Please note that we will have a Good Friday Tenebrae service and a service of Celebration for Easter Sunday with contributions from many of our congregation.
Wednesday of Holy Week APC 31st March 2021 ‘Betrayal’
Introduction and Welcome
Good morning and welcome to the opening reflection in our Holy week series. Today is entitled ‘Betrayal’ as together we will imagine ourselves in the Upper Room as Jesus announces to his disciples that one of them will betray him. But before we reflect on this and how we might find God’s comfort for our own betrayals, let us take a moment to talk to God. Let us pray…
Lord Jesus Christ, once more we remember that last week before you faced the cross- your pain and hurt as you faced betrayal, denial, rejection and abandonment, and we confess that we have added to your pain.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon us.
Through our thoughts, words and actions, so often we have deserted you when you needed us most.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon us.
Through our lack of thought, our failure to speak, and our reluctance to act, so many times we have denied the faith and love we declare.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon us.
We have cared too much for the good opinion of others. We have been fearful to contemplate the true cost of discipleship. Like lost sheep we have gone astray.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon us.
Yet you have called us to be your church. You have forgiven us, cleansed and restored us, giving your own life for our sakes.
Receive our thanks. Receive our praise. And help us to follow you more faithfully.
Join with me as we say the Lord’s Prayer, thoughtfully and sincerely together…
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Matthew 26 v 14-16
14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
Matthew 26 v 20-24
20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, 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.”
Matthew 26 v 47-50
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”[a]
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.
Mathew 27 v 1-5
Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. 2 So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
Reflection for Holy Week “Betrayal”
On Sunday we listened to the crowds of people lining the streets of Jerusalem. On that day they shouted “Hosannah!” It means “Rescue me!” A cry for help but also an exclamation of worship to the only one who could really save them.
Yet just a few days later, most of those people would change their cry to “Crucify Him!”
All of us know what it feels like to be betrayed. A confidence shared, a promise broken, a friendship abandoned. As we enter Holy week for another year, it’s this aspect of Jesus’ final days that has grabbed my attention. I’ve been particularly inspired in my thinking by Philip Yancey in his book, “The Jesus I never knew.”
For one thing, His betrayal was something that Jesus already knew. Dramatically, in the middle of their final meal together Jesus calmly drops the bombshell to the group… “Tonight one of you will betray me.”
What a conversation stopper! Or perhaps it was a starter, as the disciples stared at each other and exclaimed indignantly, “Well, it won’t be me!” The truth is, it could have been any one of them. Who knows how many of them had already been approached by the authorities probing for information?
Did any of them feel suspicious when a few minutes later Judas left the room? Probably not. It would be normal for the treasurer to excuse themselves to purchase supplies or run a charitable errand.
The truth is, knowing the rest of the story, we do judge Judas in a different light to all the others. I mean, who even thinks about naming their child after the greatest traitor in history?
But if we read the gospels honestly, it’s the ordinariness, not the evil of Judas that stands out. Like the rest He was selected by the Master after a night of prayer. They must have trusted Him to appoint Him treasurer. At the last Supper he sat near Jesus, a place of honour. There’s no hint in all the gospels that Judas was a double agent.
So, how could he betray Christ?
Society has posed many answers to that question throughout the years. Was it his love for money? Had he become disillusioned, feeling that Jesus was too soft or misguided in His belief that His martyrdom would bring about the revolution they needed? Was he simply wanting to save his own skin? Perhaps he was hoping to kick start the revolution by arranging an arrest.
The bible says simply, “Satan entered him.”
But the truth is Satan had entered them all. When it became clear that Jesus’ kind of Kingdom would lead to a cross and not a crown, all of them left the table and vanished into the shadows. One of them even swore blindly in public on several occasions that he had never been associated with Jesus.
It’s easy to point the finger at Judas, harder to point it at the disciples, but even more difficult to look in the mirror and say – “Well, actually, I did that too.”
The truth is we’ve all betrayed Him at times. In the right circumstances, under enough pressure, we’ve all abandoned our Lord.
So can I ask you, gently, where are you at the moment in your relationship with Christ? Have you abandoned the table? Are you hiding in the shadows? Do you publicly not even care?
Over the Christmas break I watched a fascinating movie called “Silence” which did indeed leave me speechless. It’s based on the book of the same name written by Shusaku Endo one of Japans most renowned novelists.
Starring Liam Neeson, it describes the true story of how Japanese Christians, including world respected priests renounced their faith under severe torture at the hands of regional Shoguns. Endo wrote his book because he could only find books written about famous martyrs. His inspiration came from his understanding that the most powerful message of Jesus was his unquenchable love for people who betrayed him.
When Judas opened the gate for the authorities in the garden, Jesus called him his Friend. When all but his mother, 3 other women and John deserted him, Jesus continued to love them all. When leaders of His own religious denomination and nation hung him naked on a cross, His only words were, “Father forgive them.”
You know, the real question is not, how could Judas betray the Son of God? The real question is how could the Son of God love you and me despite all that He knows about us?
The saddest thing for me about Judas is not his betrayal of Jesus. It’s the fact that he failed to understand how much the Lord still loved him. It’s the fact that Judas couldn’t find the courage to say sorry and forgive Himself. Peter, somehow grasped this mystery and became a leader of the church. Judas took his own life.
Listen, in one sense it really doesn’t matter how you or I have betrayed the Lord. What matters is that we understand how much He loves us. What matters is that we come out of the shadows, return to the table and commit to caring once again about how we represent Him. What matters is that we learn to love as He loves…even those we consider to be our Judas. Let us pray….
Prayer for ourselves and others
Dear God, we thank you for always being faithful to us. We can always count on you to love us completely and unconditionally. Thank you for being perfectly trustworthy. We can always rely on you to do what's best for us and help us with whatever we need. Please help us to remember that you are here for us even when we feel betrayed by other people.
Lord, you know all of the painful thoughts and feelings we have to deal with after being let down. We find it so hard to understand how people or institutions we felt we could trust have let us down so badly. God, when these things happen, we feel we need a miracle to find real inner peace again after what we've been through. Please give us that peace so that we can think about our betrayals from your perspective. Give us the strength to be able to control our emotions rather than allowing them to control us.
Loving Father, we know you agree that betrayal is wrong and are just as upset as we are about what has happened to us. But we also know that you want us to forgive those who have hurt us. If we’re honest, we may not want to forgive, but we don't want to hurt ourselves more by holding onto bitterness or pursuing revenge. In a few moments of silence we bring those people or organisations who have betrayed us to God now….
Lord, empower us to forgive by letting go of the offense and trusting you to bring justice to the situation in the right ways and at the right times.
Please free us from the burden of holding onto a grudge and help us move on with our lives well.
God, we confess that this betrayal has damaged our confidence. We feel insecure and blame ourselves for mistakes we have made. We wonder what we could have done differently to prevent this betrayal from happening. Please steer us away from wasting our time and energy living in the past, and help us to focus now on how we can best move into a better future. Remind us of how valuable we are, and let us sense your love for me in tangible ways.
As we move forward with the other relationships in our lives, help us not to punish those who have goodwill toward me by assuming that they will betray me too. Help us to trust the people we know who are treating us well. Help us even to rebuild relationships with those who have hurt us but who have been willing to change and be reconciled to us.
Show us the people who can support us as we recover from this betrayal. Thank you for them all. Please bless them for their help.
And Lord, forgive us for the times when we have betrayed you and for times that we too have betrayed other people, even those closest to us.
Take a moment to pray for a few people who you know who have been betrayed and are feeling angry and hurt at this time…
I just want to say a huge thank you to Alison, and all those who took part in the RTE service on Sunday. It was a very special, if nerve wrecking experience for us all. Thank you also to everyone who watched the service and all those people who have contacted us with words of support and encouragement. We thank God that the service has been such a blessing to so many people throughout Ireland and we give the glory to Him.
No word yet on when we can return to church but do tune in again on Friday as we join together for a very special virtual service of Tenebrae as we reflect on the death of our Lord. This will include readings and songs from lots of people within our church family.
And don’t forget that Sunday is the high point of our Christian year as we celebrate that Christ is alive. That service will also include a couple of nice surprises and many familiar faces from our congregation. So I do hope you can join us for worship on both of those occasions.
In the meantime, as always, let me close with the benediction after which I will invite you to share I the words of the grace together…
May Christ, who accepted the cup of sacrifice in obedience to
the Father’s will, keep you steadfast as you walk with him the
way of his cross. And
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the
fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore,
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