LENTEN DEVOTION for Wednesday, March 28



Faithful God, I trust not myself, but you.



John wrote: After saying this 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. (John 13:21-32)

Abba Xanthias said: The thief was on the cross and he was justified by a single word; and Judas who was counted in the number of apostles lost all his labor in one single night and descended... Therefore, let no one boast of their good works, for all those who trust in themselves fall. 


A great method of studying a Bible story is to ask, "Who in this story do I identify with?" In the story from John's Gospel, we have Jesus, the disciples, Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot. How many of us would say we identify with Judas in this story? In the course of Christian interpretation, in art and in commentary, Judas has most often been characterized as the depraved person who does the unthinkable. He has been made an outlier. Rarely will people admit to an affinity with Judas. However, Abba Xanthias wants us to see something of ourselves in Judas: we are capable of betraying even ourselves.

From the gospels, we know little about Judas before his betrayal. For all we know, he was a good guy. But John wrote that at the time when the disciples were all together, "Satan entered into him." This is the Bible's way of saying that something came over him, some temptation, some evil intention that made him break his character and commitments. No matter how good he was in the past, Judas will always be defined by his betrayal.

Most of us can name a Judas or two. They are people who were, by many accounts, "good people" who suddenly did a terrible thing. It is hard to make sense of life when we see this happen. One of the questions that stumps us is, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" But an equally hard question to ponder is, "Why do good people do bad things?" The reason this is such a hard question is because we find ourselves asking, "Could I be capable of doing something so bad?" Xanthias answers, uncomfortably, "yes, of course you could."

Xanthias' advice is that we do not trust in ourselves. The implication is that we can only trust in God. We can only spend time with God in prayer, meditation, worship and fellowship. We can only study the ways of God and what God asks of us in Scripture and through others. We can only stake everything on what God does and will do rather than what we do or could do. We can only trust that God is forming in us holy character. And we can only trust that when we fall, God will catch us.


Gracious God, mold me now into who you want me to be. Amen.


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