Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Way of the Cross (25)

To be attacked by an enemy is one thing; to be betrayed by a friend is altogether more painful. When a close friend suddenly turns, it can be very distressing; the confidence gone, the closeness lost, the relationship soured.

When Jesus was choosing his twelve disciples, we're told in the gospel accounts from the outset that Judas Iscariot was the one who betrayed Jesus by bringing the temple guard and imperial soldiers to Gethsemane. In one sense, by the time you come to read of it, it's no surprise - we know long before it happens that Judas is the betrayer.

[Interestingly, the disciples weren't so confident that Judas was the betrayer. Remember when Jesus reveals at the Last Supper that one of them will betray him? They eleven don't all turn round and look and point at Judas, knowing it's him. Instead they ask the question, "Is it I?"]

There's a sense in which even before coming to the Gospels, we know that one of Jesus' closest friends will betray him, turning against him. It's another detail of Messiah's life that is told plainly centuries before it happens through the prophetic writings of the Old Testament. Through an unknown incident of David's life, the Holy Spirit points towards the experience of the Messiah, as he drives David to write:

Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
(Psalm 41:9)

Opposition is nothing new - the rest of the Psalm shows how many people are plotting against God's King. The new and startling feature is that even the King's friend has turned against the King. I've previously discussed the rights and wrongs of Judas, but suffice it to say here that Judas' betrayal was known long before it happened.

Despite the appearance of being on the inside, respectable, one of the twelve, Judas was not one of God's people. In his own free activity, he fulfilled this portion of the prophecy, which led to the crucifixion and glorification of Jesus.

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