The Wound of Betrayal
A sermon based on Matthew 26:20-25
Sunday, March 12, 2017 – Lent 2
"Et tu?" You don't have to be a Latin scholar to know what that short, two-word phrase means, or how it entered common usage. This Wednesday is March 15th—the "Ides of March." That's the day when the Roman senate, fearing that Julius Caesar was growing far too powerful than one man should ever become, betrayed and murdered him at the theater. And as he was being stabbed to death (some 23 times!), Julius recognized his close friend, Marcus Brutus, as one of the 60 conspirators attacking him. Brutus had been a confidant, a supporter, even a counselor of Julius Caesar. So you can imagine the shock of betrayal by such a close friend that led him to cry out as his last words, "Et tu, Brute?" "You too, Brutus?"
Throughout the Sundays of Lent this year we're going to examine the many wounds our Savior suffered in his Passion, his trip to the cross. But we'll look, not at the physical wounds in his back, his head, his hands, his feet, and his side, but the emotional blows the suffered, which were just as bad, if not worse than, the physical abuse he endured.
And today, we begin with that wound of betrayal. Of course, you know the story of Judas' betrayal of Jesus, handing him over to his death for 30 pieces of silver. But as we look at this account this morning, Jesus doesn't want us to focus on how evil and cowardly Judas was. Instead he wants to ask each of us, "Et tu, Christian?" Do you too betray me?
And he wants to ask that soul-piercing question not just to wound us, but so that he might heal our wounded souls by the wounds he endured in our place. Our text for this morning is found in Matthew 26:20-25…
20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me."
22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?"
23 Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."
25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?"
Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you."
Have you ever been betrayed? Maybe you told a friend how much you liked someone, only to hear that they asked that special person out the very next day. Or maybe you shared a secret with a someone, "I've never told this to anyone before…" And then, everyone knew your private business within hours. Or maybe you had a joint venture planned and your would-be partner pulled out last minute costing you a small fortune. Or maybe someone promised you that they'd be faithful till death do you part, and it turned out, they didn't mean it.
If you've been betrayed before, and I'm guessing everyone here has been betrayed to some degree or another, I'd be willing to bet that the common denominator in everyone's betrayal, is that it was done by a friend, by someone you thought you could trust. In fact, that's what makes it betrayal, isn't it, instead of just hostility from an open enemy. And that's what made it hurt.
That's what hurt Jesus that night. He was being betrayed by a close friend—by "one who [had] dipped his hand into the bowl" with him. In our culture, you might say someone close enough that you wouldn't mind if they double-dipped—you know, they took a bite, then put that same piece of food that touched their lips back in the bowl of dip that you both share. You only do that with someone you're pretty close to.
And as much as we like to villainize Judas (and rightly so—he did sell out the Son of God for a few thousand dollars in today's terms), yet, all of the disciples betrayed him that night didn't they? They recognized that each of them were capable of such cowardly betrayal already at the meal. "They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, 'Surely not I, Lord?'" They knew the potential of their sinful natures and asked, "Et me, Jesus?" "Is it me?"
And of course, you know what happened later that night. After they swore they would never disown him, they fell asleep when asked to keep watch. They ran and hid when Jesus needed them the most. They swore that they never knew the man who had done nothing but love them. What cowardice! What betrayal!
And as much as we like to villainize Judas (and the rest of the disciples), we have to admit we too are capable of betrayal. In fact, I'm sure that we've all been on the giving end of betrayal just as we've been on the receiving end. Have you ever talked about someone behind their back? You've betrayed their trust. Have you promised something to a friend that you failed to deliver on? You betrayed that friend. If you've ever lied to your parents, you betrayed them by your dishonesty. And if you've ever had a fleeting thought about being intimate with anyone other than you're spouse, you've betrayed your promise to be faithful.
And in all of this, you've betrayed God too. You see it's not those sinners out there who betray Jesus. No. It's expected that unbelievers and atheists, religious liberals, and those practicing an openly sinful lifestyle would all rebel against Jesus. But it's his friends—you and me, who call ourselves Christians, little Christs, who have sworn to him our undying allegiance—who betray him. We betray him when we pretend like we don't know him, when we act like we don't know him, when we show him that we think we're more important than he is.
And we not only break Jesus' heart, but we incur God's wrath. Jesus said in Luke 9:26, "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."
Can you hear the sorrow in Jesus' voice as he looks at you and asks you, "Et tu, Christian?" "You too would betray me?" And we have to confess, "Me tu, Jesus. Me too. I too have betrayed you. And I'm ashamed my betrayal… I know that I deserve hell for it. And I'm sorry… so sorry for what I've done."
But don't just hear the disappointment in Jesus' voice as he tells his disciples, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me." Also hear the sorrow of what Jesus said about the sad, final fate of Judas: "Woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." I think Jesus probably said this with a tear rolling down his cheek.
In his omniscience, he saw what would become of Judas. He knew that Judas would despair, and, believing that God's mercy could never be for him—for such a traitor—, that his sin was far too great for God's grace, would miss out on the forgiveness that Christ would win for him. And that reality must have broken Jesus' heart far more than the betrayal. You see, even for Judas' betrayal, Jesus never stopped loving him.
And Jesus never stops loving you, no matter how many times you've betrayed him. And he loved you and every traitor, every Judas, so much that he willingly chose the cross and let soldiers stretch out his hands and pound in the nails. It was for the sins of every Judas, for you and me, that our Brother pleaded, "Father, forgive them!" It was for the betrayal of every Judas, for yours and mine, that our Savior endured the worst betrayal—as God the Father turned his back on the sinless Son of God, who took our sin and hell's punishment on himself. "Et tu, Pater?" "You too, Father?" Jesus could have cried from the cross as he died for us.
And by his perfect sacrifice, he won forgiveness of every sin, of every betrayal ever committed! Don't believe the lie that Judas did—that your sin is too big for God's mercy. You are forgiven, no matter how great your betrayal! His forgiveness is for "et tu," for "you too!" So great is the love of Jesus for you that it overcomes your betrayal and your every sin. And Jesus will never betray you or ever stop loving you.
And so, as hard as it might be, in Jesus who forgives us in spite of our betrayal, we find the strength to forgive those who have betrayed us. Though it will mean torture and death for the sinful nature to do it, in Jesus who loves us in spite of our betrayal, we find the strength to love even those who have hurt us so badly. Even though it will be a cross to carry, in thanks to Jesus who served us by carrying a literal cross to hell on Mount Calvary, we find the strength to serve even those who have let us down time and time again. We do it all not because it's fun, but to show our thanks to Jesus for all he's done for us.
"Et tu?" Yes, we too have betrayed our Savior just like Judas did. But today we celebrate his love that is far greater than all of our betrayals! "Et tu?" Yes, we too can endure the pain of being betrayed with forgiveness and love and grace, being recipients of the same from God. "Et tu?" We too will serve our Savior and others in thanksgiving with no more betrayals until he returns or calls us home. And on that day we will be so glad we were born when he says to us, "Come, enjoy the kingdom prepared for you." (cf. Matthw 25:34) "Et tu?" Yes, for you too! In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.