Video Service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
Collect: Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples-- the one whom Jesus loved-- was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "Do quickly what you are going to do." Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the festival"; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once."
We are in the final day before the Triduum, our three holy days. And we are given a glimpse of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. Now many would argue whether what we see in the Scriptures during what we call the Last Supper and the foundation for our Eucharist is a Passover Meal or not. What we have alludes to that, whether it is describing it or not. I will leave that debate to others.
A few times in my life I have been blessed to participate in a Seder. If you go back and look at the book of Exodus (12:8) and Numbers (9:11), the Hebrew children are given very clear instructions on how to eat this memorial meal, recollecting their deliverance from slavery.
Now part of that meal is the dipping of the unleavened bread, the matzoh, into the Bitter Herbs, the maror. It is also dipped in salt water as well. This happens earlier in the meal.
But the dipping of the bread into the maror is significant. It is to put on the tongue the bitterness of slavery. It even says, as the tradition continued and was established, that you had to eat at least as much as the size of an olive, a big one. And you could not just swallow it. It was to sit on the tongue, so the bitterness could be felt.
And remember the part of the story:
[The disciple Jesus loved] asked him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "Do quickly what you are going to do." ...So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out.
We know from John’s Gospel that the plot to kill Jesus began after the anointing of Jesus’ feet. Judas may have felt put down over complaining of the waste. Maybe he just wanted the money to skim off the top. Whatever the reason, some bitterness had sprung up in his heart. And it came to fruition. Jesus knew it. “Do quickly what you are going to do…”
Judas may have betrayed Jesus, but Jesus was able to make a point. The bread, I believe, carried that sting of maror, the bitter herb, when Judas put it to his lips. That taste of slavery. That taste of resentment. It was already there, but in making this point, Jesus took this instructed requirement (if it was a Passover) and dramatically escalated its meaning. That slavery in Egypt was one thing. But there is a slavery that entraps so many of us still.
Anger, resentment, unforgiveness. And it is bitter. Resentment is a poison that we take, thinking it will kill another. Forgiveness is about wholeness. Wholeness for me. Wholeness for relationship. Wholeness of community. The person I am forgiving could receive it, or not. But it is not about them. It is about letting nothing hinder my following of Jesus. And Resentment ALWAYS gets in the way when it is present.
When you see the sprig of Resentment growing in your heart, nip it in the bud. Life is too short. Like one of my favorite blessings states: “Life is short and we have too little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So, be swift to love and make haste to be kind… and the blessing of God Almighty: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen (Henri-Frédéric Amiel) Friends, in these uncertain times, if there is someone with whom you have withheld forgiveness or who holds a grudge against you, know this is a season where some good, solid, Christ-filled bridge building can take place. Do not leave with the bitter herb on your tongue. Amen