After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ They answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus replied, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he’, they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.’ This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken, ‘I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.’ Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’
Who hasn’t been betrayed?Betrayal is one of those circumstances, when we suffer disloyalty from another human being, but the deceit and hurt can lie embedded in our emotions for many years.
This scene of betrayal in John’s Gospel is the most tragic, yet the most powerful in the passion narrative. Here, centre stage are Jesus and Judas, both knowing why they were there, and for Jesus, the path to the cross is looming ever higher. The on lookers, of which they are many, the disciples, the soldiers, police and Pharisees take a back stage, and in the dim light of torches the scene unfolds.
The betrayer and betrayed facing each other.
What about the betrayed? Jesus accepts the betrayal of Judas, knowing that it will bring glory to God, but the betrayal leaves him at a fork in the road, and to progress onwards to the Cross, Jesus needs to forgive Judas and give instructions to the onlookers and especially to Simon Peter ‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me? His acute love for his disciples, and I would include Judas here, is clear as he accepts what is to come, with no arguments or defence.
What about the betrayer? Judas is often portrayed in a bad light, but are all people who betray ruthless people? We are all capable of betrayal, it is part of our humanity, for we are imperfect beings, yet for Judas and I expect for most people, the first act of moving onwards is to accept the consequences of our actions and then to seek forgiveness from the person we have wronged. Did Judas ever feel forgiveness and love from Jesus? I think he did, but Judas’ stumbling block was that he could not forgive himself.
This scenario is as real as any modern day situation, political or relational or even a Shakespearean play, a tragedy, a love story, a story of right and wrong, and story of truth and lies, betrayer and betrayed.
We will at some point all deal with betrayal, the secret is knowing how to love and forgive, then move on in God’s grace.
‘Our job is to Love others, without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy’.
The Rev’d Ruth Dillon is minister at Fleet URC and Beacon Hill , Hindhead URC.Wessex Synod