Sympathy for the Devil

by Derek Baker

Jesus, bearing the cross to Golgotha

The one whom Jesus loved. The one who would deny him. The one who would betray him. Which one am I? Today, I mean.

Odd John just can’t play well with the synoptic kids. He describes Jesus as the bread of life in Capernaum, several chapters before this Passover meal. Here, bread (consecrated?) is primarily used to implicate Judas … by intinction, no less. So for Judas, the first Eucharist becomes a Black Mass. He takes the bread from Jesus, an outward and visible sign that “Satan entered into him,” and in a reversal of our own post-communion prayers, Jesus sends him out to do the work “that you are going to do.”

And after this disturbing scene — almost as a result, the way it’s written — Jesus says he has been glorified and God glorified in him.

We revile Judas, of course. Christians have used lazy readings of John’s Gospel to revile “the Jews,” too. We love Jesus, so we hate those who hate him, right? Isn’t that how love “works”?

When I think of the “Christ-killer!” slur presaging so much anti-Semitic violence, and even of the hook-nose caricature we’ve made of Judas, I want to ask: What? We’d prefer Christ hadn’t died for our sins? Or we just want it both ways: to be redeemed but still have someone to hate?


Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Isaiah 50:4-9
Psalm 70
Hebrews 12:1-3
John 13:21-32