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Communion Meditations (2016)

Judas

Originally scheduled for November 6

One of the most puzzling people recorded in the New Testament is Judas Iscariot. His actions have long provoked the debate about predestination, for they were prophesied many centuries before. For those who do not believe in predestination it is certain at least the God foresaw that there would be a Judas and that he would betray his Lord and Savior. By the time of the Last Supper, Judas had already sold out the man to the priests for 30 pieces of silver — something also prophesied many years before. But more to our point, Jesus knew this at the Last Supper. He did not drive the man from his company. Indeed his last gesture to the man was to offer him bread soaked in the juices of the meat, a sign of friendship and communion.

There is some question as to whether or not Judas actually participated in the first communion here. The question is apparently of importance to theologians, and they differ. St. Augustine says, along with Thomas Aquinas, that he did participate. John Chrysostom says he did not. The matter has been one which has been disputed since the earliest days of the church, and I do not propose to settle it here. But let us suppose, for the moment, that he did partake. If he did, he certainly took it in that “unworthy manner” that St. Paul warns us about. It did him no good at all, for he did not repent.

More important, Judas was definitely invited. Why would Jesus do this when he knew the man was going to betray him; when he knew the man had already sold him out? I submit there are at least three reasons:

·         One reason might be for the sake of justice. It is one thing for the Christ to know that you are guilty and another to prove it to your fellow disciples. No such proceeding had taken place, nor was there time to hold such a thing. Think of the example that would be set for the church if people could be thrown out of the congregation by the whim of the minister who thought for sure the person was guilty. It is contrary to good church discipline.

·         Another reason might be that he was giving Judas a chance to repent. The meal was a Passover meal, and the theme of God passing over your sins would be strong. Perhaps Jesus was giving him this last opportunity.

·         The most important reason might be this: Jesus wished to preserve the unity of his disciples. On the night before he is crucified he did not wish to be involved in something which would divide his disciples; rather he wants to unify them. Justice will be served in due time; communion needed to be served that very night.

There are some thoughts for us in this too. The most immediate one is to point out what happened to Judas and point to each of us and say “do not take this an unworthy manner.” It is a warning to us, one at all, of how serious God is about this particular supper. More than that, have you ever considered that communion is an offer of a chance to repent? You might be looking at your neighbor and saying, “how does that man have the gall to come in and take communion with real Christians?” Judge not, my friend. Maybe that unworthy hypocrite is today repenting at the invitation of Christ. More than that, we find here the unity of the disciples to be of paramount importance. Some of us are far too quick to rush to judgment about others; for the sake of the unity of the church, it is better that you concern yourself with your own repentance, leaving the others to Christ.

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