by Michael A. Asher
Few words can penetrate the soul as deeply as the word “betrayed.” Simply reading it or hearing it pronounced can instantly trigger certain traumatic circumstances or events of betrayal we have either witnessed or experienced. These thoughts can provoke emotional reactions due to the internal pain which still remains imprinted upon our memory. Very few individuals go through this world without having to endure some form of betrayal in their lifetime. Unfortunately, it is a subject we can all relate to on some level.
The dictionary defines “betray” this way:
1) to help an enemy be a traitor
2) to break faith with or turn against one who trusts
3) to lead astray; deceive, specifically, to seduce and then desert
4) to reveal or disclose secret or confidential information or plans
In all of recorded history, no act of betrayal has been more discussed than that of how Jesus Christ was betrayed by his follower Judas Iscariot. The name of “Judas” has become synonymous with betrayal for all time.
Betrayed by a Close Friend
“Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present” (Luke 22:1-6, NIV).
The absolute worst betrayals are committed by those we deeply love and care for. Jesus came down from Heaven, lowering himself to become human, to save all of mankind. He loves each of us enough to have suffered on the cross and die as the only acceptable sacrifice in our place for the sins we rightly deserve punishment for. He did this out of his great love, so that one day we, too, could live with him in Heaven. Without his sacrifice, none of us would qualify on our own merit for salvation.
For Christians, Good Friday is a crucial day because it celebrates what we believe to be the most momentous weekend in the history of the world. Ever since Jesus died and was raised from the grave, Christians have proclaimed the cross and resurrection of Jesus to be the decisive turning point for all creation. Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised to life on the third day, in full accordance with what God had promised all along in the Scriptures.
The Pain of Betrayal
Reflecting upon the pain Christ endured leading up to and while on the cross, it is easy to think only about the very horrific physical pain he went through. We naturally cringe while imagining the stripes of the whip delivered relentlessly by the Roman soldiers; we wince while picturing the sharp thorns from the crown being forced on his head; we recoil at the thought of the nails being driven into his hands and feet; and we despair at the agony of the slow suffocation Christ had to undergo after being hung on the cross. For Jesus, though, the pain of betrayal by those he loved who quickly abandoned him, the mocking from the crowd he literally was dying for, and the rejection of his love was equally as painful as the obvious physical pain was for all to witness.
“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.’ There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’
“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last” (Luke 23:34-46, NIV).
The Reward After Betrayal
In order for the good news of the gospel to have meaning for us, we first have to understand the bad news of our condition as sinful people who deserve condemnation. The good news of deliverance only makes sense once we see how we are enslaved by our sin nature. It is vitally important to understand and distinguish between the law and the gospel in the Scriptures. We need the law to first show us how hopeless our condition is; then the gospel of Jesus’ grace brings us forgiveness and salvation. Good Friday is “good” because as horrible as that day was, it had to happen for us to receive the joy of Easter.
The wrath of God against sin had to be poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrificial substitute, in order for forgiveness and salvation to be poured out to the nations. Without that horrific day of suffering, sorrow, and shed blood at the cross, God could not be both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in Jesus. Paradoxically, the day that seemed to be the greatest triumph of evil was actually the death blow in God’s gloriously good plan to redeem the world from bondage.
Jesus promised his followers that because he was hated and persecuted by some, we should expect the same kind of treatment (see John 15:18-25). Any betrayal or persecution we face as Christians due to following Jesus should be endured with the recognition that standing for Christ carries a real price, but also comes with a promised reward. Our forgiveness was obtained by the precious blood of our Savior. We should be willing to stand for our Lord as steadfastly as he stood for us, literally sacrificing himself for the sins we committed. The resolve we show in times of persecution is a measure of the faith we claim. Fear not if you ever feel betrayed, hated, or persecuted in this world. You are in good company. The victory has already been won by your Lord.
Michael A. Asher is a financial controller who has nourished a lifelong love of the Bible by sharing God’s Word through creative writing.