Betrayal

What comes to mind when you hear the word, betrayal?

Is it Shakespeare’s famous play, Julius Caesar, with loyal Brutus among the first to stab Caesar? While dying he says, Et tu, Brute? “Even you, Brutus?”

Is it Boromir, in Lord of the Rings when he attempts to kill Frodo to take hold of the One Ring. Frodo?

Is it Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, in that scene with Sirius Black & Peter Pettigrew...where Black says in a terrible fury, “What was there to be gained by fighting the most evil wizard who has ever existed? ... Only innocent lives, Peter!"

"You don't understand!" whined Pettigrew. "He would have killed me, Sirius!"

"THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED!" roared Black. "DIED RATHER THAN BETRAY YOUR FRIENDS, AS WE WOULD HAVE DONE FOR YOU!”

Maybe you think of the Bible. The Bible begins with a story of betrayal. Eve betrays Adam by eating and hanging him forbidden fruit, Adam betrays Eve “the woman you gave me!” and Adam and Eve betray God.

Or maybe the word betray conjures up a time when you were hurt by a friend or burned by family. Have you experienced betrayal?

When was the last time someone betrayed you?

In 1991, one researcher found that 70% of married women cheated on their partners. In 93’, another study confirmed 72% of married men have as well. Then in 2004, the University of Chicago study stated that 1 out of 4 married men has had at least one affair! All of this means that in our culture, the likelihood of being betrayed is extremely high. Over 12 million people were using the affair website AshleyMadison.com. Infidelity is more likely than fidelity.

So the odds are high that someone we know could betray us. I pray that it’s not as severe as someone betraying you to put you to death, or a spouse betraying you for an affair, but betrayal is likely in this life. We live with and we are sinners. Betrayal is a part of life, and we’re going to get hurt by someone at some point.

Did you know that Jesus knows what it’s like to be betrayed? He was betrayed by a good friend. 

Judas Iscariot was one of the closest friends Jesus had. He was invited in and welcomed as a dear friend. And so on his last night and last supper, he's dining with his close group of friends. And Jesus tells the disciples that one of them will betray him. And how do they react? (See John 13:22 and following for the full story.) 

The disciples looked at one another. You can picture it, they’re in a room together and things just really got awkward. Their eyes dart at one another. I wonder if it’s him. Peter’s got that look in his eye. I’ll bet it’s Thomas, he’s always questioning Jesus... Then Peter motions over to John, the disciple whom Jesus loved who was reclining at Jesus’ side and he gets him to ask “Lord, who is it??” They’re all curious. Is it him? Is it me?

You can picture Judas mouthing this question, even though inside he knows it’s him. But Jesus gives this answer in John 13:25, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.

There it is. Jesus gives him a gift. You have to understand that Judas was invited to this meal as the guest of honor. That’s where he’s seated at the table—as a close friend. It was custom to give the honorary morsel to the person sitting in that seat. Judas was singled out here, not so that everyone could point fingers but so that he would know that he was deeply loved. Despite what Jesus knew he was going to do, Jesus still wanted to give him this gift.

It’s as if Jesus said to him: Judas, I know you. I know what you are going to do. But I fully love you anyway. To be fully known yet fully loved is what all of us are longing for, and it’s the gift that Jesus offered Judas. But he didn’t take it. This morsel is a final act of love. It’s a gesture of love, of, Judas, won’t you please reconsider your choices? Won’t you come home? Judas, of course, takes the morsel and eats it, but he does not join this eating with faith. He takes the food but rejects the gift of love.

It’s a sad moment. A sad occasion. And at this point everything changes. He has made up his mind to betray Jesus, and so Jesus lets him go and have what his heart wanted. 30 pieces of silver is what he really wanted. He didn’t want Jesus. 

Jesus offers his future to the betraying lips of Judas, and he’s betrayed with a kiss, captured, and crucified.

I think what’s revealing about this scene is what it reveals about ourselves. Judas represents what is true about all of us, deep down. We are prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. We are easily led astray, we quickly falter and fall into sin. When given the choice between repentance and running away, we’ll choose running any day. The truth is, we are not always going to love one another as ourselves. On most days, I’m going to look out and love #1.

Judas personifies this collective sin in all of our hearts. He is the prime example of why Jesus let Judas betray him. So Jesus could be nailed to the cross. Betraying sinners need the Christ who was betrayed, beaten, and hung on a cross.

Jesus demonstrates for us what it's truly like to love an enemy. He gives himself for his friends, and he offers himself to his enemies. Here, take my body and my blood. And when they refuse it, he gives up himself to be crucified for the forgiveness of all those who would come to him. What a Savior! What a friend!

Jesus came and lived and died and rose again to give sinners himself, and all the blessings that flow from such a gift. We get nothing less than Christ with all his benefits in the gospel.

Receive in him—the beautiful, bountiful gift of love. 

Nicholas Davis

San Diego, CA

Rev. Nicholas Davis is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America.

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