Betrayal. A Sermon on Great Wednesday


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Every week throughout the year we remember the event described in today’s Gospel reading—the reading about Judas’s betrayal of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What then is betrayal, and where did this word come from? In today’s understanding this word has a New Testament origin, because different words were used in the Old Testament to signify betrayal in the sense of the word as we understand it today, mainly relating to someone’s abominable turning from God—debauchery, adultery, corruption, and so on.

In the words, And Israel had committed adultery (Jer. 3:8), and in many, many other passages in Holy Scripture where it is shown how the people that had formerly been faithful to God departed from its Creator and Benefactor, this departure was called adultery or fornication against God.

The word betrayal has its roots in the Greek word, didamai (Lat. tradere), to hand over—paradidamai, which means handing over from God to someone. To whom? To satan. For after his betrayal of the Savior, Judas was handed over to satan. Why did this betrayal happen? What were his motives? The motive of this betrayal was a passion called love of money. Many passions live in us, but according to the teaching of the holy fathers, there is only one passion—love of money—that has no natural origin or basis in human nature; it is unnatural. But how many people do we see, not only in antiquity, in that terrible episode related in the Gospel, but all around us, who led by this passion commit terrible crimes. The most widespread and unjustified crime—when parent are led by the passion of love of money, arming themselves with the motive that they do not have enough money to feed a child, kill the fruit of the mother’s own womb. Or when people betray their country. Why do they do this? As a rule, for money. Or when a wife says to her husband, “You know, you make very little money,” and betrays him, finds another man, violating the sacred marriage vows. And when people betray the interests of a significant portion of society, led by love of money and in order to get rich, these riches, like Judas’s, turn to ashes or even lead to an inglorious end. They misappropriate huge sums belonging to many other people—something today we call corruption.

No passion is born suddenly. It is carried and nurtured, and like a plant that grows from a seed, it has its own conditions, its own causes, its own periods and time before it pours out into action. The Gospel narratives of the sinful woman who anointed the Savior’s feet in the house of Simon the leper and of Judas are profoundly paradoxical. Why? Because in the eyes of Judaic society, the sinful woman was a betrayer. In their understanding, in the mentality of that society, she was the one who had betrayed God, and people looked at her as an outcast, abominable to God, and was not even allowed to come near people who lived according to the Law. But, as I said earlier that every passion ripens and brings forth fruit in its own time, so does every virtue have its own time and period, origins and circumstances.

The woman brought precious myrrh; she could not buy it right away because it cost very much. That means, in the words of Gospel exegetes, that she bore love for the Savior in her heart for a long time, saving up what was in those times a large sum, in order to purchase myrrh and bring it as a precious gift to the Teacher in whose Person the people of Israel had already seen the Son of God, the true Messiah, the Savior Who saves mankind from sin. At the same time, Judas, while he was still an apostle and close to the Savior, not oppressed or offended by Him in any way, committed this terrible, wicked deed. Apparently the passion had ripened for a long time. He carried it in his heart, he did not cut it off, he did not look upon the path that he could have destroyed instantly if only he had repented before God, and as the holy fathers say, he would not have become a betrayer.

This is what we will hear on the day after tomorrow, Great Friday. There are such remarkable words in this moving verse:

What reason led thee, Judas, to betray the Savior? Did He expel thee from the company of the apostles? Did He deprive thee of the gift of healing? When thou wast at supper with the others, did He drive thee from the table? When He washed the others’ feet, did He pass thee by? How many are the blessings that thou hast forgotten!

All of this did the Savior do for Judas just as for the other apostles, for His close disciples. And he had no reason, no justification for complaining about the Savior. Before admitting his guilt, falling into despair, and so ingloriously ending his life in the noose, he said: I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood (Mt. 27:4-5).

And we, brothers and sisters, must attentively keep watch over our own souls, so that those shoots from the seeds of tares that are at times born in the depths of our hearts would not overtake us, not lead to such a terrible end as Judas’s. Because in the guise of seemingly good aims and reasons are often hidden terrible demonic snares that ruin a person’s life, despoiling the most precious foundation that God has given to man on earth—the gift of communion with God, the ability for man to have a living communion with his Creator and Provider. And let us also emulate that harlot, who regardless of her sins brought a gift to God. What gift? The gift of love.

Let us remember the words of the apostle Paul in his “Hymn of Love,” about which he says in his epistle to the Corinthians:

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

Let us arm ourselves with this vector of our spiritual growth, let us move in this direction and remember always that love of money and betrayal is the work of the devil and has an inglorious end, while the love that motivated the harlot, who wiped the feet of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with precious myrrh, is, according to the words of the apostle and Evangelist, God Himself. Let us abide with God, and then no one can ensnare us in any evil schemes. Amen.

See also
Each One of Us is Potentially a Judas Each One of Us is Potentially a Judas
Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose)
Each One of Us is Potentially a Judas Each One of Us is Potentially a Judas
A sermon given by Fr. Seraphim (Rose) during Great Lent, 1982
Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose)
In this passage of Scripture, we read how, as our Lord prepared for His Passion, a woman came and anointed Him with very precious ointment; and it is very touching how our Lord accepted such love from simple people. But at the same time Judas—one of the twelve who were with Him—looked at this act, and something in his heart changed.
An Amazing Story of Betrayal and Repentance An Amazing Story of Betrayal and Repentance
Nun Magdalena (Nekrasova)
An Amazing Story of Betrayal and Repentance An Amazing Story of Betrayal and Repentance
Nun Magdalena (Nekrasova)
I had already left the house when I met Bishop Mstislav at the door. He was head of the Vologda diocese at the time. When he heard that I had come home for two days he began to forcefully persuade me to go the Central House of Culture, where that evening one anti-religious activist was supposed to be giving a talk. This was the former priest, Chertkov. I had no desire whatsoever to go there, especially since my spiritual father had advised me never to listen to or read all that anti-religious nonsense, which only sullies the soul. But the more I resisted the more decisively the bishop insisted that at least one of us needs to hear one of these presentations and know what methods they are using. Finally, I had to submit.
Betrayal Then and Now: On Great Wednesday Betrayal Then and Now: On Great Wednesday Betrayal Then and Now: On Great Wednesday Betrayal Then and Now: On Great Wednesday
Why was it necessary to have a traitor? After all, it would seem that tracking down the Savior would have been easy, since He neither hid nor concealed Himself. He could have been located without any trouble. They could have just sent a detachment to seize Him. But, for some reason, it was necessary to have a traitor – so that this frightful act would take place from within.
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