April 5, 2023: Blessed confusion

Reading: John 13:21-32

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.



There’s so much in this passage to unpack: that Jesus uses a communion act as a way to single out Judas, that Jesus makes recognizing his betrayer into almost a ceremony, that Judas seems controlled by Satan. I’ve heard some good sermons humanizing Judas, so we don’t write him off as a simple “bad guy,” and I could go that direction. But what struck me this time around are the reactions of the other disciples. Boy howdy, are they confused.

Expressions of the disciples’ confusion bookends the scene at the table. First, Simon Peter asks the question everyone’s thinking…Lord, who is it [that will betray you]? Then at the end, some think Judas is going out shopping. They can’t even make the connection that Judas is the betrayer even though Jesus REALLY spells it out for them (“One of you will betray me…the one to whom I give this piece of bread”…gives Judas bread).

The disciples’ confusion brings me comfort in two ways. First, Jesus is still with them and loves them and dies for them even though they miss the obvious. Second, despite their confusion, which happens throughout Jesus’ ministry, the disciples stick with Jesus, embracing the gift of faith over clarity. I saw a billboard recently that basically told me if I have questions, God will give me all the answers. I laughed and told my husband, “In my experience, following God gives you more questions.” How befuddled and mystified the disciples’ must have felt during this scene and all those to come, and how confused we too are amid the world’s groaning.

Lord, who is it?

–Isabel Vitale



Bless my confusion, oh Lord, and give me faith to follow you to the cross. Thank you for loving me so much that you gave your life even though I don’t understand all your ways.