When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table with the Twelve. While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”
Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?”
Relate: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” I have heard this quote attributed to Richard Baxter. If you do a google search you can probably find at least one source each attributing it to Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln. If there is a clever quote floating around out there, there’s a 90% chance that some meme somewhere is attributing it to one of these guys.
Far more likely than Einstein, Lincoln, or Baxter, the quote above most often gets attributed to John Bradford. Even though there are no known references to the quote earlier than the beginning of the nineteenth century, the sentiment does match up with what is understood about his character. John Bradford was nicknamed “Holy Bradford” for two reasons: his dedication to God and his humility. The way the story goes, a group of prisoners was being led to their execution. John Bradford turned to a man next to him and said, “There but for the grace of God goes John Bradford.” He actually was one of the first men to be burned at the stake as a “heretic” after protestant Edward died and catholic Mary took the throne, but his reference wasn’t to the act but rather the lifestyle of those condemned. Bradford knew that any righteousness or holiness attributed to him was not truly his but rather an outflow of the grace of God on his life. He was echoing Paul who said, “I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am.”
React: Each of Jesus’ disciples maintained the same attitude as Bradford and Paul. Jesus told them, “one of you is going to betray me.” Each disciple, in turn, asked, “Lord, is it I?” I have heard and read this fact hundreds of times but I don’t think I ever truly caught the depth of the implication. Each and every disciple realized that they had the potential in themselves to betray Jesus. They had been living with him and talking with him and learning from him for years. They were as close to Christ as anyone could be. Yet each of them knew their heart enough to ask. I would propose that the closer a person is to Jesus, the more they recognize how profound their own sin. When Isaiah saw God, the first thing he said was, “Woe is me.”
I don’t know about you, but I do have a tendency to try and paint myself as someone who in every way, always has it all together. There is a self-righteous tendency in my heart that I have to constantly war against. The disciples weren’t immune to this and we have all pointed an accusatory finger at them for arguing about which of them is the greatest. Yet at the same meal, when push came to shove, each had an opportunity to examine their own heart and say, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” It is something I also daily… hourly… need to do.
I am a sinner. But because of Your grace, I am also a saint. Help me to ever realize that the line of demarcation between the two is not nearly as wide as I might think and that it is only because of Your redeeming grace that I am saved. I thank You that You have saved me. I thank You also that Your grace has changed me. Please keep changing me because I am in need of more and more of Your grace.
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