas rejects this.
When Jesus says to Judas, ‘That thou doest, do quickly,’ he leaves the other disciples free to think that Judas is being sent out for some good purpose, perhaps, as the keeper of their money, to buy something for the feast, or perhaps for some charitable act. The darkness now closes in around them: it is night.
Jesus is to be glorified. Indeed, while Judas now goes to betray him, Jesus says: ‘Now is the Son of man glorified.’ There is great power and immediacy in that ‘now’: even as the darkness of sin envelops them, Jesus’ ministry becomes complete.
God the Son and with him God the Father are together to be glorified, the Father through the witness of the Son, who will make the supreme sacrifice to fulfil the will of God and to save mankind. The cross of utter abjection is very shortly to become the sign of hope. Jesus is to free us from the power of sin.
There is a sorrowful sense of parting, and we hear as well in these verses an air of fatalism: all the decisions have now been made; it is happening. The disciples cannot now follow Jesus. That time has not yet come. They have yet to be perfected in their faith and their knowledge of our Lord.
Peter is impetuous in his response to what Jesus has spoken. He makes an impassioned declaration of his love and faith in our Lord: ‘I will lay down my life for thy sake.’ This is a sincere response, but his fortitude has yet to be tested. Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him, and quickly too: once the first cock has crowed, for the arrival of dawn, other cocks will rapidly follow that first crowing with their own. When this happens, Peter will be distraught, but this will also be a powerful lesson for Peter, helping him toward humility and the faith that is more firm thereby.
We know that Peter will follow Jesus and be crucified, head down, rooting in the soil of Rome the rock of the Church. He must be patient. Peter’s hour has not yet come.
‘So, for perfection of life it is necessary not only to imitate Christ, in the examples of gentleness, and humility, and patience which he gave us in this life, but also to imitate him in his death, as Paul the imitator of Christ says: “Becoming like him in death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
‘How then do we become like him in death? By having been buried with him through baptism. But how does this burial take place? What benefit has this imitation? First of all one must break with one’s life of the past. This is impossible, unless one is born again, as the Lord said. For regeneration, as is evident from the word itself, is the beginning of a second life. Consequently, before beginning the second life, we must bring the first to an end.’ St Basil