Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present. -Luke 22:3-6
While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” -Luke 22:47-48
The closest blade renders the deepest cut.
Joke: Why is it that theologians are never, ever lost in the woods, no matter how desolate?
Answer: because all they have to do is express an opinion over the tiniest point of doctrine, and an army of theologians will appear to dispute them.
It was absolutely inevitable that when Jesus began to teach with authority about God and the nature of a faithful life, he would have those who disagreed with him. Some of the disagreements were passionate, based on strongly held personal beliefs. Some of the resistance came from those in power because Jesus threatened their position of privilege.
Arguing over questions of faith is a long-honored tradition within Judaism. It is said that whenever two rabbis are in a room together, there will be three opinions. Debate and dispute are part of the game. You would especially expect resistance and challenge from those who had something to lose. But they are outside the circle; their opposition is not a surprise.
The real pain happens when the betrayal comes from within the inner circle of devotees. These ardent followers who have achieved some status within the group, who have reclined at the same table with Jesus during meals, who have walked alongside Jesus mile after dusty mile, when these dedicated ones become disappointed and discouraged, they fall so much further. As passionately committed as they had been, they become equally passionately hostile when they realize that their expectation and understanding of Jesus was wrong. The closest blade renders the deepest cut.
It happens, doesn’t it? We give our hearts passionately to a cause, a purpose, a lover. We pour in all our energies. Then, if there is a falling out, the fall is spectacular, painful, and often messy. Most of us who have been in Church for a while have seen this happen. A dedicated church member gets hurt, disappointed, feels betrayed. They draw back from involvement in the church; often leaving their home church for a different congregation. The stronger their attachment to the church before the falling out, the harder the fall, the more pain, the more bitter the feelings left in the aftermath. The whole church is damaged; the one who has felt betrayed, and every other member who saw the fall happen and was powerless to do anything to stop it. May God bring healing to every tender soul who has been let down by a fallible church.
I heard about a colleague in ministry who tells people when they join the church that they can EXPECT to be let down once in a while. She tries to vaccinate them against the worst of the pain when their fellow church members and even the pastor turn out to be all too human and fallible. Maybe being forewarned can help mitigate the worst of the damage.
Jesus expected resistance from many angles, especially from the religious leaders, but the deepest cut came from the one who had been closest. Judas, too, came to mourn the decision he had made; only not soon enough to avoid the most grievous of heartbreak.
If you have plans to make prayers today, please include a prayer for those who betrayed you, let you down, deserted you when you needed them most. And don’t forget to add a prayer for yourself, that God might heal your heart for the times when you were the one betraying.
Grace and peace,