“Word for Today” – John 13 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

April 2, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


bread-1I am a man who loves spicy foods.  In college, one of my favorite restaurants was a chicken wing joint named “Pluckers.”  Although they had over a dozen varieties of different wings, I’ve ordered only one:  “Fire in the Hole.”  The name says it all.  And really, the name’s an understatement.  At first, it’s actually painful to eat these wings.  But eventually, your tongue and lips go numb and it becomes easier to scarf them down.  And scarf them down I did.  25 of them in a single sitting, once upon a time.  None of my buddies even came close to my incredible ability to ingest enormous quantities of really hot wings.  But the next day, I paid for it.  My innards were inflamed with incessant heat that felt like it was steadily burning a hole through my stomach lining.  And as I sat there, doubled over in pain on my dorm room sofa, I thought to myself, “Gee, Zach.  Was that really worth it?  Was a night of hot wing indulgence really worth this excruciating gastrointestinal pain?”  My answer was, “No.”

As I’ve gotten older, my stomach has gotten weaker.  I can’t even eat so much as a jalapeno without getting heartburn that makes my skin crawl and face wince.  Thus, even though I still love the taste of spicy foods, they don’t like me.  And so I just stay away from them.  After all, I learned my lesson in college.  It just isn’t worth it.

In our reading for today from John 13, the drama of the gospel increases several-fold as Jesus gets closer to the cross.  Indeed, this chapter reaches a fever pitch when Jesus speaks these shocking words to his disciples:  “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me” (verse 21).  In Jesus’ darkest hour, a betrayer lurks in their midst.  Not surprisingly, the disciples, gasping with hushed voices of disbelief, ask, “Lord, who is it?”  Jesus’ answer is unambiguous and all-together devastating:  “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped in the dish” (verses 25-26).  Jesus then dips the bread and hands it to…Judas.

What a scene it must have been.  What a dramatic and terrifying moment it must have been for the disciples to watch Jesus pick up a piece of bread, dip it into a dish of fruit sauce, and reach out his hand to one of them.  They all had to be wondering, “It isn’t me, is it?  Jesus wouldn’t dare hand that piece of bread to me, would he?”

I find it especially fascinating that Jesus uses a piece of bread to mark his betrayer.  In Greek, the word for “piece of bread” is psomion.  What’s important to note is that this is a diminutive form of psocho, simply meaning “piece.”  In other words, when Jesus hands Judas a piece of bread, it isn’t just a piece, it’s a tiny piece.  It’s nothing but a crumb.

So, was it worth it?  To betray the Son of God for a miniscule morsel?  Hardly.  For in the process of gaining a scrap of sustenance, Judas had forfeited his very soul.  But before we stand too aghast at such an inequitable trade, perhaps it’s worth asking ourselves if we don’t do the same thing – if we don’t trade our integrity, our character, and those things which are truly significant for the psomions of this world.  We trade our marriage for an affair.  We trade our generosity for greed.  We trade eternity with God for the temporary trappings of this life.  We trade all which counts for the diminutive crumbs that this world throws at us.  As the author of Proverbs laments, “A man will do wrong for a piece of bread” (Proverbs 28:21).  The question is, “Is it worth it?”

Jesus would answer, “No.  It’s not worth it.”  “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” he asks (Mark 8:36).  The morsels of this world can never match or even approach the kingdom of God.  

Perhaps the saddest and most shocking moment in John 13 comes with these words:  “Judas took the bread” (verse 27).  Jesus had to be hoping that he would refuse.  Jesus had to be hoping that he wouldn’t exchange his soul for a mere pittance of provision.  But Judas did.  Finally, it was Judas who made the exchange.  This was Judas’ desire, not Jesus’.  But Judas’ story need not be your story.  For, by faith, you can keep what really counts:  Jesus’ gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation.

So today, ask yourself, “What psomions tempt me to exchange God’s gifts for their allures?”  And then pray for God for strength to stand up against such tiny trifles.  After all, no matter how big the psomions of this world may look, they’re never as big as the cross.  In the end, the cross is all that’s really “worth it.”  That’s why Jesus died on it.  And that’s why we cling to it.

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Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – John 12 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – John 14 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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