The Greatest What?

The Greatest What?

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and
from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Listen to the Gospel reading one more time. It’s a short
reading. “Jesus said, But behold the hand of him who betrays me is with me on
the table.” And, of course, it’s referring to Judas. “For the Son of Man goes
as it has been determined,” meaning to be betrayed and ultimately to be crucified,
“but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed! And they,” meaning the disciples,
the twelve that were there, “began to question one another, which of them it
could be who was going to do this. A dispute also arose among them as to which
of them was to be regarded as the greatest,” which begs the question, “The
greatest what?”

I hope you see the juxtaposition that was not put together
by man but by God’s inspiration, that the disciples are arguing among
themselves as to who it could possibly be who would be the betrayer of their
Lord, and then they began to argue as to who would be the greatest. Putting the
best construction on this and placing you and me in that setting, whenever
there is a finger-pointing session going on, and we’ve all been a part of it,
either inside of our own mind or heart or outside visibly, when fingers are
being pointed, part of the impetus behind pointing fingers is guilt within our
own bosom. Or why else would there be a need to point out to everyone else who
the culprit is? To aid the investigation? To assist in the truth coming forth
in light? Or to propitiate our own guilt? The motivation for these men to argue
about who was the greatest, following the argument as to who could possibly be
the betrayer, is all about guilt.

There are days when we end it, closing our eyes in bed, that
we struggle over the things that we have said or done, the people unto whom we
have spoken that we ought not to have spoken in the manner that we spoke, the
thoughts that we could not stop from entering our head and bouncing around up
there, the pain that we have incurred in our person from someone else’s misspoken
words, not desiring to alleviate any guilt. It just transfers it. It’s still
guilt and it’s still not dealt with.

This morning, with the youth that were here at the chapel,
one of the gifts of being childlike, which unfortunately you and I don’t have anymore.
We’ve lost it. The gift of being childlike is being humble enough and ignorant
enough, however you wish to look at it, unenlightened enough to be repentant
pretty easily, because they accept the authority of the one, the teacher, the
parent, whomever, who is over them in age and in ability to be right and they
not to know everything. But do you know what hangs around our neck as we grow
older? It is that damnable pride. I say that because I have seen it in my own
life, in my marriage, in my children, in my words spoken, and in reception of
such words spoken to me. It gets in the way. For what reason? The children
don’t seem to be bothered by swallowing it, by confessing it, by receiving
forgiveness for it and moving on. But as we grow older, my stars, we have the
elephant’s memory of the wrongs incurred and the wrongs that we are innocent of
that we have been accused. There’s all kinds of reasons that we justify our
actions and our words, but it all comes down to, just like these disciples,
“Lord, though I know I’m not the betrayer, I know that I am not above him who
is the betrayer.” But it didn’t start there; did it? Had it been, there would
have been no discussion about who’s the greatest.

There was a Pharisee who said, “Lord, I thank you that I’m
not like other men.” All of us can say that, for surely we can find another
example in this world that we can say, “I thank you, Lord, that I’m not like
him and I’m not like her,” and it would be somewhat of an honest and true
statement; can we not? Of what purpose and benefit does it serve to speak such
words? And that’s precisely right; it serves no purpose except to elevate
ourselves and not humble ourselves and be repentant. But that’s Satan’s
prompting; isn’t it? He feeds that to our flesh, and our flesh is more than
hungry to consume such tripe and ingest it and let it be that which we speak
and even believe about ourselves, shockingly so. Until we get broadsided and
then we realize at least it is hoped that we realize.

There’s all kinds of mental gymnastics in discussing this
with ourselves and we think about and say, “But in my situation it’s different,
because, because….” And all these reasons come out of our mind’s thought
processes as to why it’s different, as to why I’m innocent, as to why I’m not
as guilty as they, and, by golly, I should be considered of some worth or value
to God. Should we? There is only one who knows. There is only one who knows
your sin intimately and that’s your Lord Jesus Christ. He knows every jot and
tittle. He knows every excuse and every reason. He knows every proud moment and
even the humble moments. He knows there is still clinging to it vestiges of
pride because we can’t even repent perfectly. So lest we think no one knows the
road down which we have trod, there is one who hung upon the tree who knows
such a road. But not just yours, which, shouldn’t that be enough for Him? Your
or my sin? But all of our sins. And not just of those that we include in this
place called the church but those who will never ever be a part of a church who
are already damned and serving in hell, for their sins, too, was He hung upon
the accursed tree that they, too, may be declared innocent of crimes committed
to their God and of excuses mounded up like sand against their God. There is
only one that cleans, and that is Christ.

Do you wonder what the disciples must have reflected upon
this night after the resurrection? Or maybe even better, do you wonder what
these disciples thought as they faced their own martyrdom about this evening
and the words they spoke? It would cause them a great amount of sorrow in their
heart, and it would haunt them until they were finally martyred and rid of such
hauntings. In the meantime, having been haunted, their solace and their refuge
was in that forgiveness, in the one broken and cursed for them, in the one who
covers all of our best intentions, purest of motives that we may have but still
is sin tainted and sin filled. That’s where they found their solace as they
reflected on this night, for there is only one greatest betrayer and greatest
sinner, and it’s not you. It’s never going to be you. It will forever eternally
remain your Lord for you. Find solace and peace in such a sacrifice. In His
name, Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting.