Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” 26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”
Here in this passage, we see Jesus and his disciples partaking in the Passover meal together. This meal is a historic act of remembering Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, rich with tradition and symbolism. With our 2,000 year perspective, we are able to see two acts of redemption paralleled against each other: salvation from the bondage of slavery in Egypt for the children of God, and salvation from the bondage of sin in the lives of those who are adopted into the kingdom of God by belief and repentance. When I read this passage, I get so excited about the timing of God’s plan and the powerful symmetry between these two pictures of sacrifice. Let me set up some context here: Jesus and his disciples ate together earlier than was traditional. A seemingly small detail but one that sets up some powerful imagery when we understand the implications. The Jewish day began in the evening, which is when verse 20 tells us they ate. However, Passover was typically commemorated at the end of the day. So it’s the same day, just an “earlier” time, even though it’s at night -- with me so far? This is where my mind was blown. We know Jesus was crucified later this same day, at the hour when Passover was eaten. This means that Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed at the same time that the sacrificial lamb for the Passover meal would have been slain. Centuries of sacrifice to God were concluded in a single sacrifice for all people.
Take a moment to pause and let that sink in. How amazing is our God?
Now this passage doesn’t end with Jesus and the Twelve casually lounging around, enjoying each other’s company. Instead, we are given a look into a moment of tension between Jesus and his disciples. He tells his closest friends, followers, and students, the ones who gave up everything to follow him, that one of them will betray him. I’m always struck by the disciples’ reaction to this stunning news. I would expect these loyal followers to defend their commitment to Jesus, saying “it could never be me. I love you more than my family and my life, I would never betray you” or “Who do you mean, Jesus? That other guy?” Instead, we see a much different response. In NIV it says they were “very sad.” The New King James Version says they were “exceedingly sorrowful.” The Amplified version translates this to “deeply grieved and extremely distressed.” And one by one they ask Jesus, “Is it I, Lord?” I see myself here in this sorrowful reaction to Jesus’ question. I, too, a disciple of Jesus have heard the truth he has spoken. I have committed my life to follow him. I have seen the signs and wonders that point to his power and authority. I have worshipped in awe before his glory. I love him, and I know his love for me. And yet, I sit here knowing full well my capacity and propensity to betray him. If Jesus were to come to Hope Fellowship, stand before us on a Sunday morning and say, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me,” tears would spring to my eyes and my heart would fully feel the question, “Is it I, Lord?”
Jesus goes on to answer his disciples' questions by saying, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me.” This isn’t a very good hint. It would be like congregating around a southern Thanksgiving meal and saying, “It’s you who drank iced tea with me.” It’s not narrowing down who it was specifically, but rather communicating that his betrayer is a close friend. Someone sharing an intimate, significant moment with him. Mark’s account of the gospel recalls this moment as Jesus saying, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me.” When Judas finally asks Jesus if it’s him, Jesus calmly, and I imagine quietly, acknowledges to Judas that he knows what’s to come.
Judas gets the credit as the betrayer, and it’s not hard to see how appalling and upsetting his betrayal was. But I can’t help but also notice the multitude of “betrayals” that occur throughout the Passion narrative. Ultimately, all of his disciples betray him in some way. When he asks for some of them to keep watch, they fall asleep. When his time comes to be arrested they react with violence instead of trust. Peter denies Jesus multiple times. They flee. They hide. They forget the promises they were given. And once again I see myself in that struggle to remember and walk in obedience. I think of the words of one of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount:
Oh, to grace how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be
Let Thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, oh take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above
It’s a raw and honest plea to God. I feel that I’m prone to wander away from the Way of Jesus. My heart and attention are pulled away. So daily I will commit my heart to be sealed from anything but God and His kingdom. I will tie my affections to all that He is, and allow myself to be absolutely captivated by His goodness.
Today I reflect on the things that cause me to betray my love for God. I actively strive to put my faith in God before my human fears and feelings. I pray for forgiveness in the times I get it wrong, and strength for the future. I thank God for the choice I have to love Him, even though that means it’s my choice to betray Him. I freely make the choice to love Him with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.