19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.
20 When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve.
21 Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”
22 And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?”
In the painting of the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci, the apostles seem to be discussing something very important. Leaning in to one another in little groups, the men gesture and whisper among themselves. It’s a scene we ought to remember, and it is described by the disciple Luke this way:
19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.
21 “But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table.
22 “And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”
23 Then they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing.
What I find interesting about this scene is that they all wonder who the betrayer will be, and not one of them seems to deny that it could be himself. Even Judas feels compelled to ask the Master, “Rabbi, is it I?” To which Jesus replies, “You have said it.” (Matthew 26:25)
This was a telling moment for these faithful few, these men whom Jesus had named apostles. For three years they had followed Jesus up and down and around Palestine, from Jerusalem to Galilee to Tyre and Sidon and Samaria and nearly every little town in between. They had learned much, and they had performed miracles and healing in Jesus’ name. Their faith was quite strong, and they were hanging on Jesus’ every word–especially since it seemed like His words had become even more prophetic in the recent months. And then as they sat down just as Hebrews had done for thousands of years to share the Passover meal, the Master announced that one of them would betray Him. And rather than deny such a thing might happen, and rather than deny one of them would bring it to pass, they just asked “Lord, is it I?”
EACH ONE asked, “Lord, is it I?” Even Judas asked if he was the betrayer. Why didn’t the apostles deny it? Why didn’t they stand up and say, “Lord, there is no way it could be me!”? Look closely, and you’ll see there are two things going on here.
First of all, it’s clear that they believed the Lord knew what was to happen. After all, just that day they had seen Him predict what would happen with finding the upper room where they now sat sharing the Passover meal. Also, they no doubt remembered the rebuke that Simon Peter had received when he denied that their Lord would suffer and die at the hands of the elders in Jerusalem. “Get behind me, Satan!” the Master had said to Peter at that time. (Matthew 16:23) Denying His prophecy of betrayal would likely only bring another rebuke, and they had seen the Master proved right too many times to refuse to believe this time.
But more importantly, these men knew something about their own faith. As strong as they were in their dedication to following Jesus–all having left homes and livelihood to become His disciples–they still knew they were not as perfectly dedicated as they might have been. These one-time fishermen and tax collectors and workers held no illusions about their own personal holiness. They weren’t priests and saints but common men, and although they had spent the past three years living an uncommon life, that didn’t make them perfect. Sure, they had demonstrated that they could act on the Lord’s behalf, but they knew that was none of their own doing, that it was only by their Lord’s power and Spirit that they could do such things.
And having no illusions about their own holiness, these men knew that some part of them–the part that was prone to sin and doubt–still lingered inside them. So rather than deny that they could ever betray their Teacher, each instead asked Jesus if that dark part of their soul would cause them to turn on the Son of God.
Before they ever spoke the words to Jesus, each man must have thought in his heart, “Is it possible I might hurt the Master? Have I not repented and believed enough in this Christ? Could it be that I would unwittingly betray my Rabbi to the priests and scribes who seek His death? Say it isn’t so!” And then out come the words, “Lord, is it I?” It’s as if they are saying, “Please, Lord, don’t let it be me!”
Day after day, millions of Christians say they depend upon the Lord, say they live within His salvation. Every morning and every evening, Christians around the world are saying, “Lord, Thy will be done.” Every hour of the day, someone somewhere is saying, “I love You, Lord.” But how many are asking, “Lord, is it I?” How many are taking a moment to question their own faith, to test themselves in the crucible of denial and see if they are pure and true? Worse yet, how many face such a test and deny that they have compromised their integrity in any way–even as they have tolerated sin in their midst, even as they have seen sin and not denounced it, even as they have given in to the whims and laws of men rather than following the Word of God?
Jesus sits at the table with us every time we take communion. As Paul wrote, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” (1 Corinthians 11:28) We sit at this table not because we are sinless but because we are sinners in need of His broken body and this cup of His blood to justify us before God. We need this communion with the Lord of lords in order to truly see that we are mere beggars sitting at the table of a King.
Let us therefore examine ourselves and not assume that we have what it takes to stand up to persecution and the threat of death. Let us sit with Jesus every day and ask ourselves and Him if there is still some part of us that could betray Him. Rather than deny our tendency to sin and rebellion, let us ask our Lord to test us and purge us, to teach us to live faithfully and lovingly, repentant and humble. Let us, like the apostles, examine our faith and ask our Savior each day, “Lord, is it I?”
Holy Father, I do not mean to betray Your Son nor to live my life as if He had not redeemed me from sin and death. Truly, I seek Your mercy and Your righteousness. But, Lord, is it I? Precious Lord Jesus, come into my heart and help me find my unrepentance and doubt. Help me, blessed Savior, to be Your faithful servant and brother and friend. Examine my heart, and root out my hidden faults so that I am only fruitful for You and for Your kingdom. Amen.