As we read the twenty sixth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, the curtain lifts, and the scene is set for the final acts and hours of Immanuel, God in flesh. In what can only be described as the greatest three year ministry in the history of mankind, the Lord’s personal plan for the ultimate act of sacrifice only now begins to take shape in the minds of His unsuspecting disciples. Worse still, while God’s selfless desire was “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10), it is unfortunate that the true scope and grandeur of His Passion was bookended by the doubt of Thomas (Jn. 1:46 “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?”) and the prophesied betrayal to be bartered for thirty pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12-13). As the bread is passed and each takes his turn at the Last Supper, Jesus openly proclaims, “…one of you shall betray me.” (Mt. 26:21). Most likely in shock, and aghast at such an unthinkable prospect, the disciples each begin to ask in turn, seemingly helpless to change if He were to call them out in the lineup, “Lord, is it I?” (Mt. 26:22).
Inasmuch as God’s Word can, at times, be joyful, rapturous, and cheerful, at others it can seem to be harsh, surprising, and unexpected. This word to the disciples must have been inconceivable at best and preposterous at worst. But the Lord’s Word is final. It is authoritative; it is supreme and reverend. God does not ask the opinion of a panel for He takes “the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11). Though the pill may be hard to swallow, may the grace of God help us to never stop asking the question, “Lord, is it I?” Ultimately there must come a level of taking God’s Word personally. Long before did the prophet Amos warn of those dying in the famine “of hearing the words of the LORD.” (Am. 8:11). The bread will be available, but they will not grow strong from it; the water of life will flow, but they will sip only enough to leave them thirsty. The Old and New Testaments are replete with portrayals of those who thought the Word of the Lord good, but “for somebody else.” It has always been easy to agree with a challenging Word from God so long as man is self-persuaded that the Word applies to another and not to himself.
It was not perhaps many moments later that is would come the turn of Judas who would arrogantly and knowingly question Jesus, “Master, is it I?” (Mt. 26:25). What makes this account difficult to comprehend is that Judas had himself just eaten of the bread passed to him by the master (Jn. 13:21-30). Perhaps more disturbing still is the realization that Judas sat there to eat at the Lord’s table holding “the bag” (Jn. 13:29) on his lap, likely that pouch which contained the payment for treachery already received from the Sanhedrin. An alarm sounds in the heart of a pastor who sees so many who will continue to eat the Lord’s bread while egotistically remaining unmoved from their position of pride at His table. The man of God holds great fear for the ones who knowingly, willingly, drink from the cup unworthily, service after service, but do not let the living water affect them. For too many “once upon a time” disciples the question “Lord, is it I?” has lost all meaning. The Word is always for someone else; it cannot be for them for they are doing the best they’ve ever done, living in the Laodicean justification that they have need of nothing. There are too many have sat to eat with Him, too many who are “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20, 2:1), those who will even show up at the Garden prayer service, and to them there is a resounding cry from the Word of God to individual responsibility. The monkey has been removed from God’s back, for He did His due diligence at Calvary, and it will not be able to climb aboard the spine of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors & Teachers either. The weight of obligation now rests solely in the decision of free men and women to ask the question, “Lord, is it I?
But for the willing, like the jailor of Acts 16, the question aiming at personal accountability still rings true, “Sirs, what must I DO to be saved?” For the one who is prepared to accept the full measure of God’s Word, no matter how demanding or unanticipated it might be, the clarion call of the day of Pentecost blasts down through the ages like a trumpet, “Men and brethren, what shall WE DO?” (Acts 2:37) May we never hear a Word from the Lord without applying the message to ourselves and claiming ownership of it. May the Church never cease to ask the question and mean it, for when we do, we are as good as dead. When the question becomes just a formality, we will go out and hang ourselves with the “cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life” (Lk. 8:14). May our prayer ever be, ‘Lord, every Word you speak is FOR ME!’ ‘God, every service I am blessed to be in is FOR ME. By the power of His Majesty and Grace, Mighty Jesus, grant your people the strength to take your Word without question and boldly proclaim, “Lord, IT IS I!”