A Night of Betrayal - Luke 22:14-23
“But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.”
How many of us have ever been betrayed? Maybe it was back in our school-age years. Maybe we told someone we considered to be a close friend about this crush we had on a popular girl or guy. We swore them to secrecy because we knew that crush was way out of our league. Then a few days later, walking through the hallways at school, we hear snickering from half the folks we pass, only to find out that our secret crush is the gossip fodder of the day at school. Maybe it has nothing to do with secrets, but everything to do with our best friend, or the person we thought was our best friend. Maybe those feelings of betrayal came as that “former best friend” suddenly treated us like the stuff on the bottom of your shoe after walking through dog-owners yard, because that “former best friend” found some new friends, a little higher up the social latter. The betrayal could have come in the work place. Maybe a close colleague, as we’ve been collaborating on a project, took all the credit when a supervisor praised the project and offered a promotion to the one responsible. Maybe a co-worker came and confessed a mistake they made that is going to cost the company thousands in revenue, and when the investigation begins, they lie and kick us under the bus, blaming us for the error. Maybe it is in the family, and our spouse has cheated on us, or our children have lied to us. Maybe we were sick, at home or in the hospital, and those folks who always talked about how they would do anything for us, never darken the door.
How do we feel when we’ve been betrayed? Hurt…angry…depressed. Why does betrayal hurt so bad? It hurts so bad because, as an author I once read put it, we can only be betrayed by someone we care about and trust. Think about the truth of that statement. If anyone other than someone we cared about did (or failed to do) the stuff we talked about, it might result in either our getting angry, or simply not caring. For instance if a co-worker that we did not work with took credit for our work and stole our promotion, we might get angry our upset, but we wouldn’t feel betrayed by our coworker (maybe our boss, but not our coworker). If someone we aren’t close to, or even really know, starts hanging out with folks a little higher up the social latter, what are we going to care. If a stranger doesn’t visit us when we are sick, are we even going to know it. The only reason we feel betrayed, when we feel betrayed, is because something has been done (or left undone) by someone we care about, someone with whom we have invested trust and/or love.
My question is, my brothers and sisters, if we knew they would betray us from the start, would we have invested that trust or that love? If we knew that a friend was going to start the gossip train rolling with a secret we told them, would we have chosen them as a friend? If we knew that a co-worker was going to throw us under the bus for a mistake they made, we would have worked close enough for them for it to even be a question? If we knew our spouse was going to cheat on us, would we have married them?
The answer is probably “no”…maybe a resounding “no.” If we knew ahead of time that they were going to betray us, there is no way we would have invested that much time, energy, and emotion in the relationship.
With that certainty in mind, consider again the words of Scripture tonight, “But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.” Jesus knew. Jesus knew way ahead of time. Jesus may have known from before He ever called that disciple. Jesus certainly knew as He entered Jerusalem, heading toward the cross. Jesus knew that He would be betrayed and who His betrayer would be. Jesus confronted him with that knowledge, “Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.” Jesus knew, but the disciples didn’t.
So which disciple betrayed Jesus?
Judas. Everyone is quick with the answer Judas. Judas was the betrayer. Judas is the one whom Jesus was talking about. Judas is the one who sold Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver. Judas is the one who identified Jesus to the arresting authorities, not by pointing and saying, “That’s him!” but with intimacy, with a kiss to his cheek. Judas is the betrayer. We know who the betrayer is.
I want to challenge the finality of that answer. Was there more than one betrayer amongst those disciples?
Consider Peter. Peter, the most outspoken of the disciples, the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, what about Peter? Peter who said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Peter, who when confronted with being associated with Jesus, denied it three times. Was not that denial by one Jesus called friend, an act of betrayal?
What about the unidentified disciple? The disciple who was able to get Peter into the courtyard outside the high priest’s house. The disciple who evidently was well known enough to enter the high priest’s house while Peter had to stay outside. What about him? What about the fact that he was in the room with the Sanhedrin when all the false accusations, lies, and charges we being brought against Jesus, and he didn’t say a word. He simply remained silent. Was not this disciple’s closed lips and refusal to “have Jesus’ back” an act of betrayal?
What about all the rest of the disciples? What about all of those left waiting as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane—James, Thomas, Bartholomew, and the others? Where were they? Where was their support of their friend? Where were they when the religious authorities got the crowds to call for Jesus’ crucifixion? They were gone, they were in hiding, trying to protect their own hides, as Jesus stood alone before Pilate? Wasn’t their desertion an act of betrayal?
What about us? What about the times we have betrayed Jesus? When have we betrayed Jesus? What about when we encounter folks without a relationship with Jesus and we choose not to tell them about Him? What about the times we see someone hungry, thirst, naked, sick, or in prison, and we don’t help them in any way? What about the racist comment we hear and don’t tell folks that God loves all people, and all are children of God? What about when we intentionally act in direct opposition to the Word and Will of God, sinning, even with plans to ask for forgiveness after the fact? What about when we fill our calendars with so many activities that we do not leave time to spend with Him and can’t respond when He calls on us? Aren’t our actions, acts of betrayal?
From Judas and Peter to each of the Twelve to each of us, we are all betrayers of Christ…we all participate in with some act of betrayal of the one we call Messiah… Savior… Lord…
My brothers and sisters, earlier we said that if we knew that someone close to us would betray us, we most likely would not invest the time or energy into the relationship, so that hopefully we would never experience that betrayal…but Jesus knew: “But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.” Jesus knew that each of those twelve would betray Him in some way, and yet Jesus called them to follow Him. He knew they would betray Him, and He invited them into ministry with Him. Jesus knew they would betray Him and He taught them and gave them the ability to do miracles in His name. Jesus knew they would betray Him, and yet He shared a meal with them—it was to those He knew would betray Him that He said, “This is my body, which is given for you…This cup that is poured out for you in the new covenant in my blood.” Jesus knew they would betray Him, and yet He invested Himself fully in each of them.
Jesus does the same for us. Paul reminds us that Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. Jesus established this meal that we will share in tonight, knowing each act of betrayal that we would commit, yet, just as He did with those disciples, He invites each of us to receive his body and his blood and experience the redemption He offers. Why? Because He loves us…because He is love itself…Paul’s words were “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”[i]
And my friends, just as Christ forgave those who betrayed Him that fateful night, and continued to build His church upon those who remained, so too, Christ offers each of us forgiveness. Christ knew, Christ knows, and Christ still loves us.
Earlier tonight we offered up a prayer of confession…I now invite each of us to an Act of Confession. In our bulletins tonight we each received an index card. I want us to take a moment and consider one way in which we have betrayed or are betraying Christ, and write it on the card, then, in a few moments when we come up to share in this sacred meal, I invite each of us to bring the card down with us and place it on the altar…and then at the end of our service, we will take those confessions to the place where our sin meets forgiveness, at the cross of Christ…
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen.