Can We Forgive Those Who Betray Us?

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Can We Forgive Those Who Betray Us?

Easter Series Part 1

In the weeks leading up to Easter, I will begin a series of blog posts here on the ethostulsa.org website which will help to prepare us for Easter.

The question I’d like to pose to you as you begin to focus on the most important holiday on the Christian calendar is this: How can you find it in your heart to forgive those who sin against you in the most painful, awful way imaginable? How can you find that place, deep in your soul, to actually look past the horrendous sin of BETRAYAL?

Well, if you think about it, the Easter story starts with just that- a story of betrayal. On the Thursday of Passion Week, at sundown, the Passover began. Jesus and the disciples had gathered in the upper room to eat the Passover meal.

Mark 14:17-21.

And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Can you imagine the pain that Jesus would have felt? Here is Judas, one of Jesus’ faithful guys- the treasurer of the group… a good friend of Jesus. Jesus is about to be betrayed by His good friend. If you think about it, there is nothing that hurts as much as being betrayed by a friend!

I know a guy who, eight months into marriage, found out his new wife had been cheating on him since before they were married. Can you understand the pain that goes with that? I know a woman whose husband, a ministry leader, cheated on her with the college girl that was nannying for them. She and her five children were completely devastated. Betrayal is a deeply painful thing. And in that upper room, where Jesus and His disciples are eating the Last Supper- when Jesus says, “This is my body, given for you, take and eat…” He shares the bread with the very one who is going to betray Him. His mercy and grace are here on display for all of them to see.

But the betrayal doesn’t stop there. Because after dinner, Jesus and the disciples head out to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus will spend his final free hours before the trials, crucifixion, and impending death.

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

“It isn’t just Judas that’s going to betray Me,” Jesus is saying. “it’s YOU GUYS. All of you are going to turn your backs on Me.” But Peter, the most outspoken of the group, hears Jesus say this and is utterly appalled! Peter? The most outspoken, most loyal disciple? No way. That’s why Peter says:

Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

And sure enough… not once… not twice… but three times Peter denies that he is one of Jesus’ disciples. The disciples had all fled; Judas had betrayed the Savior; but Peter was the one who was standing as close to Jesus as he could be, outside of the hearings where Jesus was being interrogated. Then, when the rooster crowed the second time, Peter realized his mistake; he saw Jesus across the courtyard being led away, and he realized that he did exactly what Jesus had said he’d do. He betrayed the one he had vowed never to betray. The Bible tells us that he RAN out of the courtyard, and wept bitterly.

You and I are NOT innocent of this heinous sin. We too have betrayed Jesus. In fact, we do it almost every day. We know that we ought to act as becomes the followers of Christ, yet we willingly disobey. We neglect to tell people about His saving love. We neglect the poor, the orphans, the widows; we lie, cheat, and steal. We lose our tempers, break the laws (don’t tell me you never speed); we eat too much; drink too much; lust too much… we betray Him in many ways.

So, let’s go back to the original question: How can we forgive those who betray us? We must go back to the story in Mark 14.

Jesus, after His death, burial, and resurrection, forgives the disciples for betraying Him. We know this because He invites the disciples once again to continue on the journey with Him. In fact, the first recorded words that Jesus speaks to Peter after the denials are “Peter, do you love Me?” Jesus asks him this 3 different times. “Peter, do you love Me?” Then feed my sheep. How in the world can Jesus say this to his disciples, after they essentially betrayed Him in His hour of deepest need… and say to them, “Follow Me?” And how can Jesus offer a leadership position to Peter after Peter blew it not once, not twice, but three times?

It is only because of grace. Only the grace of Jesus would allow a betrayer like Peter to be esteemed in the kingdom of heaven. And you see, this is where all of this gets so confusing to outsiders. The Kingdom of God is so subversive… the outsiders are insiders… the humble are esteemed; the prideful are brought low… the rich are the poor ones; the poor are the wealthy ones… the winners are the losers; the losers are the winners… the law-followers are out; the sinners are in. Everything about our faith is upside-down from the world’s perspective. You know why? Because if you think about it- how upside-down is it that an innocent man would die for you? Especially when you did absolutely nothing to deserve it. That’s the Gospel. Jesus was betrayed. And you were the betrayer. And he died for you anyway. This is what Easter is all about.

So when we blow it… and we will… when we fail to keep our wedding vows… when we don’t follow the Ten Commandments… when we betray our friends and family…. when this happens, you WILL feel remorse, and you WILL feel ashamed and guilty… but it will only last a moment. But then, you can look toward heaven, and the Spirit will lead you to repentance… and then you’ll see that Jesus forgives you. His promise to never leave you, and never forsake you, even though you are the betrayer, will overwhelm you. And you’ll vow, like Peter, to never do it again. Even though you know you will.

And when others betray you, you’ll remember that you have first betrayed others; and you are the one who has betrayed the One whom you swore you’d never betray. And this will prompt you to not feel self righteous in any way! You will be quick to forgive, and quick to reconcile, and it’s all because YOU have been shown grace when you’ve done the same thing. You will become the gracious, loving Christian that God has commanded you to be. Can you imagine if we actually lived out of the grace that has been offered to us in the Gospel? Easter is about forgiveness and restoration. And this is what makes Easter so beautiful.

- Beau