Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
We don’t really know why Judas betrayed Jesus. Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice, in the musical Jesus Christ, Superstar, suggested it was due to jealousy over Jesus’ relationship with Mary. The theme of jealousy was picked up some years ago in the Manchester Passion where the actors playing Judas and Jesus sung, to each other, the Joy Division song Love will Tear Us Apart. Only St Matthew’s Gospel gives a proper motive – money, St Luke and St John dodge the issue suggesting that Judas was possessed by the Devil, St Mark’s Gospel gives no motive for the betrayal.
Betrayal is awful. To have loved and trusted another only to find that they’ve betrayed or tuned against you is one of the worst experiences of life. The Church has betrayed many by its tolerance of abuse and its attempts to cover it up; politicians betray their voters; lovers betray their beloved; families betray each other. It’s horrible and it’s part of life and, as wounded as we are by all this, we find ourselves, wittingly or unwittingly, betraying our values and those we love.
We will never know why Judas betrayed Jesus; we may never fully know why others have betrayed us or why we have betrayed others. We can, however, seek to learn from betrayal – our own and when we’ve been betrayed. When we’re betrayed we’re tempted to skimp on love and trust, when we betray another we’re tempted to despair. Yet just as Jesus forgave and restored Peter for his denial I’m sure that Judas too would have been forgiven and restored if he’d not fallen into despair. Like Jesus we need to learn to love and forgive, unlike Judas we need to trust in that love.
O Love that does not let us go, hold us when are hurt, forgive us when we betray, that we may live up to the trust you put in us now and always, Amen.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston works with four URC congregations in and around Glasgow.