The disciples may not have comprehended much of what Jesus was saying around the table during the last Passover meal together, but they heard one thing and were, according to Mark’s gospel, very grieved by it: “But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.” (Lk 22:21)
I am always amazed when I read this for a number of reasons.
First, not one of them (except Judas, who knew he was the one) could even imagine himself betraying Jesus. We certainly have given the disciples a rough time over the years asking things like “Why couldn’t they see?” “Why didn’t they get it?”
“What were they just dumb or ignorant to all those miracles?” We imagine, “Man, if I could have been there I would have believed!”
Yet they lived in the moment, having no completed Bible to guide them and only the teaching of the temple to inform them. We have the completed Bible, Old and New Testament (and perhaps several copies), and who among us would be able to honestly look Jesus in the face today by our own living and ask, “Is it I?” or knowing what we know of own commitment and faithfulness honestly proclaim “Surely it isn’t I!”
No, in fact I think the disciples would have a pretty good case against most of us to say, “Why don’t they see it?” “Why don’t they get it?” “Are they blind, dumb or ignorant as to what Jesus has done for them?”
That brings me to my second reason for being amazed. No one, not one of them blamed or pointed a finger at Judas! He blended in so well, no one suspected while he was with them, he was not of them. I hate to be so blunt, but I think we have churches full of these “with us but not a part of us” folks. I wonder what it would be like today if we, as believers, would actually be appalled at the idea of betraying Jesus--in our lack of effort to witness, living as examples, showing the love of Christ or bearing the marks of being changed, transformed believers? Have we not partaken of the new covenant?
Finally, Judas knew. He knew and was given several opportunities not to do what he did. But he did it anyway. Be very careful here, he was never a part of them, what is our excuse? Let’s not be hard on the disciples — instead let’s determine to be a great disciple ourselves so as to not be one who would betray our Lord!
Dr. William Burnham is pastor of Point of Grace Church in Covington. He can be reached at email@example.com.