“The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.”
“It’s funny how sometimes the people you’d take a bullet for are the ones behind the trigger.”
There are numerous examples of betrayal. Historically, you have Benedict Arnold during the American Revolution and Brutus, who helped assassinate Julius Caesar. In literature and movies, you have Saruman the White in The Lord of the Rings and Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter series. In the Old Testament, Absalom at the gate steals the hearts of Israel away from his father, King David (2 Samuel 15:1-16). But the most famous example of all is Judas who betrayed Jesus with a kiss of death (Mark 14:43-52).
Shortly after the last supper, Jesus took his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42). Jesus prayed while the disciples slept. Consequently, Jesus was prepared for the trial that was to follow while the disciples were unprepared. How we respond to trials depends in large part on how much we prayed beforehand.
Judas came with a crowd to arrest Jesus (43-46). He knew the place and the person. All of the gospel writers identify him as “one of the twelve.” Rather than introducing a previously unknown character to the story, I think the statement is made with a note of incredulity. Rather than coming with an unruly mob of rabble, the crowd was made up of religious leaders, Temple police (Luke 22:52), and Roman soldiers (John 18:3). It was a collection of armed and trained individuals.
Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Since it was after midnight and would have been difficult to identify Jesus among the crowds, this was the agreed upon signal. The word used for “kiss” indicates it was a fervent kiss, the kind you would give to someone you loved and respected. An act of betrayal can sometimes be official, sometimes be very personal, and sometimes, it can be both.
Peter responds to the trial by lashing out and attacking one close to him (47). In the heat of the moment, he cuts off the ear of the servant of the high priest. An inappropriate response to trials can often injure those closest to us.
In contrast, Jesus submitted to God’s plan (48-49). Jesus points out that the religious leaders are acting cowardly by arresting him in the dark when they could have done it while he was teaching in the temple. Jesus allows them to do their work and does not resist. There would not be an angelic SWAT team swooping in to rescue him (Matthew 26:53). Instead of retaliation, Jesus serves by healing Malchus and restoring his ear (Luke 22:51).
Previously, all the disciples affirmed their willingness to die for Jesus. Now, they are unwilling to die with Jesus. They flee in haste, including one young man who ran so fast he left his clothes behind (50-52). It symbolizes the fact that Jesus was completely alone as he faced his greatest trial.
While I have not been betrayed to death, I have experienced my own Absalom at the gate turning the hearts of people against me. While I chose not to air the dirty laundry, the person wrote a letter excoriating me publicly for every perceived fault I had committed. I felt angry, hurt, disappointed, and lost when I was thrown under the bus. It was a dark night of the soul. Rather than retaliate, I walked away. Today, when I think of the individual, I pray for God’s blessing on their life.
How will you respond when your hour of trial comes? When you lash out? Will you run away? Will you submit to God’s plan?
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 3, 2016. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.