"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 . . . Simon Peter motioned to John 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.'" - John 13:21-26a
I remember the feeling when the principal came into my classroom. In the moment between the door opening and the announcement of who she wanted to see, we students examined our consciences with the fervor of medieval monks.
Most, I would wager, found some reason to believe the name called would be their own. I know I did.
Jesus uses a similar strategy. He declares that someone is in trouble and waits an excruciating five verses to reveal who.
The disciples shift in their seats and replay the last 24 hours in their heads. Peter is too nervous to ask. He makes John do it. Jesus draws it out further by dipping the bread and looking meaningfully at each one.
Perhaps it's not by accident. Over those five verses the twelve realize something about themselves. It could have been them.
And maybe the reader, too, imagines Jesus' hand outstretched and offering bread.
If we dive deep into Christianity, we must eventually take a dip in that dish. I must recognize the possibility of betrayal within myself, and allow that recognition to free me. Free me from judgment of others. Free me for the grace Jesus extends, hand outstretched.
Forgiving One, a moment's pause reminds me of my need for grace. Amen.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.