Standing on the Edge of Betrayal

Just about everyone is familiar with the “opening act” of the Passion story – Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, but Mark 14:10 gives us an unusual glimpse of that moment when Judas actually decides to betray Jesus.  The first word is key – Then. The sequence of events that precede it set the scene for the moment of decision.

Jesus was dining at the home of Simon, and a woman (John names her as Mary, sister of Lazarus in his account of the story) cracks open the seal of an alabaster jar containing an exquisite and fragrant perfume and pours it out over the head of Jesus. Some are outraged, thinking this to be wastefully extravagant – again Mark differs by referring to “some” objecting while John specifically names Judas as the one to object to this woman’s actions, citing the value of the perfume equal to one year’s wages and how that could be better used to serve the poor. Jesus goes on a bit of a rant telling them to leave the woman alone, and he praises her for the beautiful, worshipful act, saying the poor will always be with them while he will not, and predicts this anointing for burial will long be remembered.

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests to arrange to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted when they heard why he had come, and they promised to give him money. So he began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

What was it about what Jesus said in verses 6-9 that made Judas so indignant and triggered him, in that moment, to decide to betray him?  I can almost hear him saying “That’s it!” “I’m done here!”  “I’m outta here!”  Have you ever reacted that way when someone’s gotten on your last nerve?

We know from John 12 that Judas was in charge of the Treasury, and often helped himself to the money that was in there, so we might assume he wanted the perfume sold so the money – about a year’s wages, could be put in his care (more in the till to dip into). But it’s deeper than that.  Judas expected Jesus to lead a political rebellion to overthrow Rome – not to be talking about his death to come yet again.

So when Jesus praises this woman’s extravagant anointing and rebukes those who objected, Judas finally gets it – after 3 years of following Jesus, he realizes his kingdom is not a physical or a political one. He is confronted with the stark reality that Jesus is not – and will never be, the kind of Messiah he expects. In his disappointment, and feeling himself betrayed by Jesus, Judas decides to hand Jesus over to be killed.

How do we react when God is not the God we want Him to be, or expect Him to be, in our lives? Are we done with Him, outta here? Are we maybe standing on the edge of betrayal, too?  When we become disappointed with God, we have a choice to make – to desert, as Judas did, or continue to follow.

Following Jesus doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t assume we understand what’s going on.  Peter was disappointed and disillusioned, too, to hear that Jesus’ kingdom would involve shame & death – not power & glory as he imagined. Earlier in Mark, we see Peter pulling Jesus aside to admonish him for all this crazy talk about dying and then rising from the dead 3 days later, right after he declared Jesus was the Messiah. He was confused, and Jesus actually called him Satan in that exchange – harsh! But Peter overcomes his disappointment and confusion and lets go of the need to understand. With a simple trust, he continues to follow – not perfectly as we know, but he continues to follow nonetheless.

Life is just too tough to navigate in isolation – because that’s where greed, pride, and self-righteousness can so easily take root. In order to follow Jesus well in our disappointments requires us to be in the company of other doubting disciples.  The real tragedy in this story is that Judas was so isolated by his greed and desire for status, that he had no one to turn to in his disappointment, so he turned instead to the company of the religious leaders who wanted to kill Jesus.

What does this mean for us? Well, here’s what I think …

Unless you are anchored in a community where cracks in your character can be seen and filled by other imperfect followers, you are standing on the edge of betrayal at every disappointment in your life. Whether, like Judas, your disappointment is with God – not coming through as you expected or wanted Him to, or whether it lies with your spouse, your children, your boss, a friend, parent, maybe even your pastor for not living up to your expectation for them.

The choice is yours:  desert or continue to follow.  What I want for you is to choose community with other imperfect Christ followers!

  • Give them access to your life, invite their influence, allow the cracks in your character to be not only seen, but also filled.
  • Step away from the edge of betrayal and towards Christ who will never betray you, who will never be done with you, who will never be outta here, who will never say “That’s it!” no matter how many times you are disappointed in Him.
  • You are God’s Masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus to do all the things he planned for you long ago. Ephesians 2:10
  • You just have to continue to follow … with a simple trust, and a band of other imperfect followers surrounding you, just follow!