How often have you been betrayed at work? Before you answer that, you might be surprised to know that betrayal itself is quite hard to define or describe. It is perhaps easier to feel than to frame and on that there is general agreement that it feels horrible.
I think I would describe two or three experiences as a betrayal in my own life and in those cases it was the surprise that contributed to the pain.
Some argue that a very high percentage of betrayal is accidental and you could be forgiven for wondering if such acts are betrayal at all.
It seems to me that there needs to be a few features of an action which constitute a real betrayal. Here are my suggestions.
First, a betrayal generally comes from someone you first considered as with you, a friend, a co-worker, a team-member. In this respect, even if you are not close friends you are close enough to share values and beliefs.
Second, at some point you realize that this “friend” has done something or said something which you consider to be wrong in relation to you.
Third, you get the sense that this act has damaged you, your reputation or your well-being.
Perhaps you can see that, as I attempt to pin it down, it’s not so easy to capture its meaning. Is it necessarily deliberate? What size of action qualifies for betrayal? Is it one or many acts?
There is a name in history which has become synonymous with treachery. So agreed are we that he was a traitor that someone who betrays can be given his name “a Judas“.
Central to our learning, however, is not Judas’ story (although it is important see editions 328 – 332). You are looking at how the Son of Man kept his soul in shape in the face of treachery. When you look, some remarkable reactions stand out.
It is difficult to know when Jesus knew Judas was going to betray him but it was certainly well in advance of the act itself. Yet Jesus retained Judas in his team, taught him along with the others, defended his whole team against criticisms and remained gracious toward Judas.
Could you do that to someone who you knew would betray you? Jesus washed Judas’ feet at the Last Supper; he gave him kindness to the end. Judas was one of the twelve men in Jesus’ inner circle.
Perhaps it tells you that Jesus believed a person was innocent until proven guilty. Perhaps it tells you that the Son of Man knew betrayal reaps its own rewards but it definitely tells you that Judas’ betrayal was not going to force the Son of Man into bitterness, petty anger or resentment. He kept his gracious shape.
Second, as he did with the sleepers, he warned constantly about the danger of betrayal, “Let your yes be yes, your no be no” is one powerful example.
He also warned specifically at the Last Supper that the betrayal was coming, and coming from a friend. Yet again, no bitterness.
Third, Jesus stayed faithful to his friends while one of them was betraying him. In summary his soul would not be bent out of shape by the actions of a traitor.
Lastly, I’m going to speculate a little. It is clear that Judas’ betrayal was harnessed to some of the purposes of God. Some have been troubled as to whether because Judas was predicted to betray he had really no choice. This is to miss a point. The enemies of the Son of Man would have found a way to arrest him with or without Judas. Yet Jesus saw that Judas’ betrayal was a way to the cross.
So I speculate, does God harness betrayal for his purposes and your good? I can certainly testify that each betrayal I experienced was harnessed to put me on a better path – horrible though the betrayals were.
The Son of Man refused to be bent even as he was broken, was Judas excluded from the first prayer from the cross?
In history both the betrayed and those who benefit from the betrayal tend to despise the traitor. I don’t follow the Son of Man who despises anyone, even me, he, in fact, was the despised one, but he never betrayed his authenticity, not for one second, even as his one-time friend kissed his cheek.
“I am” said the Son of Man “with you always”. That’s the difference between betrayal and loyalty.
47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
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