I recently shared a sermon series on how Jesus walked through his season of darkness and overcame it. This is so important today because people are losing their ability to cope with hardship, some even taking their own life. Join me over the next few posts as I follow Jesus out of the darkness and into the light. I’ll start by looking at the hardship of betrayal.
Betrayal is Common
Betrayal isn’t something we often talk about. It’s very personal. It’s embarrassing to reveal how someone rejected you. It’s painful. But as I reflected on the Bible, betrayal is a common theme.
Adam and Eve betrayed God on page two of the Bible. Cain betrayed Abel on page three. Jacob betrayed his brother Esau. David was betrayed first, by King Saul, and then by his son Absalom. With so much betrayal in the Bible, God must want us to consider it.
As I looked back on my life, I realized that I’ve experienced many betrayals. Friends in high school, church leaders, people that I’ve worked for, business partners. I’ve even felt betrayed by national figures like politicians and spiritual leaders.
I’m sure your life has its own set of betrayals in the form of rejections, abandonment, or abuse. The sting of a past betrayal might still be with you. Or you might be in the throes of a betrayal right now.
The Betrayal of Religious Leaders
Matthew quoted Jesus telling his disciples about his impending betrayal:
As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified. Matthew 26:1,2
This must have hit the disciples like a ton of bricks. “Wait…what? Crucified? No Jesus. You must be mistaken. I think you are a little paranoid. The people love you. You are the messiah they’ve been waiting for. They’re going to make you king. You need to lighten up.”
But it wasn’t the people Jesus was worried about. It was the religious leaders. Matthew continues the story:
Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. Matthew 26:3-5
Why would religious leaders want to kill Jesus? In my series, I showed how the resurrection of Lazarus created a great fear in the religious leaders (see John 11).
What’s significant to the story is that Lazarus was in the tomb for four days. His body had started to decompose. John was careful to point this out because this wasn’t a questionable story about someone momentarily fainting, or even being revived after his heart stopped for a minute. Lazarus was stone cold dead and rotting. Everyone knew it. It was undeniable. And that threatened the religious elite.
These elite feared losing their position and power. You see, the Romans ruled Jerusalem, but they made a deal with the religious leaders that they would allow them to have their wealth and power over the people, as long as they didn’t rock the boat. No protests. No rebellions. No problems. Jesus threatened that agreement. He could spoil everything. He had to go.
The Nature of Betrayal
Betrayal surfaces when one of two things happen: someone fears losing something they value, or someone believes they can gain something of value. When either gain or loss show up on the radar screen, a persons’ character is put to the test and the temptation can prove to be too much for them.
I mentioned before that I was betrayed by religious leaders in my past. I don’t want to recount that here but I wrote about it in my book Broken Trust.
I like the title: Broken Trust, because that’s exactly what happens in betrayal. You go to church for guidance… or a connection to God. You entrust yourself to the leadership of another. You trust that they got into that position because of their character, their knowledge, and their connection to God. And so you let your guard down and invite them into your life.
And then you find out… usually much too late… that they aren’t the person you thought they were. They were using you to build their own kingdom. Or they lied to you about how they spent the money, or they were having an affair, or taking advantage of someone in the congregation. Trust was broken. Maybe you’ve experienced one of these betrayals.
Your trust provided a place in your heart for them. That’s why it hurts so much when they abandon you. It can leave you feeling empty and disillusioned…you might want to give up. Not only did they leave you hanging, but it caused you to doubt yourself…to question your value. Why would someone leave you if you were truly valuable?
This is when life can get dark. Betrayal can throw you into a tailspin. But this is where we need to look to Jesus to right our course. For example, think about this: Jesus was the most valuable person who ever walked the earth, but he was betrayed and rejected. His betrayal had nothing to do with his value. So if you’ve been rejected, don’t assume that YOU are the problem. Betrayal reveals a weakness in the betrayer, not the betrayed, right?
Moving Out of the Darkness
If you have been betrayed by religious leaders, or anyone for that matter, it’s important to know that Jesus was betrayed by too. He understands how you feel. He’s been there. You’re not alone.
In your moments of betrayal and rejection it’s important to turn to God… to remember what he says about you. I like what David said in Psalm 41 after he had been betrayed by his friends. He said to God:
…you uphold me and set me in your presence forever. Psalm 41:12
David was convinced that his betrayer didn’t have the power to defeat him. It’s easy to go there…to think that you are ruined. That your betrayer had some kind of special power in your life and now that they are gone you are undone. You can’t make it without them. That’s not true. Don’t believe that.
The devil wants you to believe that. The devil wants you to think that you are less of a person without your betrayer. But David said, No, GOD upholds me…not any person. The word “uphold” means that God has you in his grasp and won’t let you go. He is the one sustaining you. He won’t fail you.
God upholds you and David said God does that by setting you in his presence. That means you immerse yourself in thoughts of who GOD is and who God says you are and not dwelling on your betrayer and what they say about you. We so often get that backward. And that’s what leads us to despair. God wants us thinking about his greatness and what he can do in you, not about what your betrayer has done to you.
Praise Reframes Your Betrayal
David closes his psalm by saying that God is worthy of praise.
Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen. Psalm 41:12, 13
Praise reframes your betrayal. You see, God is God whether people betray you or not. Praise takes the focus off of what’s been done TO you and puts it onto what God can do FOR you. God deserves your praise because he is the ONE Person who you can count on never betraying you. The Bible says, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful.” 2 Timothy 2:13
Whatever darkness you might find yourself in today, I want you to know that Jesus can guide you out of it and into the light. Don’t give up. The same strength that Jesus had is available to you.
Prayer: Jesus, I pray that people will invite you into their darkness today to lead them into the light. Please show them the way so they can live the life that you created us to live. Amen.