What Do We Do With “Brutus”?

“Et tu Brute?” These famous Latin words were uttered by Julius Caesar when he realized that his supposed good friend, Brutus, was in on the conspiracy to kill him. Caesar had been ruling Rome in the first century BC. But many of the Roman elite felt he was gaining too much power and assuming a dictatorship. To stop him, they made a plan to assassinate him. They enlisted Brutus in their plot. When the attack came upon Caesar on the Ides of March (March 15), it is said that when Caesar saw Brutus – his companion – among the attackers, he lost all hope.

When a friend betrays us, it hurts us deeply. It is different than other hurts because it is from someone we love and trust. A person may rebuke us or ridicule us but if we don’t have a strong relationship with that person, it does not affect us much. We move on. They don’t know us. We don’t know them well. So we don’t put too much stock in what they say. But when it is someone that we are close with or have shared our life with, we can’t just move on. It hurts too much.

The psalmist describes this feeling in Psalm 41. The writer is dealing with sickness and he is weak. He trusts in the Lord to heal him and help him. But what is making the situation worse is that he has enemies who are taunting him. They actually want him to die. They are so frustrated with him that they are not praying for his healing, they are praying for his death! Particularly troublesome is that one of these enemies is a close friend. The psalmist writes, “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (41:9). The psalmist feels betrayed and hurt because of a “Brutus” who has turned against him.

As Jesus nears the end of his final week, he gathers in the upper room with his disciples for a final meal. He shares his final teaching, institutes the Lord’s Supper, and washes their feet. Then, he comes face to face with his “Brutus.” Judas Iscariot has decided in his heart to betray Jesus. Why did Judas do this? Did he feel like Jesus was not living up to his Messianic dreams? Did Judas actually believe that if he helped Jesus get arrested, it would provoke Jesus to start a revolution? We don’t know. What we do know is that one of the Twelve – a follower from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry – was prepared to turn his back on his Teacher and turn him in. Jesus breaks the news to the group about a betrayer among them. The disciples each begin to question each other about who it is, “Lord, is it I?” Then Jesus, echoing Psalm 41 says it is the one whom I give this piece of bread. Jesus identifies with the feelings of the psalmist as his enemy is one with whom he has shared his bread.

What do we do with betrayals? What do we do with “Brutus”? What do we do when one we love turns his back and plots our takedown? Our world offers us options: we can take revenge, “I’ll show you! You hurt me so I will hurt you.” We can sulk and pout and in despair cry, “Woe is me!” But Jesus shows us another way. He serves and He trusts!

Just a few moments earlier, he had gathered his disciples around to show his love by washing their feet. Judas was among that group and Jesus knew what Judas was about to do. Yet Jesus did not skip over his feet. Maybe he squeezed them a little tighter! But He did not skip them. Rather, He served his enemies. The love of Christ shines brightest in a betrayal because we show the way of humble service and kindness in the midst of false accusations and power plays.

But Jesus did something else. The ending of Psalm 41 does not end in frustration over betrayal. Rather, the writer entrusts himself to the Lord (vv. 10-13). He cries out for the Lord’s mercy. He expresses confidence in God’s favor. He knows the Lord is on His side. So he ends in praise. Surely, these feelings were on Jesus’ heart. He knew that as he entered into the most intense time of his life, his survival depended on his trust in the Lord, holding onto his integrity, and believing that his Father is on his side. We too in the midst of our hurt over how we have been treated, we turn to the Lord and we entrust ourselves to Him that He will make things right. And even though it hurts, we find a way to praise the Lord.

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