And Jesus said to them, 'Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me?' (Mark 14:48 ESV).
I want to meet you today in a story. Catch the setting. It’s dark. There are trees. There are disciples, groggy, sleep-slime in the corners of their eyes. Not in Jesus' though; He's not been sleeping; He's been praying. A flutter of sound rises in the distance. It increases. A group is approaching; it sounds like a small mob. There--a dim light; then more. Bobbing torches play against trees and shadows. One gait is familiar.
The picture is from the mount of Olives, the place we all know as Gethsemane. This is it. This is the rendezvous. This is where there is a convergence, where Jesus is captured, and where we stand only a few hours from the closing Golgotha scene and His pierced, nail-scarred hands.
We are here to process this event together. Imagine it: capturing Jesus.
Jesus. The ultimate revelation of God. He came here, to earth. He did this intentionally. He limited Himself. He met us in our situation. When He came to earth He walked into an ambush. He walked out into the desert and was tested there. He walked into Gethsemane and was tested there. He knew He would be; but knowing and experiencing are two different things. He held firm, personally dealing with our kind of humanity. Imagine the irony. Here is Jesus, non-violent Jesus. Yes, He drove money-changers out of the temple with a cord and overturned tables. That was a non-standard case. Every other occasion He was more the quiet carpenter, leading others, building their faith. He traversed the whole of Palestine, healing and seeking to "capture" others, but only according to their free will. His was a liberty paradigm.
Now here they are capturing Jesus by force.
It is absurdity. He was born to die. He came to capture death, defeat the grave. He has power to lay down his life and take it up again. How do you capture someone like that? And if you did, what use would that action be? Was the devil trying to speed Jesus to the cross? Did he just think that murdering Him there would end the Great Controversy War? Or, was Satan banking on something? Did he think that he could elicit a fail from Jesus? Was he betting that in His humanity Jesus finally would sin? Was it desperation later, when, as Jesus hung on the cross, demon whisperings led those in the crowd to mock? To provoke Jesus to prove He was Messiah by coming down off the cross? Yes, it was desperate, and yet, might it not also have been true that Satan thought he would finally lead Jesus to lose His grip? What was different this time? The first tempting Jesus had been without human companionship, in the desert. He was there with no food. Then it was pre-disciples time. This time Jesus was weak from lack of sleep. But this time Jesus would proceed to the test immediately after His whole group of disciples flee. This time also, perhaps Satan was sure that the Father would hide His face from His Son. He would understand that Jesus would be weighed down under all the sins of the world. This was different from the first temptation in a few ways. And I am not convinced that Satan even then accepted that Jesus could obey. I believe that he was so self-convinced that weak, trembling humanity could not obey that he still thought he would lead Jesus to failure.
But Jesus, and you and I, know something that Satan does not know and will never know: what it can mean, not only to be tempted in a humanity like ours, but to love God in a humanity like ours. Jesus, feeling all alone, all abandoned, loved His Father, from the situation of a humanity as ours.
And He was victorious. He was not engaged in a mock battle, or a distant cosmic transaction that didn't matter. Jesus died on the cross in love with His Father, in hatred to sin, and in love with you and I. It was joy that was set before Him. There was a purpose, a goal. There was a cost. There was the possibility of actual failure.
Satan wanted to have Jesus come down off the cross to prove Jesus was the Messiah. But that would have been backwards. Jesus demonstrated that He was the Messiah by remaining up there on the cross. This is who He was. The Father gave Him. He gave Himself. Like Father, like Son. For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2).
He kept His vision on His Father's will and not His own. He resisted where His human will might lead Him and trusted to the One who, for the time of His earthly sojourn, was greater than Him. He had trusted Him and come to earth all helpless--but not unhelped. We are not alone here. The Father sends His help to all who will receive it. So, you can try to capture Jesus. Be my guest. But realize that He has come to take away the sting of the grave and of death. He has come to open a way for us to full humanity.
We can think about the picture in the garden, a picture in the darkness, the irony of a crowd coming out after Jesus armed with torches and clubs. We can also realize that when He understood the divine plan which He had made with His Father years before, He fully set Himself to go to the cross.
Judas and the mob came to capture Jesus to take Him away. You and I want to capture Jesus to bring Him close. Judas was part of the move to cover the light. You and I are part of the move to uncover the light. How thankful we are to our Lord Jesus who was faithful and opened a door for rebels like us to repent, and turn, and find Him, and to be welcomed home by Him.
Bonners Ferry ID SDA 2012-07-14