Didn't Arkwright play well? Not as good as their goalkeeper! Yes, and on his debut - its a good job our manager selected him rather than our usual goalie, I don't think he has recovered from his injury yet. The manager might have selected him, but just think if our coach had not spotted him playing for that Youth Club. That's right! And I suppose that if it wasn't for that nice old man, Charles, who first took him along on that Thursday night, well who knows where he would have been, prison probably. Well done Charles, you won us the match today - who would have thought that we could beat Manchester United?!
Isn't it surprising how we can each look at the same event and yet each remember that event differently? Something happens that strikes our own particular consciousness that results in our viewing matters from our own esoteric standpoint and yet were we to look deeper and see beneath the surface we find the real truth of the matter, sometimes much to our surprise and incredulity.
Listen how Paul describes the first Maundy Thursday at 1 Corinthians 11:23, ". . . The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed . . .". Strange isn't it that he brings that night to remembrance in this manner. He doesn't say, "on the night that The Lord Jesus gave us that wonderful teaching about the coming of his Holy Spirit", or "on the night that the Lord Jesus agonised in the Garden of Gethsemane", or "on the night the Lord Jesus gave us that tremendous demonstration of his love and the true meaning of service when he washed the disciples' feet". No, Paul doesn't talk in these terms at all. He refers to that fateful night as "the night he was betrayed".
Of course we all know who the betrayer was. "Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him", thus is Judas described in the Gospel accounts. There has been much debate over the reason for the actions of Judas. Some would say that he was a zealot who, becoming impatient at Jesus' restraint, took it upon himself to force his hand by plotting his arrest that night in the hope that this would cause Jesus to declare his hand by rising up against the Roman oppressors. Others say that the betrayal occurred as a result of Judas' love of money and refer to the account of the Last Supper and the thirty pieces of silver in support of their proposition. Whatever was in the heart of Judas, however, there was only one result - he goes down in history as the one who betrayed Our Lord. He is the one whose actions caused Our Lord to die upon the cross. On the night he was betrayed . . . by Judas.
But is it this easy? What about Peter? Did he not also betray Jesus? Certainly when Jesus was arrested he reacted, albeit in his own way, in support of his Lord and Master, by drawing his sword. As Our Lord pointed out, however, this was not the way of the Lord. Jesus himself pointed out that he could have summoned "more than twelve legions of angels" to come to his assistance had he wished to do so. Peter's actions betrayed Our Lord on the night he was betrayed.
And if Peter started badly things only got worse for him. Poor Peter! This is the Peter that had been with Jesus throughout the three years of his earthly ministry. This is the Peter that had witnessed at first hand the great miracles of his master. This is the Peter who had declared Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God. This is the Peter who had declared that he would never forsake his Lord. And yet "on the night he was betrayed" what do we find? We find this same Peter denying any involvement with God's own Son not once but three times. How must Peter's conscience have pricked in later life. Yes, not only was Judas the betrayer but Peter too and not only by his actions but by his words as well.
And what of the rest of the disciples, what do we find here! What do we find them doing "on the night he was betrayed"? Mark's account is typical of the Gospel narratives: "Then everyone deserted him and fled." Like Peter the disciples had received the benefit of three years of close personal contact with Our Lord. They had been given the greatest of privileges. They had received his teaching first hand; they had seen the signs and wonders. Some had even vied between themselves for the honour of sitting at his right hand. But when their faith was put to the test by the arrest of Jesus what did they do. Did they stay and support him in his hour of need? No, they, like Judas, betrayed him into the hands of those who would have him dead. They deserted him and fled.
Following his arrest Jesus is taken before the Sanhedrin. Mark tells us that "The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they could not find any. Many testified falsely against him" Judas may have provided the way for the arrest of Jesus but he was only a pawn in the scheming of the religious leaders of the day. Jesus had upset the leaders of the establishment from the outset of his public ministry. He had replaced the old stagnant waters of the Pharisicial system with the new wine of the kingdom of God and they did not like it. He had said that they cared more for regulations than for persons, more for ceremonial cleansing than for moral purity, more for laws than for love. He threatened their very existence by his teaching and he had to be disposed of. They cannot be excused for ignorance, they knew with whom they were dealing. They had Jesus' own answer: "Again the High Priest asked him, 'Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?' 'I am' said Jesus". How dirty are the robes of religious "purity"! So, then, Jesus was betrayed by the professed custodians of the truth out of their envy and the threat that Jesus presented to their ambitions.
The Sanhedrin could only betray Jesus by finding the Innocent One guilty. They had not the power to carry out the sentence that they were seeking as this was a purely Roman privilege. It is thus that we move onwards through the events of "the night he was betrayed" to Jesus' meeting with Pontius Pilate. It is clear from all the Evangelists' accounts that if there was one thing that Pilate was quite clear about it was that Jesus was innocent. Three times he declared publicly that he had no grounds for charging him. It was Pilate's duty as protector of justice and truth, I speak now in human terms, to let Jesus go free. It was the solemn responsibility of his office that he should sentence the guilty and let the innocent go free. It was an office appointed by God. But do we see Pilate following his conscience, listening to God and acting accordingly? We most certainly do not! Not only did Pilate not let Jesus go free but he betrayed Jesus all the more by shirking the responsibilities of his office completely in leaving the decision to the mob. Pilate washed his hands in the blood of Jesus.
I hope that the picture is becoming clearer. Who is it that betrayed Jesus, ". . . on the night he was betrayed"? Was it Judas out of political ambition or greed? Was it Peter out of failing to follow his master's examples and teaching or suppressing the truth for self-preservation? Was it the other apostles for the weakness of their faith? Was it the Pharisees out of envy? Or was it Pilate out of fear?
And what about ourselves? Are we not, like Judas, guilty of greed? Do we not store up too readily the treasures of this earth? Do our lives not speak of these things? Do we not dream of having that new car or those nice new clothes we saw in the shops the other day or that holiday basking in the mid-day sun in some exotic clime?
Are we not like Peter in failing to follow our master's teaching. Do we always walk in the way of the Lord? Do we not find that we are always having to be ushered back onto the right path as we have gone astray? Do we not on occasion fail to speak and profess our relationship with our Saviour? Do we not sometimes find it more convenient to shut up than speak out lest we might be thought less of by those around us? When our faith is put to the test do we run away like the rest of the Apostles?
Or are we like the Pharisees of Jesus' days? When we boast of our Christianity are we truly boasting of that glorious salvation available to all through Jesus Christ or are we boasting of ourselves? Do we go to church on Sunday and to the mid-week meetings to listen to what God has to say to us or do we simply go out of habit and so that we have the approval of those around us? Do we paint a picture that our Christian walk is living and thriving when it is in reality parched of Spiritual waters? Are we falling into the trap of the Pharisees and relying on our own righteousness rather than the righteousness that is from God and is through Christ Jesus?
Or perhaps we are like Pilate and shirk the solemn responsibilities of our office out of fear and cowardice. Do our hearts always profess our Christianity as strongly as our mouths? If we were truly put to the test would we be found wanting?
As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one;" It is too easy for us to boast in the salvation that we have through Jesus without truly appreciating our own part in these things. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. Let us realise that we are sinners. Let us appreciate what we are without the robe of Christ's perfect righteousness wrapped around our shoulders. How vile, how filthy, how detestable and abhorrent we are. Our lives are as filthy rags. We are sinners, forgiven sinners, but sinners.
May the God of Heaven and earth have mercy upon our souls for I tell you solemnly who betrayed Jesus ". . . on the night he was betrayed" - it was you and you and me.