Christians are familiar with the story of Jesus' last night on earth: the Last Supper, Gethsemane prayer, betrayal, arrest, trial, and crucifixion the following morning. But Jesus isn't the only one to endure the emotional agony of betrayal. In this article we consider the betrayal of David by one of his sons. Certainly, communion is a proclamation of Jesus' death until he comes (1 Cor 11:26). That is, it looks forward. But is also looks backward. The world-changing events of Jesus' life are prophesied and foreshadowed in Scripture.

There are numerous parallels between David and his divine descendant (2 Sam 15-16). Both are born in Bethlehem, of the tribe of Judah. Both are men of faith and anointed kings. And both suffered heartbreaking betrayal. Even though the dramatic situation in which David found himself took place 1000 years before Gethsemane, its foreshadowing of the betrayal of Christ is remarkable.

And a messenger came to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel have gone after Absalom. Then David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee, or else there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Go quickly, lest he overtake us quickly and bring down ruin on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword (2 Sam 15:13-14).

Betrayal is a bitter experience. We may be betrayed by friends or family, by one of our own children, or perhaps a work associate or fellow student. Sometimes it's a leader or other figure in whom we have placed our trust. In David's case, it is his own flesh and blood -- his son Absalom.

So the king went out and the king crossed the brook Kidron But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered. And all the people who were with him covered their heads, and they went up, weeping as they went (2 Sam 15:16, 30).

Gethsemane is on the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem, with the temple in view -- not far from the City of David. In the first case, King David is in mortal danger; 1000 years later, it is Jesus who is in mortal danger.

When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David And Shimei said as he cursed, Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man!... Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head. But the king said, Leave him alone, and let him curse. It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today (2 Sam 16:5-6, 9-10).

Consider some of the points of connection between this episode in David's life and the gospel accounts of Jesus' passion (perhaps you will want to begin reading in Matthew 26).

  • Both men are anointed kings, rejected by their people -- a fickle crowd.
  • Both make for the Mount of Olives, although they do not go there alone.
  • Each sends some of his men back into Jerusalem, keeping the others with himself.
  • David is weeping; Jesus is sorrowful unto death.
  • David is abused by Shimei; Abishai wants to decapitate him. The arrest party comes to Jesus, and Peter tries to decapitate Malchus, the servant of the high priest.
  • David tells Abishai not to resist; Jesus tells Peter not to resist.
  • Both kings have a profound sense of following the path God has marked out for them.

For David as for Jesus, the way forward is a way of pain, a sorrowful way, a via dolorosa. Yet this "way of sorrows" is not a path of numb selfishness. Jesus did not give in to this emotions when he was wronged. The merciful forgive, even in the absence of others' repentance. They never condone, but they let go, even when others may continue to wrong them (Matt 5:7; 18:21-22).

There are more points of connection; please compare the accounts for yourself. Of course there are differences too, and these too are significant. Let me mention just one. David walks up the Mount of Olives, fleeing Jerusalem. Jesus, on the other hand, is led back down the Mount of Olives, to Jerusalem -- to the residence of Caiaphas, then to Pilate, and then to Golgotha.

Let's study the life of Jesus, but let's also spend generous amounts of time in the Old Testament. That is how we will understand how Jesus fulfills the Scriptures. To best appreciate the sacrifice of our Lord, let's read the Bible of Jesus and the early church: the Old Testament.

This lesson was presented in the Garden of Gethsemane, 28 October 2018.