“When it was evening, he reclined at the table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, ‘Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’ And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, ‘Is it I, Lord?’” (Matthew 26:20-22)
Jesus’ disciples got so many things wrong!
Consider … after Jesus had invested three years with them, had washed their feet and shared one last supper with them, had been betrayed by one of them, and had commanded them to love one another as he had loved them, they respond by arguing while on the way to Gethsemane about which of them is the greatest, falling asleep when Jesus needed them the most, and – in Peter’s case – cutting off the ear of a servant of the high priest and denying ever knowing Jesus.
Suffice to say, Jesus’ disciples were flawed. But let us not lose sight that everything the disciples experienced was unprecedented. What we read in the Gospel accounts was unfolding before their eyes in real time. We read the stories; they lived the stories.
On that note, imagine for a moment that you’re at the Passover Meal with Jesus and the other disciples. As you’re eating, seemingly out of nowhere Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
How will you respond to Jesus? Will you point a finger at the disciple you most suspect? Will you ask Jesus to quickly reveal the betrayer so that you and others might be absolved? Will you issue a quick denial? Or will you, out of intense sorrow, ask Jesus “Is it I, Lord?”
Amazingly, by virtue of asking this question all of the disciples acknowledge their capability to betray Jesus. Only one of them actually did betray Jesus, but the other eleven understood that they were capable of betrayal. In this moment, intense sorrow meets profound self-awareness, and the result is breathtakingly beautiful.
In the denomination that I am a part of – the Reformed Church in America – our General Synod Assembly is right around the corner. By design, it will look, feel, and be different this year. But perhaps the most significant breakthrough that can be made is moving from “It is them, Lord” to “Is it I, Lord?”
May it be so.