As Jesus was sharing the Passover meal with his disciples he became profoundly disturbed in spirit. He let it be known that one of them would betray him. The disciples were stunned by his words and in their confusion looked around at one another asking, “Lord, It couldn’t be me, could it?” Jesus then said that he would dip a piece of bread in the sauce and give it to one of them. That would be the one who would betray him. Jesus held the bread before Judas and in a tone I suspect was both gentle and firm, told him to go ahead with what he intended to do. I can imagine a long pause before Judas accepted the bread and then, quickly leaving the room, went out into the dark night (Mark 14:18-21) and parallels).
It was certainly with great personal anguish that Jesus watched one of his own disciples turn against him. They had all been so close for three years. Jesus did not berate him or accuse him for the coming act of betrayal. Very quietly, but very directly, he answered Judas’ “Is it I?” with “It is just as you have said.” By his gentle manner, Jesus was making it easier for Judas to change his mind and not follow through with his act of betrayal. When that did not happen, he had no option but to let the truth be known. Jesus had done everything he could to prevent Judas from carrying out a plan devised by Satan.
To display such a remarkable quality of character in the contemporary world is not easy. When faced by someone who intends to harm us the natural response is to take the initiative and harm him first. The way Jesus reacted suggests that it would have been better. We could have waited in quietness as the act began to unfold, praying that God would bring to our assailant’s mind the sinfulness of what he intended to do. Strength of character is not measured by how vociferously we defend our reputation. If we are living in love – and we must be if we are living a Christ-like life – we will relate to those who would ham us exactly as Jesus did that night in the upper room.
But, you say, that’s beyond our ability. And you are right. Scripture has never counseled us to live the spiritual life in our own power. There is an immeasurable difference between the two levels. The good news is that God has supplied us with the power to live as Christ did. The Holy Spirit dwells within and is fully capable of providing the strength to meet every challenge.