“Surely it is not I, Lord?” That’s what today’s Gospel of Matthew 26:14-25 reports Christ’s closest friends asks of Him when told by Jesus that one of them will betray Him. Even the one who betrays asks the question.
Judas already had the 30 pieces of silver the priests had paid him to turn Jesus over to them. And yet he could sit there, on this very solemn and crucial moment and ask with seeming earnestness, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”
Notice the subtle, but important difference in Judas’ question to the Lord. He merely calls Him “Rabbi,” which means ‘teacher’ and was one of the titles by which Jesus was referred. But in this instance, when the other apostles significantly call Him, “Lord,” Judas only can muster up the nerve to call Jesus, “Rabbi.”
Judas obviously does not believe Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Holy One of God, His only Son. And to his credit, I suppose, he can’t address Jesus by this title that certainly connotes royalty and, within the context of all of their lives at this point, that denotes Jesus’ Divine nature.
C.S. Lewis once famously proclaimed that Jesus was either a “Liar, a Lunatic, or the Lord.” We can assume that Judas thought of Him as the first possibility. How would anyone respond to this belief that the one he’d been following and supporting, giving up much of his own livelihood for, is, after all, a liar?
The most pragmatic, least dramatic thing to do would be to stop following this person. And many people did (see John, Chapter 6:60-68) at one point in Jesus’ ministry. But that’s not what Judas does. He turns Jesus in as a criminal and gets money for it, no less. It’s a reward. So this is a man who is motivated by money and his belief that Jesus is an imposter. I never thought of that before. And I’ve been through a lot of Holy Weeks in my life time.
It would seem that Judas was disillusioned to the point of bitterness and anger toward Jesus. And so he would have Him taken away – imprisoned and tortured. It is arguable whether he knows Jesus will be crucified. But that is hardly the point. Though that may be when Judas completely despairs and later hangs himself.
When someone is motivated by evil intensions, the good, or in Jesus’ case, The Good, is a constant irritation or worse in that person’s life. And that ill feeling can fester and metastasize thus causing all manner of calumny and pain to the good. I’ve seen it and actually been the ‘victim’ of that kind of hatred on a couple of occasions in my own life. It did not lead to death, but it did cause much trauma and negative events for me and those I love.
I don’t want to put myself in Judas’ place in today’s Gospel reading. But I do need to watch carefully how I respond to others who are better than me. I must guard against jealousy or fear of being seen as ‘less than.’ I can only be the person God wants me to be, and recall that He is smiling when I choose the harder right over the easier wrong. I cannot give in to feelings that might temporarily make me seem like I’m something ‘special’ in the eyes of the world. I must remember, we all must remember, that we are each special in God’s eyes and that He loves each of us as if there were only one of us.
Some revelations today and some serious challenges to ponder. See you on Holy Thursday…