One of the most awkward scenes, for me, in the Gospels is the moment at the Last Supper where Jesus has declared that one of the men among them will, and already has, betrayed Him. One by one, the disciples ask, "Is it me, Lord?" each man afraid of the darkness that may lurk in his soul (I assume). I mean, that's why I would ask - because I would wonder if I was doing something offensive or betraying without realizing it, or if I was set up to do such a thing. I would want to know if it was me.
But then Judas pipes up, full knowing it is him, and asks, "Is it me?" Let's look at the text:
While they were eating, he said, 'I can guarantee this truth: One of you is going to betray me.' Feeling deeply hurt, they asked him one by one, 'You don't mean me, do you, Lord?' Jesus answered, 'Someone who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man is going to die as the Scriptures say he will. But how horrible it will be for that person who betrays the Son of Man. It would have been better for that person if he had never been born.' Then Judas, who betrayed him, asked, 'You don't mean me, do you, Rabbi?' 'Yes, I do,' Jesus replied. - Matthew 25:21-25
Can you catch this scene? Here they all are, sharing this quiet meal that we still celebrate in our churches day (oooh! note to self: Communion thought) Each man in turn asks if he is the one who will betray Jesus, unsure if he is the man, and Jesus responds by telling them that for sure, one of them will and it will be terrible for that person. Now, by this point, we can guess that several have already asked, which means Judas was waiting, not wanting to put himself out there to be known as the betrayer. Then after Jesus declares harsh judgment against the yet-unidentified man, Judas asks, knowing the answer, "Do you mean me?"
Yes, of course I mean you, Jesus answers. I know that I mean you. You know that I mean you. I know that you have betrayed Me, and now you know that I know that you have betrayed Me. Sucks to be you.
But I think this is a turning point for Judas. I really do. Because I think there had to still be some doubt in his mind about just what Jesus understood, about just how much the Rabbi knew. And I find it interesting that when Judas asks, he calls Jesus "Rabbi" instead of "Lord," a term of affection rather than deference. He's trying to draw close to Jesus and maybe throw the Son of God off his scent a little. Dearest, beloved, most precious and gracious Teacher, you couldn't possibly be talking about me, could you?
But I really think Judas was thinking he might still get away from it. I think he was testing to see how far Jesus's prophecy mind goes. Ok, the Scriptures say the Son of Man will be betrayed, and that will be the cause of His death, but does the Son of Man necessarily know the betrayer? Is there a way to weasel out of this? In Judas's mind, his saving grace is that Jesus knows He's being betrayed but doesn't know by whom. Then, I mean, then it could be anybody. And if it could be anybody, it could also not be anybody. And by anybody, Judas is thinking himself.
Jesus looks the betrayer square in the face and says, "I know it's you" and that's the first time I think Judas considers the magnitude of what he's done. That's the moment his heart turns away from the money for a minute (because we know Judas was a penny-pincher, a miser, and a shrewd steward of resources) and onto the betrayal. He understands the relationship with the Lord looking him in the eye. Suddenly, this isn't collateral; this is Christ. A Christ he's just betrayed. A broken-hearted Savior.
Isn't it the same moment for us?
Of course not. When we know the answer, we don't ask. When we know we are the betrayer, we avoid the question. We chime in with Jesus's words and say, "Yup. Sucks to be you...whoever you are..." but we don't see in ourselves what the Lord sees in us. We answer to His generalities, but we don't ask the question, "Is it me?
Yet we need to. That is the heart of our relationship. We have to be willing to ask - Am I betraying you, Lord? And we need to be ready to hear the answer.
Because it is in the eyes of our Savior that we see that it's not just that our Lord is betrayed; it is that we are betraying Him. We see what it means to Him that we have turned our back. We understand exactly what it is we were selling out, exactly what it is we were selling ourselves short for. We see where our love is lacking, where our grace is guarded, where our forgiveness fails. We see the ways that we - yes, we - have turned our backs and suddenly, it hits us. It's not that we didn't know; on some level, we did. But this is not collateral; this is Christ.
And I don't know why, but just knowing that is not enough for us. Judas knew. It didn't stop him. It didn't guilt him. It didn't change him. But when he asked, knowing, and heard Jesus say the words, that was his transformational moment. That's when it hit him.
So as painful as it is, we must be willing to ask. We must ask, knowing the answer, and let our Savior speak. It is there that redemption begins.