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Saturday
Feb092013

Bread for Betrayal

“…the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread.” 1 Corinthians 11:23. 

This haunting passage reveals a remarkable depth to the person of Jesus.  We call this the “Last Supper.”  Jesus is in his favorite place to gather with his disciples.  From our vantage point, we know that Christ in now entering his week of passion—his capture, mock trial, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension and glorification.  His disciples were not certain, but they were beginning to comprehend the purpose and plan of Jesus. 

The significance of the time setting cannot be overstated.  “…the same night in which he was betrayed took bread.”  Paul, in recounting this incident, did not call it Monday night or Tuesday night.  He did not specify the fourteenth of the month—or whatever.  He associated Jesus’ gesture of breaking bread with the night of betrayal.  This piece of irony has profound meaning.  In other words, this supreme, magnanimous act of Jesus took place against the backdrop of the worst act of betrayal in the annals of history.  It is often in the worst of circumstances that the best responses transpire.  In the darkest night, the brightest beams of God’s grace and glory shine forth. 

The body of Jesus was about to be broken; the blood of Jesus was about to be shed.  Then, Jesus makes a statement that has caused much anxiety to the church over many centuries.  “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” 

The caveat is perplexing.  In a larger sense, this searing statement finds application to all of us who would take the Lord’s Supper in succeeding centuries.  But, specifically, Jesus had someone in mind.  If you recall, he referred to this person in the foot washing episode.  “Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.  Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.  For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.”  John 13:9-11.

Adversity.  First, let’s talk about adversity.  How do we handle it? Paul Stoltz, in Adversity Quotient, says we are quitters, campers or climbers. Some of us fold the tent at the first sign of adversity and just quit. Others find out where their level of tolerance to normal adversity fluctuates and learn to live within that range. They are campers. The most successful among us, however, never discover anything that stops them. They keep climbing, battling against the most brutal opposition, until they plant their flag at the top.

Whenever you see spiritually successful people, don’t admire their brilliance or covet their favorable environment. Instead, examine their adversity quotient. No saint achieves a consistent prayer life without adversity standing in the way. No parent enjoys victory in their home without adversity. No godly man or woman lives an overcoming life without adversity challenging every moment. No flaming evangel witnesses for Christ without adversity showing up at every opportunity. None of these people have a superior strain of the Holy Ghost. They don’t have a better plan. They don’t command more angels as ministering spirits. They simply refuse to allow adversity to win.

The Apostolic church has the best plan in the world. We preach the life-transforming gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We teach the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We know that repentance, baptism in Jesus’ name and the infilling of the Holy Ghost constitutes full Bible salvation. We not only know these things theologically, we witness them experientially. Everything we need and want is in our relationship with God. If any of us have a problem, it is not in our plan, but in our diminished capacity for adversity.

Expect adversity. “Be sober…for your adversary, the Devil, walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. Every trap, snare and stumbling block is before you. Sickness, tragedy, trouble, rejection, human failure, temptation and opposition of every brand, stripe and form will menace you. Many foes are real. Many are imaginary. Many are unrealized threats. All constitute adversity. Every great revival was spawned in adversity. God may never take away the adversity, but he will do two things:

He will give you an increased capacity to absorb it! There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. I Corinthians 10:13. Paul said, “None of these things move me.” Acts 20:24 .

He will show you the way to victory over it! I John 4:4 says, Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” By going on the offense, by committing yourself to spiritual disciplines, by looking to your goals rather than your goblins, you will destroy the material sources of your failures. We cannot improve our plan. We can, and must, improve our adversity quotient!

What did Jesus do?  If you read through the remainder of John 13, you will know precisely what Jesus knew about Judas.  But the most amazing thing about the reaction of Jesus was that in the very presence of a traitor, in the unsettling revelation of who was going to be responsible for betraying his trust, Jesus did not act to protect himself.  He did not curse Judas.  He did not disrupt the plan of God from playing itself out.  Instead, Jesus acted in accordance with Bible prophecy.  “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.” Psalm 41:7-9.  Yet, even though he knew what was happening, he still had options. 

1) He could have called out Judas and stopped him from the act of betrayal.  That’s what most of us would have done.  We don’t like to be hurt, we don’t like to be threatened, we don’t like it when someone does something against us.  We scream, fight and counterattack.  We demand that they cease and desist; we get up in arms; we call 9-11, call out the National Guard, the media hot-line, whatever.  We do know that we are not going to sit back and take it.  We believe in the old saying “Don’t get mad, get even!”

2) He could have ignored him.  Jesus may not have done anything proactively to stop Judas, but he could have ignored him.  He could have shut him out from the banquet.  Many people react to adversity or personal attack by our enemies by a self-righteous exclusionary technique.  The individual we don’t like—or that we know doesn’t like us—we treat as a non-person.  They don’t even exist as far as we’re concerned.  “I’m not going to hurt you—I just going to draw a circle around me and my friends and leave you on the outside.”

3)  He could reach out to him.  This was His choice.  And, in case Judas didn’t respond, Jesus proceeded to break bread with his disciples.  Breaking bread meant that Jesus continued to minister to people.  Jesus marched to the beat of a different drummer.  This was no personal problem with one man.  There was a much bigger plan at stake here.  The betrayal of Judas was going to launch the very drama of redemption.

Jesus did not question His betrayal.  Some of us weary God with asking foolish and unlearned questions.  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why did this happen to me?  Why can’t things be better for me?  Why did this person do me wrong when I didn’t do anything to deserve it?  Why did this one get cancer and this one didn’t?  Why did this person find a husband or wife and I didn’t?  But, the danger of these kinds of questions is that we tend to supply answers for them when the answer is not forthcoming.  And, our answer is usually accusatory against God! 

But, dismissing offense and reaching out in love and grace has always been the Christ way.  Matthew 5:43-44. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

When Jesus came face to face with the man who would betray him, he disdained the dagger.  He broke bread.  In the face of his greatest adversity, he held out the bread and the cup.  In fact, I am convinced that Jesus was tested by his encounter with Judas the traitor to a far greater extent than he ever was with Caiaphas, the high priest, Pontius Pilate or the Roman executioners. 

When you are given betrayal, offer bread.

When you are threatened, maligned, hurt or attacked, offer bread.

When you have absorbed all the punishment your enemies can throw at you, offer bread.

Jesus knew that by offering bread, he was giving salvation to the world. 

By offering bread, you are saying “Grace is all I have to give.”

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