“He who dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me” (Matt 26:21).
The betrayal of Jesus by Judas is an inside job, inflicted not by an enemy but by an intimate friend, one who has been part of the inner circle gathered around the common dish. In Middle Eastern culture, sharing a meal with someone meant you were welcome inside the “nasal bubble” of shared food and conversation at the most personal level. No wonder the scribes and Pharisees were so outraged that Jesus “ate with sinners.”
The case against Judas is amplified in each Gospel, and it must have been one of the most shocking aspects of the Passion accounts. Jesus is handed over by one of his own chosen ones, a disciple who dared identify him in the garden with a familiar kiss.
The story is also the fulfillment of Psalm 41:9 “Even my friend in whom I trusted, one who ate my bread, has raised his heel against me.” The 30 pieces of silver, the amount paid for someone with a price on his head, is also linked to Zechariah’s instructions for a Potter’s field where the indigent and could be buried.
These scripture passages show how the evangelists sought to understand this betrayal, to say it must have been foretold and therefore necessary to Jesus’ sufferings. In any conceivable narrative, betrayal by a friend would be the deepest wound of all. Someone you love hands you over to death. Someone you have been so close to you that you could take a piece of bread, dip it in the dish and hand it to them.
If the mysterious role of human suffering was essential to Jesus’ full immersion into the human condition, as it is for us all, then his suffering encompassed the deepest kind of emotional and psychological assault possible. He was betrayed by a friend. He is denied and abandoned by his closest disciples. He is rejected by his own people, his own faith community as a heretic. He is treated like a criminal by the state and executed unjustly.
The body of Jesus that was placed in the tomb on Good Friday had endured every kind of suffering imaginable. There is no one who can say Jesus would not understand their agony or isolation. It from this absolute depth of loss that the resurrection will be wrenched as the ultimate sign that love defeats death and that divine mercy is greater than any evil.
We who share intimately with Jesus at every Eucharist can only rejoice that we have such a friend and brother, who did not spare his life but gave himself up for us all. His gift is our Easter.