“While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’” (Luke 22:47–48, ESV)
I have been betrayed. I am sure that many of you have felt the same. A good friend or family member has done something to you that came out of the blue and created a great amount of pain and suffering in you and in your life. Most of us have known betrayal in our lives, some big and some small. Each of these can degrade our trust in anyone. It is always painful and, though the wounds heal, it creates a scar. I have known some deep betrayal from family, people who I committed to and loved, and people who I thought were my friends. Each has shaped me into who I am and in this I look at the picture of Jesus and Judas, his friend, and the great betrayal. I can only imagine the pain that this caused our Lord even though he already knew what was going to happen. I have seen the build up and those that I had believed were my friends doing things that I was unable to stop and watched them come down upon me such a wrath that I could not comprehend. Many of the ones doing the destructive work felt justified and would justify their actions based on feelings not faith nor facts. Jesus felt this as he was mocked and beaten before the Sanhedrin. I’m sure the persecutors of Jesus felt justified in every action because what he represented was a threat or challenged them in their own faith.
It is easy to allow betrayal to embitter your heart. It is a constant struggle that we as Christians face. Paul knew this and that is why he encouraged and warned us of our anger when he wrote to the Ephesians, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26–27, ESV) It is so easy to be justified in our anger that we allow it to fester. The reality of this action is that we are the ones truly wounded. Christ did not hold anger against his persecutors, but offered forgiveness and compassion. In this we are called to do the same. There is a danger in this also because just as much as I can associate with the sense of betrayal I am just as guilty of being a betrayer.
I have, often unintentionally, been the one who has brought the pain of betrayal onto another. It is that double-edged sword of sinfulness. I can often relate with the pain that our Lord endured and can become self-righteous in my own indignation that I become proud and in that pride wound another in the same way. I am not Jesus and am not justified by my own actions, but by his death on the cross and his resurrection. This is a lesson that is hard, but it is in line with what Martin Luther called, “Simul iustus et peccatur” or “Simultaneously justified and sinful.” I am just as much God’s betrayer as I am redeemed. I am never the redeemer, though I may bear the Redeemer’s message to one who is suffering. In this realization comes the humbling. This is where the healing begins for all of us who believe, when we lay our burdens at the cross it includes the hurts that we have felt. In our forgiveness of others we can fully feel the forgiveness that we have received. That is why we pray these words in the Lord’s Prayer as Jesus had given them to us.
May Christ’s peace fill you in this realization and may you be comforted. Amen.