“Surely not I Lord?”
The reading today on the pray as you go podcast was this from Matthew 26:
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”
They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”
Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.”
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial
Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
” ‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
I imagined myself at the table with Jesus and the disciples. What must it have felt like for Jesus to say ‘one of you will betray me’? I felt myself saying ‘surely not I Lord’ but even as the words left my lips I felt a niggling sense of my own lack of commitment to Christ. I think that’s why all the disciples join the refrain, ‘surely not I Lord’: they are all doubting whether they can keep up this support for Jesus.
When Jesus says ‘one of you will betray me’ – as we hear it, we think ‘I hope it won’t be me’ but we’re all aware of our frailty and the possibility that it could be us.
We have two examples in this account. That of Judas, who knowingly sets out to betray Jesus and Peter who states his desire to follow Jesus to the death but fails when confronted in the courtyard of the High Priest.
What’s incredible is Jesus’ way of speaking to both Judas and Peter. He doesn’t condemn or pass any judgement. He simply states the facts.
Even more beautiful for us, is our knowledge of Peter’s restoration on the beach after the resurrection as recounted by John in chapter 21 (incidentally my favourite resurrection account).
We follow, thankfully, Peter’s path, not Judas’. In stating that we wish to follow Jesus to the death, we are not sinning because we may not carry it out, we are loved by Christ, despite the fact that He knows we can’t keep that promise (‘while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ – Romans 5:8). Then, when we do fail, he welcomes us back with open arms, and may even give us a role to play in furthering His kingdom.
Accompanying the podcast today was perhaps the most beautiful piece of sacred music ever written, Allegri’s Miserere, based on Psalm 51 which begins:
‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions’.
We see Jesus enact this through the example of Peter, he blots out Peter’s transgressions by showing the full extent of His love on the cross and then in restoring him to Himself.
Thank God for Peter and his example! Thank God that He is constantly restoring us to Himself!
Here is that beautiful piece of music to pray Psalm 51 to: