Summary: “Surely Not I, Lord?” I. It’s a question that comes from troubled hearts II. It gets an answer that calms troubled hearts
April 8, 2004 — Maundy Thursday
Christ Lutheran Church, Columbia, MD
Pastor Jeff Samelson
“Surely Not I, Lord?”
I. It’s a question that comes from troubled hearts
II. It gets an answer that calms troubled hearts
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. Amen.
The Word of God for our study this evening is found in Matthew 26:21-28, which is printed in your bulletin and will be read as we go along through the sermon:
[While they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me."
They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?"
Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."
Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?"
Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you."
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."
Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (NIV)
This is the Gospel of our Lord. ]
Dear Christian Friends:
I wonder if you’ve ever had an experience like this — it happened to me more than once when I was still in school. You get to class, get settled in, and the teacher or professor says that your tests have been graded, and that he is very disappointed, or frustrated, or just plain puzzled by some people’s poor performance. Before handing anything back, he begins to go through the test, pointing out one individual’s lousy answers, showing that that student — as the worst representative of all the others — just didn’t “get” whatever it was they’d been studying for the last weeks or months.
Now it always seems to happen that some time has passed between the taking of the test and its grading — maybe a long weekend, spring break, or just a busy time for the teacher. And so as he is going through the test and sharing that one student’s embarrassingly wrong answers, every student in the class is asking him- or herself, “Wait, that’s not my test he’s reading from, is it? That can’t be me, can it?”
But for at least one person in the class, once the papers are handed back, the answer will be, “Yes, it is you”.
Something similar, but much more serious, was going on in that upper room on Maundy Thursday, the night before Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus announced something much more than disappointing, something beyond puzzling. “One of you will betray me,” he said.
There was more than a grade on the line. Jesus was announcing the results of the testing of their hearts before the test had even been given. He was saying, “One of you will fail. One of you will show that nothing you have learned these last three years has made a difference. One of you will trade your trust for treachery.”
Now, since Jesus was speaking in the future tense, the disciples in that room would not have known whose heart he was reading. And so we find them, naturally, wondering, “That won’t be me, will it?” and with troubled hearts, each then asked their Teacher, “Surely not I, Lord? Surely not I?”
I. Jesus made his stunning announcement while he was eating the Passover meal — the last Supper — with his disciples. But this wasn’t the first time Jesus had spoken of his betrayal — early in his ministry he had already told them “One of you is a devil” (John 6:70). At that time not even Judas would have known whom Jesus was referring to. And earlier this same Maundy Thursday evening, as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, he declared: “You are clean, though not every one of you” (John 13:10). One wonders if Jesus looked at Judas when he said that — because he was obviously trying to let Judas know that he was aware of his plan, and was calling him to repentance.
But Judas obviously didn’t respond as he should have, and so Jesus had to abandon his indirect and perhaps somewhat cryptic language in favor of something more direct: “One of you will betray me.”
Try to imagine what effect that statement would have had on his disciples’ hearts. Maybe we’re so close to the center of American politics here that this kind of treachery doesn’t shock us as much as it should. Or maybe our society’s postmodern relativism has turned the black and white of betrayal into shades of gray — “Well, we can’t fault Judas, can we? I mean, he did what he thought was right for him, didn’t he?” But for the eleven other disciples, the idea that one of their own — someone who had shared meals with them and Jesus, sat at his feet, and traveled with him all over Palestine — the idea that one of them could do something so shameful and faithless was beyond imagining.