Blogging through Holy Week [4] – Betrayed

Shortish post today (and skipping out the rather important institution of the Lord’s Supper, but I’ll hope I’ll be forgiven that! I’m also one post behind…)

Did Judas need to betray Jesus? We hear of the betrayal in Matthew 26: 47-56. As Jesus Himself said “Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me”. The ‘authorities’ could have seized Jesus at any time, it didn’t need to be in secret in the garden, and they probably didn’t need someone to betray His location. Jesus is not in hiding, he is being quite open, and indeed by now His eyes are fixed firmly on the cross.

So was Judas’s betrayal of Jesus necessary? Almost certainly not. So there must be some significance to the fact that Jesus was betrayed, and not just arrested. I guess for me the chief lesson of this part of the Passion story is that you can be very close to the Lord and still be very vulnerable to the influence of evil. Judas was both physically close to Jesus, and was one of the trusted twelve. The lesson for us now must be that even those “close to the Lord”: ministers of religion, those committed to the faith, those dedicated to Christian service; all these are just as vulnerable to the influence of evil (Satan). And that can lead us to betray our Lord: if not necessarily in words then certainly in actions.

There seems to be some debate over whether Judas had any freedom in his actions – was this all part of God’s plan, or did Judas choose to betray Christ, who would probably have been arrested anyway? Hmm, not sure, but generally I would plump for free will over any notion of rigid predestination. In fact there seems to be a huge amount of debate over the authenticity of Judas’s part in the story at all – this story is missing from the “Q” source, believed to be an early document drawn on by the three synoptic Gospels. (All this debate about authenticity aside, this story of Scripture can still speak to us today)

A final point I would make is that Judas is not the only one of Jesus’ disciples who betrays or abandons him, although he appears to be the only one who betrays him to his death. In the Garden of Gethsemane Peter, James and John fall asleep despite Jesus asking them to stay awake with him for just one hour. In this moment of His deepest desperation his friends nod off! Then, of course, Peter’s denial of Jesus three times, even while Jesus is being interrogated by the High Priests. We should probably understand Peter “swearing an oath” as he denied Jesus for the third time as denying Jesus using 4 letter words. I think it is a great comfort to anyone involved in church leadership now to be reminded just how flawed and human Peter, the very first church leader, really was.

Jesus: betrayed, abandoned and denied by his friends and followers; in captivity, interrogated and probably tortured. This is all leading somewhere.

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