Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 29 of Lent :: cloud of Smoke

“And while they were eating, He said,
‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray Me.’”
 (Matthew 26:21)

Jesus had gathered His closest friends to share the Passover meal with Him.  More important to Him than eating was His wanting to share His heart concerning the impending suffering and death He was facing.  He also announced that one of them would betray Him.

Can you imagine the feelings in the room?  Hearing that Jesus was going to suffer was a blow to the emotions, but hearing that someone among them would betray Him, compounded their anxiety.  Eyes began to roam around the room, locking on sudden expressions creeping across the faces of others.  Immediately, some pulled up mental scorecards kept over the last three years as they traveled together.  Who made the most mistakes?  On long days, which one showed a testy attitude and secretly grumbled?  The lists go on and on as each scanned his internal files for a perfect match for a possible betrayer.

“Then they began to question among themselves,
which of them it was who would do this thing.”
(Luke 22:23)

Someone finally had the guts to speak up, “Not I.”  Then another chimed in, “Well… don’t look at me.”  In a matter of seconds, there was a buzz of grunts and self-supporting acclamations.  Looks turned to comments. Comments turned to defenses.  Finally, defenses turned to accusations.  Fingers began to point.  Emotions began to rise.  They were no longer whispering, instead, roaring voices clamored to be heard.

“Now there was also a dispute among them,
as to which of them should be considered the greatest.”

(Luke 22:24)

The best way for a disciple to prove that he was not going to be the one to betray Jesus was to prove himself to be the greatest in the room.  All those skilled at arguing employed this tactic at one point or another when they began to lose the battle of words.  This was not merely a mild disagreement.  The word translated as dispute, actually means “an eagerness to contend,” even “lover of strife.”[i]  We do not know how long this argument ensued.  We are not told what line of rationale they used to secure the upper hand.  We are not told whose voice was the loudest; however, it seems at the end of the round that Simon Peter may have been in the lead.
Jesus interrupted their petty squabbling, instructing them concerning true greatness, and demonstrating what pure service to others is.  Changing the subject rather abruptly, He turned to Peter, looked him in the eyes and said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

Reflection: Do you find yourself talking over others to add your thoughts and comments?  Are you prone to contentedly listen in order to understand another’s perspective, or do you quickly insert your own opinions?  Do you typically answer more questions than you ask?
   If so, you may suffer from the same ailment that afflicted the disciples.  That night in the Upper Room, they seemed to have lost the ability to truly listen to what Jesus was saying.  They could not hear Him over the voices of their own hearts.  They were unable to see past their own expectations, plans and desires to accurately decipher what He meant.
   The thought, “Could it be I who will betray Him?” does not seem to cross anyone’s mind.  Rather than hearts being broken that someone would actually betray Jesus, each became defensive: “I could never betray Him!” 

Prayer: “Lord, show me my heart.  When I interrupt and talk over others, convict me.  Help me to listen—truly listen—rather than become defensive.”

[i] Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.

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