On Good Friday we had a tenebrae service at my church. The service was organized around eight events in the last hours of Jesus life, and each time we had finished reading about and meditating upon one, we snuffed out a candle to symbolize the gorwing emotional agony of Jesus as he approached the cross, until the entire sanctuary was plunged into silent darkness.
Early on, we meditated on what was called the Shadow of Betrayal — Jesus betrayal by Judas. The scence recorded in the Gospel is of the disciples sitting around the table in the Upper Room enjoying the Passover feast. And while they were eating, [Jesus] said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?” Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 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.” Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you” (Mt. 26:21-25).
I began to wonder what would possess a person to do that. I know he was enticed with those thirty pieces of silver, but Judas knew who Jesus was just as well as any of the other disciples: he had seen the miracles, had heard the Master’s authoritative teaching. And yet, for some reason (we know at least that Satan entered into Judas at that time, Jn 13:27) he chose to betray his Teacher.
I was in that moment terribly saddened by the very idea that someone could do such a thing to someone clearly so unique and so innocent — even one the thieves on the cross recognized Jesus’ innocence and the injustice that had been perpetrated against Him (Lk 23:40). And then the slow, creepy realization of it hit me: I, too, have betrayed my Lord. Like Peter, I have denied him before others. And in my daily life, have I not allowed the silver of this world to distract me from fellowship with him? Have I not betrayed his affections as I have let myself be drawn astray by other things that have become gods to me? Have I not allowed Jesus to be mocked and bruised by sinners and scoffers while I stand idly by, content in complicity?
I was confirmed in this as I spoke to a friend in the lobby. He said that last year in his faith community people who attended the Good Friday service were to walk up to the cross, dip their hands in red paint, and touch the cross, thus signifiying their part in the events leading up to and including Jesus’ death. We, each one of us, have Jesus’ blood on our hands — not literally, of course, because we were not there, but if we take seriously the assertion that God, in the person of Jesus Christ, has died an atoning death that covers the sins of all people, past, present and future, how can we remain innocent of this betrayal? It is our very sins that nailed him to the tree.