Love and Betrayal: The Paradoxical Holy Week

By Elizabeth Turnage on March 25, 2016

As we journey through Holy Week, we remember the moments of sorrow and love intermingling. We see Jesus anointed in love and betrayed by greed. The drama of redemption calls out. Join me as we step into the story.

Love, Worship, and Self-Righteousness

In a remarkable act of beauty and worship, Jesus is anointed by a woman at Bethany (Matt. 26:6-13). (This story sometimes gets confused with Luke 7:37-50, because both stories have a Simon, and both feature a woman anointing Jesus. But the other Simon is a Pharisee and this Simon is a leper, and this woman is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha).

Mary pours an entire jar of very expensive ointment (think Chanel No. 5!) over Jesus’ head. The disciples are indignant. Judas demands, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5). John editorializes, “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6). Yikes!

Notice how Jesus loved and honored women. Jesus chastises the disciples, drawing attention to Mary’s love, declaring she has “done a beautiful thing.” He also acknowledges her wisdom: “she has done it to prepare me for burial.” He concludes His rebuke, “Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Matt. 26:10-13).

As for the disciples’ indignance and lack of understanding, it is tempting to point fingers—how could they not get it? The Holy Spirit ever so gently points the question back toward us with a question for our own hearts: Are you “protecting” Jesus because of your love for Jesus or because your sense of propriety is being disturbed (self-right-ness)?

Betrayal and Love

From this sacrificial act of love, we move quickly into the story of betrayal. Apparently provoked by this final failure of Jesus (in his mind), Judas decides to act. No longer resisting the devil (John 13:2), Judas offers to deliver Jesus to the chief priests (Matt. 26:14-16).

Again, it is tempting to point fingers at Judas (or Peter, the other front-and-center betrayer of Jesus in Holy Week). “How could they do such a thing? I wouldn’t do that to God!” We know the answer, though, because the Story tells us. Long ago, our first parents, Adam and Eve, committed treachery against their Creator King, taking what seemed pleasing to the eye and good to make them wise. Their sin is our sin, the betrayal of all sinners that sent Jesus to the Cross. Let’s never kid ourselves.

Love Trumps Betrayal

Psychologists assert what we all experience to be true—betrayal is one of the most devastating forms of harm, because it destroys the narrative of what we thought we knew. In the days leading to the cross, Jesus consciously chooses to endure the betrayal of people He loves. He even suffers apparent betrayal by God, and utters the famous question from the Cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Yet, He never wavers in His belief that the Story God has written is true and right: “he endured the cross, despising the shame,” Hebrews 12 tells us, “for the joy set before him.”

Here we stand at the foot of the cross, as sorrow and love flow mingled down. We weep that we, like Judas, have betrayed our Lord to show allegiance to paltry substitutes. We rejoice that the gospel has changed us, that we, like Mary, worship Jesus extravagantly. We marvel that we are becoming more and more like Christ every day, loving wildly, even our betrayers, because God first loved us. That is the hope of the gospel.


This article was adapted from a post that originally appeared on


Elizabeth Turnage

About Elizabeth Turnage

Elizabeth Turnage is a writer, story coach, and teacher. She founded Living Story to help people learn, live, and love the gospel. The author of the Living Story Bible Study Series (P&R Publishing), she offers gospel-centered resources at her blog, Married to Serge board member Kip Turnage for 33 years, they have four children and two new additions by marriage. When they are not visiting their kids, they enjoy doting on their golden doodle, Rosie, the “best-dog-ever”!