I sat down this morning to read Psalm 55: “Oh, that I had wings like a dove. I’d fly away and be at rest.” But it’s holy week, with Maundy Thursday tomorrow–Judas Iscariot’s big day–so I couldn’t read Psalm 55 without one eye trained on Jesus’ betrayal.
As I read Psalm 55, I couldn’t shake the rhythm of betrayal in the gospel of Mark.
So I turned from Psalm 55 to the gospel of Mark. As I followed the story of Jesus and Judas, I couldn’t help but trace the movement of Psalm 55.
Rather than intrude on your reflection, I have simply laid out Psalm 55 and the betrayal story in the gospel of Mark. Psalm 55 (shaded and indented) reflects what I imagine went through Jesus’ mind. We can’t know, of course, what Jesus was thinking, but he undoubtedly was familiar with Psalm 55, which provides the bass line–and a stunning crescendo–for the haunting melody of his betrayal.
Give ear to my prayer, O God;
do not hide yourself from my supplication.
Attend to me, and answer me;
I am troubled in my complaint.
I am distraught by the noise of the enemy,
because of the clamor of the wicked.
For they bring trouble upon me,
and in anger they cherish enmity against me.
My heart is in anguish within me,
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, ‘O that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
truly, I would flee far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness;
I would hurry to find a shelter for myself
from the raging wind and tempest.’
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
Confuse, O Lord, confound their speech;
for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go around it on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
do not depart from its market-place.
When it was evening, Jesus came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, they began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me.
It is not enemies who taunt me—
I could bear that;
it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me—
I could hide from them.
But it is you, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend,
with whom I kept pleasant company;
we walked in the house of God with the throng.
‘For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’
Let death come upon them;
let them go down alive to Sheol;
for evil is in their homes and in their hearts.
Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him.
My companion laid hands on a friend
and violated a covenant with me
with speech smoother than butter,
but with a heart set on war;
with words that were softer than oil,
but in fact were drawn swords.