Good Friday Homily - One of the Twelve

  • Preacher

    John Bell - Iona Community

  • Readings

    Reflection 1; Mark 14: 17-24

“Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me - one who is eating with me. It is one of the twelve.” Mark 14: 18 & 20

Six weeks ago, I read to a dozen people the passage in Mark's Gospel which contains some of the conversation at the Passover celebration we now call The Last Supper.

I asked them what they would have thought, if they were gathered round the table with Jesus and heard him say that one of them, one of the twelve, would betray him.

Nobody had ever been asked that question before. So there was a silence.

The Likely Supsects

Then one person said, that he would probably have looked round at the likely suspects: 

Peter had a certain propensity for saying the right thing at the wrong time, and Jesus  (on more than one occasion) had reprimanded him. It could be him.

James and John  had shown themselves to be interested in positions of authority. Maybe one of them was secretly planning a coup.

Andrew.....might have felt a little annoyed that although he was Peter's brother, a fellow fisherman with James and John, he wasn't one of the inner circle, who witnessed certain miracles, and saw Jesus transfigured.

Matthew had come from a profession which was deemed disreputable. He had kept company with people of low moral calibre. Maybe he felt attracted to his old ways.

Thomas was a bit of a cynic, not the quickest person to affirm his faith, a bit nearer the brink of disbelief or even mutiny than the others.

Philip..whom Jesus more or less accused of 'not getting the message.'  Was he nursing a grievance?

“One of you... one of the Twelve.”

One of the Others?

Why does Jesus say, ' One of the Twelve'? Does that allude to the possibilitythat other people were in the room?


Passovers tended to be inclusive of neighbours, hangers on, the kind of people who         turn up at funerals to avail themselves of free food. Could it be one of the others?

No.  He said clearly, 'One of the Twelve.'

Who else among the twelve  it be.... given that we don't know very much about...

James the less



 or Judas????


We actually don't know anything about Judas at this point.  Matthew, Mark and Luke have simply named him as one of the twelve.  Information about him keeping the kitty and being a petty thief...all comes after the event.

At this moment in the intimacy of the upstairs room where the twelve leaned side by side over the table, there was no articulated suspicion of Judas, or any previous hint in the Gospels which would have suggested he might be the betrayer.

Back to the conversation I had with twelve people six weeks ago and the question of how you might have felt had you been one of the original twelve at the table to whom Jesus said ' One of of the twelve is going to betray me.'

There was another suggestion:

Is It Me?

Rather than think of the likely suspects, might you – if you had been 'one of the Twelve' – might you have thought, 'I wonder if he means me?'

  ….not because of any conscious or subconscious animosity you held against Jesus, but because there are moments in life when unlikeliest of people to the most unusual of things.

Moral Courage and Glasgow Airport

For some people, intense danger brings out a moral courage they never knew they had.  You may remember that a dozen years ago, two men drove a truck loaded with explosives through glass windows into the check in area of Glasgow airport with the intent to kill everyone around. The truck was badly damaged, the driver wounded, no explosives went off, but the second man ran out of the vehicle and as he passed an airport employee, the man suddenly tackled him and held him until the police arrived.

After being hailed as a hero, the man was interviewed and asked why he had acted so selflessly, and all he could say was, ' You just don't do that kind of thing in Glasgow.' …. and those who heard the interview were left wondering whether it was the criminal who was being referred to or himself, the hero.

Moral Cowardice

But there are other times which are more hard to speak of when we – I mean me as well as you – might know how certain situations for which we have not been prepared can bring out in us not morally bravery, but moral cowardice, the complete collapse of our integrity, the triumph of selfishness over kindness of evil over good, of assent to that which elsewhere we would deem depraved.

And the moment we have crossed the line from right into wrong, we know that we will remember and regret our cowardice forever. In us there is a distance between our potential and our actual, between conviction and commitment, but not in Jesus.

Only in Jesus is there perfect obedience to God's holy will.

Therefore, it is as the Saviour of All  that he chooses companions among whom there would be one who would betray him.  So he breaks bread with Judas. For if he is to be fully human then he has to experience what so many others have  experienced– not just the injustice of the religious and political hierarchy (that will come soon);

….at this moment it is the intended betrayal by an intimate.

This he might not have immediately anticipated, but this he would be prepared for.

In the Psalms which were his prayer book he would have read

                        'It was no enemy who taunted me

                        or I might have avoided him.

                        It was no foe who treated me with scorn

                        or I would have kept out of his way.

                        It was you, one of my own,

                        a comrade, a dear friend;

                        we used to talk so happily together.

This is the passion of our Lord.