Saturday, June 14, 2008

What if he picks you?

John 13 is remembered and loved by millions because it shows the full extent of Christ’s love for his disciples when he washes their feet. However, later in the same chapter, Jesus does something that is not thought of as godly, but is equally sovereign. He picks the disciple who will betray him. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase describes it this way: “As soon as the bread was in his hand, Satan entered him.” (John 13:26) The ‘him’ of this verse is Judas Iscariot, who since has been judged and dreaded by two millennia of Christians because of what he would do after this key moment. But what if it had been someone else? How would they have done what Judas would soon have the dubious honor of doing?

“Is it me?”

What if he had picked, oh let’s say Matthew, the tax collector, how would he betray his Teacher and Lord? First of all, he probably would have asked for more money than thirty pieces of silver from the Pharisees, and because tax collectors were hated in Jesus day as much as they are still hated today, it may have been expected, to a point, if Matthew was the person Jesus had picked out.

Or, what about Dr. Luke. He was the only Gentile in the group, so maybe he would find justification for planning the assassination of a Jew. Surely he could use his knowledge of healing, to kill.

It couldn’t have been Peter, because Peter had walked on the water with his Master. He had just recently been forgiven for denying Christ three times, so that must be enough, one would think. He had said so many wrong things in the past that he couldn’t have said one more wrong thing. But then again, I am sure there would be enough room for a fourth denial to take place.

But John, the one everybody called “the beloved disciple,” the one who first penned the verse at the beginning, and the one whom the disciples believed would live forever (John 20:21-22) was definitely not the person for this job. He was, after all, the one who had his head on Jesus chest at the last supper and had asked Him, “Who is it?” the question each disciple was anxious to receive an answer to. And if John had worked hard enough to get as close to Jesus as to put his head on His chest, he surely wouldn’t cook up a scheme like this.

It could have been any of the twelve because each disciple had wondered out loud, “Is it me?” Each of the eleven surely breathed a huge sigh of relief when Jesus handed the piece of bread to someone else.

But why did it have to be Judas Iscariot? Wasn’t he a good person? He was a good man. The text says that it wasn’t until he received the piece of bread that Satan entered him. Before that, he had been a regular disciple with an extra-ordinary responsibility: carry the money bag.

Any accountant or financial manager understands the important responsibility they have to their clients. They could quickly lose the trust of their clients if they were to do something irresponsible with their client’s money. But this doesn’t seem to be a problem for the disciples. Though his name is mentioned in prior passages when the subject of money has come up, and though it seemed to be common knowledge that Judas had helped himself to their funds, the disciples, together with their Master, seem to have placed their full trust in him. Even after Jesus had handed the piece of bread to Judas and said “What you are about to do, do quickly,” the other disciples assumed that he was going to buy something for the Passover feast, or give something to the poor (John 13: 28-29). They certainly thought it wouldn’t have been him.

It couldn’t be me anyway

It has now been over 2,000 years since that first communion. It may not have been this long since you took communion, but it could be two thousand days (5.5 years), 2000 weeks (almost 40 years), or any other length of time you choose. But, then again, it surely couldn’t be you anyway.

After all, you have been a devoted disciple of Christ for decades. You have attended church regularly since you were young, you have helped to “raise children up in the way that they should go” (Proverbs 22:6), and you have followed the guidance of St. Francis of Assisi to a T. He was the one who said, "Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." You have always been willing to preach the gospel, but thank goodness it hasn’t been that necessary for you to verbalize your Christian beliefs.

Are you willing to be picked?

Though we may feel it is highly unlikely that the Lord will pick us to do something against our character or against the assumptions of others, many of us conclude that there are certain things we will most definitely not do. Betraying our Lord is certainly one of those. But what if Christ picks you to do something different from what you and others expect of yourself?

We may take pride in saying that we would offer everything we have to the Lord with no exceptions. We may boast, at least in our hearts, that we do not hold onto anything as our own, but rather hold everything in an open hand, allowing God reign in everything, especially our personal possessions. We know the story of Abraham, and may even be willing to do what he did, (sacrifice his only son) so that he would be blessed by God.

But He may do just that. He may take away the things you are holding in your open hand or ask you to do something you may have vowed never to do. If you say you want the Lord to have control in everything, doesn’t this mean he will have control of the most important things as well as the least? Keeping your hands open is the most relaxing way to live. Jesus kept his hands open and though everything he had in them was taken away from him for a time, it was given back to Him so that no one could ever take it away from Him again.

“I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me."

John 13:19-20