Film Friday: Our Kind of Traitor

While Perry and his wife Gail are on holiday in Morocco they meet Dima in a restaurant. Dima invites them to a party for his daughter’s birthday, but when they go along Perry gets more than he bargained for. Dima takes him onto a rooftop and tells him that he works for the Russian mafia, and that he and his family are under threat. If Perry does not help him to escape, Dima and his family will be killed.

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Perry and Gail find themselves drawn into a dangerous web of intrigue and deception as others manipulate them into taking a path they would normally have avoided. In the book of Judges, chapter 22, a prophet called Balaam is drawn into a dangerous situation when offered money to turn traitor and help the enemy. (Perry refused the money offered by Dima, but for Balaam it was his motivation.) Balaam was from Pethor and was clearly seen as a powerful man, because a nearby king offered him cash to come and curse the Israelites, and thereby attempt to scupper their plans. Balaam talked to God about it, but then didn’t listen to the divine advice to not get involved. In the end it took a talking donkey and an angel with a very big sword to persuade him to obey God and do the right thing.

One of the most famous biblical traitors goes by the name of Judas, in fact his name has become synonymous with being a traitor. Judas took 30 pieces of silver in order to lead the enemy to Jesus in a dark, vulnerable place, away from the crowds. Theologian Tom Wright believes that Judas was actually trying to force Jesus’s hand, driven by impatience after three years of waiting for him to spark a revolution. I’m inclined to believe that too. When Jesus predicts that one of his friends will betray him at the last supper, they all look perturbed, including Judas (Matthew 26 vv 20-25), possibly because he did not see his act as one of betrayal, rather as helping Jesus establish himself as Messiah. Judas had spent three years with Jesus and like the others, longed for freedom from Roman oppression. But, like Perry, he agreed to something risky and then found himself in a very dark and difficult situation. One he had not anticipated. He expected Jesus to use his extraordinary power against the enemy. He, like the others, did not expect to see his friend nailed to a Roman cross. Judas did take money for his ‘betrayal’ but when it didn’t go according to his plan he gave it back. Sadly he did not hang around long enough to see the true moment of divine power. That Sunday morning resurrection. Perhaps in some ways we are all ‘traitors’ from time to time, or at least rebels to truth and light. And that’s the good news of Jesus’s way back for us, the great news that comes via his death and resurrection. A new start, day after day after day…

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