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. When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.
Many, many years ago, when this ministry had just begun, I started hosting a prayer meeting in my house. In a few weeks, the numbers started swelling, and it wasn’t long before we had 40 or 50 people gathering in a space that could really accommodate only 20. One of the people who attended was this lady who was known to be a troublemaker. A few people actually warned me about her, telling me she was dangerous to me and the ministry.
I thought about it, but then reasoned that I couldn’t tell her to stop. Besides, God had told us to love even our enemies, and love might change her. So, I welcomed her as I did everybody else, and treated her and her family with much love. And, then, one day she mounted a mutiny, and almost overnight the people attending the meetings dwindled to a handful. I can’t even begin to tell you how I felt. Not just at being betrayed by her, but also the abandonment by the others. It was heart-breaking.
I, of course, went to my Lord asking him why he let this happen. And he, of course, had his answers. One was that I understand what he went through experientially. Empathy is a good thing, but it can’t beat actually going through the pain yourself. Jesus went through a lot of it because it wasn’t just Judas who let him down. It was Peter, and all the others. Remember they ALL deserted him in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Mark 14:50).
And, two, he wanted to see what I was made of: whether I would give up in disappointment and disillusionment, or I would persevere. Well, you know the answer to that one. I’m still here, and today, we have a ministry today that reaches millions worldwide. The people who stuck with me during that time of testing helped make it what it is what it is today and I really am grateful to each and every one of them. I am sure you can draw the necessary conclusions from this story, but there is something else I’d like us to reflect upon today, because it is important.
For a long time after this happened, I wondered, if I had known in advance what this lady would do, would I still have allowed her to be part of us? The answer was always “No”. It was only when we got to Holy Week the following year and I heard today’s passage that I changed it to a “Yes.” After all, if Jesus chose his apostles, despite knowing what they would do; and if he could still love them, despite what they did, then so could I. It’s not easy – she wasn’t the only one to break my heart and it hurts — but I would still love them.
And so should you. Because as Jesus said in today’s reading, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” And he loved us though we all broke his heart.