Anatomy of Duplicity

March 03 2019 | by

JESUS went to his Passion and death through the betrayal of his chosen and beloved disciple Judas. A person cannot be betrayed by an enemy because people do not trust or confide in their enemies. A person can only be betrayed by someone whom they trust. Betrayal violates a person’s trust or confidence in a friend, lover, or authority figure. Often people also love those whom they trust, so betrayal becomes a loss, akin to death, of a beloved companion. However, those who are betrayed frequently believe that the death of the trusted person would have been easier to bear than his or her betrayal.

While we know that we cannot control someone’s loyalty, emotionally we bind ourselves in love and trust to certain individuals who lead us to believe that they will not disappoint, abandon, or intentionally hurt us. These individuals become our supporters and encouragers. When one of them turns against us and betrays us, the emotional wound can feel mortal. We cannot believe that our friend or loved one could have done what they did. Don’t they care about how we feel? Do they enjoy wounding us? Betrayal opens our eyes to the betrayer’s true nature. We may begin to see ‘red flags’ that we earlier overlooked. Forgiving oneself for being gullible can be difficult. We need to give ourselves credit for being good enough to see and trust the good in the person who wounded us.


Troubled in spirit


Consider Jesus’ response to betrayal. St. John the Evangelist records the betrayal of Jesus in these words at the Last Supper: “… Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples – the one Jesus loved – was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him” (John 13:21-28).

Jesus was “troubled in spirit” not only because of his fore knowledge of his impending Passion, but also because experiencing betrayal is emotionally draining. Jesus knew that betrayal would take not only his own life, but also the life of Judas who hung himself. Jesus felt compassion for his family, friends, and followers who would be shattered by the horrible events set in motion by the betrayal.


Shameful deed


The betrayal of Jesus deeply touched Saint Anthony. Upon leaving the Last Supper, Judas goes to the high priests and asks, “What will you give me, to betray him?” (Mt. 26.15). Anthony wrote, “The shame of it! To set a price on that which is beyond price! Alas! As the verse says, ‘He is shown forth; God is sold for a worthless coin.’ O Judas, will you sell God, the Son of God, as if he were a lowly slave, or a dead dog? And will you not even set the price yourself, but leave it to your customers? What will you give me? What can they give you? If they gave you Jerusalem, Galilee and Samaria, could they buy Jesus? If they gave you the heavens and all the angels in them, earth and all mankind, the sea and all that is in it: could they pay a price worth the Son of God, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge lie hid? [Col 2.3] No! Never!” (Sermons for Sundays and Festivals I, p. 63; translated by Paul Spilsbury, Edizioni Messaggero Padova).

St Anthony understands the pain of betrayal, an unbelievable occurrence. “Can the Creator be bought or sold by a creature? And yet you say, What will you give me, to betray him to you? Tell me: how has he injured you? What harm has he done you, for you to say, I will betray him to you? What of the humility and voluntary poverty of the incomparable Son of God? What of his kindness and affection? What of his sweet preaching and working of miracles? His tears, so loving, shed over Jerusalem and for the death of Lazarus? What of the privilege that he chose you as an Apostle and familiar friend? Let the remembrance of these things, and others like them, soften your heart and inspire you to mercy, so that you do not say, I will betray him to you” (Sermons I, p. 63).


Jesus’ reaction


When Judas arrives in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus went to pray with his Apostles, he brings soldiers to arrest Jesus. “Going directly to Jesus, he said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi,’ and kissed Him. ‘Friend,’ Jesus replied, ‘do what you came for.Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus, and arrested Him” (Mt 26:49-50). The Apostle Peter’s shock is evident in his drawing the sword and cutting off the high priest’s ear, but Jesus’ calm is also evident in his healing of the ear and in going willingly with the soldiers. “He asked them again, ‘Whom are you seeking?’ ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they answered. ‘I told you that I am He,’ Jesus replied. ‘So if you are looking for Me, let these men go’” (Jn 18:7-8). To the terrified, incredulous Apostles, he says, “Are you not aware that I can call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?” (Mt. 26:53-54).

The pain of the betrayal is evident in these Gospel accounts. Judas not only betrayed Christ, but also his followers. The memories persisted even many years later when these accounts were written.

How did Jesus deal with betrayal? He reminded the Apostles that his death was fulfilling Scripture prophecies. He had prepared them in advance for his death, and perhaps they anticipated that it would come in some way, but they probably never dreamed that a betrayal by one of their number would be its immediate cause.


Good out of evil


If we are betrayed, it is important to realize that nothing happens without the permission of God. Painful as betrayal is, God works through it to ultimately bring about good. The betrayal of Jesus was history’s most horrifying betrayal, but it brought about history’s most glorious result: our salvation. When we are betrayed, we will not know what good will come of the evil, but we can confront it like Jesus did. We can call our betrayers our friends, because their actions will bring good to us. Moreover, we can pray for them and forgive them as Jesus did from the cross.

Truly, “They know not what they do,” (Lk 23:34). Christ’s murderers had no idea that they were killing the Son of God, but they also had no idea that they were bringing about humanity’s redemption. Those who betray us may want to bring us ill, but they cannot foresee the good that God will bring about from their evil. “Lord, forgive them because they know not what they do.”

Updated on March 04 2019