There’s one thing you can count on in the plot of any heist movie: a member of the team is going to betray the others. Every single time. Go back and watch one of them after you’re done reading this, and you’ll see I’m right. And almost every time, that betrayal comes from someone close, from a friend.
On the night He was arrested, Jesus was intimately familiar with the sting of betrayal. That betrayal came from all of His friends—every single one—but only one of them intended it. Think about Peter that night. He was being peak-level Peter: overly confident and impulsive with a mouth that, at times, is faster than his brain (all that to say, I get him). Jesus said to the disciples, “Tonight all of you will fall away because of me” (Matthew 26:31), but Peter was having none of it. Instead, he bloviated about his enduring commitment, promising, “Even if everyone falls away because of you, I will never fall away” (v.35).
I love that Jesus knew Peter’s heart better than Peter did in this moment, yet He still spoke a humbling truth to His disciple—even if Peter wasn’t yet ready to hear it. “‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus said to him, ‘tonight, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times’” (v.34). But Peter was sure that Jesus was wrong about this… and then he fell asleep after Jesus asked him to pray.
The other disciples, James and John included, were no better. All of them failed Jesus that night. But the worst was Judas Iscariot. He was the one at the front of the line, the one who led a mob into the garden of Gethsemane, walked right up to Jesus, and kissed Him—an act normally reserved for intimate friendship. “‘Friend,’ Jesus asked him, ‘why have you come?’” (v.50). Jesus was calling Judas back to his senses, to see what he was doing as the evil thing it was, even if Judas wouldn’t realize it until it was too late.
But God was already prepared for betrayal. In fact, the disciples’ betrayal was part of His plan from the beginning. Peter denied Jesus, despite his bold protestations to the contrary. It is no wonder he wept bitterly (Luke 22:60–62). But his denial led to something beautiful: a painful awareness of his own sinfulness and need for salvation.
Jesus was taken away, like a “lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). He was beaten and spat upon, mocked and jeered, but He endured it all because there was a greater purpose (Hebrews 12:2). God’s plan was going to be fulfilled. The Lamb of God was going to take away the sins of the world, and in the end, all will see “the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64).
Written by Aaron Armstrong