Mark 14:17-21

When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?”

He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Mark 14:17-21

How many times have you read these words? How many times have you heard this story? Why does it still have the power to turn your stomach?

Jesus and his disciples are sharing the Passover meal. A time of togetherness. Of remembering God’s faithfulness down through the ages. And then the totally unexpected happens. A verbal bomb drops into their midst. “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.”

We understand what betrayal feels like. Somewhere along our journey, we might have been betrayed or we might have been the betrayer. A friend promised to keep a secret forever but posted it to Facebook. A spouse admits to an affair. A trusted co-worker spread gossip about you so that they could advance beyond you. A business partner stole your top customer to start their own firm. You find out that an employee whom you had been very kind to embezzled money.

Betrayal cuts deep precisely because it is both so unexpected and because it attacks you in a very vulnerable place. It leaves you feeling violated; you feel like a fool for being so trusting. That is why this story, when you slow down enough to let the words hit you, turns your stomach.

It hurts. You just want to get past it. You just want it to be over. You want to forget it. And yet this moment has been enshrined in history in the very words through which Jesus still assures us of his continuing presence in our lives.

In the night in which he was betrayed….

One of the biggest problems in the Christian faith is the reduction of the word “faith” to mean little more than intellectual assent to a specified set of doctrinal statements. We turn the faith into a head game. Then we argue with one another over the correctness of our doctrines. We forget that “faith” primarily means loyalty, fidelity, and trust.

The word “betrayed” brings us back down to earth. Down to the reality of vulnerable human relationships and how they can be abused, destroyed, when trust is broken. It reminds us that we have been both victim and victimizer. There is a little Judas in all of us.

Yet Jesus still made a place at the table for us. Judas ate too. But he didn’t yet know the whole story as we do. At least, as much of the story as has yet been told. Because you and I are still writing the story. Let our next chapter be rooted in loyalty, fidelity, and trust.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we can sense the power of the betrayal which you experienced that night because, in our own ways, we have felt that too. Forgive us for straying, for betraying, the trust that you have given to us. We pray for mercy and for fresh resolve. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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