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When a Loved One Betrays You

John 13:21-38
3rd July 2005

To be betrayed is to feel the treachery and faithlessness of those you have loved. Their breach of trust, defection, falseness and doubledealing makes you feel everything you have ever entrusted to another has been despoiled. You feel like never trusting anyone else again. If your spouse betrays you, the one with whom you made solemn vows, you feel like leaving she or he forever. Something has gone out inside you. You feel doublecrossed. Stabbed in the back. Betrayed!

Betrayal in politics is common and there have been some notable examples that have brought down Governments, the most dramatic in our history occurring on the 12 November 1975. On that day, Sir John Kerr dismissed the Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, from office as Prime Minister on the basis of a constitutional crisis. Sir John had been appointed to that office as Governor General only the year before by Mr. Whitlam. In dismissing an elected Prime Minister in the name of the Queen, Sir John was exercising powers not used since George III. Whitlam felt betrayed by the Governor General. He had appointed Sir John Kerr and he wanted people to “maintain the rage”. The rage did not last but the hatred towards that Governor General remains. Julius Caesar was betrayed by his closest friends and when Brutus came up to him, Caesar said, “Et Tu Brute?” meaning “You too Brutus?”. Betrayal of belief is regarded by most as a very serious action by anyone. Every religion feels betrayed when someone denies their faith and finds satisfaction elsewhere. Stan Telchin was a very successful 50 year old insurance executive, a member of the Million Dollar Round Table I addressed at a conference of 20,000 in San Francisco.

One night, his daughter Judy, aged 21, rang him from University and asked if she could talk seriously with him. Stan panicked as any father would. He thought of all the things that could be wrong. Judy said: “Dad, I have written you a very long letter. I don’t want to hurt you. This is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do. I want to read you the letter. May I Dad?” Stan immediately thought a series of negative thoughts — she was pregnant; she was on drugs. She had run off and married someone. She was in trouble with the police, she had been kicked out of University; but since Judy was a wonderful daughter none of these made sense. Judy started to read the letter to a stunned father. After a long introduction she continued: “and I have become a believer. I believe in God. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and I believe that Jesus is the Messiah.” Stan says: “I was speechless. Many parents might have welcomed Judy’s words, but they absolutely crushed me! You see, we are Jewish!”

Stan tells of his reaction: anger, retaliation, blame, guilt. His wife and he argue, shout, cry and blame themselves: “Where did we go wrong? Could any mother or father have loved a daughter more than we loved Judy? How could she do this to us? What do you do when a child turns her back, not only on you, but on all her people? We felt betrayed!” The story is told in the book called: “BETRAYED!” That betrayal started them searching the scriptures and prophecies until every member of the family believed Jesus is the Messiah. Betrayal is the most hurtful thing you can do to a person. When a loved one betrays you the whole world feels as if it has tumbled in upon you.

Betrayal means life is not worth living, that everything you have ever stood for is now trampled underfoot and dirtied. Everyone suffers when a man philanders with some other woman, or because some bored wife enters into a sexual encounter with someone else. Years of trust and commitment go down the drain. People are scarred — children, spouse, friends, parents, grandparents, work acquaintances, neighbours: it is not too much to say that the betrayal of the friend lessens the whole meaning of life for some people. Betrayal is very costly. E.M. Forster, who wrote “A Passage to India” gave his opinion of the consequences of betraying a friend: “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” Such is the cost of betraying someone who loves you! In all of history there is no more infamous a betrayal by a friend, than that of the betrayal of Jesus Christ, betrayed by one of His own disciples, Judas Iscariot. In its motives, its method and its consequences this was the worst of all betrayals.


In the Middle East, sharing a meal together, is the sign of friendship. You are invited to sit at table and share a drink and some bread. People who met in friendship first eat together then discuss business later. To take up arms against someone with whom you have eaten was the greatest of betrayals. The bread that was broken and shared was a symbol of friendship. Share my bread, share my trust. One of our elders said that the saddest verse in all Scripture was: as the King James Version quotes the Psalm Jesus mentions, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.” Ps. 41:9

To “lift up a heel” against a person was an act of despicable vengeance. The uplifted heel was to grind a former friend into the dirt, to violently kick a man while he is down. For a friend who had eaten your bread at your table to do that was the greatest act of betrayal. Jesus Christ was betrayed at the table, while they were eating together. After Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and told them to be willing to humbly serve others, Jesus announced that one of them was to betray Him. At the very moment when He was talking about forgetting self in humble service, the very opposite was being planned: serving self by forgetting others and having one’s own way for profit.

Jesus said: “I am not talking about all of you; I know these I have chosen. But the scripture must come true that says: “The man who shared my food turned against me.” I tell you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen, you will believe that ‘I am who I Am,’. I am telling you the truth: whoever receives anyone I send receives me also; and whoever receives me receives Him who sent me.” After Jesus had said this He was deeply troubled and declared openly, “I am telling you the truth; one of you is going to betray me.” John 13:18-21. Jesus was deeply troubled. His heart was breaking as it does when anyone discovers they are betrayed by a loved one. The response of the disciples is interesting. “The disciples looked at one another, completely puzzled about whom He meant.” John 13:22 They did not know of anyone in their midst who had betrayed Jesus. They thought it was possible that something said or done may have unconsciously betrayed Christ. Jesus never announced who it was and they did not know. Only the reader, wise after the event knows!

The disciples think they may have unintentionally betrayed him and they all ask: “Is it I?” Then “Peter motioned to John and said: “Ask Him whom He is talking about” John quietly asked, “Who is it, Lord?” “Jesus answered, “I will dip some bread in the sauce and give it to him; he is the man.” So he took a piece of bread, dipped it, and gave it to Judas. As soon as Judas took the bread, offered by a host as a sign of friendship, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Hurry and do what you must!” John 13:23-27 But so natural was the act that none of the band suspected Judas of betrayal. “None of the others at the table understood why Jesus said this to Him. Since Judas was in charge of the money bag, some of the disciples thought that Jesus had told him to go and buy what they needed for the festival, or give something to the poor. Judas accepted the bread and went out at once. It was night.” John 13:28-30.

Judas had already talked with the Chief Priest, made the arrangements, had set the price, and no one else suspected betrayal. But Jesus knew! Jesus realised that He would be betrayed. Scripture says: “Jesus knew from the very beginning who were the ones that would not believe and which one would betray Him.” John 6:64 Early in His ministry, Jesus said: “The Son of Man is about to be handed over to en who will kill Him but three days later He will be raised to life.” Matt 17:22 The phrase “to be handed over to men who will kill Him” is the translation of “betrayed”. 46 times the betrayal is mentioned in scripture. Who was Judas and why should he betray Jesus? Judas was a disciple, the only Judean among a band of Galileans. He probably knew the Chief Priests in Jerusalem whereas the farmers, tax collectors and fishermen from Galilee would not.

Judas was an ordinary man, not a marionette. God was not pulling his strings. What Judas did was of his own free will. Judas was not a monster as Mediaeval writers made Judas out to be. What he did can be done by any ordinary man. Judas was not a miser. He was the treasurer of the band and he did not sell Jesus for only the price of a slave. Some have said he acted out of jealousy being the only Judean on the band. Others have said he acted out of fear to save his own skin at the price of his Master. Others have said he was a misguided patriot, believing Jesus to be the Messiah but frustrated because Jesus was not acting with enough political strength, so Judas pushed Jesus into a situation where Jesus would have to act and reveal His power. But Judas had not studied the scriptures and the prophecies and so failed to understand the necessity of the Cross and the shedding of blood.


What did Jesus do after the betrayal? Paul tells us: “On the night of His betrayal, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it saying: “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of Me.” 1 Cor. 11:23-24. In the Greek grammar the word for betrayal is in the imperfect tense, meaning “on the night while Jesus was being betrayed, He took bread…” While in the very act of being betrayed, Jesus took bread and instituted the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Communion. Do you grasp the significance? The breaking of the bread was the act of friendship, of openness, of complete trust. In the face of His betrayal Jesus reestablished a table of fellowship and the breaking of bread. At His table we should ask: “Master, is it I” and check if we have betrayed Him.

If we have deliberately or unintentionally betrayed Him, He offers us the bread of forgiveness and friendship. Judas identified Jesus to the Temple police, by going up to Him and kissing Him on the cheek. Was ever there such a more powerful symbol of betrayal? Yet how frequently has an unfaithful husband or wife betrayed their loved one with a kiss? Judas had no need to despair or to suicide. Should you respond with despair? Should you react with departure? Should you respond with disgust? Those responses are understandable, but each end in fracturing the relationship.

Jesus offers a second chance, forgiveness, reconciliation, a new beginning. He offers a table and bread to be shared. It is then up to the betrayer to respond. That is the only positive response to betrayal by a loved one. Our immediate response of separation, rejection, hatred, bitterness, leads only to suffering and death. Maybe the death of the marriage, death of the family, or even death of the betrayer as with Judas. They make the choice, but we should give them the choice. Judas had a choice, and his betrayal brought its own reward. You are not responsible for their destiny but you are responsible for allowing a choice. To feel betrayed is to feel the most desolate treachery and faithlessness of those you have loved. But even the betrayal by a loved one can be redeemed by the way of Jesus Christ. He offers a second chance, forgiveness, reconciliation, a fresh start. His powerful love enables you to respond like Jesus when you have been betrayed. We have betrayed Him. Yet with love: forgiving, patient, longing, He has loved us into coming back to Him and sitting at His table and breaking bread together! That is how we must respond to betrayal.

Gordon Moyes

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