Hypocrisy, Self-Doubt, and the Supper
Just before Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper, he predicted that one of his disciples would betray him. All the disciples, Judas included, responded with a heart-searching question: “Is it I?” (Matt. 26:22, 25). For most of the disciples, it was a moment of self-doubt; for Judas, it was blatant hypocrisy. The difference becomes a very important lesson for self-examination, especially in the context of the Lord’s Supper.
Have you ever considered why the NT emphasizes Judas’s betrayal as the context of the Lord’s Supper? The Apostle Paul writes, “The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread…” (1 Cor. 11:23). All three Synoptic Gospels emphasize and juxtapose Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper with the betrayal of Judas. Why?
Two reasons come to mind. This juxtaposition highlights Jesus’ love and faithfulness all the more. But in addition, it highlights the need for self-examination, humility, and repentance when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. Judas’ betrayal reveals the possibility of hypocrisy, eating the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner (see 1 Cor. 11:27).
Consider the difference between the disciples’ question, “Is it I, Lord?”, and Judas’s question, “Is it I, Rabbi?” (see Matt. 26:22,25). There might be a suggestive difference in the titles used, but the questions are almost exactly the same. Yet they obviously came from very different places—and that difference is immensely revealing.
Consider that the disciples’ question came from a place of self-doubt, grief, and concern…for Jesus! They were struck (at least momentarily) by an acute awareness of their own fragility and weakness. Notice that none of them were pointing fingers at any of the others. They had no reason to suspect anyone else. But each doubted himself. They were “extremely distressed” (λυπούμενοι σφόδρα) at the thought of betraying him, and they didn’t trust themselves.
That’s the heart of a real Christian. Judas’ question, by contrast, came from a very different place. He wasn’t concerned with Jesus; he was concerned for himself. He wasn’t doubting himself; he was doubting Jesus and covering for himself. And that is the heart of hypocrisy.
These two questions then reveal an important difference between self-doubt and hypocrisy. Real Christians can struggle with self-doubt. In fact, it may be appropriately said that real Christians will struggle with self-doubt, because it’s part of learning not to trust ourselves, that our only hope is trusting Christ. Real Christians will say, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). And that self-doubt is what actually pushes us towards Jesus and the Lord’s Supper, to finding our comfort and hope in his invitation, “Take eat… Drink of it, all of you…” Because we don’t trust ourselves, and because our hearts are concerned for his honor and glory, we come with brokenness and humility and repentance and pleas for mercy.
But there is also a real danger of hypocrisy. Jesus said of Judas, “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24). Paul says, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor. 11:27,29). A hypocrite can know all the right things, do all the right things, say all the right things—but his eyes are ultimately on himself, not Jesus. The hypocrite’s trust is ultimately in himself. He’s looking the part and playing the part, but it’s not real. There’s no communion. There’s no desperation. No brokenness, no humility, no hunger and thirst. Most importantly, there’s no grateful hope pulling him towards Christ.
Christians are asked to “examine themselves” at the Lord’s Supper. That examination often (and appropriately) brings up feelings of unworthiness, grief, and self-doubt. But still, there’s that hope that pulls you toward Christ. A true disciple ultimately says, with Peter, “Lord, where else can I go? You alone have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). And a true disciple finds hope in the words, “Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Rev. 22:17). Take comfort: that grieving self-doubt creates thirst, which is not the same as the self-protection of cold-hearted hypocrisy.
But let the cold-hearted hypocrite beware! And when you become aware, do not harden your heart. Do not go through the motions and play the part.
Grieve until you grieve.
Repent until you repent.
And then you might find Jesus’ invitation actually warming and comforting and giving hope to your heart.
Matt Foreman is the pastor of Faith Reformed Baptist Church in Media, PA. Matt is a graduate of Furman University and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He previously served as the Founding Chairman of the Reformed Baptist Network, is the secretary for the RBN Missions Committee, and is a lecturer in Practical Theology at Reformed Baptist Seminary. Matt also writes music for worship; some of which can be found at ekklesiahymns.org.
Eating and Drinking with God by Ken Golden
"A Heavenly Appetizer" by Jonathan Landry Cruse
"You're All Hypocrites!" by William Boekestein
"Feeding on Christ in the Lord's Supper" by Wayne Spear
The Lord's Supper by Robert Lethem
 William Hendriksen calls the disciples’ question “a question of wholesome self-distrust” and Judas’s a “question of loathsome hypocrisy.” (Hendriksen, William. Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973, p.905.)
 Despite the betrayal and the denial and the abandonment and the disappointment, Jesus was still committed to going to the cross alone, committed to providing a way for forgiveness and fellowship with God—even in the face of abandonment.
Image adapted from Simó Gómez Polo's The Repentance of Judas (1874).