Thursday, April 17, 2014

Betrayal For Dummies

Maunday Thursday, 2014

The greatest love comes at the hardest times.

Betrayal is likely the most uncomfortable subject to engage mankind.

Our earliest stories, our biblical beginnings, are fraught with the message of man's shortcomings.
Not more than a week or so after God creates all things and calls them "good" do we see mankind betray their very Creator is a blind-hearted effort to be just like Him. The father of our faith was found lacking faith to trust God, not once, but twice and nearly lost the promise God intended for him and Israel. A young man is sold into slavery, by his brothers, and sent off to a foreign land to live with a people he doesn't know, all because of a thing called jealousy.

And, that's just skimming the surface.

All the way through the scriptures we see story after story and see people committing all sorts of sins. And, while the variety of sins for mankind is as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore, there is a common underlying theme to all of it. The pretty present can be wrapped in a number of different packaging papers, but after it is open, the same dreadful feeling comes forth.

For the most part, we see human beings committing grave sins against each other, with sin against God being implied or spoken of through a prophet. God seems to be distant and outside the situation. Now, God has come close in the person of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul, speaking about our indelible situation of temptation, says the Jesus has felt everything that we feel. He has seen it all. "Been there, done that" would fit the life of Jesus well. He has experienced everything we go through as humans. Even this tragic moment of betrayal.

If you ever visit a little store on the north side of Newark, OH called Ollie's, you'll find a LARGE section of the "for DUMMIES" book series. They have everything! If you are inexperienced in any subject matter there is a book for it. Know nothing about baseball? "Baseball for DUMMIES" Know nothing about the operating system on your computer? "Windows 7 for DUMMIES" Know nothing about politics? "Politics for DUMMIES"

I checked it out to see if there was anything out for the subject of "betrayal". Came up cold.
Now there would be a title we could really use. Especially in the subject matter for this evening.

Our Lord and Savior would know the subject all to well.
On this night we gather to remember that moment in the Upper Room. The Last Supper, some call it. It is the last time these twelve will sit down with Jesus in this manner. There are two different passages that remember the meal on this night. In the Gospel of John, we see Jesus post-meal. He has taken his outer garment off and wrapped a towel around his waist. He then proceeds to go around the table and wash each person's feet. All 12 of them. 24 feet. Nobody offers to wash Jesus' feet. Tonight is not a meeting to discuss how deserving Jesus is for all. It is a moment to show his disciples the true love he feels for them. A moment of forgiveness and mercy, before they even know they need it.

The Gospel of Matthew shows us the actual meal and the conversation in the midst of it.
Lets look in on that moment, right now.

Matthew 26:17-30

New International Version (NIV)

The Last Supper

17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 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.”
25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered, “You have said so.”
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

The moment we read about in Matthew seems to mirror the events of Palm Sunday.
The disciples were told to go and find a young colt, a donkey. They found it just as it was said.
Now, they are told to go and find a certain man. Preparation are to be made. Everything is just as Jesus said it would be. And, then evening comes.

They are simply eating. How many times have they eaten this meal? Being common fishermen, maybe they haven't partaken in the Jewish rituals much. Blue collar men rarely do. We know the Christmas & Easter types. There is no mention of anyone feeling uncomfortable with their surroundings. It is simply a meal. Much like many other meals they have eaten at holiday time.

Except this one is led by the Messiah. And, he has a statement to make.
"This is my body which is broken for you. Take and eat."
Did they all look at each other? "What does he mean, this is my body?"
They take it and pass it around. Each one partaking in the leavened bread, flat, in remembrance of the people's escape from Egypt all those centuries ago.

The meal goes on. Everyone has settled back into a comfortable place and light conversation ensues. Sudden;y, Jesus has another announcement. "This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for the sins of many. Take and drink. And, as often as you do this, do it in remembrance of me." Ok, first bread, now wine? What? As if that wasn't strange enough, now Jesus gets up, grabs a towel and a basin of water and washes their feet. They have seen Jesus do a lot of strange things through the last three years. This might take the cake. They have gotten used to seeing miracles. People healed. Lame walking. Lepers skin cleared up. Even the occasional raising of the dead. They have heard some whopper sermons. Witnessed him clear the temple and knock over tables. Feeding 5,000 people.

But, this...this is unexplainable. Uncomfortable.
The King. The Messiah. The one who should be getting accolades and comfort for himself is acting like a servant. The lowliest servant in the house. And, nobody knows what to say.
Except for Peter and his rhetoric, demanding that Jesus wash not only his feet, but his head and hands also; there is no mention of discussion. Except for when the notion of betrayal come forth.

Who likes to be accused of betrayal? When Jesus mentions that someone has done so or is planning to do so, the small group is suddenly a buzz. "Surely, you don't mean me." Yes, there is one in mind. But, any of them could have dunked their sop in the cup after Jesus and been found guilty. Judas will certainly be the chief culprit, for nothing more than a bag of coins. But, any of them could have been thought of a betrayer. It won't be very much longer till they get to the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas brings the crowd with him. Jesus' crowd suddenly vanishes. Not a one was confident enough in their faith to stand along side their Messiah when the time came.

Betrayal is for dummies.
And, the dummies don't realize how much they have left behind in their haste.

Where do we fall short in our Christian witness? Where have we betrayed our Lord?
Was there a moment this past week at the grocery store or the local restaurant?
Was there a moment to stop by a person's house and make a friendly gesture of hospitality?
Could we have called someone and made them feel better about their day?

Could we use a clean slate and a moment to start over again?

For the betrayer, the feeling of being swamped with guilt is enough to make one lose hope.
There is no coming back. There is no joy anymore.
Life is a sad place of feeling regret and shortcoming.

Until we realize why there are wet feet around the table.
God has already forgiven us. God wants us to get up, go forth, and try it again.
The intention is not to allow us to endlessly fail.
The message is that God wants us to get it right. And, no matter how many times it takes, no matter how foot washing and trips to the altar, forcing us to bang our heads on the wood, pleading "Why?", we will find out the eternal truth.

God makes things right.
Even for the betrayer.

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