Betrayal – can there be a more isolating feeling? We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Someone you trusted rejects you. For some of us, it is still painful to remember. That friend who didn’t defend me when the bullying began. That partner who left me for someone else. That parent who left the family home to start another family.
As we each take on the magnitude of those feelings, let us consider our Lord for one moment, whom I would suggest knew that he would be betrayed. And perhaps what makes this even more remarkable is that Jesus spent so much time before his betrayal in the company of his betrayer, Judas. He discipled him, cared for him, and loved him selflessly, even while knowing what Judas would do.
When I consider my own actions and feelings towards those that have betrayed me, I sadly cannot claim to have acted in such a noble manner. I think of a former close friend of mine, who treated me in such a disdainful way some years ago. This individual attempted to slander my name, and the absolute best response I could muster was to simply cut them out, to not respond, to ignore them and trust that in the midst of the mess, God would bring it all out in the proverbial wash. Fortunately, we were later reconciled in God’s good timing – but cutting this person out was the absolute best I could stump up in terms of a “godly response.” And yet Jesus didn’t ignore Judas; he didn’t cut him out, he did the opposite. He loved him – even in spite of the betrayal that he knew Judas would perpetrate.
Knowing the pain of betrayal first hand, I wonder how much of my energy is spent distancing myself from being too open with others. The fear of betrayal inhibits vulnerability and stifles the ability to trust others, and it follows that creativity and joy are inevitably diminished. If Jesus could trust and love, and diminish himself, even for those that he knew would betray him (me included), I wonder if I can do likewise? It is a challenging goal to open my life, my emotions, my good bits and my bad ones too (even to those who possibly could use such information against me) in the hope that an unforeseen beauty can emerge.
I think of our Lord who repeatedly offers his hand to humanity only to have it cruelly slapped by the ones that he loves.
Yet when I think of Christ, standing in the garden, among the trees looking at the man he had fed, and taught, and cared for, I can’t help but feel that at that moment Jesus must have felt utter heartbreak and despair. Even having known that it was coming since the dawn of creation. I think of our Lord who repeatedly offers his hand to humanity only to have it cruelly slapped by the ones that he loves. Of course, Judas’ betrayal is humanity’s betrayal, and perhaps most profoundly it is…my betrayal. For how often I slap the hand away that holds existence itself together, the same hands that crafted this universe outstretched towards me in openness and warmth and tenderness.
The maker of all things – standing alone, numbed by the pain of a broken heart, betrayed, rejected, and scorned, still making himself vulnerable, still pouring himself out – what a curious and disturbing thought this is. That Jesus gave everything, leaving himself vulnerable to a betrayal that he already knew would come. Such a wondrous act leaves me reflecting on a hymn written by the Anglican vicar and part-time theologian WM Vanstone. He speaks of the vulnerability of Christ’s love, and his openness to betrayal, way better than I ever could:
Love that gives, gives ever more,
gives with zeal, with eager hands,
spares not, keeps not, all outpours,
ventures all its all expends.
True love, a love that holds nothing back, must always leave itself open to betrayal. So perhaps the question is, am I ready to love in this way while knowing that to do so will leave me risking broken loyalties and friendships? Our Lord deemed the pain of betrayal worth the rewards of a restored relationship to fallen humanity. Today let us be grateful to Him for His vulnerability, and let us learn to live and love as Christ did, even if to do so leaves us vulnerable to the pain of betrayal.
During the weeks of Lent, St. Peter’s writers are reflecting on the Stations of the Cross. These fourteen moments from the last days of Jesus’ life offer us an opportunity to consider where we would have been in this story – in the crowd? Waiting in the courtyard? At the foot of the Cross? It’s our prayer that you will find these posts meaningful food for thought over the next few weeks.