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.

 

 

 

August 7, 2020

The Teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: Mission

Ask someone to name a section of Christ’s teachings in the Gospel of Matthew and they will invariably answer “The Sermon on the Mount” or “Matthew, chapters five, six and seven.” But that’s only one of five possible answers.

Since I chose to read Matthew last, I’m almost finished the collection of the Biblical Imagination Series commentaries on the Gospels, by Matthew Card. He was the one who really drew my attention to the “The Five Discourses” in a way I hadn’t seen before.

But what is a discourse? Dictionary.com says,

  • communication of thought by words; talk; conversation: earnest and intelligent discourse.
  • a formal discussion of a subject in speech or writing, as a dissertation, treatise, sermon, etc.
  • Linguistics. any unit of connected speech or writing longer than a sentence.

But the one thing they offer that’s most useful to us is a listing of related words, some of which include:

communication, discussion, conversation, monologue, huddle, homily, chat

Can you guess which one jumped out at me? Huddle. That’s what I see happening here. The coach calling in the key players who will be on the field to discuss the game plan. (I’m not a sports guy, so that last sentence is a bit of a minor miracle.)

I know some are loathe to get their theological points of reference from Wikipedia, but I’ve been finding it somewhat reliable lately, and on this point they begin,

In Christianity, the term Five Discourses of Matthew refers to five specific discourses by Jesus within the Gospel of Matthew.

The five discourses are listed as the following: the Sermon on the Mount, the Missionary Discourse, the Parabolic Discourse, the Discourse on the Church, and the Discourse on End Times.

Each of the discourses has a shorter parallel in the Gospel of Mark or the Gospel of Luke.

A very small taste of what to expect when you visit Steve’s cartoon panels on The Five Discourses. Click image to link.

Better yet, in a world where visuals aids like The Gospel Project really sparks learning to life, I found a most interesting website where cartoonist Steve Thomason has illustrated all five discourses. (I don’t feel the liberty to copy/paste more than a very small section of one panel here, and can only encourage you to visit this one especially.) The expressions on the disciples faces as Jesus tells them a little about what they might face are priceless. And realistic.

Steve has the discourse/passage beginning at Matthew 9:35 and carrying through all of chapter 10. The first four verses of chapter 10 are the choosing or appointing of the twelve disciples. As we mentioned a few weeks ago, we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that there were only twelve. The followers were many.

The real meat of his instruction to the twelve however starts in verse 5 and continues to the end.

At this point, you need to read that entire section.

For those who don’t click, a few highlights would include:

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’

8b …Freely you have received; freely give.

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.

28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”  (all NIV)

Back to Michael Card, he explains why this chapter is so very much worth reading:

Matthew 10 provides a good illustration of what is fundamentally different about this gospel as compared to the others. When Jesus sends the twelve apostles out on their first mission, Mark devotes only two verses to Jesus’ instructions to them (Mk 6:10-11). Luke provides only three verses (Lk 9:3-5). Matthew devotes an entire chapter of forty-two verses. While Matthew may be a selective minimalist in regard to the detail of the story, he is at the extreme opposite when it comes to the words of Jesus. Remember in Mark we have only twenty-two minutes of “face time” with Jesus. In Luke we have fifty-three minutes with Jesus speaking directly to us. In John we have only forty-four. But in Matthew, Jesus speaks to us for more than an hour…

Matthew: The Gospel of Identity, p98

If our devotion includes a desire to ‘spend time with Jesus’ then Matthew ought to rank highly in our list of New Testament books.