Matthew, a disciple of Jesus Christ and a former tax collector for the Roman governor. After the being with Jesus in the upper room where they celebrated the Lord’s Supper, I wonder what he was thinking when Jesus was talking about death and betrayal. Perhaps he could of said something like this:
“So, there is a traitor among us. One of us will betray Rabbi Jesus. Collecting taxes for the Roman government, I know what it’s like to be labeled as a traitor by my own people. I was despised. I was a social outcast. I accepted the fact that no Jewish woman of any standing was ever going to marry me. Because of my past, I’m not sure if I’ve ever been fully accepted or even trusted by my fellow disciples. I would not be surprised if they suspect me right now as the one who will betray Jesus.
You may ask why I became a tax collector. I thought money and power would make me happy. I wasn’t smart enough to be a teacher of the law. I wasn’t strong enough to be a good farmer. A man’s got to take what he can get – and when opportunity comes knocking on your door – no matter what the consequences may be – you grab it. A man’s got to do what he’s got to do.
Many times I have cringed at the missed opportunities Jesus has had to be the Messiah people have longed for. Opportunities to seize power as the king of Israel and the glory behind it, but he has not done that. Instead, he has brought a new message to his people – love your neighbor, love the unloveable, and even love your enemies. It is a love I have difficulty comprehending. I remember when Jesus told us that there is no greater love than laying down your life for your friends. I believe out of love, even for his enemies, Jesus is willing to be betrayed, to suffer, even if it means his death. I understand a man’s got to do what he’s got to do.
Why else are we in Jerusalem during Passover? He is the Messiah. He came riding in on a donkey as the prophets foretold. We have no army of rebels that I know of awaiting our call. All we have is ourselves and a message of repentance. We are setting ourselves up to be despised and rejected — and I shudder to think of the consequences.
Most of the disciples don’t know this, but I’ve been recording events and what Jesus has been teaching us. I don’t know what is going to happen, but whatever happens, I’m going to write it down. Perhaps someday the Lord will bless this and put it to good use.”
We continue the series on examining what each disciple could have said when they left the upper room on the night Jesus was betrayed. Today, we hear from Andrew:
“Could this be the end? At least two or three times before tonight, Jesus has told us that he was going to be betrayed, be killed and rise again. And now again tonight, he tells us that one of us will betray him. Is this going to be the night?
You know, I was there from the beginning. I was with John the Baptist. I was there when he saw Jesus and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” I thought, what an interesting name for a Messiah. Not a lion, but a lamb. And, to take away the sins of the world? Sounds more like a Passover Lamb slain to remove our sins than a conquering lion. Is this the night that Jesus is the Lamb of God?
I don’t know. But this is what I do know. That ever since leaving my family and following Jesus, my life hasn’t been the same. I’ve seen his miracles. I’ve heard his teachings. I’ve experienced his love. And even though there are times when I feel like quitting, I know that he will never quit on me. And for that reason, I will continue to follow him to the very end.”
All of the disciples of Jesus Christ had dispersed from the upper room. They heard the words “death” and “betrayal”. Their thoughts and emotions must have been running high on the night Jesus was betrayed. To continue this series, I wonder what one of the disciples named Thaddeus must have thought. We don’t know much about him, but in their confusion, Thaddeus must have rested on one of many promises Jesus gave him. Here is one what Thaddeus might have said:
“When I followed Jesus and he chose me to be one of his disciples, I was certain he was the Messiah. I thought he was the kind of leader Israel needed. He’s an amazing teacher, not afraid of anything or anyone, and the miracles prove that this was the Savior we have been hoping and praying for. That he would restore the nation of Israel to its former glory.
But, he has turned out to be a much different Messiah than I thought. Each day with Jesus has been an adventure. My head continues to swirl from all that he has taught us in such a short time. His teaching has been so much different than what I learned from my rabbi at home. It seems that every night I go to sleep; I try to absorb all that I’ve seen and heard. And I drift off to sleep with more questions than answers. Is Jesus the Messiah? Is he the Savior of my people?
It helps when I remember what Jesus told the synagogue ruler named Jairus. I was standing right next to him when a servant from his house came right up to tell Jairus not to bother Rabbi Jesus anymore, because his daughter was dead. When Jesus heard this, he grabbed Jairus by the shoulders and looked him in the eye and said, “Don’t be afraid, just believe, and she will be healed.” I wish you could have been there. The commotion of grief outside his house turned to shock and joy when Jairus’ daughter appeared at the door. Alive!
I admit to you this evening that doubt penetrates my thoughts right now. Questions still loom. This is not how I pictured the Messiah would be. But even during this time of uncertainty, I hang on to the words Jesus told Jairus in his moment of greatest despair, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.” It is these words I hang onto right now here in Jerusalem.”
What were the disciples thinking when they each left the upper room on the night Jesus was betrayed. In this series, I am attempting to examine the thoughts of each disciple based on their experience, personality and background. Today, we can examine James — the lesser — and what he could have thought on that night.
“What a strange evening. These past several weeks have been quite unusual. I can tell Jesus is distressed and burdened – especially since arriving in Jerusalem. Something is going down and I can’t put a finger on it. I haven’t felt this troubled since that time we were in Caesarea Philippi. Peter, James and John were up on a mountain with Jesus when we were confronted by a man who had a son possessed by an evil spirit. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t drive it out. When Jesus returned, the boy with the evil spirit saw Jesus and immediately began to convulse, roll on to the ground and began foaming at the mouth. Believe me, it was a frightening scene.
The father pleaded with Jesus to take pity and help them which Jesus replied, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” And you know what the father said? “I do believe – help me overcome my unbelief.” Jesus healed the boy and drove out the evil spirit. A type of evil spirit, Jesus said, that can only be driven out through prayer.
It was only days later, on our way to Capernaum, when Jesus told us, the Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him and after three days, he will rise. We didn’t understand what he meant and were too afraid to ask, but his words certainly have been in the back of my mind.
Still, I’m frightened with what Jesus said tonight. I do believe Jesus is the Messiah, but my heart is troubled. That is why the words of the father of the demon-possessed boy still ring with me today. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and I pray for God to help me overcome my unbelief. But I also remember what Jesus said to the father – everything is possible for him who believes. With that in mind, I trust that Jesus has everything under control and that God’s will be done.”
When the disciples dispersed after the Lord’s Supper in the Upper Room, I wonder what each of the disciples were thinking from the words expressed by Jesus. Perhaps, Simon the Zealot, would have said the following;
“I had such dreams. Dreams of a better life. Living in a free land no longer under Roman rule. That someday we could be a great nation again. That God would bless us again as in the days of David and Solomon — living in the Promised land God first revealed to our father Abraham. This is my hope. This is what I long for.
In my mind, I thought that the only way to end Roman tyranny is by force. I thought God needed my sword and my shield to conquer the enemy. But being with Jesus these past few years, he has revealed something different. Instead of directing anger at the Romans for enslaving his people and organizing a revolt, Jesus has directed his anger to what enslaves us spiritually – our sins – and to the synagogue rulers who say we can only be right with God by following hundreds of commands and laws.
I am baffled, because I have been confronted with one very important question. And the question is not just who is Jesus – but why? Is he the Messiah that I plead for every day to establish a kingdom on earth or is he the Savior – who promises another kingdom far-greater than I could ever imagine. A kingdom received not by birthright, but the forgiveness of sins.
With nights like this… the words of Jesus expressed tonight… I confess I struggle. My head tells me one thing and my heart another. My head wants Jesus to be the new King of Israel and reign in all his majesty, but my heart… my heart says that Jesus is more than just a conqueror. Jesus is working out everything for our good, for a purpose that I can’t yet begin to comprehend. And it is driven by his great love that he has for us — a love that I’ve seen first-hand. If Jesus can change my heart, the heart of Simon the Zealot, than he is the Son of the Living God.”
“The question to ask at the end of life’s race is not so much, “What have I accomplished?” but “Whom have I loved, and how courageously?” (Geoff Gorsuch)
The look in their eyes made a deep impression with me. The look of regret. The pain etched in disappointment. The grief associated with knowing that they missed the one giant opportunity that will never come back again.
These were successful men. Men who I admired, appreciated and respected. They were good Christians and leaders at my church. Now nearing retirement age, I looked upon these men for wisdom and encouragement. But when the subject came up regarding their family, the pained look clouded over their faces. Their sons had long stopped coming to church. Their poor life choices and broken marriages had created a whirlpool of a messy life that made it difficult to break free. And the fathers knew that their lack of time and attention at home played a role in their son’s difficult life. Their family had taken a back seat in their pursuit toward success. But later in life, the definition of success had changed for them and they wished they could have done things much differently if they had another chance.
I felt the Lord was giving me that chance while I listened to their advice and learned from their mistakes. I didn’t want to experience their pain.
I believe it is a courageous thing for a man to sacrifice the pursuit for worldly success for the sake of his family. The whispers of material gain and earthly fame are very hard to ignore. What is even more difficult for a young man is to look at the race of life from the grandstands and not from the track. You have two different views. From the track, you are so busy running the race that you can only see life one step at a time. From the grandstand, you can clearly see the finish line and the end of the race. And the question remains, “How do you want to finish?”
A man can finish the race and win the gold medal and be recognized by the world for his accomplishment. But if there is nobody at home to cheer you, to love you for who you are no matter what, than what’s the point? The gold medal becomes a relic and long-forgotten. And that also goes with our relationship with God. If we become so busy loving life instead of keeping an eternal perspective, there will come a day when we are confronted with the deepest regret of all when God says to you, “Go away, I never knew you.” The weeping and gnashing of teeth associated with eternal regret is something I want to avoid at all costs.
“We are, of course, removed some distance from Golgotha and its horrors. From our vantage point there’s always a danger of ornamenting Christ’s death into a mere abstraction. We give earnest assent to the idea of His passing, but rarely see or feel its visceral drama. The cross is such a dissected, familiar theological category. We celebrate it in the comfortable and dignified confines of a sanctuary. It’s hard to really touch the wrenching brutality of that event.” (Steven Mosley)
The excruciating pain. The sheer agony resonating from a tortured body. And what’s worse – the man hanging on the cross has taken our place. The Son of God, the promised Messiah, is willingly enduring the most wicked form of human suffering. It is a scene that tugs our conscience. Am I worth this suffering? Did Christ really have to suffer for me?
We read of war-time heroes who sacrifice themselves for the sake of their buddies. Jumping on a live grenade. Carrying a wounded brother while bullets whistle all around. Those acts of bravery and courage are what make ordinary men heroes and deservedly so. What prompted these actions? Love. Service. Loyalty. As Scriptures says, “No greater love than this when a man lays down his life for a friend.”
But to be executed in the most horrific way? To know and have read the script written by prophets long ago that this was the plan, the purpose, the only way to rescue mankind from eternal death – that is too hard to imagine. Too difficult to comprehend. Like the disciples, I would have tried to reason Jesus away from the path of suffering and his answer would have been the same — “Get behind me Satan!” My ways are not God’s ways. My hopes and dreams are typically not God’s plan for me. And when I place Jesus as my “bread king” – to supply me with all my earthly desires just as the Jews were expecting from a promised Messiah – I have to consciously and systematically place my desires, hopes, dreams at the foot of the cross. Only when I put to death my own grand design for my life, can I truly live.
So, there I stand by Golgotha staring at the cross with a mixture of emotions. Incredible sadness in that I should be there instead of him. Amazing thankfulness that I should be there instead of him. It is in that stark horror of recognizing why Jesus is hanging on the cross, suffering and dying a horrific death, that I rush forward with Peter on that Eastern morning when I hear those words, “The rock has been pulled away. The grave is empty.” The cross does not just become a theological truth, but a living drama within my heart and soul that comes to a most satisfying conclusion.
The disciples have been dismissed after Jesus broke the bread and passed the wine in the upper room. He reminded the disciples again that he was going to be betrayed, die and rise again. How will each of the disciples respond?
Here is a possible journal entry from the disciples named Nathanial.
“I can’t believe what I just heard. My Savior will be betrayed. How can this be? How can he allow this to happen? Is he not the Son of God? Is he not all-powerful and all-knowing? I mean, this is the same Jesus who knew me even before I knew him. This is the same Christ who found me before I found him.
When my brother, Philip, brought me to see Jesus, I knew it was the Messiah I had been praying for and what the Scriptures foretold. When I proclaimed my faith and said, “You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel,” did you know what Jesus said? “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. But, Nathaniel, listen closely. You shall see greater things than that! You shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Is that not something to wait for? A promise directly from Jesus that I will see greater things than what I’ve already seen.
Right now, I’m glad he told me that because I‘m confused. I confess that I don’t fully understand. I don’t really get why Jesus will allow himself to be betrayed. But it’s during these times when I don’t understand, that I will continue to place my trust in Jesus – the Son of God. For I heard him tell the Pharisees that He is the Lord of the Sabbath, because he is greater than the temple itself. He told us that he is even greater than Jonah for he will spend three days and three nights in the earth. And he even told us that he will be greater than King Solomon.
I will hang on to his promise that I will see even greater things than this simply because he is the Christ. The Promised One. And I will take him at his word.