Day 26 (Thursday) - Matthew 26:20-25

Artwork by Kerrie James

Artwork by Kerrie James

"Judas is only the first in a procession of betrayers two thousand years long.  If Jesus were to exclude him from his love and forgiveness, to one degree or another he would have to exclude us all."

- Frederick Buechner

After sundown on Thursday, during the Seder meal, Jesus and his disciples recline as was customary to do on Passover to celebrate their freedom. Slaves in Egypt don’t recline; pharaohs do. So to remember their victory, Jews recline.

The food has been passed. The bread has been dipped. Everyone is eating their fill, drinking their fill, celebrating their feast and their freedom.  And just as James leans over to pass the kosher ketchup, Jesus interrupts with a sobering prediction:

“One of you will betray me.”

Uh...What’s that, Jesus?!  You can’t be serious!

You have to understand, these men hadn't had a lot of other options besides Jesus. Plucked from poverty, some of them, or social stigmas, they’d left professions and communities it would be hard to return to, families far away; why would someone break his trust?  And as we've mentioned before, being a rabbi’s disciple didn’t just mean being a pal or an apprentice or a colleague. Discipleship meant complete and total loyalty; it meant that you would follow with your whole being, to do your best to be like your rabbi was, to be covered in the dust from his sandals.  It would had been beyond an honor to follow Jesus, to have been hand-selected by an esteemed teacher with a penchant for fulfilling Messianic prophecies.  Why would anyone give that up? 

Not I, Lord?   They each ask in turn.

Surely not I, Lord?  I’d never do such a thing.

And then they blink. And gulp.

Because the irony, of course, was that they had all dipped their hands in Jesus’ cup at one time or another. To have to ask the question at all does not inspire a lot of confidence that they knew they weren’t the one. They asked because they just weren’t sure. They asked as if Jesus had seen something in them they hadn’t seen or hadn’t admitted.  Their motives, maybe. Their secret doubts.  Their untold failures. The worries they hadn’t told Jesus about, that maybe he wasn’t the Anointed One, that maybe they weren’t supposed to be there after all. 

And then Judas steps forward.

Surely not I, Rabbi?

He was going through the motions.  He had a pretty heavy mask on.  But just at the edges, you could see it starting to peel off.

Rabbi

He couldn’t even bring himself to call Jesus, Lord.

And we too, we who dip our bread in the cup, find ourselves asking the same question in our turn - Not I, Rabbi? - knowing full well that even after all this time, we too are Christ’s betrayers.  Behind his prediction is the knowledge that he’s about to go to the cross after a billion betrayals and before a billion more.  And the worst we’ve feared is true: Jesus has seen inside our hearts.  He's seen our motives.  Our secret doubts.  Our untold failures. The worries that maybe he isn't who he says he is after all.

And even then, even knowing that betrayal after betrayal is bound to crush him, he chooses the cross.  

“He is pierced for our transgressions, punished for our iniquities, and by his wounds, we are healed.”

Pastor Brynn Harrington

Consider: 

Where have you betrayed Christ recently in your heart or in your actions? When have you been tempted to do so?  What does it mean to you that Jesus makes this prediction and then dies for us anyway?

Pray:

Acknowledge your betrayals before Jesus, and then meditate on those words from Isaiah. He was pierced for YOUR transgressions, punished for YOUR iniquities, and by His wounds WE are healed. You and I. God is unswervingly committed to our best, even when it is supremely costly to himself. Sit with that. What do you hear? What do you feel?

Embody:

Tonight, remember that we are rescued from slavery. Join Jesus and the disciples by dining while reclining tonight. Make a feast. Have some fun. Sprawl out and eat on the floor.

Pastor Aaron Engler


Endnotes:

  1. Is. 53:5.