Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lenten Vespers in the Week of Invocabit


“The Wound of Betrayal”

Matthew 26:20-25

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

You always hurt the ones you love. But, why is that? Is it not because that in your day to day lives, at work, at school, out in the world, where you interact with so many people all the time, you put up walls and barriers to protect yourself from emotional hurt and harm, not letting people get too close, so that you are not vulnerable? For, the thing about love is that it is open and selfless and sacrificial. Love is naked, with nothing to hide. By definition, when you love somebody, you open yourself up and make yourself vulnerable. And, those you love, when they love you in return, make themselves vulnerable. Thus, you are able to hurt the ones you love, and likewise, they are able to hurt you.

Betrayal is a particular way in which you hurt those you love. To betray means “to deliver over into the hands of an enemy”, or “to be false or disloyal to”, or “to commit treason against”. To betray comes from the Latin word tradére which means “to hand over”. Interestingly, from that same Latin root we get the words betrayal, which is a negative kind of “handing over” and tradition, which is a positive kind of “handing over”. In order to betray someone, however, first you must have their trust, which means that they have lowered their defenses and made themselves vulnerable to you, which means they love you.

Just think for a moment of the great betrayals of history and of literature. Brutus, flesh and blood to Julius Caesar, plotted and carried out his Uncle’s assassination. Realizing the depth of his betrayal, Caesar famously asked of his nephew, “Et tu Brute?” And then there was Benedict Arnold who fought valiantly in the American Revolution as a soldier and general only to then betray his country to the British by plotting to deliver over the American Fort at West Point. The plot failed and Arnold fled to Britain where he was not welcomed with open arms as even the British would not receive a man who so readily betrayed his country. But, arguably the most famous traitor of all was Judas Iscariot who betrayed his friend, teacher, master, and Lord Jesus unto the hands of His enemies for thirty pieces of silver.

That Thursday evening in the upper room was an intimate gathering. Jesus and His twelve disciples – the men whom He had personally called and chosen to follow Him, to hear the secrets of the mysteries of the kingdom, to witness His miraculous works of feeding, healing, and even resurrection of the dead, and to behold Him transfigured in glory with Moses and Elijah – Jesus and His disciples gathered to eat the Passover meal. They were as close as a family, each of them having left their families and livelihoods to follow Jesus. Jesus knew each one of them personally; He loved them and they loved Him. And, when Jesus said that one of them would betray Him, they were cut to the heart and filled with sorrow and, one by one, they did not deny, but they each asked, “Is it I, Lord?”

Each of the disciples knew that they were capable of betrayal. I hope that you can confess that you are capable of betrayal as well. You have been betrayed by loved ones, particularly when your love for them was not returned. And, surely you have betrayed someone who loves you, perhaps by divulging a secret they confided in you, by not defending them when someone spoke poorly of them, by lying to them, or by using their trust in you against them. And, have you betrayed Jesus? Have you betrayed Him for the sake of friendship, reputation, or the admiration of others? Have you delivered Him over to enemies by denying Him, like Peter, in the face of opposition to or accusation of your faith in Him? Have you sold Him out, like Judas, for material wealth, influence, or power? You have. We all have.

But, take heart and be comforted, for, though Jesus knew the hand of His betrayer, He did not act out in bitterness and call Him out, but rather He said, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me.” When Judas asked Jesus, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” Even in betrayal, Jesus loved Judas, and He would go to the cross and suffer death for him. Yes, Jesus died for Judas too, as much as for Peter and the other disciples, and for you, for me, and for all the world! Jesus knew that He had to suffer and die and on the third day rise again. Jesus knew that He would be, and that He had to be, betrayed into the hands of sinful men. For all men are traitors who hand over Jesus to the Enemy, for all men are flesh of Adam’s flesh who betrayed his own flesh and His God.

And, still Jesus eats and drinks with sinners and traitors, but now He has washed you in His innocent shed blood and clothed you in His righteousness. He invites you to eat His flesh and to drink His blood for the forgiveness of your sins, the strengthening of your faith, and for Holy Communion in His life and blessings. And, through these means, you know His love, so that, when you are betrayed by those you love, you may continue to love them and forgive them as you have been loved and forgiven by your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And, in so doing, you take up your cross and follow Him in the way that leads to everlasting life.

After betraying Jesus, Judas was contrite and sorrowful for what he had done. Though he returned the blood money, he could not find relief from the guilt that pressed upon him. Jesus said that, for the man who betrayed Him, “it would have been better for that that man if he had not been born.” Jesus said this, not to curse Judas, but out of love and pity for him, for He knew that Judas would despair of his sin but that he would not look to Jesus in faith for forgiveness. And, though forgiveness was there for Judas, though Jesus died for Judas and was and is his forgiveness, Judas could not see it, feel it, or believe it. In his hopelessness and despair, he took his own life, believing it better to be dead than to suffer under the burden of his guilt. Indeed, it would have been better for that man if he had not been born.

You always hurt the ones you love. Jesus so loved you that He died for all the hurts and the betrayals you inflict upon Him and all those that you inflict upon those you love. Though you will at times betray, walk away from, and deny Jesus, He will never leave or forsake you, and nothing can separate you from God’s love which is in Jesus Christ. Though you may betray Him with a Judas’ kiss, He will continue to call you to Himself that He might embrace you with His love and forgiveness and cleanse your guilt and shame once more, lifting you out of deathly despair and hopelessness into His eternal life.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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