These Days

John 13:18-30

18 ‘I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfil this passage of Scripture: “He who shared my bread has turned against me.”

19 ‘I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.’

21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.’

22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, ‘Ask him which one he means.’

25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’

26 Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

So Jesus told him, ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’ 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

These days I am more and more convinced and centred on these three days of Easter as I live with you these days.

These are days are that changed all days after them and changed the course of my days, although as a younger Christian, I was not so convinced and centred on these Easter days.

I knew Easter was important by the way that we Christians put huge effort into telling the story and celebrating it. But somehow, these days and this event was not so central, not so big, not so faith defining and life giving.

Now, Easter is deep, and it is everything. It is the moment when the planets lined up, the starts stopped, the world took a pausing deep breath and the Son of God came into his own, as he said he would and as the Father promised he would for generations prior to these days.

For me now, Easter is a world shaping, ‘me-changing’ event that gives me movement and life. like earth around the Sun, everything else in my faith life spins around these Easter days.

It all begins with Passover.

Passover is as big as Christmas is to us in Jesus’ community. Work stops for most. It is family time to reconnect and remember. Meals and visitations and celebrations are in full swing.

The famous story of hope is shared in a meal with a purpose, a ritual meal that actually tells the story as you share it, in food, drink, words and song…

Rabbi Jesus is sharing this meal not with family back home in Galilee, but in a room in the packed city at the great feast. It is like mad March in Adelaide; Fringe in full swing.

Jesus is sharing the most sacred time of the year with his newly formed family, probably for the third time. We know it will be the last time they share it like this, and they will remember this Passover and tell us all about it. It will be etched in their memory for ever – and in ours if we get what happened.

So much is happening. There is the peace of familiarity. They have walked the road together for three years. There is a closeness – ‘reclining together’ at the table.

It is a celebration, but with this foreboding in the background – all his words about dying and suffering; all this snarling verbal opposition to him along the journey by the people that matter. … And as we hear, very concerning behaviour and heart among the group somewhere …

The Passover is abruptly disturbed – The master washes the students’ feet and they are all embarrassed and unsure of what it all means. It was very humbling for the Great Man to stoop so low as to serve me like that …

Then this moment of deep betrayal. Is there anything worse than a friend’s betrayal? You can at least understand an enemy’s betrayal. It makes sense. You enemy is your enemy! But a friend’s betrayal? Why?

Four short words that are so punchy, descriptive and full of meaning close out this part of John’s telling …

And it was night

They remind me of those other short words that describe so much

Jesus wept

The time for peaceful connection and encouraging of faith and family and national life – now destroyed, diminished into a dark night of the soul.

Is this how we feel this night?

I am hearing that many of us have a dark foreboding sense about life these days. These last two and half years have been very different. We have been disturbed.

Old conversations about past world-changing events have been remembered and spoken – WWII, Vietnam War, Spanish Flu of WWI, Polio and its vaccine, Napoleon in Russia, astronomical interest rates of the 70’s, build more submarines, double the defence budget, “save Australia” ads on TV, make relationships with other countries to protect ourselves, and so the conversations go.

Are we in a kind of a dark night? Celebrations are a little more forced. The background concerns are always there. We don’t know what will happen and what it will mean.

In this dark moment of betrayal, one man knows what will happen and what it will mean.

He is right there with them in this dark night as he has been with them on all other nights.

The night will get darker for him and them. He knows and still, he enters the dark night.

Why would you enter this darkness? Why would you take this friend’s betrayal? Why would you wash their feet and say that it was an example to them of how to live their life in the future if there was no future?

Because he knows there will be a morning after. It will be more than any of them can really take in now or then. They will live the rest of their lives marvelling at how the dark night became their soul’s delight because of what happened after it. They will keep on living after his dying because there will be that rising.

But this is Maundy Thursday, friend. There will be darkness. There is darkness in us and around us and we can’t light it up with our own technology, psychology, history, accomplishments, genius, personality. In fact, what lies within us often ends up in betrayal of Jesus as we turn away from his promise and make our own promises.

We take the money and run from this Jesus a lot of the time. We want all the good stuff from God but not a close connected relationship with God. We want the family and the food and friends and the future we can manufacture on our terms, free of darkness and destruction, but fail to trust this Rabbi who says he is the Son of God holding our future in his soon to be nailed hands.

Oh, the love of this man for us. He will take this darkness, this betrayal. He will live in it with us. He will step out into the dark night that will soon get darker with the betrayal completed with a fake kiss and walk on alone. They will all drop off him. This is all too much for them, and us.

The heart is willing, but the flesh is weak,

… he knows.

They will fall asleep at the wheel. They will experience a very dark night of the soul; that night when you cannot sleep because you know you have rejected the love of a friend and is has cost that person dearly and you nothing. Like Peter cut to the core as the suffering Jesus eyeballs him from across the dim courtyard, this night we know we have betrayed God …

But this Saviour God will do his saving. It is what we celebrate these days. He will have to, mind you, because they could not do it, and neither can we.

He will forge on into what is coming until the very last flicker of light and life is snuffed out … for a while.

Here is who he is and what he doing in the darkness:

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 

13 When you were dead in your sins …, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

The public spectacle is coming in these three days.

Acknowledge your darkness tonight. Even enter into it. But know that he is ahead of you in it and drawing you through it. That is what he did for these close friends and that is what he doing again these three days.

And because he did it, we have it. We have it all. The new Passover is here. Death passes us over tonight by the blood of the Lamb on our hearts.

We have a rock-solid covenant relationship of love signed by this Jesus in his own blood that exists and triumphs in any of our darkness.

We walk with the Light of the World in all our darkness however dark things may become. He stays lit and still calls us to be his light for others, the same.

That is what these days, these three days make the difference for all of our days.

Powers are disarming. Authorities are submitting. The spectacle of freedom and hope begins again as the greatest triumph that won the world is proclaimed again.

Centre your heart on these days, this man and this movement he has begun.

It is how we can keep on truly living.