“WHODUNIT?”

“WHODUNIT?”

It’s terrible English grammar, of course, but a good crime novel or movie is often called a “Whodunit.”  We even spoof those corny old movie scenes where the detective assembles everyone in the parlor or the library of the mansion after a murder and announces:  “The murderer is someone in this room!”    And as the background music plays a few tense notes – all of them –  from the maid to the butler, from the millionaire playboy to the crusty old matriarch of the clan, stare at each other with beady eyes wondering “Whodunit?”  And what hooks our interest, of course, is that any of them could be the murderer.

There’s a genuine “whodunit” being asked in the upper room where Jesus and the twelve apostles recline for the Passover meal.  

There’s nothing corny or funny about it when Jesus drops a bombshell as they are eating:  “Amen, Amen, I tell you:  One of you will betray Me.”  

They all want to know “whodunit?”  The sacred text says:  “His disciples were looking at each other, uncertain which of them He meant.”  

Peter elbows John to find out which one He was talking about.   “Whodunit?”  Who sold out?  Who went over to the other side?  

For all the faults and failings of the disciples, it speaks well for them that they are all at a loss to know which one of them Jesus means.  

Each in turn around the Passover table that night could have looked at the others and asked:  “Is it you…is it you…or you?”  There is a little Pharisee in each of us which sees the other fellow as far more likely to sell out than ourselves.  

But they understand the doctrine of original sin.  Each of them understands he has it in him to sell out – to betray Christ.  

In sober moments when we are alone, when the Holy Spirit holds up the mirror of the law and shows us what we are really like, we have to admit that there is no sin alien to any human heart. Individual temperament may shield me from much – some sins I am inclined to and others I have no mind to.  But my house too is built of sticks and thatched with straw.  I have as much dynamite in my basement as my notorious neighbor has in his.  

The human heart, as it is by nature, apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, apart from faith in Christ, is deceitful above all things – fooling even ourselves – and desperately wicked, says the prophet Jeremiah.   This sinful nature which clings to my bones lies to me.  It calls evil good and good evil.  It rationalizes away sin with a hymnal in its hand.  The other Gospels tell us that each of the disciples asked in turn:  “Is it I?”    “Whodunit?”  Judas?  Yes.  You and I?  Sadly so, each in our own way.  

But where does that leave us?  Happily in the nail-pierced hands of One who did for us and died for us and rose for us.  “Whodunit?”  Who bore our burdens, carried out sorrows, paid our debt, covered our shame, became our Friend, breathed into our dead hearts the breath of a new life?   “Whodunit?”   

There is only One who could.  Christ did!  And you and I – we are off the hook.