Through history there are a few figures who have come to symbolize the term "betrayal". In Rome, there was Brutus. When Julius Caesar realized Brutus was involved in the assassination plot against him, it resigned him to his fate: Et tu, Brute? Brutus was manipulated to join the plot by his wife and by reading messages that were forged by Caeser's political enemies.
The most famous American incident of betrayal was Benedict Arnold plotting to turn over the fort at West Point to the British during the Revolutionary War. Arnold was a decorated general who had been a war hero, but he felt slighted that he had not been promoted where others had been. Although history recounts there were several men named "Benedict Arnold" with high offices in colonial New England, nobody names their sons "Benedict" anymore. Moreover, although the heroics of Arnold, Gates, Schuyler and Morgan at the Battle of Saratoga are immortalized with granite monuments, there is no mention of the name of Arnold.
The most bittersweet example of betrayal takes place in this passage. Unlike the others, this betrayal was foretold centuries before. Jesus understood that and had even told the group that one of them would betray Him.
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Jesus understood that He could not stop what had been prophesied. He even told Judas, "What you do, do quickly." John 13:27 Jesus even mentions in this passage that He could have brought a halt to all of this when He told Peter that He could have called the angels to His side.
Check out how Judas fingered Jesus. Why was this necessary? The soldiers with the arrest warrant knew who Jesus was -- everybody did. If there was a formal need for an identification, why not just stand at a distance and point? Why did Judas approach Jesus, call him "Rabbi" and kiss him on the cheek?
Satan had entered into Judas by this time and what better way for Satan to twist the knife in Jesus' back than to pervert one of the most intimate expressions of fellowship? We don't greet people with a kiss now (unless you're in Europe), but several times in his writings, Paul urged his readers to greet the brethren with a "holy kiss." (Romans 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26). Therefore, Judas approaches Jesus, in the presence of some of the other disciples after missing the Passover meal, and greets him with the symbol of fellowship. We all know what happened after that.
We've all been betrayed. For some of us, it's our hairline or our stamina that's betrayed us over the years. Others have been betrayed by business partners or friends that have turned against us. Some have even felt the sting of a spouse that has turned away for another. We all know the flood of emotion that accompanies betrayal. Why!!???!!??? That has to be the most common complaint or question followed closely by an intense desire for revenge.
What struck me the most in this passage was Jesus' response to His betrayal. There's no flood of emotion. Jesus wasn't a Vulcan. He had every emotion we did. He cried. He laughed. Well, there were 2 emotions I can think of that he didn't have: guilt and shame. He didn't want to tear Judas limb from limb. Instead, when Judas came forward to kiss Him, He simply called Judas "Friend."
A component to betrayal is that the person putting the knife in your back is someone you have a relationship with. If one of your enemies sticks it to you, that's expected. It still gets your goat, but it doesn't leave you with the intense pain of someone that's close to you. Jesus had selected 12 and Satan selected 1 of the 12. I'm not saying that when a friend, partner or mate throws you under the bus that you have to continue in relationship with them. But look what Jesus did. He called Judas, "Friend."
The lesson I see here is that we can't control what other people do. Some will stand by us forever. Some will say they'll stand by us forever, but when things get tough, they won't know who we are (Peter, but that's another lesson entirely). Some will stab us in the back. We can control how we respond to betrayal.
We can respond with bitterness and anger. That's natural. Jesus wouldn't do that and explicitly told Peter to cease with the anger when Peter struck Malchus the guard. What do we get when we react with bitterness and anger? We get a stomach ache. Like I say, it's natural to respond to this type of betrayal -- especially that of a spouse -- with bitterness and anger. But there's a time to let that go and move on. Imagine what would have happened if Jesus had gone before Ananias, Caiphus and Pilate with bitterness and rage at what Judas had done to Him? Imagine how different the world would be if Peter, James and John had stayed locked up in the room burning with rage at how Judas had ruined everything? If there's to be bitterness, let it be only for a short season.
We can also respond with a desire for revenge. Jesus told Judas that he wouldn't have a good end, but that wasn't a vengeful statement so much as a warning from Old Testament prophecy. However, we know that God reserves revenge and justice to Himself. We are not to seek vengeance on those who have betrayed us. It's OK to be honest with God and tell Him what we'd like to see happen to them, but we've got to leave it to Him.
Why must we avoid these type of human reactions? You can't walk in love if you're holding on to anger and revenge. I think sometimes we forget that the Law of Love supercedes everything else. Remember, after betrayal, you've still got a life. Will it be a life of love that works as a testament to the grace and power of Jesus or will it be a life corroded by the acid of anger flowing through your veins that becomes an example of "what could have been....." That's all your choice. Be defined by God's Love rather than by someone else's treachery.