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God’s Word for You

Mark 14:16-19 Surely not I

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, December 30, 2023

16 The disciples left and went into the city and found things just as he had told them. So they prepared the Passover. 17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Amen I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” 19 They became distressed, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”

The Passover meal began in the usual way. There was singing; there were prayers. Passages of the Scriptures were read or recited from memory. The food was eaten, first as a memorial of the time in Egypt and the suffering there in the days of Moses, but then the memorial would be over and a regular meal would be eaten. Mark passes over the Passover meal to record some of the specific things Jesus said. And the very first was this: “One of you will betray me. One who is eating with me.” This was a reference to something David said in Psalm 41:9, “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.” John recites the Psalm verse in his account (John 13:18-19), but John omits the words, “someone I trusted.” Jesus knew Judas; who he was, what he was going to do. David may have lamented that his friend Ahithophel betrayed him during the rebellion of Absalom, and that his own nephew Joab betrayed him during the rebellion of Adonijah, but Jesus had always known that Judas would do this, “For this,” he said, “is that the Scripture may be fulfilled” (John 13:18).

Around the table the same question sped: “Not I? Surely not I? It won’t be me, will it, Lord?” The Apostles all knew that they were fallible men, men who made mistakes. They were sinners. How we all stand on the knife’s edge of betrayal, all the time! We are as likely to betray him and fall into sin when we are all alone, sitting quietly in prayer or meditating on his word, as we would be surrounded by a pack of wicked sinners urging us to sin in this or that way. It hardly matters to the devil, who will pick up any handy tool to twist into a weapon against us. Our own words; our own past sins and sinful habits are as likely to become temptations as a band of hypocrites, pagans, or sinful acquaintances.

No one can escape temptations as long as we live in the flesh and have the devil prowling all around. We can’t help but suffer troubles, and even to get entangled in troubles of all kinds. But when we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation,” we pray that we might not fall into such things, and that we might not be overwhelmed by them. “We must all feel temptations,” Luther teaches in the Large Catechism, “though not all to the same degree. Some have more frequent and more severe temptations than others. Young people, for example, are tempted chiefly in the flesh. Old people are tempted by the world. Others, who are concerned with spiritual matters (that is, strong Christians) are tempted (more directly) by the devil.”

We will not be harmed by the feeling of temptation as long as it is contrary to our will, and we would rather be rid of it. What we pray about is to be able to resist it, and to be forgiven if we fall.

For just as Adam fell, and Noah, and all the Patriarchs, and David and Solomon, and Peter and Paul, too, we all run to the cross for our sins to be covered in the blood of Jesus. “Forgive my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12). “Forgive our sins for your name’s sake” (Psalm 79:3). “Forgive my iniquity, though it is great” (Psalm 25:11).

Psalm 25 goes on to say, “The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish” (Psalm 25:17). Peter comforts all of us from here: “You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

As you and I ponder with the disciples around the table, “Surely not I?”, our confidence in our puny, weak, and sinful flesh will collapse, and we must pray, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

And he has.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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