Lenten Meditations- Day 7 (for 13th March 2019)
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019. You can read and use this devotion to prepare your sermon during lent.]
Identifying the Betrayer
Select texts: Mark 14:18-21 Judges 16: 4-22 Philemon: 8-16
Introduction: Love is the greatest gift from God through which all emotional relationships exist on earth. Embodying love in all contexts and circumstances of life is a very important responsibility that has been entrusted to us. Jealousy, hatred, immorality, temptations and all other self-centred thoughts try to overshadow and conquer love. When love has the power to overrule all the weaknesses and temptations, it stands victorious. But when material thoughts and self-centeredness go beyond love, it is hard for any relationship to stay strong. Loyalty plays a vital role in every relationship. Masks are torn when true love confronts hypocrisy. But ‘Divine Love’ transcends all earthly emotions. God’s call to every human is to inculcate and express divine love in true discipleship.
1. Emotion’s rule over true Love. Is Judas the only betrayer? Was Judas the only reason for Jesus’ crucifixion? These are the radical questions one has to really understand before identifying the betrayer. Judas was one of the Zealots (Fundamentalists, terrorists or freedom fighters). As anticipated by the Zealots, Jesus wasn’t doing anything to form a rebellion against the Romans in Jerusalem. This could have been one of the reasons for Judas to betray Jesus and in turn, force him to rebel against the powerful establishment.
Judas’ Movie portrays that Judas’ family was kept as hostages by the authorities in order to accomplish the task of killing Jesus. The Gospel of Judas - in contrast to the canonical gospels, which portray Judas as a betrayer who delivered Jesus to the authorities for crucifixion in exchange for money, the Gospel of Judas portrays Judas's actions as done in obedience to instructions given to him by Jesus Himself. It does not claim that the other disciples knew about Jesus’ true teachings. On the contrary, it asserts that they had not learned the true Gospel, which Jesus taught only to Judas Iscariot, the sole follower among the disciples who belonged to the ‘holy generation’.
Judas’s words from His Gospel: Judas to Jesus, “I know who you are and where you have come from. You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo. And I am not worthy to utter the name of the one who has sent you.”These words clarify that Judas had an intimate conversation with Jesus about God and the glorification of God but failed to understand the mystery of it.
That evening, Jesus along with Judas and the other twelve disciples came to the upstairs room where the arrangements had been made to celebrate the Passover meal. There are three main elements in Mark’s story of the Last Supper: They eat the Passover meal together; Jesus speaks of his imminent betrayal; and then Jesus invests the bread and wine with meanings associated with his impending death. We will now discuss the middle element of the three, Jesus’ disclosure that he knows he will be betrayed. While they were eating Jesus says: “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me. . . . It is one of the twelve. . . . For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” (Mark 14: 18–21). Indeed, before the night is over, Jesus will not only have been betrayed by Judas but denied by Peter and abandoned by the rest. Jesus tells his disciples that they will all become deserters. Peter vows that he will not deny Jesus, and Jesus tells him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” Jesus tells three of his disciples (Peter, James, and John) who were in His inner circle, to stay awake while he prays. Three times they fall asleep, and each time they are reprimanded by Jesus. Raymond E. Brown in his Book The Death of the Messiah calls the betrayal of Judas the ultimate negative outcome of all the negative deeds and thoughts of the disciples. The powerlessness of the Jewish authority manipulated the friendship that Judas had with Jesus and killed Him.
Human selfish emotions can destroy any true relationship and end in destruction. This text is an excellent example of this. Judas might not have intended to do wrong or might not have been really interested in the money (30 pieces of silver) but his emotional deeds rewarded him death. In the same way, our intention of emotional acts in wrong ways might lead us to ultimate disaster.
2. ‘Divine Love’ over human failures The other two chosen texts (Judges 16: 4-22 & Philemon 8-16) describe the unfaithfulness and human limitations in spite of being given God’s grace and power as gifts. Samson fails in protecting the secret of his power and betrays the ‘Divine Love’. On the other hand, Paul’s appeal to receive Onesimus as a brother in Christ in spite of his unfaithfulness and dishonesty to his master demonstrates ‘Divine Love’. In these two episodes, God reigns through His ‘Divine Love’ over human failures.
The consequences of betrayal are numerous in every episode but the ‘Divine Love’ of God continues to be loyal, faithful, honest, sincere and unconditional, despite the fact that humans fail in such interventions.
To conclude the discourse, we find that Judas is always portrayed as the only betrayer in the plot of killing Jesus. We fail to identify the series of betrayals in the entire course of Jesus’ discipleship. Not just then, even today in following Jesus, we tend to fall for the same reasons and emotional deeds. Divine love is the only model which we can pursue in the narrow path of true discipleship. Amen.
Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
That we to judge thee have in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected, O most afflicted!
Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.
Author: Johann Heermann (1630); Translator: Robert Bridges (1897)
Loving God, you are the ultimate dependable source for the lost humanity to be faithful and trustworthy and to keep the divine nature in our lives. We have identified the betrayer within ourselves, help, and guide us to be penitent, return to you and be witnesses in this world through our just and righteous deeds. Amen.
Rev. Adrian Deepak
Karnataka Southern Diocese
 Marcus J. Borg & John Dominic Crossan, The Last Week… (P 116).
Raymond E. Brown, The Death of the Messiah Vol-1 (p 141).