Is It I?
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Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, "Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me." And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, "Is it I?" And another said, "Is it I?" He answered and said to them, "It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish." (Mk. 14:18-20)
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For a long time, Jesus had known that one of His disciples would betray Him. He even knew the identity of the betrayer. So at the last supper, when Jesus told His apostles there was a traitor in their midst, it was a bombshell revelation. Betrayal? By one of His closest disciples? As the men looked around the table at each other, their minds must have been racing with speculation.
Every one of these men knew perfectly well their own shortcomings. How many times had they disappointed their Master? How often had He chided them for their slowness of heart? Yes, they had a track record of failure. But betrayal? Each man must have wrestled with the thought, Am I capable of such treachery? Could it be me? Almost on cue, their fears erupted into an argument over which of them was the greatest (Lk. 22:23-24). Bravado is a convenient mask to cover up insecurity.
Jesus did not reveal the identity of His betrayer, because He wanted each man to face his own potential for selling out. "Is it I?" reflected the anguished searchings of a heart that knows its own weakness. Inside every one of us is a monster that could wreak unspeakable horror if unleashed, and we do not know the trigger that might allow the monster to break free. Each apostle was struggling with his own monster at this point.
Soon enough, the identity of the betrayer, Judas, became known. But as the events of the night unfolded, the rest of the apostles betrayed Jesus, too, each in his own way. When the soldiers apprehended Jesus, they all fled in terror, abandoning Him to his fate. One of them, when challenged as a disciple, denied that he even knew Jesus.
For all the apostles, "Is it I?" turned into, "Yes, it's me."
It's me, too. How often have I shirked an unpleasant duty that fate placed upon me? How often have I remained quiet as others mocked my Savior? Betrayal comes in many forms, and I have committed my share.
Except for Judas, all the apostles learned from their failure and were restored to the Lord's service. We need to learn from our failures, too, and look to the resurrected Jesus for the strength we need to stay the course.