"Surely, Not I?"
April 5th, 2007
How could you, Judas? How could you betray Jesus? Of all the people that were out to get him, you'd think he could trust his own disciples. You'd think he could especially rely on the 12. You were one of them. But you had your own ideas.How could you do it with a kiss? As if you were there for a friendly reunion.
How could you bring them to that garden where you shared so many times of prayer together? How could you bring a bunch of men with clubs and swords and torches, as if the Lord was some dangerous criminal? It just goes to show how you didn't know him well after all.
And how could you sit there and eat this meal with him? How could you dip your hand in the same bowl, knowing... knowing what you had in mind? Truly, Satan somehow had hold of you, Judas. Surely, as Jesus said, it would be better for you never to have been born.
Jesus knew. He always seemed to know. He knew what you were up to. The others were clueless. When he said someone would betray him, they even thought it might be them. Each one in turn, asking, "Surely, not I, Lord?" But were they any better?
When the Shepherd was struck the sheep were scattered. They all ran away. All but John and Peter. Faith so feeble, fear so strong. Oh and then Peter, the apostle's apostle. Remember when he made that big scene - making a point about how he would never, everforsake Jesus? But Jesus knew. He knew Peter would deny him 3 full times before dawn. And when their eyes met in the courtyard, Peter also deserted the one he had denied.
"Surely, not I?" was the question. But surely it was them. Surely it was also you, here today. And surely it is all of us. We, the people of Grace Lutheran Church. We who know the Lord and follow him daily. We who talk to him in prayer, and gather with other disciples to pray. We who share the meal with him here at his altar. "Surely, not us?" Surely, so. We have forsaken. We have denied. We have betrayed.
"Surely, not I?" you might say. "Surely, I pay my taxes. Surely, I don't beat my wife. Surely, I listen to the sermon. Surely, I do as well as the next guy." Only the next guy doesn't do all that well. And you don't listen so well. And you may not beat your wife, but you don't love her like you should. And you may pay your taxes, but what about how you spend the rest of your money?
And what goes on in your head, and your heart? How many times do you forsake and deny and betray your Lord? How could you? After all that he has done for you? How can you sit here in his house, in his presence? How can you bring such filth into this holy place?
Out there in the world, when you act like you're not a Christian. It's like you're denying him. When you go your own way, you forsake him. And when you do what you know is wrong but you do it anyway, you betray him all over again. You make your excuses and rationalizations. But none of it can explain away your sin. None of it canjustify the unjustifiable. We are without excuse, and left only with blame.
"Surely not I?" No. Surely you, too, have forsaken and denied and betrayed. But back to ancient Jerusalem.... where Jesus' disciples weren't the only ones to forsake him. They weren't the only ones to turn their back on him. Someone even closer: His own Father. His heavenly Father, who could have stepped in to stop all the nonsense. Who could have taken the cup of suffering away.
But that was not his will. His will was for his own beloved Son to shed his holy precious blood. His will was for him to suffer, and be crucified, and forsaken by friend and foe alike. And God himself turned his back on Jesus. "My God,why have you forsaken me?" was the cry of the anguished Christ. "How could you?" How could he not? This is his power made perfect in weakness. This is the depth of his love for us.
Surely, not you or I would want such a fate. Surely we wouldn't want to die for our own sins, much less the sins of someone else. Surely not you or I could earn God's favor, even with such a noble sacrifice. But surely he has born our griefs and carried our sorrows, and with his stripes we are healed.
Surely, truly, he gives his own body to suffering and sheds his own blood even to death, for you. Surely, he gives his own body as bread, and his own blood as wine, for you, for the sure and certain forgiveness of your sins.
After his resurrection, Jesus once again forgave those who had forsaken him. He met with them, showed them his wounds, called them to believe. He gave them His Spirit and charged them with his message, and the authority to forgive sins. He sent them out to make disciples and to baptize and teach the nations.
He even restored the one who had denied him. Though Peter had denied Jesus three times, Jesus restored Peter three times. "Peter do you love me? Then feed my lambs."
Only Judas, in sorrow but not repentance, had sealed his own doom. When he hung himself he showed hiscomplete loss of faith in the only one who could have forgiven such a sin as his.
But for the other disciples, and for the disciples here today, Jesus has a word of forgiveness. Surely, for you, too. His promises in Holy Baptism and in Holy Communion are just as surely for us, gathered in his name. Where else can we meet God so surely as in his Word and in his sacraments? Where else can we see and hearand touch and taste his grace, than in those means he has provided?
Today we come forward to receive this ancient meal of promise which Christ has provided. We come, like the disciples, bearing sin and guilt, for we have forsaken and denied and betrayed him. But we also come in faith, knowing that this forgiveness is for us. That this body and blood, given and shed on the cross, risen from the dead, is also for us. Surely for us, each of us. And we go in peace, knowing all is well with our souls, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.