I wonder how you react when you feel betrayed?
Maybe there is the first realisation when the penny drops about a betrayal and physical reactions occur; a queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach; a sharp stab akin to a sword piercing your own heart or maybe a rising blush of redness giving away embarrassment. After that first involuntary reaction you have more of a chance to shape your response.
- Do you shrug your shoulders and write the betrayal off to experience?
- Do you retaliate immediately and enter into a counter accusation?
- Do you wait, bide your time and then take revenge?
The gospels show various ways of reacting to such an event and there are three betrayals in this short passage - Jesus, Judas and the disciples. This gospel from John may seem very familiar, and that it because it was the gospel set for Maundy Thursday. We encountered the scene of the last supper and Jesus’s words in the intensity of the last few days of Holy Week. Judas getting up from the table was the moment of no return, he headed to the priests to sell his Lord - to betray Jesus. John tells us this actually is the moment Jesus and God are glorified. Unlike the other gospels there is no temporal separation for John between betrayal and glory. This is the moment that both occur.
Thinking about those betrayals I referred to in turn…
Firstly, Jesus - probably the most obvious betrayal. Jesus knew what Judas has left to do and that his arrest, trial and death would follow. Jesus’s reactions are to calmly point to God as taking the glory. There is no blame, no hint of anger in this passage and no threats of revenge….no, ’just wait until my Father sorts this out’ certainty does not pass his lips.
His response - love
Then there is Judas - I think Judas felt betrayed too. He had such high hopes for Jesus: just five short days before he had been part of a triumphal entry and excited return to Jerusalem. Jesus was coming to rescue his people from the oppression of the Romans, this was the King they had all been waiting for. Instead, it has all started to go very wrong, because Jesus isn’t taking that line at all - and Judas’s ideals have been betrayed. His response….to put an end to his embarrassment and disappointment and get rid of Jesus.
Jesus’s response - love
Finally, the disciples
Like Judas they expected something wonderful - all those miracles that had seen over the years they had been with him. Their response to Jesus’s betrayal of their expectation and loyalty, not here but later, and it is to disperse, to hide, to deny. To stop believing.
Jesus’s response - a command to love and of course he returns to find them
This gospel falls shortly before Pentecost, and serves to remind me that we are people of the resurrection, but the singular mark of that resurrected life in me has to be love.
When faced with betrayal, we must love and that is very much an intentional act.
- If you think of a time when you felt betrayed, I wonder how did you react then?
- In the light of today’s gospel, from a place of love, how might you have reacted differently and how can that inform your future responses?