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Sometimes betrayal ends in hope

One of my dearest and most longtime friends went to jail last month.

She and her husband were sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon when a sheriff came to the door with a warrant for her arrest. Handcuffed in their living room, led to a police car in front of the neighbors, she was driven downtown, fingerprinted, photographed, stripped and searched.

Locked in a cell with 30 other women, bright lights lit the cell around the clock. There was constant noise, filthy language and vile food.

She was released two days later. She says that the jail experience was no doubt a small of taste of what hell must be like.

It took several long, bureaucratic red tape weeks, but the matter was resolved and it was clear that my friend had been falsely accused.

Yet the lash of the false accusation, the betrayal of someone she had cared for, the flashbacks of jail, the terror of losing basic freedoms will not fade away soon. Anger and outrage have become frequent visitors. These unwelcome guests must be dealt with and shown to the door.

As my friend struggles to put what happened to her in perspective, she finds strength and hope in another who was falsely accused.

The crescendo of Holy Week builds with the betrayal of Christ by a close friend he had trusted. The bonds they had shared, the conversations, the meals and the time together had been sold for 30 pieces of silver. Christ was falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned. He was given a sham trial, beaten and lashed. Surely, in his humanity, he felt the fury of rage and white hot fire of anger. Yet he held his tongue. He was ridiculed and did not ridicule in return.

When he was asked to perform a miracle for one of his mocking inquisitors, to entertain like a court jester, he simply stood silent. He could have brought the entire palace crashing down on their marshmallow heads. But he didn't.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).

Last year, a church in Richmond, Va., decided to re-enact the blasphemy case against Christ. After the prosecutor and the defense had presented their cases, jurors found it likely Jesus would blaspheme again if he were set free. So they sentenced him to life in prison. They thought well of themselves, giving Jesus life behind bars instead of the death penalty. What a noble idea. And what a tragedy that would have been.

Part of the mysterious plan of redemption was that Christ, the innocent one, the one wrongly accused, should offer himself as a sacrifice for the guilty. Only an innocent could bear the wrath of God.

Without the egregious wrongs done to Christ, there would have been no trial, no sentence, no death. Without his sacrificial death, there would have been no atonement. Without the atonement, there would be no hope.

Sometimes the most wretched path through the darkness is the only way into the light. That is a comfort to both my friend and Christians around the world who celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.