It’s no joke

[A 3 minute read]

Thank God for those who make us laugh! In the depths of difficult times, as people struggle with unusual circumstances, with sickness and anxiety, social media is awash with funny videos and cheery clips to make us smile. I once heard a comedian say that people laughed more eagerly not in the brightly lit room of a club but in the dim light, in a darkened room. People, he said, laugh more freely and in a less self-conscious way when they are somehow hidden, unable to be seen or stand out, in the dim light, in the dark.

During the performance of today’s gospel reading (John 13:21-33,36-38) as Judas leaves the scene, steps out of that upper room to do what he has to do and to ‘do it quickly’, the gospel writer describes the scene in a stark and sombre way. ‘Night had fallen’. Perhaps, as Judas steps into darkness, he is, for once, more sure of himself , less self-conscious, more able to do what he feels to be the right thing. But there is no laughter.

Laughter will follow as the Roman soldiers mock Christ with a purple robe and crown of thorns, hailing him king, adorning him with spit. Laughter will come later as people mock Jesus, nailed to the cross, ‘He saved others, he cannot save himself.’ Perhaps there is something darkly humorous, too, in the kiss of Judas, an irony too much to take, a sick joke. But for now, there is no laughter

Jesus, as it happens, is deadly serious. Perhaps, now, they need to dim the lights for Peter, prior to Judas’ departure, had shown how self-conscious he was, embarrassed at the thought that Jesus should dare to wash his feet. When Jesus tells him that unless he washes their feet they can have no part in him, he loses his sense of embarrassment, and causes an embarrassing scene by insisting that Jesus washes all of him. And now he is lost again, hurt by the accusation that he will desert Jesus. In the dim light he feels so self-assured, heckles him across the table, ‘I will lay down my life for you,” he declares. Jesus is ready for a put down. ‘Lay down your life for me?’ asks Jesus. ‘Before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’ Peter is stunned into silence.

As Peter is drawn deeper into the mystery of Christ he is also discovering more about himself. Slowly, he becomes more self-aware, more alert to his shortcomings, more conscious of who and what he is called to be. The closer we are drawn to Jesus, the more we become aware of ourselves, who we really are, and what we can be. In the dark hours of the Prayer of the Church – Night Prayer or Compline – there is a time for self-examination, to review the day, to reflect on what we’ve done and who we’ve been – an invitation to be free and easy with the Lord, as we lie on our bed ‘through the watches of the night, in the shadow of your wings (Ps 63:7)

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