"I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me. ..." (Matthew 26:20-23)

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve And while they were eating, he said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me." They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely you don't mean me, Lord?" Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me." (Matthew 26:20-23)

Did Jesus really say 'betray'?

Jesus spoke this at the dinner attended by Jesus and his disciples - often referred to as the 'last supper.' Jesus is foretelling the fact that Judas will be telling the institutional temple high priest and his guards where Jesus will be praying shortly after, in order to arrest him.

Why is this statement by Jesus important? And does Jesus really use the word "betray" here? And why would Jesus have a close disciple - one of his close twelve - who would betray him?

The Greek word translated to "betray" is παραδίδωμι (paradidōmi). This word does not actually mean to "betray" specifically. Rather, it means, according to the lexicon, "to give into the hands (of another)" or to "cause one to be taken."

So the word itself doesn't mean betrayal. But the act of handing someone over into the hands of another can be seen as an act of betrayal.

It is clear that Jesus is speaking of someone who will be turning him in. This would only be betrayal if Jesus didn't want this to happen.

Then we have to ask, why didn't Jesus leave the area once he knew he was going to be captured and turned over to the chief priest? Why didn't he just leave? Why did he wait around to be arrested? And why did he greet the guards instead of avoiding arrest? And why did he chastise Peter when he defended Jesus by fighting with the guards who came to arrest Jesus?

Furthermore, while Jesus may have known he would be persecuted, it is questionable that Judas knew that his telling the high priest where Jesus would be would lead to Jesus' subsequent persecution. How would Judas have known the result of the trial and the sentencing?

After all, Jesus was also referred to by his students and others as 'rabbi.' So why would Judas believe the institutional temple high priest would have Jesus persecuted?

The reality is that Judas did not know. This is illustrated by the fact that when Judas found out they had condemned Jesus to death, Judas committed suicide. That was how great his regret was.

Did Jesus instruct Judas to turn him in?

There is evidence, in fact, that Jesus encouraged or instructed Judas to do this. Should Judas have disobeyed Jesus if Jesus instructed it?

The fact that Jesus not only allowed it, but instructed it, is confirmed by Jesus' statement to Judas:
"What you are about to do, do quickly." (John 13:27)
It is also evidenced in Matthew that Judas was shocked to find that the high priest turned Jesus over to the Romans to be persecuted:
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood." "What is that to us?" they replied. "That's your responsibility." So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. (Matt. 27:3-5)
We must also ask, why, if Jesus knew that he was to be handed over to the high priest and subsequently persecuted, did Jesus not only encourage and instruct Judas to do this "quickly" - why did Jesus not leave once he understood what would happen to him? Why did Jesus not avoid the arrest? Why did he wait there - where Judas would lead the high priest's guards?

Because Jesus understood this was part of his service to the Supreme Being. He understood this to be God's will:
"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me." (John 6:38)
and
"... I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)
Surrounding the statements above in Matthew, Jesus' disciples including Judas, one by one said they did not want to be involved:
They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?" (Matt. 26:23)
Then Jesus clearly identified who would be turning him in as indicated above.

So why were Jesus' other disciples refusing to participate?

Because traditionally, disciples of a spiritual teacher do not want their teacher to be arrested.

What is true betrayal?

While we might find Judas' actions repulsive, today we find many who claim to be following Jesus are betraying him. How is this?

Jesus defined this betrayal:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt. 7:21-23)
Why is this betrayal?

Instead of following Jesus' teachings and his instructions, they attempt to utilize Jesus' life for their own purposes. They ask Jesus to give them wealth and success. They want Jesus to heal them whenever they are hurt. And they want to use Jesus' murder to clean and purify their sins.

As a result, their focus is on Jesus' miracles and the crucifixion. They portray his suffering body upon the cross in their churches and around their necks. And whenever they want something they will brandish the cross.

This is why Jesus said, "I never knew you."

How appalling it is to portray Jesus' suffering on the cross for our purification rituals such as "bathing in the blood of Jesus." How monstrous is this? To use the murder of someone who loved us and sacrificed his life to underscore his teachings? Appalling.

Jesus did not die for our sins. He died (actually only his body died) for his teachings, in the service of his beloved Supreme Being. He was murdered because he refused to retract his teachings. He refused to run away from his teachings. He stood by his teachings - which came from God - to the very end:
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)
Following Jesus means carefully reviewing his teachings. It means trying to apply those teachings to our lives.

Jesus did not come to the earth to die for our sins. He came to the earth to teach us how to grow spiritually and learn to love God.

With regard to sins, Jesus clearly instructed his followers to pray to God and ask God to forgive our sins:
"Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.' " (Luke 11:4)
God can forgive our sins at will. God doesn't need to become a man and die on the cross for our sins. God is the Supreme Controller. He can forgive and cleanse our sins with a simple thought. This is why Jesus suggested we ask God for forgiveness.

The essence and focus of Jesus' teachings are quite simple:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)