Wednesday, March 28, 2018
"After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, 'Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me...It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.' So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, 'Do quickly what you are going to do'" (John 13:21, 26-27).
Most Christians I know consider Judas a lousy traitor whose greed or resentment toward Jesus caused the crucifixion.
A not small minority, though, gets less upset about Judas, saying that Jesus was certain to die in Jerusalem and that if Judas didn't betray him, somebody else would. For the Harry Potter fans out there, it's a little like Snape agreeing with Dumbledore to kill him: it was going to happen anyway.
The Bible doesn't tell the story that way—Jesus says at the Last Supper it would have been better if the betrayer had never been born—but from the other side of Easter, when God's love wins out over sin and death, Judas seems like a "necessary evil" just as the day Jesus died becomes a "Good" Friday.
Still, we have every right to feel sad that one of Jesus' own disciples betrays him. Because we know how betrayal feels. On both ends.
When we indiscreetly tell a secret about a friend or when a loved one lies to our face, these were experienced as betrayals because they were caused by and hurt people close to each other. A failure of human love hurts, and the closer we are to the failure and the failer, the more it hurts.
But does experiencing betrayal mean we should give up on each other?
If we don't get close to others or start to trust anybody else, it's true that we might never feel betrayed. Today's culture makes it easier to avoid betrayal by hiding in our homes, in our screens, It's easy to live in a constant state of isolated suspicion.
Isolation and suspicion, however, are not new. Jesus could have lived in a constant state of suspicion, for instance, in which he would have been immune from betrayal or abandonment. Of course, that also would have meant he would have nibbled on the bread and sipped the wine all alone!
If Jesus had lived in a betrayal-free zone, who would have been around to hear his teachings, witness the Resurrection, or establish the Christian faith? Faith is necessarily relational, and always open to feelings of betrayal.
After Peter pretended for the third time that he didn't know Jesus, the rooster crowed and "the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter" (Luke 22:61). Peter then remembered Jesus' prediction and ran outside crying.
Sure, Jesus felt betrayed, but I imagine Jesus looked at Peter with forgiveness in his eyes and not just hurt, and that it was that unrelenting gaze of forgiveness that brought Peter to tears. No matter how good the disciples and humankind were at failing Jesus, he wouldn't let them go.
God looks straight at us with love and grace right now, no matter our betrayals or denials of God's presence in our lives. God's hope for our lives is that, like Jesus, we can acknowledge hurt and betrayal around us but also remain connected as God's people, even in this suspicious age.
First United Church of Christ
34 West Main Street
Milford, CT 06460
All are welcome at First Church! As an inclusive community of God's children, we affirm the radical welcome and hospitality of the United Church of Christ; No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here!
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