What a startling statement it was! Jesus sat was with His twelve best friends in the world. They had been together for three years, they ate together, they slept together, they walked mile after mile together. They sat under His teaching, saw Him perform countless miracles and were so excited about being a part of His Future Kingdom that they argued about who among them would be the greatest in it. They knew Jesus and they knew each other. And once again they came together for an evening meal, relaxing together at the table and eating when the words came out of Jesus’ mouth, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.”
His words were puzzling, cryptic, surprising and even shocking. Yet they knew that His words were always True, so they began to weep. How could it be that one of this inner-circle would betray their Lord, their Savior, their Friend? After initial abhorrence and disgust at the idea they moved with eagerness to clear themselves of suspicion, to judge their own consciences and defend themselves declaring, “Surely Not I?” One by one each man declared his innocence; thoughts of betrayal were far from their hearts. Even Judas spoke up saying, “Surely Not I?” The disciples were often in the position of overestimating themselves and failing to see their capacity for rebellion and betrayal. In fact, later in the evening they would all abandon Him.
I remember when I was a new believer attending a holiday conference for college students when a speaker asked a section of 100 students to stand and then preceded to ask 50 of the number to sit back down. He then made a startling prediction, “In ten years, half of the 100 will no longer be walking with the Lord!” His prediction was not based on any specific knowledge of the sample group, but on anecdotal evidence of working with young people who declared themselves to be “on fire for Jesus” in their youth but later would show no evidence that they ever truly believed. Ironically, the thoughts that penetrated my mind and heart on that evening were “Surely Not I?” Then looking at my friends and thinking, “Surely not them either, right?”
The Apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthians to “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” A regular call to look within ourselves to discover Christ and Faith is not a harmful thing for the Christian to do. Jesus makes this startling prediction of his closest friends, “One of you will betray me,” because He knows they have overestimated their commitment to Him, that their faith is not mature and their foundations will soon be rocked. He wants all of them to do a heart inventory and by doing so reminds His disciples and us that we are chosen but we are not choice. He wants us all to see our capacity for rebellion and to see our great need for His grace and mercy. He wants us to ask ourselves, “Are we following Him because the crowd follows Him?” and “Are we following Him because of the nice gifts He provides.” If we follow Him because of the crowd or the gifts, it is likely that one day we will walk away from Him. There will come a time in our earthly lives when we feel alone in our faith and the crowd is not following. There will also come a time when His gifts momentarily cease, when our faith will be tested with the question, “Do I love the Giver or do I love the Gifts?”
How do you humble yourself before a true enemy? How to you love and serve someone whom you know is going to turn on you and sell you out? How do you wash the feet of the one you know is going to betray you in just a few hours?
At the Thursday gathering of the disciples during what we call the Last Supper, the gospel of John tells us that the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray him. (Judas was a wicked man whose evil flame was intensified by Satan’s fan). As Jesus one by one washed the feet of the disciples, at one point He came to Judas. While there is no recorded dialogue during this interaction, the understanding of the Scriptural text of the evening is that Jesus washed Twelve sets of feet. I marvel at the composure of mind possessed by the Savior during this scene! How do you wash the feet of the one whom you know is going to betray you?
John gives us some insight into the psyche of Jesus when he says in John 13:3, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God. The composure of Jesus was a result of His self-knowledge, His relational identity with His Father and His clear sense of destiny. He possessed a full consciousness and deep awareness of self, identity and purpose accompanied with an experiential knowledge of His Father that carried Him through difficulty. This heart-felt knowledge, acceptance, affirmation of being, and love that He had received from all eternity from His Father overflowed in Jesus so that he could give Himself away, serve everyone, live with people’s dirt and even in love, wash the feet of the traitor.
Jesus could stick with the plan of redemption and maintain His clear purpose for coming to the earth because He was rooted and grounded in the love of the Father. He experienced the breadth, length, height, and depth of the Love of God which surpasses knowledge. He had this composure of mind because He had already obtained victory over death, His eyes lifted to his glorious triumph which was soon to come. And He (like us) was already seated in the heavenlies! What composure! What wonderful patience to endure the washing of the feet of the trusted friend who would sell him out! He knew that His death was ultimately a passage back to the heavenly kingdom (as yours will be) and this brought him a composure of mind in the midst of adversity. Through the entire length of His humiliation as a man, He is not even shaken until he must enter into being forsaken by His own Father, an experience that a child of God will never have to endure again.