When I was 12 years old I went, by myself, to see the movie “Rosemary’s Baby.” To this day I do not know how I convinced my mother it was a good idea. She knew I loved scary movies and I couldn’t wait to see this one which looked and sounded really good. It was good all right, and it scared me to death. But it wasn’t the [spoiler alert – Wait, you never saw “Rosemary’s Baby”? Go rent it before you read the rest of this] witches or even the devil that scared me. It was the betrayal. I couldn’t shake how awful it was that Rosemary was betrayed by the man she loved and who supposedly loved her. The truth is, I’m still not really over that.
To betray is to expose (one’s country, a group, or a person) to danger by treacherously giving information to an enemy. The husband in this “Rosemary’s Baby” did that all right. He gave his young wife over to the devil in order to further his career.
William Blake once said, “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.” I think that is probably correct. We don’t often trust our enemies. It’s the breaking of the trust that makes betrayal so horrible.
During the last supper Jesus ate with his disciples he told them he knew that one of them was going to betray him. It was shocking news to them. Well, the story doesn’t say they were shocked. They actually seemed more confused than shocked. John 13:22 says, “The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.” Maybe betrayal was so unthinkable that they couldn’t wrap their minds around it.
Who would betray their friend? Who would betray their rabbi? Who would betray their Messiah? One of them was going to betray him?
I think by this time they knew that Jesus was not long for this world. He certainly had been trying to tell them that for some time. But I don’t think the disciples were prepared to hear that one of them would do the betraying.
One of us? Which one? Who, me?
It’s easy to single out Judas as the person who caused this horrible death to happen. But Judas didn’t do it by himself. And I don’t think this was a case of the other disciples being above reproach while Judas was the scoundrel. If he was known to be that bad, why did keep him in charge of the community purse? You need to trust the person in charge of the money. They might have disagreed with him, but they trusted him.
Then Judas turned out to be the one who gave Jesus up to the authorities. Something had gone terribly wrong. This wasn’t how the story was supposed to turn out. Or maybe it was. When hear this story now, over 2000 years later, knowing the ending. They didn’t know how it would end. If they imagined an ending, this wasn’t it.
We are living in the aftermath of this betrayal of the Messiah. We know he was arrested and executed and buried. And we also know that the tomb could not hold him. We know that the resurrection brought new life into the world for all of us. Yet we don’t really know what life in the Kingdom of God will look like. We don’t know exactly what will result in the Kingdom of God here on earth.
We don’t think we would ever betray Jesus, but perhaps we would. Perhaps we do. Perhaps when we think the will of God needs a little push in another direction we decide what we think would be the best thing to happen, what is needed. Perhaps the temptation to succeed in the world the way it is now is a little too attractive. Perhaps even the temptation to secure our survival is a little too attractive.
Maybe we should stop and consider what we are willing to sacrifice for the Kingdom of God. Would we sacrifice financial security? Would we sacrifice honor and reputation? Would we sacrifice our own plans and good intentions? Or would we betray the unknowable plan of God in order to accomplish what seems to us to be the best thing? Can we be trusted to follow?