“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, ” – Isaiah 61:1-2
Today is Maundy Thursday. As a kid I thought they were saying Monday Thursday and it always confused me because what do Monday and Thursday have to do with one another? Are there any two days more randomly paired than a Monday and a Thursday?!
Truly, Maundy Thursday (you can Google the root of the word Maundy) is traditionally the day the Church celebrates the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples before the Passover. Jesus initiated a meal which the Church has continued even today.
But something happened at this first meal which forever shaped how we understand and practice it in our faith communities. At the first table were twelve disciples, one of which would soon betray Jesus, forever being marked with the stigma of traitor, and eleven others who will go by mostly unnoticed in the scene.
At this table Jesus shares intimately with the eleven disciples while one removes himself because of the sin and shame in his heart. Jesus welcomes Judas to the table but it is Judas who refuses to come.
You see, I think we often come to the table having removed and left behind our inner Judas – the scheming, selfish manipulator who knows what he does is wrong but for the life of him can’t stop. This inner Judas who wrecks our life and the lives of those around us. He torments us and shrouds us in shame so that we cannot hear the voice of Jesus inviting us because we’ve already disqualified ourselves from his welcome.
Jesus created a table of embrace but we’ve made it a table of exclusion – a table we exclude anyone around us or inside us which stinks of betrayal. Why? I think it is because we assume Jesus only wants to dine with the parts of us who want to dine with him. Jesus, we imagine, joyfully dines with the eleven and withholds such intimacy with the one.
Judas, the prodigal son, has sold all he had, everything, for food not even the pigs would eat. He is lost and without welcome and wonders if the father would welcome him home. At times he longs to return home, even as a hired hand.
It is Jesus who invites this son to the table, wanting so desperately to cloth him, kill the fatted calf and put a ring on his finger throwing a part with all his friends. Judas, the one lost sheep, who Jesus, leaving the ninety-nine wants so desperately to find, to welcome back to his table. But Judas is not a sheep. He has to choose to be received as he is.
And this is how we must come to the table – as we are, not as we should be. If we come to the table having left our Judas outside than we best not come at all. It is our inner Judas Jesus wants to dine with, the one he wants to welcome and heal but we are so often taught that Judas must be healed before he comes, we must be “right” with our neighbor and have confessed all our sins.
You know, there was another disciple who betrayed Jesus, not once but three times. Before morning comes, Jesus told Peter, you will deny me three times.
As we approach the cross of Christ we can become so focused on not denying Jesus that we blindly deny the Jesus in Judas. Who is your inner Judas? What is his name? What havoc has he caused and/or continued to cause in your life? Have you brought him to Christ’s table to be seen and received by both Christ and your community? If you’re like me you’ve denied him well beyond three times – you leave him behind so he won’t ruin the party. But here is the gospel, from a different angle:
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the one who breaks hearts, to proclaim freedom for the captor and release from darkness for the one who imprisons, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who cause sadness,”
Communion is for the one. If the one cannot received the welcome of Jesus then the eleven we bring cannot truly share in his life.
Jesus, when we deny Judas we deny you. We’ve believed for quite sometime that you only want our more beautiful, acceptable parts, but that is not how we must come to you. Teach us to welcome Judas as you welcomed him, and in doing so lead us into your suffering, death and true resurrection.