“And it was night” (John 13:30).
Betrayal is always an inside job. Someone with intimate connections or knowledge of another’s thoughts and intentions shares that insight with enemies, enabling then to gain access or the opportunity to take down their intended target. Betrayal requires deception, an outer face that shows loyalty while an inner face plots abandonment.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus reads Judas, offers a sign to him that he knows what is up and still affirms their friendship by passing a morsel of bread dipped in the common dish. The pathos of the moment deepens Judas’ resolve and invokes a first flush of shame that will blossom in his conscience after the fact and give logic to his suicide. He has made possible the death of the master at Passover and shattered the inner circle of trust among the disciples, who scatter in mortal fear at the hour of greatest need.
Decapitation should have killed the whole movement, but does not. The deepest blow, delivered from within, hemorrhages the group, beginning with Peter, who denies Jesus, and the others in flight from the garden, save one, the beloved disciple, who, with the faithful women, will accompany Jesus to the end. Even this destruction of hope does not ruin the story which, in hindsight, will be seen to have required total tragedy to demonstrate the depth of God’s love for a sinful world. Rejected, betrayed, denied and abandoned, a murdered God will rise from the dead to befriend human failure and restore us to grace right when we have shown our worst.
Across the table, a friend extends a hand holding a piece of bread. Take it, eat, and do not avert your eyes from the look of love that never falters, never ends.