And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.
And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead [him] away safely.
And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.
Mark 14:43 - 14:45
Now the crowds come again - but this time with swords instead palm stems! How quickly things can change! In our own lives too of course. Where once there was fellowship, kinship and love - now there is hatred, suspicion & fear. Bonds are broken - brothers & sisters are enemies - even unto death.
Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.
On the night of the Last Supper Jesus speaks openly of the betrayal soon to come - for he knows the secrets of all their hearts. It is the moment tenderly depicted in Giotto’s fresco of The Last Supper - where we see Simon Peter leaning upon Jesus’ chest.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus’ side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
Matthew 26:36-46 King James Version (KJV)
Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.
Matthew 26:36-46 King James Version (KJV)
How did it come to this? How have I found myself here - in this utterly untenable predicament? Why! Oh Why did I act as I did?
We know of course that Judas had lost trust in Jesus over the incident with the oil. He couldn't see how it was justified and was not convinced by what Jesus told him. It is likely he felt Jesus was contradicting himself and so he judged him! The rest we already know!
Betrayals are so often based on judgements such as these that we have no right to make, for in doing so we put ourselves above the other - we create a narrative about them where there is no way for them to come out right. We are righteous, indignant & justified in whatever action we then choose to pursue.
But so frequently - as is so glaringly obvious here - Judas was simply unaware of the greater picture - the greater purpose and meaning behind Jesus' acceptance of Mary's generosity.
All the more shocking then until we remember – as we must – for this in a sense is one of the great enigmas of the story, is that both men are on this night struggling to reconcile what is highest – what transcends them – their divine purpose –- with the mortal, flesh and blood aspects of themselves- which are by definition, susceptible to doubt, to frailty and forgetfulness.
And on this night of agony, it is these blinkered aspects that momentarily win out and most spectacularly for Judas. Jesus faulters for a brief span in the garden but Judas in his betrayal, falls.
But, at the higher octave if you like, the level at which sacred contracts are made in heaven, there was no betrayal, and no sin was ultimately committed – Judas, the Gnostics say, was not a traitor; he was the one chosen to fulfil the destiny of Jesus, giving him as a sacrifice for all human kind.
All was divinely ordered and understood – but at the level of two mortal friends, - it all must have hurt like hell!
This Gnostic dimension to the story has long since been edited from the orthodox account of Holy Week and consigned the book Against all Heresies written in180 A.D by Irenaeus of Lyons who was one of the men responsible for the selection of texts entered into the Bible.
Yet the enigma persists for it is archetypally constellated in the soul some say. In the end it is for each of us to ponder. Though I can’t help wondering what a different world we would have, if we allowed ourselves, even for a moment, to consider that both parts of the story might be true.
x x x
These meditations for Easter Week are based on the exquisite 14th century fresco cycle by Giotto di Bondone, from The Scrovegni Chapel, Padua (Italy), that so beautifully elucidate the story as it unfolds.