Words and Music: Michael Card © Mole End Music / Birdwing Music (ASCAP)
Why did it have to be a friend who chose to betray the Lord
Why did he use a kiss to show them, that’s not what a kiss is for
Only a friend can betray a friend, a stranger has nothing to gain
And only a friend comes close enough to ever cause so much pain
And why did there have to be a thorny crown pressed upon His head
When it should have been a royal one made of jewels and gold instead
It had to be a crown of thorns, because in this life that we live
All who would seek to love, a thorn is all that this world has to give
And why did it have to be a heavy cross He was made to bear
And why did they nail His feet and hands
His love would have held Him there
It was a cross, for upon a cross a thief was supposed to pay
And Jesus had come into the world to steal every heart away
Yes Jesus had come into the world to steal every heart away
“While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?'” Luke 22:47-48
Betrayal. An abandonment or violation of trust by someone close to you. A husband betrayed by his wife. An employee passed over for a promotion by an employer who had promised it. A secret between friends brought to light for all to see. A promise made to a child so easily broken by a parent. How do we deal with that inevitable betrayal that will affect us in our everyday lives?
Have you ever been rejected and abandoned by someone very close to you, someone you trusted closely with secrets, struggles, and victories in life. The pain of the betrayal must have been intense, and you must have longed to be understood by colleagues and others close to you. But the expectation in the Christian community to have it altogether must have made the betrayal even more unbearable.
In a much more intense way, Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot into the hands of the Jewish religious leaders. The mental anguish caused by the betrayal of Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples and closest friends, is an often overlooked aspect of Jesus’ suffering. He had invested in Judas. He loved Judas. He cared intensely for Judas. He was discouraged. He hurt. He felt pain. He wept.
Betrayal is such a horrible, hurtful action. We can only imagine how Jesus felt when one of the men he had spent the last three years with, who He had given all of Himself to, would turn and betray Him. Sadly, in this world, betrayal continues to happen every day. Couples betray each other, children betray parents, and friends betray friends. Jesus did not have to suffer betrayal, but He chose to for our sake. He wanted us to know that He understands the hurt of betrayal. He knows what it feels like when someone you love turns his or her back on you and wants nothing more to do with you. He understands, He cares and He is there to bring comfort, strength and grace.
It was Michele Bardsely who once said, “I would rather my enemy’s sword pierce my heart than my friend’s dagger stab me in the back”. Betrayal is never easy to handle and there is no right way to accept it. The betrayal of a friend is the worst pain in the world because it goes beyond the physical. Even further beyond any emotional pain one can feel. For betrayal is the only truth that sticks and lasts. Another Bruno Jasienski said; “Do not fear your enemies. The worst they can do is kill you. Do not fear friends. At worst, they may betray you. Fear those who do not care; they neither kill nor betray, but betrayal and murder exists because of their silent consent. “And one old proverb goes, God defend me from my friends; from my enemies I can defend myself.”
Betrayal is the worst pain that a friend can ever inflict on you. It is painful and it is meant to be. Jesus was betrayed and so are we several times.
If there were a binding contract to sign before entering into friendship or any relationship for that matter, the fine print would include: “The undersigned acknowledges that this friendship may be hazardous and subject the undersigned to expressions of animosity, including but not limited to calumny, slander, misrepresentation, and betrayal.”
Being betrayed is so profoundly painful few people can talk about it—yet if they do open up, they can’t stop talking about what happened to them.
Let’s admit what most day to day talks skip over: being betrayed is fairly common for anybody especially if you seek to be godly. I just made a mental list of 15 friends and people I know who have experienced serious and significant betrayal.
David had his Absalom. Paul had his Demas, who deserted him, and Alexander the coppersmith, who “has done me much harm.” Jesus had Iscariot.
We now know all about Judas, so the story may hold little drama for us. We forget that Jesus chose Judas after praying all night. They spent every day together for three years, talking, eating together, and laughing. Jesus sent him out in ministry. Judas shared in the miracle of feeding 5,000 people; his hands took the small, round barley loaves from Jesus and tore off chunks of bread for hungry people.
What makes each case of betrayal so painful is that someone who knows your heart—who knows your longings and character—turns from that and chooses to believe you are really dangerous.
Betrayal is the opposite of trust. You can only trust a friend. A trusted friend is the only one who can come so close to you and the deepest pain is caused when an attack is in close range. Therefore, only a friend can come close enough to ever cause you so much pain.
The mind freezes as it tries to grasp how a friend, someone who knew you deeply, intimately, could turn on you and attack you. Michael Card brilliantly captures the agony in the song we are looking at today: “Only a friend can betray a friend, a stranger has nothing to gain / and only a friend comes close enough to ever cause so much pain.”
The brevity of this column keeps me from telling of the man who went into a joint investment project with his dearest friend—and then was pushed out by the same. Or the gentle and caring brother who dared to question the behavior of some brethren—and was publicly defamed. I have heard too many tales of secret meetings, “concerned” letters, and cover-ups for unwitting friends.
Betrayal, I’ve noticed, calls good evil. It twists a person’s true gift into something malign, a spiritual deficiency or psychological malady. Betrayal causes people to not want to trust, to not want to be in church or associated with some circles, to not be vulnerable, to not open their spirits in worship to God or service.
I too have tasted betrayal’s bitterness, though less than many friends have. The reformed brethren of all people to turn against you when you need them the most. While recovering, I’ve found it doesn’t help to ask, “How could Christians do this?” Nor does it help to contemplate betrayal’s fallout: the fellowship lost the bad name for you as a Christian in the community.
What has helped me is to acknowledge honestly, “I’ve been betrayed.” It’s easy to spiritualize the situation (“God was calling me on”) or to analyze it detachedly (“This person is troubled”), but healing begins with bearing the plain truth in God’s presence. Regaining spiritual vitality following betrayal, I’ve observed, may take longer than 18 months. But don’t give up.
You may be tempted to flee from the church, to turn your back on your call and vocation. Don’t give up. You are walking where great people have walked before. They are remembered as great because they did not allow the betrayal to stop them. Instead they learned how to turn their pain into greater usefulness for the Lord.
Judas’s money-making treachery, when combined with Jesus’ obedient submission to God, transformed the world.