With the gospel lesson for Wednesday in Holy Week, we are getting a little ahead of ourselves. The reading brings us the intrigue that takes place after what we will read tomorrow on Maundy Thursday, the account of the foot washing Jesus performed for his disciples and his teaching about their performing the same kind of loving service for one another.
Strikingly, the story begins by reporting that Jesus was “troubled in spirit”. That’s nothing new. He said the same thing in the story we read yesterday when he felt the burden of his coming hour of death. The reason for his present agony is the imminent betrayal by Judas. Announcing the approaching betrayal, Jesus wore his emotional pain on his proverbial sleeve while catching his disciples off guard.
When Judas left the room and went out, “it was night!” I suppose it’s possible that the gospel writer was indicating the time of day; but I think there’s something else going on here. Remember way back at the beginning of this gospel, when the author announced that light appeared when Jesus appeared? He even reported Jesus saying, “I am the light of the world.” In yesterday’s reading, after identifying himself as the light once again, Jesus promised his disciples they would become “children of light.” Now with the arrival of the Evil One in one of Jesus’ own disciples, “it was night.” Jesus, the light, was about to enter the darkest corners of human existence. Jesus would allow the prince of this world, the ruler of darkness, to have his moment, brief though it would be.
In fact, while the disciples were baffled that Judas would go shopping at this time of night, Jesus announced the moment for the Son of Man to be glorified and with him for God to be glorified as well. The hour has come for his death, his resurrection, and his ascension—all to the glory of God.
Our attention today is drawn to the plan and purpose of God in sending the eternal Word to become incarnate and live among us. The evangelist interprets the crucifixion of Jesus as God’s deliberate and purposeful act, not a divine resignation to the failure of humans to accept his Son. Jesus’ own motive was not a suicidal desire but a faithful commitment to ensuring that God be glorified.
Indeed, “it was a dark and stormy night.” There’s something deeply theological going on here. Jesus was entering the darkness of human evil, fallenness, and brokenness. We know what the night means — it is the evil, fallenness, and brokenness we experience in our own lives. When Jesus enters our darkness, we can be assured that we are never alone; in fact, it may be in those moments of our deepest darkness that we are closest to the crucified Christ. In the darkness of the impending doom, Jesus is being glorified and God is being glorified in him. Night will have its moment, but God will have the day.