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Why did the disciples ask Jesus, “Is it I, Lord?” in Matthew 26:22?

is it I Lord

At what we often refer to as the Last Supper, Jesus was reclining at the table with His twelve disciples (Matthew 26:20). While they were eating, He announces to them that one of them would betray Him (Matthew 26:21). They were deeply sorrowful when they heard this, and each of them began to question, “Is it I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:22). The Greek meti can be translated as a denial in question form: “Surely not I, Lord?” While the twelve all seemed to be denying that it was they, one of them (at least) knew that Jesus was referring to him. Judas had already made an agreement with the chief priests to betray Jesus to them (Matthew 26:14–15), and from the time he made that agreement he was plotting and seeking an opportune time to commit the deed (Matthew 26:16).

Jesus knew, of course, that Judas was the one betraying Him and signified it by saying that the one who dipped his hand in the bowl would betray Jesus (Matthew 26:23). John elaborates that Jesus even dipped some food and gave it directly to Judas, saying that the one to whom He gave the food would betray Him (John 13:26). Judas denied he was the one, just as had the other disciples—even calling Jesus “Rabbi”—the term for “teacher” and a sign of respect (Matthew 26:25). Jesus answered Judas’s question, “Is it I?” straightforwardly: “You have said it yourself” (Matthew 26:25, BSB). Right after that, Jesus ominously told Judas, “What you are about to do, do quickly” (John 13:27), and Judas went out into the night to betray Jesus (John 13:30). The final one who asked the question “Is it I, Lord?” was the betrayer, and Jesus knew it from the beginning.

While all of the disciples denied that they were betraying Jesus, they all made their denial in the form of a question—“Surely it is not I” or “Is it I, Lord?” indicating that perhaps they weren’t entirely certain. Perhaps this was why they were deeply sorrowful (Matthew 26:22). While only one of the twelve betrayed Jesus directly, the gospel accounts record that all the disciples abandoned Him, fleeing as they feared for their lives (Matthew 26:56). But Jesus knew that would happen, too, and He even told them so that, when it happened, they could remember that He had prophesied that very thing (Matthew 26:31). Earlier, they had asked, “Is it I, Lord?” Just a short time after, all abandoned Him.

Even in this we see the grace of God. Jesus warned them that they would all fall away (Matthew 26:31), but rather than condemn them He prepared them for their task ahead. He told them that, after He rose from the dead, they should meet Him in Galilee (Matthew 26:32). Often, we think that we are too strong or too mature to fail, but we are frail, and none of us are without sin (1 John 1:8). Rather than stand on our own strength, we can rely on His grace that, even when we fail, He is gracious to forgive (1 John 1:9). Paul reminds us that we must not think we are too strong to fall (1 Corinthians 10:12), as none of us are. Yet even with the testing and temptation, God provides the way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13), and even when we falter, He is gracious to forgive and restore according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7). At times, like the disciples, perhaps we are saying to Him, “Is it I, Lord?—surely not.” But He knows us, and He knows our weaknesses. Thanks be to God that He has loved us even still.

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Why did the disciples ask Jesus, “Is it I, Lord?” in Matthew 26:22?
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This page last updated: January 4, 2022