One of you will betray me

It occurs to me that I’ve always misunderstood something in the Bible.

(And you all say: Big surprise. I know, I know… But maybe God made me this dense just so I’d have the joy of discovery over and over again?)

At the Last Supper, Judas has already made arrangements to hand Jesus over. We’ve already beaten the topic of Judas to death, so we’ll skip over that. What intrigued me was the other disciples’ reactions.

Jesus says to them, “One of you will betray me.”

And one by one all the apostles say, “It’s not me, right?”

In context, that’s just the strangest response. Think about how you’d expect that to happen if you were at Thanksgiving dinner with your extended family. Grandpa is about to serve the turkey when he says, “By the way, one of you guys is going to trick me into signing over all my assets.”

You’d probably respond, “Wha…? Who?”

Presumably you would remember if you had set up a scheme to bilk Grandpa out of his estate. Presumably you also would know if you had been seriously tempted by Grandpa’s fortune. 

That’s called counter-text: it’s what you expect to hear and isn’t there. In the Bible it’s always important to notice when someone says something unexpected, like responding with “How could THAT happen?” when an angel says “You’re going to have a baby,” rather than by saying, “Oh, cool! Joseph is going to be a great dad!” Because that difference between expected response and actual response always points toward a deeper truth.

I always figured the counter-text here pointed toward the disciples thinking that they themselves were not trustworthy. Which is an okay way to look at it.

But this year I realized, they thought it was far in the future. Someday, one of you will betray me. Not, “In an hour, one of you will betray me.”

After three years of following Jesus around the country, the disciples had picked up a sense of personal responsibility. Instead of turning on one another right here, they unified in wondering if they could stop it from happening. And the only person each of them had control over was himself.

Maybe they also didn’t know what form the betrayal would take. Jesus could get a little metaphorical sometimes for this group of fishermen. They might have thought he meant something a lot less earth-shattering.

But overall, I’m thinking now they thought he meant far in the future, something they’d have time to avert, not realizing how immediate the threat and how close the danger.

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About philangelus

Mom, freelance writer, novelist, angelphile, Catholic, know-it-all.
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