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Archbishop Averky (Tauchev)
Explanation of the four Gospels

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The Lord Reveals the Betrayer.

(Mat. 26:21-25; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 22:21-23 and John 13:21-30).

Being the closest to the Lord at the Last Supper, having rested his head On Christ’s bosom as narrated by him, Saint John gives the most detailed description of the exposure of His betrayer. Having washed the feet of His disciples and instructing them about this action, the Lord was “troubled in spirit” from the knowledge that in these solemn hours, when He was preparing to establish the great mystery of Holy Communion of Flesh and Blood and give the disciples His last directives, His betrayer was in their midst. Of course, maybe also there was the aim of arousing repentance within Judas for his intended terrible crime when the Lord exclaimed: “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” Quite understandably, these words provoked an uproar among the disciples: it produced vocal feelings of profound sorrow because their Beloved Teacher would find betrayal among them. According to Saint Mark, “They began to be sorrowful,” while according to Saint Matthew “They were exceedingly sorrowful.” Realizing clearly the profound decline of human nature and as though, collectively, having no reliance upon one another, they ask: “Lord, is it I?” and according to Saint John, they were perplexed as to who the Lord had in mind. According to Saint Matthew, even Judas askedRabbi, is it I?” and the Lord quietly answered him: “You have said it,” trying for the final time to arouse him toward repentance, even though it was fruitless. “Now there was leaning on Jesusbosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus lovednarrates the beloved disciple John the Theologian, not naming himself because of his humility. Customarily, the face and chest of those reclining at the refectory, faced the table, the left elbow resting on a pillow while the right arm was free to reach out toward the food. The legs were lying at an angle, away from the table so that the next person was not positioned at the feet of the first person, but his chest.

It was precisely this way that John had his head on Christ’s chest — in other words, his head was resting on Christ’s chest. Taking advantage of this, Saint Peter made a sign to Saint John for him to ask the Lord about the betrayer. This shows that Peter wasnt that close to the Lord and in terms of the then prevailing custom, didnt occupy the place nearest to the Lordcontrary to the Roman-catholic false teachings on Peter’s primacy. Mustering an especial temerity and taking the step that only the beloved disciple John could do, he came very close to the Lord and softly asked: “Lord, who is it?” And the Lord answered: “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it….He gave it to Judas Escariot.” At Passover, bread was usually dipped in a sauce of dates and figs. Sometimes, the head of the family distributed such pieces of bread as a sign of his special affection. And of course through this act the Lord wanted to — once again — awaken feelings of repentance in Judas.

This was evident to John only. As the first three Evangelists narrate, the Lord told the other Apostles about the betrayer in general terms only: “The hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table.” “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed” — here, the Lord focuses attention on the unfortunate judgment of the betrayer, and not on the hideousness of the act, and expresses sorrow for him. “However, some will say,” says Saint Chrysostom: “If it is written that Christ shall suffer thus, then why condemn Judas? He only fulfilled that which was written. However, he didnt do this with that thought in mind but from evil. If one doesnt look at the intention, then the devil can be released from blame. But, no, no. One and the other deserve countless sufferings, even though the world was being saved. Because it wasnt Judas’s betrayal that gave us salvation, but Christ’s wisdom and His enormous design that converted the evil acts of others to our benefit. Then what, one might ask, if Judas didnt betray Christ that someone else wouldnt? If everyone was righteous, then there would be no fulfillment in the formation of our salvation — let it not be so — because the Wise One Himself knew how to arrange our salvation, even if there was no betrayal. His great wisdom is great and unfathomable. That’s why Jesus calls him an wretched individual.” In giving Judas a piece of bread, the Lord wanted to arouse repentance in Escariot, but with his murky soul, what happened was the complete opposite: “Now after the piece of bread, satan entered him.”

Despite the Lord’s gesture and words of warning, calling him toward penitence, Judas — as it happens with souls that are deeply polluted with evil — became more embittered toward the Lord. Being All-Seeing, the Lord saw what was happening in Judas’s heart. Not wanting to expose this openly before all the disciples — in case they might decide to take forceful measures against Judas — and not to raise any useless thoughts of impeding the Divine predetermination, the Lord uttered the words to Judas, which he alone would understand: “What you do, do quickly.” — “Whatever you have decided upon, do it quickly” — is the Lord’s authoritative order, eager to realize God’s will as soon as possible and to fulfill His act as Savior of mankind. At the same time, the opportune occasion would remove the presence of Judas from the group of disciples; establish the great mystery of Eucharist without his unworthy participation, and give the disciples final, parting instructions.

Saint John confirms that no one understood those words, including John himself, not suspecting the betrayal to occur that very night. Everyone thought that the Lord was giving instructions to Judas about purchasing all that is necessary for the feast-day. This is fresh proof that the feast-day had not yet arrived and consequently, the Last Supper was performed on the eve of the Jewish Passover, 13th of Nisan. It would have been impossible to purchase anything on the evening of the feast-day itself, and it would not have been possible to find a beggar to help them, because on that night, everyone — rich and poor — did not venture out of their homes, celebrating Passover according to the law. Blessed Theophylactus deduces that with the words “And it was night,” the Evangelist may have had in mind a mental night, that spiritual gloom that finally covered the darkened, covetous soul of Judas-betrayer.

Further on, Saint John begins to enunciate the Lord’s farewell colloquy with His disciples, beginning with the words: “Now the Son of Man is glorified,” which is heard in the evening during our Church service on Great Thursday, in the reading of the first Gospel. However, it is imperative to assume that with Judas’s exit, the Lord first established the mystery of Eucharist, which is narrated upon by the first 3 Evangelists, while John is silent. It was only after this did He speak these words to the disciples, which Saint John narrates in detail, adding to that which had been detailed by the first three Evangelists.


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