I remember the first time I was betrayed. I was 11 years old and sat on the school bus when a boy in front, handed me a grubby, much-folded note scrawled in pencil.
Will you be my girlfriend? (it said)
(And underneath, some multiple choice answers)
Yes. No. Maybe.
I uhmed and ahhed for a short while, before settling on ‘maybe’ and promised the sender of the note (a freckle-faced boy called Martin) that I’d confirm with him the next day. The following morning, after much deliberation, I’d settled on a ‘no’, but finding Martin in the school yard to deliver this (obviously) devastating news, was proving pretty tricky.
I eventually spotted him on the bus home that evening, cuddled up to a girl called Rachel. Whaaattt? I’d not even given him an answer and he already had a new girlfriend?
I later learned why the note was in pencil – it was so he could rub out the previous girl’s answers, before passing it on to the next. I was only 11, but it felt like I’d been used and made a fool of. The sting of humiliation turned my stomach.
In later years, I’d face far worse betrayals. I know what it’s like to have a friend share your secrets, to be cheated on, to look someone in the eye and know (no matter how much they protested) that they were lying to you.
Later, when you discover the truth, humiliation bubbles up like hot lava and forces you to question everything you thought you knew.
But there is a way through the hot sting of betrayal. Because, of all the betrayals I’ve experienced, none comes anywhere close to what Jesus went through.
Admittedly if you’re feeling the prickly heat of someone else’s dishonesty, that can feel like trite comfort. But the truth is, knowing that God actually understands, is pretty overwhelming stuff.
Jesus knew what it was like to be part of a large group of pals who did everything together, a group who backed Him up, followed Him, defended Him, until eventually one of them decided to tell lies and bring the authorities to His door, all for a relatively small reward.
The Bible says that ‘satan entered into Judas’ but aside from that, why would one friend betray another? And why does the Bible even recount this bit of the story? Why did a friend have to betray Him?
It wasn’t even crucial to what happened next, but perhaps like lots of other seemingly insignificant details in the Bible, I’d like to think it’s just about God identifying with us. It’s so that in those moments when we’re facing loss, heartache and betrayal, we know that God’s been there before, He gets it, He understands.
Thankfully, unlike 11 year old Martin on the school bus, God is not rubbing out your name before writing in someone else’s.
Your name, my name are ‘inscribed on the palm of His hands’. We don’t understand why we have to go through all these upsets and losses…but there is something pretty incredible about talking to a God who’s been there too.