Holy Week. The annual Lenten journey descends to the darkest of all moments before culminating next Sunday in the most ascended moment ever.
This Lent, I’ve followed along a book by Alicia Britt Chole, “40 Days of Decrease.” Each day, Chole (pronounced show-lee) offers a reflection, reading, and fast. Although adaptable for times other than Lent, she dedicates about a half-page at the end of each chapter/day to the history of Lenten practice.
The word “different” in the book subtitle, “A different kind of hunger. A different kind of fast” understates how different a journey Chole offers. Consider the fasts:
Day one: Lent as a project
Day two: Regrets
Day three: Collecting praise
Day four: Artificial light…
I found her reflections unusual, refreshing, intriguing, and for Day 27, sobering. The focus was betrayal by Judas, the apostle who made a deal with the Jewish leaders leading to Jesus’ arrest and execution. Recall the Last Supper scene described in Matthew’s gospel when Jesus mentioned that one among them would betray Him.
“Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Judas inquired. To which Jesus replied, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:21, 25)
Judas’s “betrayal was a manifestation of satanic opposition,” Chole remarked. “We expect satanic opposition from the world. But when it comes from around the table, it takes our breath away.” (page 136)
Chole then pressed into this betrayal by depicting Jesus and Judas’s final interaction during the arrest sequence that ended, she wrote, “with some name-calling.”
“The last name Judas called Jesus was Rabbi. The last thing Jesus called Judas was friend.”
That word rendered as “friend” is the Greek hetairos, “used culturally to refer to a colleague, comrade, fellow worker, or friend. It appears only three times in the New Testament, exclusively in the gospel of Matthew.* In biblical context, ‘the implication [is] of a distinct relationship in which there is generosity on the one part and abuse on the other.’ To the point: a co-worker’s betrayal.” (page 137)
So this particular betrayal “from around the table” is betrayal by someone close, someone we trust, who we let our guard down with, who we never even slightly suspect would betray us.
Having been on the business end of betrayal “from around the table” on a few occasions, the weight of her remark settled in my chest. I can testify that not only does it take your breath away but getting back to breathing normally again can take a long, long while.
That I still feel so raw about my own experiences of having been betrayed took me by surprise. Then came a dawning of how others in my life must feel and still feel raw about due to betrayal by a spouse, a niece, a grandchild, a brother, a buddy, a colleague, a neighbor….
Here is yet another iteration of the depth and detail of Jesus’ humanity. While this particular betrayal factors hugely in Jesus’ story, what is most said about Him is that and how He redeemed betrayal and all the dismissal, rejection and injustice heaped onto His huge shoulders.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
Sobering. Indeed. We must really matter to Him.
Referenced pages from “40 Days of Decrease - A different kind of hunger. A different kind of fast” by Alicia Britt Chole