The Pain Of Betrayal

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John 13:18-30

18 “I am not saying these things to all of you; I know the ones I have chosen. But this fulfills the Scripture that says, ‘The one who eats my food has turned against me.’ 19 I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I Am the Messiah. 20 I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.”

21 Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!” 22 The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. 23 The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table. 24 Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” 25 So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. 27 When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.” 28 None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. 29 Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. 30 So Judas left at once, going out into the night.

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The word “betrayal” is a unique word.  It implies that a person has been severely hurt by another.  It could have a physical side to this, but more often then not, it refers to being wounded relationally so that we feel “great emotional pain”.  Note this, we do not think of being betrayed by our enemies.  In fact, we actually expect to be mistreated by our enemies.

No, we feel the greatest pain when the one who has offended us is one of our family members, or one of those whom we have considered to be a close friend.  This is what makes “betrayal” such a unique and difficult word to handle.  It is our friends, not our enemies, who most possess the ability to betray us.  And in fact, the closer a person is to another, the deeper the wound will go when we feel betrayed by them.

Why is that?  Simply put, when we draw closer to a person, we reveal more of our inner soul to that person, and thereby entrust more of our heart to that person.  So when someone betrays that trust, it feels like a knife has pierced our heart and we become deeply wounded in our soul.

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This is what happened to Jesus the night that he was betrayed, the night before his death on the cross.  For over three years, Jesus had entrusted himself to twelve men.  He taught them all deep spiritual truths, he demonstrated his love and his power to them many times, and he shared a number of intimate moments with them.  These men were Jesus’ true brothers in this world.

But from our passage above, we know that one man, Judas, was willing to sell out this friendship.  In Matthew’s gospel, we are told that Judas was willing to betray Jesus for merely 30 pieces of silver money.  Surely that small amount of money could not come close to being the worth of a man, and especially the man Jesus, who came from God, and is God.

But Scripture tells us in John 13:2 that Satan has already persuaded Judas to hand over Jesus to his enemies.  One version says “Satan enticed him…” showing that the attraction to money was greater than his sense of loyalty to a friend.  The terrible deed began as a thought, and was realized through action as Judas left the meal to bring back Jesus’ enemies.

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What amazes me as I read this passage is that Jesus is fully aware of what is happening.  He even seems to be encouraging Judas to go and do his terrible deed.  And yet, Jesus is not unaffected by this emotionally.  Verse 21 says that Jesus was “deeply troubled.”  Jesus’ spirit within him was in great distress over what Judas would do to him.  But I don’t think that is the only reason that Jesus was “deeply troubled”.

Verse 1 of this chapter says, “Now he showed his disciples the full extent of this love.”  Even while knowing that Judas would betray him, Jesus had love for him.  Wow!!  Could we ever be able to follow after Jesus’ example?  I know what my first reaction would be toward someone who had betrayed me.  I would not only feel angry, but I would want that other person to suffer for what he or she had done to me.

But that is not the way that Jesus handled his own betrayal by Judas.  No one but Jesus really knew what was going on that night.  But rather than respond out of anger or revenge, Jesus deeply felt and demonstrated his servant-love to all his disciples, including the one who would betray him.

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So what can we take away from this passage?  We all need to distinguish the difference between the acts that someone does against us or against God, and look toward the one who has committed the sin and still love that person.  As long as there are people around us, we will be vulnerable to being hurt, even betrayed at times.  But Jesus tells us to love one another, and even be willing to die for another, in order to forgive the sin, and save the sinner.  Can you do that?

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What Is Wrong With This Picture

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Jesus Clears Out The Temple

John 2:13 –  17

13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. 14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. 15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”

While growing up, I loved to do all kinds of games and puzzles: logic problems, crosswords, find-a-word, hidden objects, etc. Even today I enjoy working on these kinds of mind games. One of them was called, “What’s wrong with this picture?” You compared two pictures side by side and you tried to see what the difference was between them.

As I was looking over the verses for today’s study, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something terribly wrong with this picture, and I think there is much that we can learn from it. In fact, there is a lot wrong in what happened when Jesus went into the Temple area, but to appreciate what was going on, we will need a little background information.

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 In the Old Testament period, during the period of the kings, according to the Laws and Regulations handed down by God to Moses, the people of Israel were to come to Jerusalem at least three times a year to hold a celebration feast that honoured God for what He had done for them in the past. The Temple was seen as “God’s dwelling place among men”, and so Jewish people from all over the land would come to the Temple to offer their sacrifices and thanks offerings.

Certainly one of the greatest Festivals was the “Passover”, which was a time to remember how God had sent a “Destroying Angel” to kill the first-born sons of every Egyptian family for their enslavement of the Israelites. But God would spare the sons of the Jewish people if they killed a perfect lamb and put its blood on the doorposts of their house. Seeing the blood, the angel would “pass over” their house and spare their family. (See Exodus 11 – 12)

Thus, when the people came each year to Jerusalem to remember God’s grace and mercy that delivered them from the Angel of Death, it was to be a time of great joy. And part of that celebration was to offer sacrifices to God at the Temple. The only problem was that it was a long journey for most, and so it would be difficult to bring an animal with you on the trip. Instead, you would just buy an animal for sacrifice when you got to Jeruselem.

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Now here is where the picture really starts to go wrong. Over time, the religious leaders had determined that only animals that they considered to be “perfect” could be purchased for the sacrifices. They ended up having a monopoly on “sacrifice animals” and sold them in the outer courts of the Temple.

These leaders further considered that Roman coins (the currency of the day) were not “sanctified” and could not be used to purchase these animals. Instead, people had to use Jewish Temple money. And to assist travellers with this, the religious leaders approved currency exchanging “money tables”. And of course there was a mark-up on the exchange rate which resulted in even more profit for these religious leaders.

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No wonder that Jesus was so upset when he came into the Temple area on that Passover. Not only were the religious leaders “scalping” the people by having a monopoly on the sacrifice animals, but they were gouging them too with excessive exchange rates so that worshippers made sure they had the right currency to buy the animals.

This is one of the few times that show Jesus being outraged by the evil intentions and hypocrisy of the religious leaders of His day. He demonstrated what we call today “righteous anger”. But note that His anger is not on account of what the leaders or others did to Him. He is angry at how they were abusing God’s Name and His House, and he was angry at how they were defrauding the people of God who had come with the intention of honouring and worshipping God.

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So here is my question for this study: Are there churches and leaders among us today who have used religion to bring profit to themselves, instead of bringing glory to God? Sure! We can think of a handful of televangelists and money schemes done in the name of God that were in it for what they could gain. And we ought to be “righteously angry” against such practices.

But let me bring this a bit closer to home for some of us. Haven’t we built some churches in North America that go beyond presenting God to the people to merchandising God for the people? We have bookstores in our lobbies, and we sell the sermon series on DVDs, and hold sell-out crowd performances, all in the name of “feeding” the people spiritually.

Jesus said that God’s House was to be a “house of prayer”. What has happened to good old fashioned prayer meetings, where people come to lay their lives before the Lord in confession and in worship? Have we perhaps gone too far in our western capitalism and commercialized God too much? Jesus gave His life to fight against this. What are we prepared to do to return to true and honest worship of our God?

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Oops…Did I Say That?

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Ephesians 4:29

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

In the last two weeks, I have been studying the book of Ephesians as I prepare to go to Papua New Guinea to do the consultant check on the translation of this book into one the minority languages there.  When we came chapter 4, verse 29 jumped out to me as I recalled a discussion I had just had with one of my sons during the previous week.

I have always been proud of my son for his deep faith in Christ, his gentle nature, and his desire to be helpful to others, especially those who cannot help themselves.  Which is interesting since his desire is to join the Canadian Armed Forces.  When asked why he would choose this path, his response many times is, “So I can help defend the defenseless.”

So given his interest in the military, it is not surprising that most of the video games he plays are related to war (or special forces, etc.).  This means that many of his games are what we would call “shooter” games.  As he plays online and interacts with others though, he hears language that is quite strong.

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Now I must say that my son does not swear or use profanity, at least as far as the world standard for language use is concerned.  No, he uses the other words, what you might say are the cousins to profane words.  He will say, “Shoot”, or “Darn” which are close relatives to other words that I consider to be profanity.  But his most common word, and the one that has me most on edge, is the word “Frack!” or “Fricking!”  And these words are definitely so close to the other “F” word that is definitely a swear word, that I have had to talk many times with my son over the use of language in our house.

So I was very pleased when last week he sat down beside me and said, “How do I stop saying these words?  What can I do to change this?”  So I told him a story about my youth which he had never heard.

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I said, “When I was in Grade Six, I wanted to sound tough, just like all the other guys around me.  I figured that if I sounded tough like them, they would stop picking on me.  And it wasn’t long before I could swear a blue streak up and down like you wouldn’t believe.”

“You’re right,” he said. “I don’t believe it.  But what did you do about it, because I never hear you swear today?”

So I responded, “Well, I got what I wished for. My language became so foul that people backed away from me and left me alone.  But then I was really alone.  So I learned quickly that sounding tough repelled both my friends and those who didn’t like me.  The answer to my dilemma didn’t come until the next year, when I was in Grade Seven.”

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“It was in Grade Seven that God reached out and touched me and broke through my tough exterior and began His work in my heart. [See the post “For My Tears, Jesus Died”] And shortly after I accepted Christ as my Lord, one of my first prayers was for God to help me stop using foul language.  And you know what?  Within a matter of days, I found that I had no desire to swear anymore.  My prayer was answered.  God cleaned up my heart and then cleaned up my language.”

I know that this story was an encouragement to my son.  But then he asked a very practical question, “So when I get frustrated, like when I play these games and one of the guys on my team does something stupid and gets me killed, what should I say?”

We dialogged about this for a while and we came up with two solutions as to how to deal with situations that cause anger or frustration.  First of all, we decided that laughing at the situation is probably a much better response than speaking out of anger.  And then secondly, the way to stop using profane language is to lay down new neuropaths in our brains by using completely different words.  And hopefully the new words will be neutral, rather than negative, or even be funny.

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Again, I’d have to say I am so thankful that my son came to speak with me about this.  Even though in one month he will no longer be a teenager, still he is willing to come to his Dad and talk to him about deep issues and difficult topics.  And it showed me that he has been listening to me about my concerns of the kind of words he uses.  But most importantly, this experience has confirmed for me that my son wants the Lord to control his life, and he wants to do the things that please Him.  That’s what really counts in the long run.

It is interesting to read what Solomon wrote regarding parents and their son in Proverbs 10:1

A wise son brings joy to his father,but a foolish son grief to his mother.