“Surely it is not I, Lord?” – Mt 26:22
In Greek, to “betray” means to hand the other over to suffering. Judas’ betrayal handed Jesus over to suffering. Peter’s denial leaves Jesus to suffer alone. Almost all of the other male disciples abandoned their teacher as well. In various ways, each of them is a source of sorrow for Jesus, despite their protestations, “Surely, it is not I, Lord?”
When listening to the Passion narrative on Palm Sunday, I was struck by two gestures of Jesus. First, he asked the one who handed him over to suffering, “Judas, are you betraying me with a kiss?” Second, he turned and looked at Peter with forgiveness and love, prompting his close disciple to weep bitterly. In different ways, Jesus drew each of his friends with tenderness and mercy, beyond their betrayal.
It is difficult for me to honestly look at how I hand others over to suffering, especially those close to me. Intentionally or unknowingly, I betray as Judas or deny as Peter. I overprotect, cling too tightly, minimize burdens, or hold unrealistic expectations of people I profess to love. Judas handed Jesus over to suffering partially because he wanted to force Jesus to become a political Messiah; Peter denied knowing Jesus because the cost of discipleship seemed too much for him. I neglected to lend an understanding ear to a friend because it inconveniences me; I dismissed another’s suffering with a kiss.
It’s so tempting to focus on fear, on a world beset by terror and broken political systems, or on personal disappointments and busy-ness. Yet, when we are willing to confess that we often hand those we love over to suffering, even against our best intentions, we can encounter Christ’s forgiving love. When we allow Jesus’ gaze to draw us with tenderness and mercy, beyond our guilt and shame, our hearts can be consoled and purified. In turn, we will be more ready to forgive those who, often against their will, hand us over to suffering.
Lord, help me see the ways I cause others to suffer; draw me closer with your merciful gaze.