|Judas betrays with a kiss by Caravaggio|
The darkness around Jesus grows as we hear today of the betrayal of Judas and the cowardice of Peter.
It is important for us to realise that Jesus is not powerless against the growing evil intentions around Him. He could, as He tells us later in the Gospel, summon legions of angels to defend Himself. It is important for us to realise that Jesus chooses not to summon legions of angels; He chooses not to use force, of any kind, to defend Himself against the various attacks that are coming His way.
This can seem strange to us. We think it an obvious thing to use one’s power to defend oneself and avoid evil. But of course that is to think of just one’s self. Jesus, on the other hand, is on a mission and it is not about saving His own skin; it is about saving mankind! His mission is to face evil, to face betrayal, to face the cowardice of friends, to face false accusations, to face an unjust sentence, to face scourging, to face immense violence, and to face even death itself not with fear but with perfect love. He seeks not to avoid these things but to conquer them with love.
The darkness that is growing around Jesus is not just the darkness of human sin, human fear and human folly but also the darkness of the kingdom of Satan. It is Satan’s kingdom that is growing around Jesus in order to do away with God! Satan seeks to destroy God and all His Kingdom. And the only way He can do this is to pervert the hearts of men in their sin. In Peter’s heart is fear and Satan uses this to make Peter into a coward – Peter is not strong enough to resist fear, and so Peter ends up denying this man whom Peter says He is prepared to go to death for. In Judas is a heart of duplicity: he hides from the others his malice and evil intent, and for whatever reason he is willing to sell his loyalty to the enemies of his Master – and thus in Judas’ heart is a place ready for Satan to dwell. Satan enters Judas. Darkness falls all around.
The dimensions of the love of God are shown precisely by Christ’s acceptance of His suffering at the hands of evil men. This love of God cannot ever be conquered because it is divine. But Satan cannot see this! Evil men cannot see this! Men filled with fear cannot see this! Can we?
Love, perfect love, becomes a victim of all the schemes of wicked men, and becomes a victim of the kingdom of Satan, but remains true, remains unsullied, remains bright. And thus love conquers fear, hate, evil intent, violence, mockery, suffering and death itself. It does it not by human power but by human weakness re-made into the power of God. This path of self-emptying love is the path we are called to walk because by it we share in our Saviour’s victory.