By Elizabeth Prata
Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve. And as they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” Being deeply grieved, they began saying to Him, each one: “Surely it is not I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:22)
New International Version: They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
New Living Translation: Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?”
English Standard Version: And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?”
The “Is it I, Lord” over and over from each of the disciples is poignant. They were sorrowful to think that the Lord of all, the man they had left their lives for, submitted to, followed, and acknowledged as Supreme, was going to be betrayed by one of their own! Who could DO such a thing?
Even more poignant though is their wonderment as who it might be. They knew enough to know that their hearts were deceitful, and that they indeed had a potential for such a dastardly trick. They wondered if it was themselves.
Here is the point: The disciples believed Jesus before they would believe themselves. They trusted Jesus’s words more than their own hearts.
This is as it should be.
Matthew Henry said:
They were apt to suspect themselves; Lord, is it I? Though they were not conscious to themselves of any inclination that way (no such thought had ever entered into their mind), yet they feared the worst, and asked Him who knows us better than we know ourselves, Lord, is it I? Note, It well becomes the disciples of Christ always to be jealous over themselves with a godly jealousy, especially in trying times. We know not how strongly we may be tempted, nor how far God may leave us to ourselves, and therefore have reason, not to be high-minded, but fear. It is observable that our Lord Jesus, just before he instituted the Lord’s supper, put his disciples upon this trial and suspicion of themselves, to teach us to examine and judge ourselves... Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1754). Peabody: Hendrickson.
Today we have incessant Disney movies where the hero or more usually the heroine, succeeds because she “followed her heart” or she “listened to her own truth” or she “became true to who she is.”
The heart is what makes us, us. It’s deceitfully wicked, says Jeremiah 17:9. The heart, or the inner person, contaminates our entire life and our character and from it springs all manner of unrighteous deeds and thoughts constantly (Genesis 6:5). Hence the heart must be changed, or regenerated, and man himself cannot do that. Following one’s heart or listening to one’s own heart only leads one in a circle, ever downward. The disciples were aware enough to know not to look inward and settle the matter with their own conscience, saying to one’s self- ‘Of course it cannot be I.’ Indeed, just a few hours later, Peter denied Jesus.
We must trust the word of God more than our own thoughts, motivations, ideas. Even with the Spirit in us, our inner man still lurks. We must slay him, appealing to the Spirit for help in that. They asked “Is it I, Lord?” but the answer of course is, ‘It could be any one of you. But it is in fact Judas.’
We need to stay in the word so that He will transform our mind (heart/conscience/inner man) to one of likeness to Jesus. And who wouldn’t want to be more like the most perfect, compassionate, righteous, loving, just person in the universe?
If you ask yourself “Is it I, Lord?” you know the answer would be yes without Him, and even with Him, it could be, for we are able to do just about any unrighteous deed. His deed, to hang on the cross as payment for our sins, absorbing all God’s wrath for them, dying, and rising again, makes it possible for us to say ‘It could be I, but not today, Lord. Not today, by grace of the Spirit’. James Smith said in his essay on Grace Gems:
Brethren, we need the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of grace–to make us gracious and graceful Christians. Without the Spirit of grace . . .
we cannot live up to our profession;
we cannot copy the example of our beloved Master;
we cannot keep His commandments;
we cannot love one another as He has loved us;
we cannot sympathize with lost sinners as we should;
we cannot keep God’s glory in view in all that we do;
we cannot walk in high and holy fellowship with God;
we cannot meet death with peace and joy!
Let us look up, therefore, to our heavenly Father, let us plead his precious promises, let us go in the name of the Lord Jesus, and let us entreat him to give us more of “the Spirit of grace.”
Grace Gems, excerpt “The Spirit of Grace” James Smith, 1864.