In the classic Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, the central character George Bailey is given a unique gift. Having found himself in what seemed a no-win situation he blurts out to Clarence, his guardian angel, everything would have been better if he hadn’t been born. George is given the opportunity to see what the world would have been like for the town he lived in and the people he knew without his presence.
In a very different situation, Jesus, eating Passover in a borrowed room with his 12 disciples, suggests for one man in particular that, ‘It would have been better)…if he had not been born’. (v24) With hindsight we now know the traitor was Judas but, we must not miss the tension in the room when Jesus drops the bombshell ‘One of you will betray me’.
Matthew simply says ‘and as they were eating’ Jesus shares his shocking news. It must have made them choke on their latest mouthful. The traditional Seder meal (Passover Meal) started after sunset and included reading, drinking 4 cups of wine, telling stories, eating special foods, singing and other traditions reminding them of their nation’s miraculous exodus from Egyptian slavery. Shulchan Orech (the Passover feast) takes place towards the end of the evening so it would seem that Jesus waited for his moment and experienced much of the celebrations with the traitor by his side taking part in the service.
It certainly came after the Rachtzah, the ritual washing before eating the meal, as John eludes to in his Gospel (John 13:1-20) It may well have been at that moment in the celebrations when Jesus ‘got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron.’ (John 13:4) It is staggering that Jesus served Judas in the same way as he served all the other disciples whilst knowing he was the traitor. It also suggests the rank duplicity of the traitor allowing him to sit, with his deceitful bounty of blood money burning a hole in his pocket, and let his ‘mark’ wash his feet.
Reeling from the shock, tears in their eyes, with wholesome self-distrust and humility, each of his friends would ask ‘Is it I, Lord’, still struggling to comprehend one of this band of brothers would sell out the master. As the spotlight falls on Judas he may be thinking, does Jesus really know and puts on a bold front asking a similar question. However, it is conspicuous that something is wrong as Matthew records Judas’s question is a little different to everyone else asking, ‘Is it I, Rabbi’. There is a huge difference between Rabbi and Lord. Rabbi is the common word used in ancient Greek for a teacher. Jesus was named as a rabbi but the Greek word ‘Kurios’, here translated as ‘Lord’ carries divinity within it.
Here is how David Mathis explains:
‘God’s personal name Yahweh, first revealed to Moses at the burning bush, was so sacred to the ancient Hebrews that they would not risk mispronouncing it by speaking it. So, every time they came across the name while reading their Scriptures (our “Old Testament”), they would say Adonai, meaning Lord. When the Greek translation of the Scriptures was produced, Yahweh was rendered Kurios (Greek for Lord), and so in “New Testament” times, Jesus being called ‘Kurios’ had the effect of identifying him with the divine name Yahweh.’
To Judas the traitor he was just another Rabbi – teacher to be tossed aside to satisfy his love of money. For the eleven he was much more than Rabbi, he was Lord, he was God. He had a ‘name that is above every name’ and there will be a day when ‘every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord’. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Lord Jesus, you are most worthy of our adoration, affection, and allegiance. Because of you, we don’t have to guess what God’s is like, or worse, create our own image of him. Everything we need to know about God is revealed in and through you as Kurios-Lord!. My whole world is in your hands—sustaining and orchestrating, planning and effecting Sovereign grace on my behalf.
(Adapted from The Gospel Coalition – Scotty Smith)
More From This Series
View the other Devotionals in our “For the Joy” series