Who Betrayed Jesus?

By: Brian Robertson

Palm Sunday


During this Easter week that proves a focal point for Christians throughout the world, I came home very early yesterday morning from a service and Eucharist centered around Palm Sunday. The presentation was interesting — sort of a reader’s theater in which, within a few minutes, we went from the crowd (played by the congregation) cheering Jesus and waving palm branches as he entered the city to, following the various characters from Jesus to Pilate speaking, that same crowd calling for his execution.

As I drove home through the very empty streets, I began to wonder, “Who betrayed Jesus?”

I’m sure there are some out there who won’t be pleased by my answer.

First, early First Century Christianity was awash with various ideas about and attitudes toward Jesus and wasn’t the monolithic “old time religion” that most of us assumed (or were taught) from an early age.  We have absorbed the differing accounts within the New Testament and blended them all together in our heads into what we think is a a cohesive, coordinated picture. In reality, the varying birth stories, the trial, accounts of the resurrection, the proper time line of Jesus’ life — such as of Jesus in the Temple (last act of Jesus in Matthew, Mark and Luke and the very first act in John) -  and much more differ considerably one from another. In this way, we do not so much know Jesus as we know an  image of Jesus, and, in that, we betray him.

Secondly, many have retrofitted Jesus’ message to declare the Presence of God as only some kind of future event — heaven after death, an apocalyptic end, cosmic judgment complete with fire and brimstone, all of which directly betrayed Jesus’ simple message of God here and now:

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, [Jesus] answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs that can be observed, nr will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!,’ for the kingdom of God is within (and among) you.”

The Gospel of Thomas which, scholars maintain, may present the very earliest “frozen in time” sayings of Jesus in that they are relatively unadulterated, has a marvelous parallel to Luke’s version which at once shows the immediacy of God and what must have been a remarkable sense of humor of Jesus himself in two different sayings:

Jesus said, “if those who lead you say to you,  ‘Look, the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will get there before you….If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea, then the fish will get there before you.’

“It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying, ‘Here it is’ or ‘There it is.’  Rather, the kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it.’

Those who turned away from the burning center of Jesus’ good news about the immediacy of God’s Presence in favor of something that will always be just down the road betrayed Jesus and, in that way, still do.

Thirdly, those who took an inclusive and wildly loving God and Jesus, and created a massive bureaucratic organization that fostered a patriarchal avenue of power that excluded and punished some, relegated women to dramatically inferior status (and, really, just look at Jesus’ inner circle for the difference),  and worse betrayed Jesus by hiding behind their own created image of Jesus.

Fourth, those who justified torture of the most hideous kind — and this was also done within Christianity, not only outside it — and demanded by doing so that only one belief, the classically orthodox organization’s point of view, alone should be tolerated, these people betrayed Jesus.

Fifth, those who use Christianity as a means to an end, appealing to Christians in imagery and historical eventsto justify war and supremacy have betrayed Jesus.

Sixth, those who, in order to protect their own power and authority, have taught that God does not speak to people today in love and in silence or in the faces of strangers or touch of a loved one.  Instead, they maintain, God only  spoke via a long-closed testament which, in reality, was crafted to meet the needs of a plethora of spiritual communities 2,000 years ago.  At the same time, over and over (or scribe by scribe) the testament was constantly being given a light gloss to try and sand down and blur any differences, and all of these have betrayed Jesus. Those who insist God is forever limited to and trapped within a book have betrayed Jesus while betraying God, have ignored the central heart of Jesus’ message of God’s shocking Immediacy.

Seventh, there are those who created the creeds over 1500 years ago, the ones still said today, that proclaim, for instance, “born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate” as if the significance to Jesus is his crucifixion and not what he said.  Did you ever notice there’s something missing in the Creed’s quote above? Like, for example, Jesus entire life and teachings? Those who turned the astonishing invitation of Jesus to seek God here and now, within and without, into the event of Jesus’ death so as to bolster their own authority, power and importance in maintaining an organization for the coming end of time betrayed Jesus and, by covering Jesus’ life and teachings with a blanket they are destroying the basic life force of Christianity.

Finally,there are  those who say,  “Believe and wait” while making sure there is enough cash to operate magachurches and pay for the tailored suits and  airtime on cable television for their lavishly decorated sets and have ignored the actions that spring from heart of Jesus’ message:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me .. Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

These who have become the moneychangers and the blind that try to lead the blind and the religious traditional power brokers of our time which Jesus had nothing but scorn for in his life have betrayed Jesus by ignoring the fact the message is about giving and not getting, about helping the poor instead of running as fast as one can the other direction for the shelter of a good bank account, and more.

This Easter, then, I’d suggest we consider that the theological theory of Jesus dying because he had to somehow take on the sins of the world does nothing but reinforce these betrayals and feed their ferocity. Instead, his was a life and unique insight into God’s Love that I feel is found nowhere else as clearly, at least for speaking for myself. We are in the position during this Easter season to celebrate a life lived absolutely Transparent to the Transcendent and, more importantly, it was a life we were called to live by Jesus himself, again and again. Further, let us realize that when the world said “No” to Jesus, God said “Yes.”

Christ is the moment of interface between the human and the Divine in each of our lives, that which Jesus called us to have the courage and wisdom and drive to accomplish for ourselves, here and now, with God’s every blowing breezes of Love and Grace.

This remarkable event, the life and teaching of Jesus, was lived from a center so strong, so unshakable, that what we see as the awesome destruction of Death becoming shattered. Again, I would repeat, life told Jesus (and often tells us), “No!” and yet God tells us, “Yes.” That, my friends, is the true message of Easter.

Again, to hearken back to a recent post, when we try to figure it all out we  can find ourselves trapped in any number of blind alleys. What Jesus said, and what I mentioned a few days back, is that at some point it all becomes meaningless save one thing — Divine Love.

That, and not a theory or a bureaucracy or a dogma is what will carry us on into the unknown lands.

God bless,



[Bravo. Bravo and thank you. I read my Christian Mystic emails at first with trepidation, so worried that I, in my searching, will stumble upon something that will speak to my heart but draw me away from God. Yet as I’ve continued to read, my trepidation has turned into anticipation of the insight I’ll gain when I do open the email and consider what is being said.

In this post specifically, you spoke directly to my heart’s deepest concerns and questions; the primary worry being, Am I serving the God of all things, the mysterious and omnipotent God whose mind I cannot possibly know fully or whose actions I cannot understand fully, or, Am I serving a God that I have refitted to make me feel more comfortable in the immediate. I ask these questions because my understanding of God has changed so much these past ten years, which is scary considering where I first learned about God was a mega-church which had very specific dogmas, theological beliefs, and very stern warnings to those who did not follow them. If I were to sway from those very strict (and to them, oh-so-obvious) beliefs, was I indeed swaying from the gates of Heaven?

So when I read this: “Thirdly, those who took an inclusive and wildly loving God and, in turn, Jesus, and, coupled with the above changes, created a massive bureaucratic organization that fostered a patriarchal avenue of power that excluded and punished some, relagated women to dramatically inferior status (just look at Jesus’ inner circle for the difference and in the early forming church communities), and worse betrayed Jesus while hiding behind their own created image of Jesus.” my heart faltered as for the first time I considered that rather than refitting Jesus to make me feel comfortable, I am simply finding the original Jesus and experiencing the peace that comes from knowing Him.

Thank you again for these posts and the emails I get.]