April 12, 2017


John 13:21-32

Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

—  John 13:21

The navy taught me “command loyalty.” Only loyalty to God, country, and family were more important than faithfulness to the command and its mission. Otherwise, the enemy could gain the advantage.

Jesus handpicked his disciples—including Judas the betrayer—for a three-year term of instruction on how God’s kingdom was coming through Christ. Loyalty to one’s rabbi (teacher) was expected without question. Yet Judas, who loved money, gave in to a temptation to betray Jesus to the religious leaders who wanted to kill him (Mark 14:1-11; John 12:4-6).

Midway through this Holy Week, as the Son of God journeyed from Sunday’s “Hosannas” to the inhumanity of the cross, Jesus hosted his last Passover Feast and warned his disciples that one of them would betray him. Oh, to reach back 2,000 years through history and warn the other disciples, “Stop Judas!” But Judas betrayed Jesus as planned.

Gaping in horror at my own history, I’m mortified at my betrayals of Jesus, breaking even God’s fundamental commands to love him above all and my neighbor as myself. I bow before the cross, grateful that my Lord was willing to die in my place. Jesus was betrayed, but he never betrayed his Father or his people.

Christ Jesus, we call you Lord, but we can be so disloyal. We bow at your table, at the foot of your cross, and before your empty tomb, asking forgiveness and grace to be more loyal disciples. Amen.

About the author — Norman F. Brown

Chaplain Norman F. Brown graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1969. He served aboard destroyers during the Vietnam conflict and ashore in San Diego, Calif., as an instructor. By then God had made clear his call to work in pastoral ministry, and Norman entered Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in 1980. Chaplain Brown pastored churches during his ministry career but spent most of his time as a navy chaplain. During one assignment he served three years at Holy Loch, Scotland, where he and his wife, Ruth, encountered the Iona Community and their emphasis on spiritual disciplines. Chaplain and Mrs. Brown have three married children and nine grandchildren.

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