Luke 22:21-23 (CEV)
21 The one who will betray me is here at the table with me! 22 The Son of Man will die in the way that has been decided for him, but it will be terrible for the one who betrays him!”
23 Then the apostles started arguing about who would ever do such a thing.
The Danger of Dehumanization
I always try to put myself in to the minds of the people I’m reading about – regardless of what I’m reading.
I want to understand their motivations, their thoughts, their feelings.
I want to catch when something they do makes sense to their personality or to their cultural or historical perspective, and when it doesn’t make sense.
And so when I hear about this reaction of the disciples to Jesus’ statement that someone at the table was going to betray him, a few thoughts come to mind.
First of all it makes me think that maybe Judas wasn’t the only one who was starting to get scared about where all of Jesus’ teachings were going to take them.
Maybe there were others in the room that night who had wondered if something could be done about the situation.
Maybe there were others in the room that night who had wished that someone might just take this whole thing down before they all got hurt.
Maybe there were others in the room that night who had thought about betraying Jesus.
So I wonder whether maybe these guys were on the defensive.
But secondly I am reminded that Jesus’ disciples are a very disparate group of people.
They are fishermen and a tax collector and even a nobleman – and that’s just the ones we have the details for.
They came from Judah (in the South) and Galilee (in the North) and it’s possible that Simon the Zealot was even a foreign convert – and there was a lot of mistrust between people from these different backgrounds.
They had incredibly divergent political views – from extreme nationalism to collaboration and everything in between.
And when we are with people who are different from us it is easy to go on the offensive – easy for our fear to rise up and take over and make us doubt and question the motives of those around us. Even when we have known each other well over a lot of years and gone through a lot of hard things. In fact, all the while we see someone as other we will be at risk of this taking place.
But whether they’re on the offensive, the defensive or a mix of both, I’m pretty sure this is an argument motivated almost entirely from fear.
Fear that Jesus will judge them.
Fear that they will be implicated with someone who was crucified and therefore crucified themselves (not an uncommon reality in Roman-occupied Israel at the time).
Fear that they are among enemies afterall, not the friends they had started to hope they had found.
We all experience fear – some of us (like myself) more regularly than others. And when we let it take us into defensiveness or offensiveness it’s really dangerous, because it causes us to dehumanize either ourselves or those around us – opening us up to the very things that we fear: loneliness, hurt and betrayal.
But when we start to notice these feelings, we actually have a choice in how we respond. We can choose to feed our fear – letting ourselves build up bigger and bigger scenarios of violence and betrayal in our minds until the whole thing becomes a catastrophic nightmare of epic proportions – or we can choose to lean into love – reminding ourselves of all that we share in common, and drawing those around us back to that shared history and shared vision of community.
And it really does matter what we do, because ironically enough it is while this argument rages that Judas slips out and goes to betray Jesus.
- Have you ever been scared of what Jesus teaches?
- Or scared of the implications of what he is teaching on your own life?
- Have you ever wondered whether it was too late to back out now?
- Has it ever put you on the defensive – left you feeling like you had to justify your worth or prove your right not to be abandoned?
- What about your community – have you ever found yourself sitting there wondering how you could have missed how different everyone is from you?
- Has it ever put you on the offensive – left you feeling like maybe the people around you aren’t quite as human, aren’t quite as worthy, aren’t quite as safe or trustworthy as you had previously thought they were?
- What might it look like to choose a different path and lean into love instead?