John 18: 1-9. When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said. Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”
Jesus is no stranger to betrayal.
I had been talking to some parents when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw them. At the far side of the playground from where we were standing, there stood was one of those little kids’ pink plastic playhouses. Except this time the children who were playing with it—on it, to be exact—were anything but little. And then it happened as if in slow-motion; the boy who had been laughing while jumping on the roof suddenly disappeared and could be heard in tears as he crashed through. His mom rushed over and though he was somewhat stuck in the house for a minute, he was ok—more frightened than anything. He hadn’t expected the roof of the playhouse to fall through.
Betrayal is what happens when the trust in a relationship falls through. There are times it happens unexpectedly, and there are times when everybody else can see it coming. But no matter if you’re eight, twenty-eight, or eighty-eight, being betrayed by someone you’ve trusted is a difficult hurdle to encounter. It can leave you stuck for months and even years right where it happened, as you mull it over in your mind a million different ways. You want to rise up to defend your rights, or you fight hard to get even, or you stew in silence while licking your wounds. But the pain is real. And you struggle with what to do.
Judas Iscariot, who had spent three years with Jesus, took 30 pieces of silver in exchange for betraying his leader. It seems crazy that he would fall for such a trap, as this was the ultimate betrayal of a friend. But Jesus knew this would happen. However, he still offered Judas the bread and cup. He still chose to go to the garden where Judas would hand him over. He did not fight back when he was arrested and taken away. Jesus experienced the same pain, the loneliness, the sinking feeling that we, too, experience when someone stabs us in the back.
And he endured it.
Holy Week cannot be fully understood apart from betrayal, pain, and loss. The truth is, all of us will be betrayed at some point. Sometimes by those closest to us. Sometimes by those with whom we have spent more than three years. Like a fallen playhouse, we can let it can trap us. But we can also look to encounter and trust Jesus in an even deeper, more intimate way in that sacred space. Jesus shows us that while he, the Savior of the world, has indeed experienced it all, he also directs us toward an even greater hope in the midst of it.
On Today's Road: What betrayal have you faced recently? Is this betrayal keeping you prisoner to the past, to the wrong, to the offender? What do you need to do to release that person to God and direct your attention to the hope Christ has for you?