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Thursday, August 29, 2013


Betrayal is a key component of the human condition. At Morning Prayer we read from Mark's version of the Last Supper. Jesus says, "one of you will betray me." The story is so familiar that it is easy to gloss over the full depth of that reality. What did Jesus feel knowing one of His closest friends, someone whom He loved and shared His life with, had betrayed Him?

In the early church many people did not believe in the Incarnation. They could not fathom that God could be a man. It seemed illogical and impossible. Some of those people just said, "Jesus is a man." Perhaps they added an adjective of praiseworthy content: He was "an amazing man" or "the holiest man" or "the purest man." Words like teacher and prophet are certainly attempts to convey just how wonderful He is. In the end, however, they would say "Jesus is the Son of God, but so is everyone else." Their contemporary followers are among us today. The secularist would declare Jesus was just a man. The Liberal/Progressive Christian has also made a point of this time and again.

There was another group. In many so-called conservative Christian settings this group thrives today. It is the group which declares, "Jesus is God." They will ask a preacher, "Do you believe Jesus is God?" If they get an affirmative answer, they breathe a sigh of relief and feel safe. Unfortunately, that question and answer are not the orthodox Christian truth. Jesus is fully human and fully divine. That is the Christian revelation. The middle way between the two errors is where the truth is revealed and discovered.

Too many committed Christians believe Jesus already knew Judas would betray Jesus, chose him for that reason, and used Him for that purpose. As such, they assume Jesus felt no sadness or betrayal. The problem is, such an "apparently human but not really" Jesus does not connect with our lives. If the Progressive, only-a-human Jesus cannot save except by offering a good example (something remarkably useless to me and everyone I know who understand what we should do, but cannot figure out exactly how to do it regularly); the alternative, God-Jesus, serves no function other than saving my soul and judging me at the end of time. In both cases He is peripheral because of His limits.

When Judas betrayed Jesus, it was a horrible discovery for the Lord. The betrayal may have been part of God's plan but that does not make it part of God's original intention. Jesus' preaching (repent and believe) were not a sham. Jesus did not say, "I am going to act like I want to draw people to God, but actually I am going to make sure that the whole thing ends up badly." God may have known ahead but that does not mean that He caused it. [James says God does not tempt people to sin. He certainly wouldn't cause people to sin.]

Jesus' relationship with Judas is a type of God's relationship with the Jews (or "Judas" in Greek!!!). The irony of the name has led some to wonder if the betrayal was a symbolic construct to express that Jesus was rejected by His own people. Perhaps, in this case, raw history ends up also being symbolic!

The pain of being betrayed ruins us all. Jesus' pain was no doubt impacted by the betrayal of one so close. And if Jesus is divine and human, then that means that the ineffable realm of heaven has touched (and subsumed) the imperfections of time and space. Betrayal, taken into God, is now redeemed.

I am working with fallen, fragile humans. I see betrayal in marriages, in parenting, in working, in neighboring and in churching together (yes I just turned nouns into verbs. It is called verbing). Betrayal is part of the four corners of faith. Trust/faith are opposite of Doubt/unbelief. They are related to fidelity/faithfulness which is in opposition to betrayal/unfaithfulness. The experience of betrayal diminishes our capacity to trust which negatively impacts our ability to be trustworthy. There is a reason why untrustworthy people have trust issues.

I am Judas. I have also been in the place of Jesus. I know betrayal first hand, the sadness one feels as one utters the words, "it was you, my friend, it was you did this to me?" I know the shame of being the one who has been asked that. I know the shame of being told, "but I thought I could count on you."

As in all horrible things, my hope is not in doing better. I do want to do better, but it is too late to undo past failings (and the fruits of those failings). My hope is in redemption. My hope is in incarnation, God's nature penetrating human nature. God taking into Himself all that we are, including betrayal. All betrayal is related. Jesus knew it, suffered it, took it into Himself. He tasted its bitter horror and consumed it. Now it rests in God. The same God betrayed by His creation, betrayed by His People (Judah and the Church). It was a big deal for Jesus and a big deal for God (one tip off is Jesus saying "it would be better for that man that he had never been born"). It is a big deal for you and I. Yet Jesus knows what it feels like, take your betrayal pain to Him in prayer. He understands. Take also your acts of betrayal. Tell Him you know what He felt like when Judas, acting on your (and my) behalf betrayed Him. Confess that and ask for mercy and renewal.

Let the redemption begin afresh in your life...

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