Surely Not I? - A Reflection on Matthew 26:14-25
Most of the time when we read Scripture, or hear it read out loud (as we just did), we miss the intensity of the drama inherent in the situation described: the pathos, the poignancy, the passion. Which is why reflecting upon it is so important, because it allows us to see and hear and feel things we otherwise wouldn’t, and realize things that we might not otherwise realize. Consider today’s story.
Jesus is having what he knows is going to be his last meal with his apostles. And while they are eating he tells them that one of them is going to betray him. Quite naturally, they get very distressed. They know they are not leading perfect lives. They know they keep goofing up time and time again. They know they don’t understand much about their master, or his purpose. Peter, for example, is rebuked by Jesus practically every time he says something or does something.
Therefore, when Jesus says one of them is gonna betray him, I am sure they are all thinking: “My God, is he talking about me? Am I the one who is going to betray him?” And they want to know. So they ask him, one by one, “Surely not I, Lord?” I can understand their fear. They love this man. They would die for him (or so they would like to believe). They wanna be with him in heaven. And to think that they might betray him — it is horrifying!
And then the real betrayer, the one who had made a deal to sell him out and KNOWS he is the one, asks the same question: “Surely not I?” There is a Hebrew word called ‘chutzpah’, which loosely translates as audacity, but audacious doesn’t describe Judas as well as chutzpah does. The chutzpah of the man to ask a question to which he knows the answer. And I wonder what is going on in HIS head as he asks the question.
Does he know his betrayal is going to lead to Jesus’s death? I think maybe he does. He knows the Jewish leaders have tried to kill Jesus on many occasions. But does he know that his betrayal is going to lead to his OWN death? I don’t think so. People like Judas don’t think of the long term consequences of their actions; they just look at the immediate pay off. And Judas got his: thirty pieces of silver. But then he got the rest of his wages: death. Because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a).
What a terrible tragedy! However, let us remember that “though the wages of sin (might be death) the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We don’t have to go the way of Judas. We can go the way of Jesus.