I have never felt so close to Jesus as I did on that night. It was a calm and peaceful evening, full of prayer and singing, full of light and teaching. Jesus told us many things that evening, while we ate and after dinner. He even prayed for us. I remember that he prayed for our protection, and he prayed that we would be united with one another. I remember that he also told us always to abide in his love — to love one another. I remember later thinking it was so strange, how he prayed for us. We should have been praying for him! Of course, we never would have thought of that. We left our dinner with a warm glow in our hearts, but also with some uneasiness. It was a beautiful, clear evening as we crossed the Kidron Valley. Then I saw him. Judas. And he had with him soldiers and police officers from the chief priests. Their torches lit up the night.

Looking back, you would think that Judas, walking with all those soldiers, would have been the strong one, and Jesus the weaker. But that has never been my impression. Even when he was arrested, Jesus seemed to be in charge. And Judas just keeps getting smaller and smaller whenever I remember him. It didn’t take courage to betray Jesus. It was really an act of a coward — someone who saw where everything was headed and wanted to cash in early. He was afraid of what following Jesus really meant, and decided to follow something else.

But we were all afraid of following Jesus at one time or another. We just didn’t take such drastic measures as Judas did. Some disciples fell away early. Something Jesus said or did offended them, and they just stopped listening. Others hung around, but kept their distance. But Jesus still saw something in us, something worth protecting, something worth saving. I’ll never forget his words that evening, when the soldiers and the police came. We were all so frightened, wondering what would happen to us. Would we all be arrested, and beaten or killed? We weren’t sure about the intentions of the soldiers. Then Jesus said, “If you are looking for me, let these men go.” We were free! We would not be put on trial — only Jesus would.

Now I hear them saying about Jesus that he died for me, that he is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. I know just one thing for sure — he died for me. His word set me free. That’s how I felt that night. And later on, when he returned, he told us that we still had a job to do — to set other people free as well.

Originally posted March 21, 2013, at faith in community. Republished with permission of the author. Find a link to Diane Roth’s blog faith in community at Lutheran Blogs.

Diane Roth
Diane Roth is the associate pastor at Woodlake Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Richfield, Minn. Prior to her call to Woodlake, Diane served for four years as pastor to three congregations in rural South Dakota. She also has been a missionary and teacher in Japan. Find a link to Diane Roth’s blog, “faith in community,” at Lutheran Blogs.

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