Passover. The last Passover Jesus would celebrate with his disciples. It was the one he “eagerly desired” to share with them before his suffering. At this Passover, broken bread and poured out wine would leave an indelible mark. A common towel and basin of water would be used by the Master to reveal the Servant of love. And during this cherished, intimate meal Jesus would make the startling statement that one among them would betray him. What?
It must have sent shock waves through the gathering. Scripture describes their bewilderment. “It’s not me, is it?” each one cried. They had been with Jesus long enough to be acquainted with their fallen nature. And they loved him enough to face the horror of the potential lying within their hearts. Although Judas did betray Jesus, all the others deserted him, and Peter disowned him three times.
Fast forward a few centuries. I’m not seated at a table eating a Passover meal with Jesus. I don’t have a crust of bread to dip into the wine. My feet aren’t covered with Palestine dust and in need of being washed. But like the disciples, I’ve been around the Master long enough to recognize some pretty dark areas in my heart. And in the light of his love, I shudder at the thought I might be the one who would betray him, desert him, or disown him. “Surely not I, Lord?” echoes through my own impoverished spirit.
Ah, but that’s not the end of the story…
What began as an aching question concerning their loyalty to the Lord ended in a resounding affirmation. Emboldened by the Holy Spirit, not one of those disciples ever deserted him again. History records that each man faced martyrdom for the sake of Christ. Herod Agrippa murdered the Apostle James. Peter was crucified upside down, declaring himself to be unworthy of dying in the same manner as his Lord. Andrew was hanged from an olive tree. Thomas is believed to have been burned alive. Philip, Nathanael and Simon the Zealot met torture then crucifixion. Matthew was beheaded. Judas Thaddeus was beaten to death. John did not die as a martyr, but lived as one, exiled from all human contact on the Island of Patmos. Their once wavering reaction of “Surely not I?” had been transformed into an unequivocal “Surely not I.”
You and I today can live with that same confidence. When tempted to betray our Lord, we can shout to the heavens…
“Surely not I Lord! Surely not I!”