8 Days, 1 Story - Day 4: Those around Jesus
I wonder, at times, if I realize the full power of the moments leading to Jesus' death on the cross in the way that I should from a human perspective. When challenged to write about the reactions of the people around Jesus during his road to suffering, it’s hard not to categorize them all into one defining action: a series of profound betrayals.
Let’s look at it closer, shall we?
The first betrayal we find while reading is personal. Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. Now, before you paint yourself as a hero and say “I would never…”; recall that this guy has given a lot of time and energy in following Jesus around and becoming close knit with Jesus and the other disciples of Jesus. This wasn’t some random guy who betrayed Jesus, this was a friend, a close relationship, someone who knew Jesus. This was a human being who watched Jesus feed 5000, who saw Jesus walk on water, who experienced men being healed of their leprosy and women bleeding renewed in their condition. This guy would have seen, first hand, the amazing miracles of Jesus in live-action… and yet… he betrayed him in an extremely intimate, and personal way.
The second betrayal was relational. Peter betrays Jesus relationally by denying the relationship he had with Jesus. Peter didn’t do this once, but three times. I know what you’re thinking… but keep in mind, this is Peter! This is one of Jesus' twelve, but also one of his inner circle. He and Jesus walked on water together! In this moment, Jesus is not just betrayed, but betrayed by one of his closest friends on this earth… literally. The relationship is denied, and the heart-wrenching hurt that Jesus must have experienced in his heart was probably devastating. In his greatest time of need, his best friend didn’t even stick with him.
The third betrayal is a betrayal of grace. Jesus, who was sent to this earth because of God’s justice, was betrayed by the modern justice system at the time. Check it out. Pilate, the most powerful man in the region, who has the power to allow Jesus to walk freely, finds no fault in Jesus. To which some would think: “Great! End of story. Case closed! We are good here.” Pilate, who finds no fault in Jesus, surrenders Jesus to a crowd as an innocent man to be crucified in place of a man who actually deserved justice. This is the justice system, absolutely, not working in my mind. This is where Pilate could have extended grace, in the truest definition of the term. And yet… nothing extended. Where was Pilate’s grace in this moment? It was, metaphorically, in a bowl of water, washed away by the washing of his hands.
The fourth is a betrayal of justice. This begins with the mocking of the crowds, and ends, for me, with the freeing of Barabbus in Jesus' place. What a horrifically unjust moment in history. Insert the greatest scandal or hurt you’ve ever experienced, and this was worse. Barabbus, who is the most deserving of death in this scenario, is traded places with, and replaced by a man who didn’t deserve it in the slightest. Pilate didn’t find any fault in Jesus. Yet Jesus right standing was traded away with a man who was guilty and deserving. This betrayal of grace then turns into the crowd who cheered this injustice on. Not knowing what they were doing, the mocking crowd, who needed Jesus’ grace the most, are the ones who condemned him to die. This isn’t justice. This is the opposite.
These four betrayals combine to one uniquely puzzling story. I ask myself, often, why doesn’t Jesus just walk? The hurt of being betrayed, even once in a small way, is enough to make anyone not want to jump into a relationship with another individual. But Jesus walks, in obedience, into not one, but multiple betrayals. Why?
It is, in this question, we find the greatest and most scandalous love story of all time. The beauty of grace, is that it makes life not fair. And this was certainly not fair.
Out of his great love for us, God sent himself as Jesus to pay an atonement for our sins in light of our betrayal, hurts, and idolatry at his expense. He sends Jesus to be what we all need more than anything in this world; and that is a redeemer. Jesus undergoes betrayal to be the opposite of that betrayal. In fact, for Jesus not to endure the cross would have been a betrayal to us.
So the next time you cozy up in your blanket to read the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, on which the cornerstone of our faith belongs, recall that this is not some random guy who doesn’t relate to your humanity. This is Jesus, who knew hurts we couldn’t fathom, and a pain we couldn’t know, so that we would have forgiveness we don’t deserve and a restored relationship with God we can’t ignore.
Because the beauty of grace, is that it makes life not fair.
Brent Ferris, Students Pastor