Empty Chair

“A new command I give you: Love one another as I have loved you…” – John 13:34

It was on the night he was betrayed that Jesus gave us the love commandment. In fact, it was right after his betrayer, flush with silver, left the table and slipped away into the night.

Scripture says that Jesus knew where Judas was going. It’s a safe bet the others did, too.

Frederick Niedner once wondered whether, after hearing that commandment about the way they should love each other, any of the disciples got up and went after Judas. “Did anyone fear for him, miss him, or try, even after he brought soldiers to Gesthemene, to bring him back and talk him out of his shame, his anger, his rapidly deepening hell?”

Did anyone try to love him as Jesus did?

Tradition has consigned Judas to a gruesome death and the deepest circle of hell, so my guess would be no. Which means that the church—that’s you and me—hasn’t yet learned the first thing about the love commandment.

Or about our own pain. For we all have at least one Judas missing from our tables, out there in the night, unforgiven and alone. And each of us may be a Judas for someone else, absent from someone else’s feast.

Maybe when we sit together at the church’s Table to share bread and cup, we should add a chair. And leave it empty, an aching absence. Maybe the sight of that absence would shame us into the world to look high and low for Judas, and to keep looking until all our Judases come home.


May your arms reach for us, good Jesus, and ours for every Judas, until no empty chairs give the lie to your love.

About the Author
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.