Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
In the past weeks, the media has been covering the murder trial of Reeva Steenkamp. Although this trial is a world away in South Africa, America is curious about what happened to Oscar Pistorius. In the 2012 Summer Olympics, the world watched as this poster child sprinted around the track.
A double amputee, we all wondered how dedicated this man must be to qualify for the regular Olympics, let alone the Paralympics that would follow. We were inspired by Oscar Pistorius. When he shot his girlfriend, we felt betrayed. Sure, it was his girlfriend lying dead on the floor, yet he betrayed our image of him. He was no longer a poster child for perseverance.
Sometimes betrayal hits a lot closer to home. There are certain places in public where we expect our privacy to be kept safe. Every time that we enter a public restroom, we trust that custodians keep the area clean, and we trust the building owners to keep the stalls away from prying eyes. We recently learned that one elementary school in Davenport was not so safe.
Dishon Isabel betrayed the trust of his coworkers and the students he served when he placed cameras in a girls restroom. Now that entire school is recovering from the shock, disgust, and invasion of their privacy. We all can’t help but look around at the people we trust and wonder, “Are they capable of committing such a crime?” Public bathrooms don’t feel quite so safe anymore.
Sometimes betrayal hurts the masses. Paying bills, shopping, and checking account balances online are pretty standard practice for most of us. Life is easier when we can do these chores from the comfort of our own homes. Before providing personal data online, we are careful to check for the “https:” at the front of the web address. If the symbol to the left of the URL is a lock, then we know that we are safe.
That was until last Monday, at least. On April 7, the media exposed what is now called “Heartbleed,” a flaw in OpenSSL that is used to securely transfer private data. Although unknown who has accessed this available data, it has been out there for quite some time. Now we all are rushing to check all of the websites that we use, change passwords, and even consider how our routers and mobile devices might be impacted. We want to trust that our personal data is safely locked away when we log out of various websites. We have been betrayed by almost everyone online.
When we put our trust in individuals and institutions, we expect that they will protect our confidences. Yet time and time again, public figures and our very own family and coworkers turn against us. Sometimes it seems that no one can provide safety. Even so, the betrayals that we experience seem minute compared to what Jesus experienced. A murder trial in South Africa, a camera in a bathroom, even a security flaw are all trivial compared to what Jesus experienced during his last days.
By the time he breathed his last, almost everyone had turned on him. Although Judas’ betrayal is most famous, so many others did so as well. Some publicly mocked and beat Jesus. Others simply ran away, afraid for their own safety.
The text in John is so quick to judge Judas. Of the eight times that the gospel of John mentions Judas by name, he is either referenced as the one who betrays Jesus, or he is in the act of betraying. John makes it clear that the role that Judas plays in the gospel is to hand Jesus over to the Jewish leaders. Where our passion reading begins, Judas approaches Jesus in one of his favorite spots, knowing that he would be vulnerable there. Judas brought with him a large number of Roman soldiers and Jewish police. They were armed with lanterns and weapons.
Now in the hands of the Jewish authorities, Jesus was put on trial. Annas and Caiaphas the chief priest, believed that it was better to have one person die “for the people.” So, they were determined to put Jesus to death. Unable to kill him on their own authority, they handed him over to Pilate shouting “Crucify him!” and “We have no king but the emperor.” This last one was the worst betrayal of all. Not only are they denying Jesus’ divinity, but they also are denying the Lord’s role as their king. These religious leaders betrayed Jesus and God in the same breath.
Pilate is the last one with an opportunity to save Jesus. After interrogating him, he finds Jesus innocent. He does not think that Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God is a crime, yet he hands Jesus over to be flogged and mocked. Then, once again Pilate proclaims that Jesus is blameless, but he hands Jesus over to be killed. Out of fear of a potential riot, Pilate disregards Jesus’ innocence.
Each of these people acted out of self-interest. They were afraid for their lives and their jobs, so they did what they had to do to protect themselves. In the process, they betrayed Jesus to the point of death. Despite everyone turning their back on him, Jesus continued to offer himself for us.
At the last, Pilate hands Jesus over to death. As John portrays him, Jesus was in control of his fate the entire time. He knew that he needed to offer himself as a new Passover lamb, so he did. He never resisted any of his opposers. Instead, he willingly went to Golgotha. Upon the cross, he did not cry out in anguish. He did not show his suffering. Instead, he simply said, “It is finished.” Then his earthly life was over.
Jesus died for you, that you might have life eternal. Jesus died for all, that the world might be saved through him. Jesus died for good, but not forever. Amen.