The God Who Kneels – Day 27

Facing Betrayal

“Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

                                                                                                           John 13:21

Talk of betrayal caught the disciples off-guard and troubled Jesus. In addition to praying the psalms and affirming a theology of acceptance, Jesus processed this crisis with a third spiritual discipline, emotional honesty.  “After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.’”

His troubled soul was apparent to the disciples. Jesus loved Judas and his betrayal was painful to endure. When we allow prayer and meditation on Scripture to guide our emotional response to heart-breaking circumstances we will be far better off than giving in to an emotional melt-down. We may be filled with sorrow and prone to tears, but in the midst of our heartbreak we cling to God’s sustaining grace. Emotional honesty does not mean we slam the door on prayer and rant and rave against the very One who promises comfort and peace and endured the cross.

When we are rushed to the ER we want a medical response team to treat our emergency with skill and expertise. We need nurses and doctors to focus on our crisis with a sense of urgency and proficiency. We depend on a calm and capable medical response to our emergency. When believers are in a heart-breaking spiritual crisis it doesn’t help to shun the means of grace. Instead of closing down, we need the spiritual discipline to turn to God and express our lament. The cultivated habit of praying the Psalms will encourage our faith and strengthen our resolve . Life in the Spirit distinguishes between emotional transparency and a spiritual melt-down.

Why Judas chose to betray Jesus remains a mystery that the Bible does not attempt to solve. Was it about money, politics, or religion? We do not know. Judas objected to Mary’s act of devotion when she anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume, saying, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” (John 12:5). But we can’t tell from Judas’ question whether he was concerned for the poor, embezzling funds, or critical of Jesus. Ambiguity surrounds his motive for betrayal. Judas could be the precursor to a radical liberation theologian or the first prosperity gospel preacher. We don’t know whether his main objection to Jesus was over politics, money or religion. All we know is that Mary’s act of devotion appears to have put Judas over the edge. He went directly to the chief priests, asking, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” (Matthew 26:15). This makes it look like money was the motive, but Judas may have been hoping to provoke a crisis that would force Jesus to make a political move.

We know that when Jesus was condemned and sentenced to crucifixion, Judas was “seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.” His admission of guilt, “I have sinned for I have betrayed innocent blood,” fails to acknowledge who he betrayed (Matthew 27:3-4).

Betrayal is not limited to one of Jesus’ former disciples. We continue to wrestle with the Judas dynamic in our lives and in the church today. A friend for more than twenty years announced that he was leaving his wife and three children for another woman. He admitted that his wife was loving and that his marriage was good, but he insisted that he could go deeper spiritually with this other woman. His delusional claim was shocking and evil. He confused lust with love and infatuation with true spirituality. A cadre of friends, pastors, and counselors tried to reason with him, befriend him, and warn him, but all to no effect. He spiritualized his situation and rationalized his betrayal. He claimed God told him to leave his wife. He was as deceived as Judas was. Meanwhile, his wife by God’s grace has shown resilience. She is steadfast in her love for Christ. The pain she suffers is not unlike that of a martyr. In spite of betrayal, she remains faithful. Her Savior knows what it feels like. “I take considerable comfort,” she said, “knowing that Jesus knows the pain of betrayal. I don’t feel so alone in my pain.”


Upper Room Reflection

How does emotional transparency differ from self-pity?

In a spiritual crisis what spiritual disciplines are required?

In the midst of a life-shattering crisis how does the truth of Hebrews 12:2-3 and Romans 8:17-18 impact your life?

How can we strengthen our determination to remain faithful to the end?