Everything from Thursday evening after Jesus’ third prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane until the Resurrection on Sunday morning seemed stained with darkness, evil and, ultimately, betrayal. Judas is the figure of betrayal. But he wasn’t alone; the betrayal of Jesus was rampant in Jerusalem. The religious leaders, the crowds, the Roman government all—fell in line with Judas. Judas stands out as the ultimate betrayer because of his personal relationship with Jesus. His betrayal cut a little deeper because his was disguised by friendship and a kiss. He was so convincing that the other disciples thought nothing of his departure from their sacred dinner to carry out his evil mission.
The facts contained in the gospels from the last 14 hours of Jesus’ life are filled with the horror of betrayal. Putting the pieces together, the closest I can come is that Jesus was arrested around 1:30 a.m. and by 3 p.m. that same day He was dead. In less than 14 hours He was tried by illegal courts, flogged, walked the 650 yards to Golgotha—was crucified on the cross and died.
Arrested. What was that like? It is a trauma that causes huge shock. My son was shackled and taken from a courtroom, sentenced and treated as a dangerous murderer. It was so overwhelming to him that he appeared as a madman. The guards mistreated him and brought him to court the next day with his hair (full of cowlicks) sticking up on all sides. He could not make eye contact with me. He was in total shock or a psychotic break. By now he is used to being locked in cages and subjected to all kinds of humiliations, but he had never faced that before. It was overwhelming and shocking to be treated in that manner. Jesus was manhandled by angry guards and tied up as if He would even try to escape.
Jesus was spit on, slapped, accused of lies, tied up. Most of that night He was alone with only one friend somewhere in His vicinity (John). He watched as the leader of the work He spent three years building made eye contact with Him and walked away—turning his back on Jesus after denying Him three times (Peter). The loss of friendship was the emotional shock in the midst of the three religious trials, added to by the additional trials before Pilate, Herod and Pilate again. The physical shock came later when He was flogged, his body so weakened He was unable to carry a beam the short distance to the outskirts of town. He walked the whole way while Simon carried His cross for part of it. In the manner one treats an animal to be slaughtered, He was nailed and hung in the air on a cross—a sight so horrific it was hard to even look at him. Isaiah 53:3 described that we can only imagine. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Through all of this His one hope was relationship with you and me. It would have been too much to attempt to right all the things that were so wrong even in the last fourteen hours. He didn’t even think of attempting that. What would become of us if God allowed His legitimate wrath to be unleashed? We would have no hope. This was only happening so that we could have hope in the life of Christ. The betrayal of the cross was necessary to bring the hope of eternal life. It had to be this brutal, this wrong, this unjust. There was no other way to trample down sin and to give hope to any who will believe that Jesus is God’s son a promise of eternal life.
There is no question that the betrayal was brutal. In the midst of the betrayal of many, the gospels are clear to bring out the delight God has with those who want to be in relationship with Him. John’s loyalty, His mother’s constant presence, the women who stayed by His side, the thief and the Roman centurion who believed that He was the Son of God, and possibly the conversation with Pilate—all of these were bursts of the hope that some would welcome relationship. Restoring relationship was what His death was all about.
As you walk through Holy Week—don’t look away from the brutality of the rejection because it will help you understand that for Jesus it was all worth it. He was willing to do whatever was required to give us the hope of relationship with God that happened on Easter Sunday.