The Fruit of Betrayal

When He had finished praying, Jesus left with His disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley.  On the other side there was an olive grove, and He and His disciples went into it.

Now Judas, who betrayed Him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with His disciples.  So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees.  They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.  John 18:1-3.

What does one do with this kind of situation?

Jesus prays in the upper room then heads out to the olive grove to pray some more.  John doesn’t record His struggle to deal with the ordeal headed His way as much in the garden as he does the trial and resurrection.  His gospel was written long after most of the others so I think he left out details they covered to focus on some of his own personal insights and experiences.  One thing is pretty certain to me about John, he still hurt deeply for his Master and felt the betrayal of Judas keenly in his old age.  It’s not that I think he still resented Judas but I doubt if there was any give in him—no sympathy for sure.

The Master must have had habits during the Passover or when in Jerusalem which a person who knew Him well could count on, for Judas knew the very spot to take the soldiers.  His betrayal of Jesus was working itself out at this point, taking on momentum and coming to a head.  As I sit here thinking about the story, I keep wondering why Judas did it.  It doesn’t make sense that a disciple so close to the center would turn traitor on somebody like Jesus, who’s very presence spoke of power.

What reasoning would someone have to turn traitor on a healer, miracle worker and teacher of Jesus’ stature?  Jealousy?  How could that be it when Judas performed miracles himself in the name of Jesus?  Envy?  Anger?  Resentment?  What could drive a man to betray innocence for a few pieces of silver—the price of a slave in the market of the day?  Did Jesus do anything to warrant such a response from one of His twelve?  He rebuked Judas over the woman’s gift of perfume, but would that cause a man to go to such lengths to get even?  May be.  We don’t live in a revenge society or one which values public face in the same way as they did in Christ’s day.  In those days a man could kill another for a public insult and sometimes get off with a slap on the wrist if it was proven in his favor.

I’ve heard sermon after sermon trying to come to grips with Judas’ motives, intentions and reasoning.  Since we don’t have a note left by the man himself, I guess we’ll never know for sure.  John does record, however, Judas stole from the community money pouch (of which he was treasurer oddly enough) and lied enough to be called a liar—a name which signifies a habit.  Perhaps Judas didn’t arrive at betrayal all at once, instead he slowly went there by increments and baby steps.  Later when he threw the silver at the high priests feet, we know he felt remorse and chagrined at the outcome of his actions.  Why?  Didn’t the situation turn out like he planned?

Judas’ mistake was no different than the other disciples (or our own for that matter) when it came to understanding either the mission of Christ or what His future held.  All the disciples were filled with angst every time Jesus even mentioned His death and torture, to the point that Peter rebuked Him openly about it.  They weren’t listening or weren’t willing to grasp the truth of what had to happen.  If none of the other disciples understood what the chief priests and elders had in mind for Jesus, it’s hardly surprising that Judas didn’t either, since he was one of the twelve.  Which means Judas probably didn’t realize he was betraying Jesus to his death nor did he suspect the outcome to go so violent.  His reaction to the high priest’s callous retort tells us of remorse gone bad.  He couldn’t face himself and so took a way out of living with what he had done.

I think this more than any other piece of information rules out hate on the part of Judas.  I also don’t think the betrayal was about money really because Judas threw it back as if it were tainted.  Judas hadn’t intended or expected (if his reaction is any indicator at all) his Master to hang on a cross or be handed over the Romans to be beaten and executed or he wouldn’t have given Him over.

What do my actions of betrayal say?  What do yours?  Actions don’t always speak to motivations so it’s hard for us to pinpoint the reasoning which inspires such choices.  I can however make a pretty bold statement about the general motives for sin:  we get some kind of gratification out of it in the short run.  It’s either this or we’re insane—the latter is possible but the former more likely.

Pride of place, superiority, image control, love of public esteem, and host of other strokes for our egos may seem harmless enough, but when they betray the foundation of who we represent, we sin, become a Judas, Peter, or at best one of the twelve who ran away.  Jesus predicted His disciples would all betray Him when the soldiers came, during the trial and at the cross, none of them believed it of themselves.  I watch people a lot, observe their attitudes and notice the high opinions many of us have about our own worthiness (sometimes despite our claims to the contrary—or perhaps because of them), fortitude or loyalty.  It scares me quite a bit when I hear someone claim they will not fall away when tempted or threatened.  Self-preservation being what it is, I don’t see many people who can stand through the fire without panic—or at least being terrified.

The fire of resistance is the best meter for finding one’s true self.  Those mountaintop experiences might help us absorb what we’ve learned but they don’t teach us as much as relationships do.  Judas found out who he was and it horrified him.  His action of choice, however, was to commit suicide instead of change.  The other eleven betrayed Jesus in various ways too, but after they saw themselves in the mirror of the cross, they chose to change.

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2 Responses to “The Fruit of Betrayal”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    For some people, coming to terms with their own failures is too much to handle. So we have those who never step up to do anything ever and life passes them by. Then we have those who deny their failures and point fingers, living their lives as victims. Then we have Judas who can’t face the failure and check out rather than deal with the issues at hand. Good post. It makes you think about where you are at in your life and where you need to be.

  2. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    The steps to any ending of life are incremental and rarely a giant leap. A decision we make over and over will affect how we behave because it affects how we habitually think.

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