Christianity 201

August 17, 2020

The Surprising Question the Disciples Asked Jesus

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?” He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?” He said to him, “You have said it.” – Matthew 26: 21-25

Following up from two weeks ago, I had hoped to return to one additional brief quotation from Scott Sauls‘ book A Gentle Answer and as I wrapped up reading the book I found this excerpt especially powerful. This exposes an interesting irony in this part of the conversation at that Last Supper, and it whetted my appetite for more, so below this you’ll see some additional notes.

The Judas Within Us

Shortly before his death, Jesus prepared and served the annual Passover meal for himself and his twelve disciples in the Upper Room. As the twelve were reclining at the table eating their meal, Jesus announced to them, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” When he said these words, Jesus did not single out the disciple Judas as the betrayer or as the infamous “son of perdition” (John 17:12 NKJV). Instead, he used the second-person plural, indicating that any of the twelve could feasibly betray him.

Knowing this to be true–knowing that the line dividing good and evil cuts through every human heart–none of the disciples responded with an accusation toward another. None said, “Lord, we’ve all been suspecting this for some time and we’re glad you are finally confirming our suspicion. It is Judas, of course! It’s so obvious!” Instead, each disciple became sorrowful and introspective, and each one took his turn asking Jesus, “Is it I?” (Mark 14:19).

This “Is it I?” response to the Lord, as opposed to an “It is he!” response, is a key indicator of a healthy, self-aware, non-presumptuous gentle posture of faith. Sorrow mixed with introspection is, even for the most faithful disciples among us, the most appropriate response when the subject of evil and betrayal is raised. For none of us has measured up to the standard of true faithfulness. And all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). The more we realize these truths, the less accusatory we will become toward others, and the gentler we will become as well.  (pp 165-166)

Taken from A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them by Scott Sauls Copyright © 2020 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. http://www.thomasnelson.com.


At mentioned I was wanting to spend more time on this passage, and at the commentary EnduringWord.com, some additional insights appear on this section. I was going to just focus on the “Is it I?” question, but decided to run the entire section which appears under the header,

Jesus gives Judas a last opportunity to repent

a. Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me: In the midst of their Passover meal, Jesus made a startling announcement. He told His disciples that one of their own – these twelve who had lived and heard and learned from Jesus for three years – would betray Him.

i. If we are familiar with this story it is easy not to appreciate its impact. It’s easy to lose appreciation for how terrible it was for one of Jesus’ own to betray Him. For good reason Dante’s great poem about heaven and hell places Judas in the lowest place of hell.

ii. “This was a most unpleasant thought to bring to a feast, yet it was most appropriate to the Passover, for God’s commandment to Moses concerning the first paschal lamb was, ‘With bitter herbs they shall eat it.’” (Spurgeon)

b. He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me: Jesus said this not to point out a specific disciple, because they all dipped with Him. Instead, Jesus identified the betrayer as a friend, someone who ate at the same table with Him.

i. This idea is drawn from Psalm 41:9: “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.“ “My fellow-commoner, my familiar friend, … This greatly aggravates the indignity of the matter.” (Trapp)

c. Rabbi, is it I? It was noble for the 11 other disciples to ask this question (Lord, is it I?); it was terrible hypocrisy for Judas to ask it. For Judas to ask, “Rabbi, is it I?” while knowing he had already arranged the arrest of Jesus was the height of treachery.

i. “It is a beautiful trait in the character of the disciples that they did not suspect one another, but every one of them inquired, almost incredulously, as the form of the question implies, ‘Lord, is it I?’ No one said, ‘Lord is it Judas?’” (Spurgeon)

d. You have said it: Jesus did not say this to condemn Judas, but to call him to repentance. It is fair to assume that He said it with love in His eyes, and Jesus showed Judas that He loved him, even knowing his treachery.

 

 

 

May 21, 2020

Conflict and Casting Our Pearls to Pigs

by Clarke Dixon

Needless to say, conflict is a huge problem for relationships and COVID-19 may be making things worse for many. Spouses and family members are not used to spending so much time together! Add in fear on top of stress over jobs, finances, and loved ones, and conflict can lie just below the surface. Conflict can take a lot out of us. Does Jesus say anything that can help us deal with potential conflict? Perhaps this:

Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.

Matthew 7:6 (NRSV)

What does this have to do with conflict? This saying of Jesus is often interpreted as meaning either, “don’t be flip with the sacred” to quote Eugene Peterson’s the Message, or, more commonly, the idea of don’t waste your time presenting the good news of Jesus to people who will not listen.

Having just said “do not judge,” it would be rather strange for Jesus to immediately require a judgement, a rather severe judgement, that some people may not be worth the effort. Might there be another way to understand these words of Jesus?

We can get tripped up by the word ‘holy’ and assume that Jesus must be talking about the Gospel, or something like that. What if Jesus uses ‘holy’ here, not as the main focus, but in the same way he uses ‘pearls.’ That is, there is something really, really precious and of great value, something which ought not to be wasted. What is that precious thing Jesus is talking about? What is the focus?

Jesus has been speaking about judgement and inter-personal relationships, which we can read in verses 1-5, so let us continue that line of thought. Just as something that is holy should not be thrown to dogs, and just as pearls should not be thrown to pigs, our best should not be thrown into the judgement of others. Our best includes our time, our effort, our hearts, our minds, and our souls.

As we learned last week, judgement is a two way street. If I come against you in judgement, you wIll judge me in return. The next thing you know two people have taken a stand against each other and conflict is brewing. It is like a stand off between two nations headed for war. All their best resources are called upon to make that stand. People will get hurt if no one stands down.

Likewise, those who take a stand in judgement against another will throw all their resources at the brewing conflict, including time, energy, and huge amounts of space in their hearts and minds. People will get hurt. This is like throwing something holy to dogs, or pearls to pigs. It is worse that useless. They may be torn apart by it all.

Our time and energy is important. Our hearts and minds are important. Why waste them on judgement and conflict? What can we do instead? We look back to what Jesus has just said:

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

Matthew 7:3-6 (NRSV)

First, we take care of the log in our own eyes before judging our neighbours for the specks in theirs. Before we go trying to fix others, we focus on your own hearts and minds. We get our own lives in order. We look for God to do a work in us, to develop and grow our character through the Holy Spirit.

Second, we realize that we are on a journey just like everyone else. So rather than taking a stand of judgement against someone, we look take a step forward in relationship. We can grow together, helping each other with our logs and specks.

There are moments where for our own safety, we may need to take a step back from a relationship. Boundaries can be important. While we will always want to take a step forward with people, sometimes we will need to take a step back. What we do not want to do is take a stand against. The conflict that follows a stand of judgement is going to take too much out of us. It is like throwing what is holy to dogs, or like casting pearls before swine. It is a terrible waste and may end up destroying us.

While we will always want to take a step forward with people, sometimes we will need to take a step back. What we do not want to do is take a stand against.

God shows us how it is done. God wants to move forward in relationship with us:

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. . . . God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Romans 5:6, 8-11 (NLT)

That does not sound like someone taking a stand against us! God could be against us, we have given Him plenty of reasons to do so, however, God is for us and not against us. Throughout the Bible God shows that He wants to walk with us. Through Jesus and the forgiveness of sin, God makes walking with us a reality. Through the Holy Spirit we experience God walking with us.

Do you want to take those steps forward with God? Perhaps you have decided instead to take a stand in judgement against God. God does not want to stand in judgement against you. He wants to walk in relationship with you. We can walk with Him, and learn from Him how to walk with others, in faith, hope, and love. This is much better than giving our best to judgement and conflict, than throwing what is holy to dogs, and pearls to pigs.


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada. This reflection comes from an “online worship expression” which has replaced their regular church service due to COVID-19 precautions. Read more at clarkedixon.wordpress.com.