On the Night in Which He Was Betrayed: Psalm 41


Psalm 41 (NIV)

Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
    the Lord delivers them in times of trouble.
The Lord protects and preserves them—
    they are counted among the blessed in the land—
    he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
The Lord sustains them on their sickbed
    and restores them from their bed of illness.

All my enemies whisper together against me;
    they imagine the worst for me, saying,
“A vile disease has afflicted him;
    he will never get up from the place where he lies.”
Even my close friend,
    someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
    has turned against me.

10 But may you have mercy on me, Lord;
    raise me up, that I may repay them.
11 I know that you are pleased with me,
    for my enemy does not triumph over me.
12 Because of my integrity you uphold me
    and set me in your presence forever.

13 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and Amen.

Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.


Lent is a time of the church year where we reflect on themes we normally don’t think about. One of those themes is betrayal. There is no greater wound than betrayal. We ­understand it when enemies speak out against us and stand in opposition to the ways of righteousness. But when one of your closest friends betrays you, the wound cuts very deep. Part of Jesus’ own identification with human pain was experiencing betrayal. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of his own disciples (Luke 22:47–48). Jesus himself identifies the language of Psalm 41 as pointing to his own betrayal. Psalm 41 says, “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (v. 9). At the Last Supper, Jesus said that his betrayal by one so close to him was to fulfill this Scripture: “He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me” (John 13:18).

The very earliest Christian communion liturgy draws upon the profound nature of betrayal. When Paul gives us that early language regarding the Lord’s Supper, he says, “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me’” (1 Cor. 11:23–24, emphasis mine). The very first phrase of the liturgy is remembering the “night in which he was betrayed.” This phrase is found in communion liturgies all across the world. It is our reminder that Jesus didn’t just suffer bodily on the cross, but he also suffered in that innermost place; the heart, which is broken and devastated by betrayal. When Jesus declares that his body was given for us, it is a reference supremely to the cross, but also to the whole of his incarnate life, which was given over to fully experiencing the depth of our lives, including all of its joys, laughter, pain, sorrow, and even betrayal.

When we affirm the substitutionary atonement (i.e., that Jesus died in our place), we also understand that this was only possible because he had lived in our place. He has stood with the human race. That’s the good news. The second person of the Trinity stepped into human history and became a man. There is no compromise in that. Without sacrificing his deity, he fully embraced all that it means to be human. To use the language of Psalm 41, this is why we can say, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen” (Ps. 42:13).


Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.


  1. When I first delved into the Heidelberg–which is best described as my journey into learning what all I did not know and understand about Christianity–I had many watershed moments that left me dumbfounded. One of the earliest ones was the realization that the creator God had chosen to become the created….

    And that is only the beginning….