Thursday, 13 April 2017

He Loved His Own to the End

As Jesus prepares to wash his disciples' feet, we are told that he loved his disciples to the end. But who is included? Who was there that night, those whom Jesus loved to the end? The Twelve? Or should we say Eleven? We are told (Jn 11:3, 5) that Jesus loved  Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. If they weren't physically in that room that night,  they were present as those whom Jesus loved to the end. They are included in those whom the Father gave to Jesus (Jn 17:6, 9), they are Jesus' and therefore the Father's (17:9-10), given a share in his glory so that they may be one with Jesus and the Father and all Jesus' disciples. (17:22-23) And what of Mary Magdalene, who knows the voice of her shepherd when he calls? (Jn 20:16 cf. 10:3-5) Surely she too should be included. The circle could keep expanding, as it should, to include all those who have come to believe through the testimony of those first disciples. (17:201-21)1 The baptismal overtones of the foot washing (Jn 13:8-10) point to an inclusiveness beyond the circle of those who were physically present, as does the explicit link to the death of Jesus. (Jn 13:1)

Despite what might seem like evidence to the contrary (Jn 13:2, 10-11, 18-19, 26-30), does the text suggest that Judas remains in the circle of those for whom Jesus died, loved to the end by Jesus?  Is he still one with the other disciples, joined to the Father through the Son? We might hesitate to make such a bald affirmation, but the text is making us work toward it. An easy dismissal of Judas as traitor and a devil (Jn 6:70 and especially 13:27b, 30b) while suggested by the text, is also undermined by a sub-current within the Last Supper narrative of John. We should remember that, presumably, Jesus washed the feet of Judas, pointing to Jesus' death for all sinners and asking us to bear in mind the implied baptismal meaning of the foot washing. But more interesting is John's use of the Scripture quote from Psalm 41. (Jn 13:18) The usual word for eating (found in the LXX in the verse quoted) is replaced by John for the overtly eucharistic word to munch or crunch, used with eucharistic overtones in John 6:54, 56, 57, 58).2 The Eucharistic overtones are hard to ignore. Judas, into whom Satan entered, receives bread from the Bread of Life. Moloney says that Jesus giving the morsel to 'the most despised character in the Gospel's narrative" indicates Jesus' love for all his disciples, including those who fall and fail, and in this "reveals a unique God." 3.

1.  Francis Watson,  "Trinity and Community: A Reading of John 17", in International Journal of Systematic Theology, 1/2, July 1999, pp. 172-173. Watson is also helpful in dispelling notions of male normativity if the Twelve were the only disciples present at the Last Supper, as well as John's use of two male intra-divine figures as paradigmatic of the nature of discipleship. see pp. 174-175.
2. Francis J Moloney, Glory Not Dishonor, pp. 20-21.
3. Ibid., pp. 22-23.


  1. Beautiful. Thanks Warren.

  2. This sermon reaffirms God's all encompassing love for all of us- no matter how hard or far we have fallen. The oft overlooked focus on the despised Judas receiving bread from Jesus reveals this love that makes no exceptions and has no boundaries. Thankyou for drawing our attention to the significance of this tiny vignette that has always been within the mighty canvas but glossed over or lost(at least to me) The congregation would have felt comforted with these words.
    On another note- I had trouble- real trouble with the munch and crunch

  3. Yes, munch and crunch sounds a bit strange. But however the word is translated, it is straight out of John 6. Thanks for your comment.