“After he said these things, Jesus became visibly upset, and then he told them why. “One of you is going to betray me.” The disciples looked around at one another, wondering who on earth he was talking about. One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved dearly, was reclining against him, his head on his shoulder. Peter motioned to him to ask who Jesus might be talking about. So, being the closest, he said, “Master, who?” Jesus said, “The one to whom I give this crust of bread after I’ve dipped it.” Then he dipped the crust and gave it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. As soon as the bread was in his hand, Satan entered him. “What you must do,” said Jesus, “do. Do it and get it over with.”No one around the supper table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas was their treasurer, Jesus was telling him to buy what they needed for the Feast, or that he should give something to the poor. Judas, with the piece of bread, left. It was night.” 

John 13:21-30 The Message (MSG)

There’s a person whose name is shrouded in infamy in nearly every tongue on earth. He didn’t betray a country, nor an army, nor even a town. He did something far worse. He betrayed his own friend. Dante, in his vision of hell, surveys those whose deeds are the vilest and who occupy the most despised places in this realm. At the very bottom of hell, next to Satan himself, painfully fixed not in a sea of fire but of ice is Judas Iscariot, despised even by his fellow occupants. It might be shocking to realize that Judas was hand picked by Jesus to be a disciple. The twelve who accompanied Jesus didn’t simply stumble upon Jesus and get lucky. Jesus went off by himself and prayed fervently all night before selecting the circle of followers who would study with him, witness his great works, and eventually be responsible for carrying on his ministry. Judas was one of those selected by Christ. Jesus obviously trusted Judas, for Judas was the treasurer of that tiny band of disciples. He bought the supplies and paid the bills. However, John states that Judas was a thief and had been embezzling money from the church treasury. Still, it’s shocking that after all he’d witnessed, after all he’d heard, after all he knew about the Master, he would betray him. There are three brief observations we can make about Judas which relate to us on this Good Friday.

First of all, betrayal is always shocking. Anytime betrayal takes place it’s shocking. Few things are more hurtful or shocking then when someone we trust betrays us. Several years ago, a lady wrote a devotional that was published in the Upper Room. It began like this: “When my husband of 32 years left me quite suddenly, I was devastated. As I sat in church the following Sunday and heard the minister read, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…,” I was reminded of the valedictory address which I had delivered years before. I had quoted those same words. They’d been good advice in numerous situations over the years. Forgetting isn’t easy, but as I prayed to God for direction in the `forgetting and reaching out’ process, I discovered delightful new paths. As a result of volunteering in a nursing home, I became the activities director and received certification by attending night classes. I’ve found a huge new family and its attendant joys. Now, six years later, I thank God for restoring the joy in my life by giving me the courage to forget and reach out.” Here’s a lady who didn’t allow a betrayal to destroy her. But it still hurt. It’s always shocking to be betrayed by a friend, a spouse or anyone close. It’s one thing to be betrayed by someone we trust. But what about when we betray others who trust us? How much worse is it when we betray Jesus? 

Second, it’s overwhelming when we recognize that we’ve betrayed Jesus. It wasn’t just any friend that Judas betrayed. Throughout history, friends have betrayed friends, but their names aren’t like Judas’. Judas didn’t simply betray a friend. He betrayed Christ. Haven’t we all? Evangelist Bailey Smith tells a story about a man who happened to be a carpenter at the time of Christ’s crucifixion. One day, his wife mentioned that the Roman government was advertising for carpenters to make a bid on crosses used for execution. They could sure use the extra money, she reminded him. The carpenter was reluctant to sell his skill to perpetuate such cruelty, but she pressed her point using the arguments we’ve all used. “We can use the money,” she said and “Besides, if you don’t, somebody else will.”

Sometime later in that same house, a little boy was crying. 
“Son, what’s wrong?” his parents asked. 

“I was at the market,” said the boy, “and coming down the street I saw a big crowd. I went over there, and I saw Jesus.” His father asked, “Do you mean the Jesus that we’ve loved? The Jesus that we’ve always thought was a good man, and taught good things?” 

“Yes, sir! That’s the man!” the boy replied. “I saw Jesus, and, Daddy, He was carrying our Cross, a Cross that we made right here in our shop! We made the Cross that Jesus was carrying! They’re going to kill Jesus on the Cross we made!”

“No, Son.” said his father. “You know that there are other people who’ve made crosses. That was not our Cross.” 

“Oh, Daddy, it is our Cross!” the boy cried. “The Cross that we made right here in our shop!”         “Son! Son, calm down,” said his father. “Son, how do you know?” 

The boy replied somberly, “Daddy, do you remember when that man came by and wanted you to build cabinets?” 

“Yes, Son, I remember.” said his father. 

“Do you remember when you and that man started talking in the living room?” asked the boy. 

“Yes, Son.”

“Daddy, I went out into the shop where we had left that cross we’d just finished. I looked at the pretty Cross that we’d made, and, Daddy, I did what so many famous people do, I put my name on that cross. Daddy, as I was in that great crowd of people today, I saw Jesus coming by. Just when Jesus got even with me, He fell, and that Cross we’d made crushed His shoulders. Daddy, I know it was our Cross because when Jesus fell right at my feet, I looked on that Cross, and there was my name! There was my name that I’d put there!” The boy straightened himself up and said, “Daddy, do you understand what I am saying? My name was on that Cross!” Bailey Smith goes on to remind us that our name is on that cross, too. Jesus’ death was brought about by our betrayal. That’s what sin is. It’s the betrayal of a sacred trust that God has invested in each of us. Even though we may have betrayed Jesus, there is still hope for us. 

Third and finally, there’s hope for us Judas’ in this world. If somewhere in your life there’s a betrayal, there’s still hope. Judas didn’t understand that. He went and hanged himself. How tragic! If the grace of Jesus Christ means anything, it means that we who are betrayers can come to the cross, and have that terrible weight of our crime taken from us. If on the other hand, we’re among those who have been betrayed, there’s hope for us as well. At the cross, we can find relief from our bitterness and hurt. Forgiveness is what Jesus is all about, and he offers to us the deliverance of a forgiving heart that we might also forgive. If only the original Judas had known that. There’s a legend about the very last day on earth. In heaven, on this final day, everyone’s joyfully celebrating: singing, dancing, and embracing their loved ones. Everyone’s celebrating except Jesus, who’s standing sadly at the gates of heaven, looking down and beyond. He’s asked why he’s not joining in the festivities and joy all around him. Jesus answers, “I’m waiting for Judas.” Judas, of course, never joined the party. He let his betrayal become an unconquerable obstacle between himself and the Master. It didn’t have to be that way. There’s hope for the betrayer and the betrayed even for those of us who have betrayed Christ. There’s hope for the Judas’ of this world as well as for those who simply wave Palm Branches on Sunday and sell their souls to Mammon the rest of the week. It’s the Good News of the Gospel that the debt for betrayal has been paid. It’s just a legend that Jesus is still waiting for Judas. But is he still waiting for us? His grace, his forgiveness, his saving love is still available for Judas. And you know what? It’s also still available for us. You see, we’re no different than Judas. All of us have betrayed Jesus in many ways. But there’s hope for all us Judas’ in this world. And that hope is that there is forgiveness available to us through Christ.

Heavenly Father, forgive us for the many ways we have betrayed your Son through the things we have said and done. We thank you that Jesus died for us and that forgiveness is available to us through His death on Calvary. Please forgive in the name of Jesus who gave his life for us so that we might live with Him. Amen.

Questions for Reflection

1. What are some of the ways in which we betray Jesus today?
2. Why is there hope for us who have betrayed Jesus?
3. How does Jesus make this hope possible?