When it was evening, he reclined at 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?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 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.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
(Matthew 26:20-25 ESV)
Today we continue reading the story of Jesus’ final Passover meal with His disciples, commonly referred to as The Last Supper, which took place just hours before He would be arrested, tried, and crucified. In the midst of the meal while they all reclined at the table Jesus dropped a bombshell – one of the twelve would betray Him. Jesus had mentioned His impending death a few times previous to this [Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:17-19] but this is the first time He’s mentioned being betrayed.
All the disciples were very sorrowful and each asked Jesus “Is it I, Lord?”. Here we see some maturation among the disciples. For three years they had been boastful and arrogant, seeking glory for themselves on the coattails of Jesus. But now each one realized that they were capable of betraying their friend and teacher. Realizing one has the capacity to sin is a sign of humility and maturity.
Jesus responds that the betrayer is he who has dipped his hand in the dish with Me which didn’t tell them who the betrayer was because all of them had shared in the meal. So what was the point of Jesus saying this?
In the Middle East having a meal with someone is a sign of friendship. To eat with someone just before you betray them would be treachery to the max. These words by Jesus were a gracious attempt to make Judas realize his impending, terrible sin and turn from it before it was too late. This is exactly how God still works. He doesn’t coerce people into not sinning or into believing in their need for forgiveness. Instead He appeals to them and leaves them with the choice as to what they will do.
This was not an appeal by Jesus to save His own life for He says that the Son of Man (referring to Himself) goes as it is written of Him. That is, the rest of Jesus’ life was going to go according to God’s plan as recorded in the Old Testament. If Judas had repented Jesus would still have gone to the cross in less than 24 hours. It was not possible to stop His crucifixion. But it was possible for Judas to change His mind and save His own soul.
God calls on all of us to repent of our sin for our own sake. He doesn’t want to see us separated from Him for all eternity because He knows how dreadful hell will be for those who reject Him [1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9].
God isn’t going to force us to believe we are sinners and to seek forgiveness. Rather He appeals to us with facts and information, letting us take responsibility for our decision to believe or not. Sadly, like Judas, most people ignore God’s appeal.
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