Have you ever been betrayed – by a close friend you completely trusted? Such an experience is hard for many of us to grasp. We all know how it feels when people step on us. But to be betrayed by a trusted friend hurts much more. When we think of the suffering of a faithful wife betrayed by her husband, or an innocent child betrayed by parents, we can begin to understand the emotional hurt of betrayal. This kind of suffering is deeper and more grievous than physical suffering. Usually there are limits to physical pain, but there is continual mental and emotional anguish associated with personal betrayal.
A FRIEND BETRAYS
Our Lord Jesus was betrayed. He was betrayed by a close friend (Ps. 41:9). He was betrayed on that special night of intimate fellowship with His trusted companions. Jesus knew this betrayal would lead to His crucifixion the next day (Lk. 9:22-23; Jn. 13:12,11). Imagine how we would feel if we knew our lives were to be taken from us in our prime. What would we think if we knew that our violent death would be brought about by the betrayal of a close friend? Our feelings would range from helplessness and fear to bitterness and anger. Our thoughts might include revenge, or running away while there was still time.
But all of these thoughts and feelings were foreign to our Lord. First Corinthians 11:23-24 informs us that He gave thanks on the night in which He was betrayed! He was not thinking of preserving His life but of giving it for us! He was not going to run away in fear. Instead, He persevered to the end and finished His special work. We gain a greater appreciation of the magnitude of our Lord’s courage and commitment, as well as His incredible love for us, as we remember that Good Friday took place against the black backdrop of betrayal.
The treachery of our Lord’s betrayer is seen in John 13. During the course of the “Last Supper” Jesus told His disciples that one of them would betray Him. He introduced the subject with a quotation from Psalm 41: “He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.” Then He privately indicated to Peter and John that Judas was the betrayer. Who would have suspected Judas? He was their trusted treasurer. Maybe impetuous Peter, but certainly not responsible Judas! Artists usually portray Judas as a sly and crafty individual, but that’s not the picture of Judas that emerges from the Bible. His unbelief and traitorous character were masked right to the end. For three years he was able to pilfer money without arousing the least suspicion (Jn. 12:6).
Even after going to the authorities, bargaining for the blood money and plotting to betray Jesus, Judas still posed as a model disciple. Along with the rest of the disciples at the Passover, he innocently asked, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” (Mt. 26:15,25; Mk. 14:19; Jn. 13:2). In John 13:26 we learn that Judas readily responded to Christ’s friendly gesture of sharing food during the meal without any indication of the evil plans in his heart. The gesture of Jesus, as the host, giving a portion to Judas, one of His guests, was a sign of honor in that culture and thus further heightens the hypocrisy of Judas. And when Judas left the upper room to do his evil work, some other disciples thought that Jesus was sending him on a responsible mission for the group (Jn. 13:29). What an extraordinary cover up Judas was able to pull off for his outrageous treachery!
THE SAVIOR SUBMITS
In the light of these details we stand amazed at the patience and gentleness of our Savior as well as His willing submission to humiliation. He was not fooled by Judas. He knows the hearts of all men (Jn. 2:24-25). He knew from the beginning that Judas was the betrayer (Jn. 6:64,71). And yet for three years Jesus graciously tolerated Judas, a man of whom Christ Himself said, “It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Mt. 26:24). Think of all the times of joy and sorrow Jesus shared with His disciples, including Judas. Think of the hours He spent teaching His close followers, including Judas. Think of the supernatural power and authority He conferred on the twelve, including Judas (Mt. 10:1). Think of how the Lord washed the disciples’ feet, including Judas’ (Jn. 13:5,11). Think of the many times the Lord must have embraced Judas. Finally, think of how Jesus endured that final embrace and kiss of betrayal from Judas (Mk. 14:43-46). How it must have hurt the gentle and sensitive soul of our Lord to look directly into the eyes of His betrayer and say, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Lk. 22:48).
Why such long-suffering on Christ’s part? Why such willing submission to humiliation? The many reasons involved the working out of God’s sovereign plan for man’s salvation. For example, the cruel and sinful depravity of man was shown, not only in the mockery, spitting and scourging by the pagan soldiers, and the rejection and contempt by the religious Jews, but also by the betrayal by one of His disciples. In addition, we see in a remarkable way what incredible long-suffering He has shown toward us.
How long did He put up with our hearts of rebellion before we turned to Him for salvation? How much humiliation have we, as Christians, brought upon the One who gave His life for us? How much hurt have we caused our Savior through our actions? How many times have we hypocritically compromised the faith and “betrayed” our Lord for less than 30 pieces of this world’s silver? Consider the deadly sins of pride, covetousness, jealousy, ambition and wilfulness in the depths of our own hearts (Jer. 17:9). Surely we agree that but for God’s amazing grace, each of us could have been Judas.
THE BETRAYER PROPHESIED
Psalm 41 gives us further insight into the betrayal and humiliation of our Lord. In it David reflected on the time when his son, Absalom, seized the kingdom and usurped the throne of Israel. David fled from Jerusalem with his loyal followers, but his close friend and trusted counselor, Ahithophel, betrayed him and sided with Absalom. He even told Absalom how to destroy David (2 Sam. 15-18). That our Lord quoted Psalm 41:9 proves that Ahithophel prophetically portrayed Judas.
It is noteworthy in this connection that Ahithophel, like Judas, hanged himself when he realized that his counsel to David’s enemies had been overruled (2 Sam. 17:23). It is also significant that when our Lord applied this Scripture to Judas, He did not quote the first part of the verse. He left out “Even My close friend in whom I trusted” for obvious reasons. By quoting the second half of Psalm 41:9 Jesus indicated that He was keenly aware of the hatefulness of the treachery before Him. As Ahithophel deceptively posed beneath the shelter of oriental hospitality and sat at David’s table, so did Judas sit at the Lord’s table. As Ahithophel disgracefully partook of his master’s bread, so did Judas partake at the Passover feast and institution of the Lord’s Supper (Lk. 22:19-21). As Ahithophel shamefully betrayed the king and plotted to assassinate him, so did Judas, with such deceitful candor. As Ahithophel viciously lifted up his heel and “kicked” his lord, so did Judas, with sudden and shocking brutality, in the most infamous betrayal the world has ever known.
TIME TO REFLECT
As we reflect on the betrayal of our Lord, may our hearts go out to Him in love and devotion for all that He suffered. His road to the Cross for our salvation was paved with incredible sorrow. May we also examine our hearts and lives for areas in which we are guilty of bringing humiliation to His name. May our all-too-frequent “betrayals” of our Savior for worldly profit or popularity be brought to an abrupt end! May we, with His promised help, take action to live out a clear profession of faith in our Savior and Lord.
By David R. Reid
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org