Betrayed and Abandoned

My boys are still young, but already have experienced friends deciding they were no longer friends. At their ages it usually goes, “So-and-so has the same color shirt as I do today. So that means we are best friends today!” or, “So-and-so has the same color hair as I do. So that means we are best friends. But your hair is different. So you can’t be our friend today.” These young friends change their minds the next day and they are all best friends again, but my boys have come home sad because a friend turned their backs on them.

I know just how my boys feel. I have felt attacked or let down by friends and, unfortunately, I know I have attacked and let down others at times. I know how hard it is to lose a close friendship and I hope that my boys do not have to experience that sorrow. But I know that when a friend betrays me, Jesus understands. One of his closest friends betrayed him.

I think so often we forget the human side of Jesus. In our heads we know that Jesus was fully God and fully man, but we limit his emotions and desire for personal relationships. We know that He was the great teacher to his disciples, but He was also their friend. He mourned and wept over the death of Lazarus (John 11:35) because this was His friend whom He loved. He grew close to his disciples and devoted followers. He lived life with them every day.

When someone wrongs you, how do you respond? When a friend gossips behind your back or betrays your confidence, how do you react? Often one of our first responses is anger and imagining how we can retaliate. Our feelings and pride have been hurt and we wish to ease our pain and maybe even transfer that pain to our old “friend”. We want to ensure that all accounts are balanced and that the truth is known. But is this what Jesus did?

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was in distress; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual distress (Luke 22:44). He knew what was to come and He spent hours begging His Father to take this cup from Him (Mark 14:36). He knowingly had sent away His friend, one of the twelve, to betray Him (John 13:27). Jesus was in agony, yet He still claimed, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Even in this agony, He still did not give in to a complainant heart. He did not grumble about his so-called friend. He did not slander this backstabber to the faithful eleven. Instead He focused on the work God had for Him and prayed for wisdom and strength for finishing His task.

And he [Judas] came up to Jesus at once and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you came to do.’” Matthew 26:49-50

Jesus did not confront Judas. Jesus did not clarify the situation. Jesus did not dishonor Judas. In His last words to Judas, Jesus calls Him “friend”. What happens next? “Then all the disciples left him and fled” (Matthew 26:56). Jesus was first betrayed by a dear friend and then abandoned in His time of greatest need by His remaining friends. So much for the “faithful” eleven. He faced His last day on earth despised, persecuted, hated, and alone.

When a friend betrays me, Jesus understands.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

Even though He was betrayed and abandoned, Jesus still loved His disciples, His dear friends, and desired their redemption. That is why He continued to the cross and did not use His power to save only Himself. He knew His mission was more important than vengeance or vindication; He elevated eternal victory over earthly victimization.

I started this post thinking of how encouraging it is that Christ understands my pain and how I can find encouragement in this, but as I wrote I was just deeply saddened to think of how much greater His pain must have been than mine. In just minutes all of His friends abandoned Him. He was completely alone in this world and in just hours His Heavenly Father would even forsake Him (Matthew 27:46).

We know that this is not the end of the story (Hallelujah!), for Jesus or for His unfaithful friends. As we prepare for Friday, let us mourn with Him who mourns. Let us bear His burden, which is truly our own burden. Let us truly praise Him for carrying our cross and enduring the pain of the last supper and the garden of Gethsemane. Let us take hope in His sinlessness and the redemption to come for his disciples and all who would turn to Him.

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