We continue our look today at the last hours of Jesus. Last week we were with Him at the garden of Gethsemane; today we are at His arrest. The information heaven has given us comes especially from these four passages:
The Capture Party
Who comes to arrest Jesus? Matthew describes them as the chief priests and the elders of the people. Mark identifies three groups: the chief priests, scribes, and elders. Luke simply calls them the multitude. John mentions the chief priests and the pharisees.
There are a lot of people involved. There is strong desire across groups to cancel the ministry of Jesus. Existing groups have domesticated themselves; they like the status quo; they have a vested interest in this world. These groups all think they have something to gain by suppressing Jesus.
The reports state that the group with Judas were equipped with swords and clubs and lanterns and torches and weapons. Imagine coming after Jesus with weapons! But this is what they did. He who could have called in angelic force by the legions submitted to unjust arrest.
John says that Judas received a detachment of troops and officers from the chief priests and pharisees. Matthew and Mark say that Judas came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Luke focuses’ on Judas’ betrayal.
All sinners have a vested interest in putting Jesus out of the way. They are satisfied in their sins and deeply embedded in a world of sin. Jesus has interrupted all that calling people up to something higher. He must be ended.
It is not from a position of strength that they are operating; they are afraid out of their minds. They think that if they do not act they will loose their tiny little sandcastle kingdoms.
These accounts place emphasis on different elements. Remember that each gospel writer has his own approach. Matthew’s focus is on Jesus as king. Mark looks at Jesus as a man of action and often gives us the most details. Luke is a physician and usually focuses on historical detail. John’s emphasis is Jesus is God, and so miraculous manifestations of divine power receive his attention.
Let’s look at the things highlighted by our gospel writers.
Matthew and Mark emphasize the betrayal of Judas. Luke emphasizes baseness, duplicity and their being controlled by powers of darkness. John focuses on Jesus and the strengthening angel, and Jesus’ voluntary submission in drinking the cup His father has given Him to drink. All these are important points, and the Holy Spirit led the mind of each gospel writer to the pieces he emphasized.
John’s account includes some bits not spoken of in the other accounts. Let’s start with that.
At the sound of the approaching mob, Jesus steps forward. He speaks to them. “Who are you seeking” He asks. “Jesus of Nazareth,” they reply. Jesus replies, “I am.” Your Bibles probably say that He said “I am He” but “He” is a word added by the translators. The literal Greek says EGO EIMI, “I,” the word for a single individual, and “am,” the Greek verb of being. Together they remind us of a scene long before.
Moses and God are conversing in the desert. Exodus 3:13-14:
Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they say to me, “What is His name?” what shall I say to them?’ And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’
“I am” is the way God chose to describe Himself to Moses and to Israel. “I exist that I exist.” God is self-existent, always existent. And then there is 1 Corinthians 10:4:
All drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”
The pre-incarnate Jesus interacted with them in the desert. He was the Rock that followed them. The gospel of John has Jesus over and over again claiming “I am”:
I am the bread of life (John 6:35, 48, 51)
I am the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5)
I am the door of the sheep (John 10:7)
I am the good shepherd (John 10:14)
I am the son of God (John 10:36)
I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
I am the way the truth and the life (John 13:13)
I am the true vine (John 15:1, 5)
To these we could add I am teacher and lord (John 13:13), I am Jesus of Nazareth (John 18:6), I am a King (John 18:37), and right here at His arrest, John 18:5, “I am.”
Perhaps you will agree that the “I am” theme is a central feature of John’s gospel and a central element in John’s argument that Jesus is God.
Think of the irony of all this. They are coming to arrest and crucify Jesus for blasphemy for claiming to be the son of God, and He is and at His very arrest He demonstrates it to be true. So here at the beginning of His arrest, He demonstrates His deity.
Let’s think about Judas’ kiss.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke mention the kiss of Judas. Of course, this is not a kiss of passion, not a sexual kiss. It was a close social greeting between men and men and women and women. The two parties hug each other and then kiss, first on the one cheek and then on the opposite. Enemies never greeted with a kiss but family, people who were close to each other. Judas approaches Jesus. He lays hold of Him, and kisses Him on the cheek. When we compare the accounts, it seems that Jesus spoke to him after the kiss.
In Matthew 26:50 Jesus says to Judas, “friend, why have you come?” Luke 22:48 records Jesus saying to him, “Judas, are you betraying the son of man with a kiss?”
This was to be a sign to the mob that Jesus was the one they sought. The night and torchlight would make identification harder but it was also a concrete action by Judas, a last public seal of betrayal. It was designed by the elders to secure Judas irrevocably on the side of establishment. In Ellen White’s chapter addressing this event in her book The Desire of Ages, Judas comes and gives the kiss while acting that he is on Jesus’ side, presenting himself as in sympathy with Jesus.
Jesus was never fooled. Judas never gave Him his whole heart. Always there was a part of Judas he withheld from Jesus. Now he betrays him coldly. What an awful night in Judas’ life. He had gone too far.
Thankfully, hopefully, most likely, none of us have gone too far. We can still draw close to Jesus and be forgiven even now.
Judas’ kiss is a warning to us. Even when we are close to Jesus we can be betraying Him. Even when we are “high” in the work of God, a deacon, deaconess, elder, pastor, or president, there is enough brokenness in us to betray Him. We can in an apparent act of affection and intimacy betray Him. What motives drive us? Do we know ourselves?
Now, emboldened by Judas’ touch, the mob moves forward. They move to physically take Jesus. Things are happening very fast. And Peter draws his sword and begins swinging. He cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant Malchus.
Peter was no swordsman but he well knew how to handle he fisherman’s blade. What is it that is right below the ear? The carotid artery of the neck. I don’t think Peter was aiming for the ear. But here is the problem. Jesus did not walk into the garden to resist the arrest. He was not asking His disciples to prevent His being taken by the use of bladed weapons. That was misapprehension on the disciples part. How quickly we are prepared to take up arms, to fight battles as the world fights battles, to enter into political or military struggles. Rather, we are to be a people apart. We are people who give our highest fealty to a kingdom of an entirely different order. We are pilgrims and strangers, passing through.
This melee was a mistake and although they already had Jesus’ hands bound, He interrupted the whole thing by suddenly being lose from His captors and restoring Malchus’ ear to him. Jesus gave medical aid to His unjust captors.
Jesus speaks to Peter. John 18:11 has
Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”
Matthew Levi 26:52-54 has
Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish with the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?
This is insightful. All who take the sword will perish with the sword. We must be careful that our activities and our very approaches can meet the requirements of heaven. Sometimes we will have opportunities even within the work where human methods can be employed in an attempt to achieve ends we think are right. Sometimes misguided leaders and workers will even employ such methods to in attempt to move the church in the wrong direction. But you and I must seek to remain principled.
Jesus is telling Peter that He can have whatever force He needs from the Father whenever He asks for it. But He is not asking for it. If legions of angels showed up, they would instantly overpower the satanically-led forces. How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled? There is a time in the plan of God when Jesus must follow through, when He must, if He chooses, die for the sins of the world.
Peter with wrong methods is putting that to jeopardy. He is acting unilaterally. Jesus stops His defenders, and the mob leaders arrest Jesus.
The Cup My Father Gave Me
We should think on Jesus’ question, “Shall I not drink the cup which My Father gave Me?”
Remember the cup from the episode in the garden last week. Jesus had asked His Father, if it were possible, to take the cup away from Him. Remember the terms. Father and Son had agreed on a plan whereby justice could be served and the lost who were willing to receive gifts from God could be saved. Jesus had asked to have that cup , that terrible suffering experience withdrawn from Him if it were possible. If there were any other way humans could be saved, then Jesus would not go through with this awful, awful, indescribably soul-wrenching suffering.
But Jesus also said that if there was no other way, He would accept the cup. The Father did not give Him leave to exit the contract. And so, Jesus, trusting in the Father, understood the non-answer that was an answer. The Father had not withdrawn the cup but instead sent an angel to strengthen Jesus. So Jesus understood it to be His father’s will for Him to go on into this terrible sacrifice. Once He knew this to be the will of His Father, He was determined. At any price He would trust the Father and at any price He would die for man.
In the garden of Gethsemane the Father gave to Jesus the cup of suffering. Already Jesus had suffered immeasurably in the garden, but the cup would not be drained until Jesus actually died on the cross. This was the cup His Father had given Him. He was determined now to drink the cup, to drink all of it.
What inspires Jesus to do this? It is love. Love for the lost, love for humans, in all our folly and even rebellion, but still able to be restored to full humanity. Jesus dies to give us life. He sacrifices Himself to enable our own hearts to be changed. He drinks the cup for you.
This is Your Hour
Luke records one more statement from Jesus that should make us think. Luke 22:52-53:
Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
That is an enormous rebuke. When Jesus was in the temple every day they did not try to seize Him but now, under cover of night they do? This is the hour of betrayal, the hour of injustice, untruth, farce, force, and murder, for in this act is bound up their intention to murder Jesus.
Untruth cannot win against truth; selfishness cannot win against unselfishness; darkness cannot prevail against light; always then force must be used. There is always the barrel of a gun at the end of the arguments provided by liars. Always at the end they must enforce their reality by murder and death and taking life. Unreality takes life. The mystery of iniquity takes life. It cannot give it but it can, so far as it is permitted, take it.
The power of darkness is the power to suppress truth, to use force and coerce and take, and squeeze and pressure and choke. It is inhuman. Satan was a murderer from the beginning. The only recourse error has in the end is to murder. Error, once it is clear to the holder of error, must be surrendered, or, it can continue to be embraced but only at the cost of murder, of taking away life. The end of lies and error and pride is always murder.
But Jesus would die for us, all guilty as we had become, of choosing rebellion, of sinning against God. The Father would execute against Jesus His full wrath against our sin. The wages of sin is death. But devils and wicked men have no plan like that. They hope to end Jesus forever. They hope to use all His fallen humanity against Him, to torture Him until at the last moment He trades God’s love for self preservation. This is the plan, the one and only way to destroy God. This is the hour of the power of darkness. This is the ultimate attempt. If they fail at the cross, everything after that will be retreating action on their part, sour grapes, a last frenzy of destruction before they themselves are ended.
Here is a group of men under the control of demons and doing their bidding. What an awful sight.
There is one final element in our scene. The disciples are dazed and confused. This sequence of events wasn’t clear to them. They could not understand what was happening. Matthew and Mark record that at that moment, “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled”.(Matthew 26:56) But Ellen White as also shown this event in vision, and in her book The Desire of Ages, she tells what she saw.
The disciples were terrified as they saw Jesus permit Himself to be taken and bound. They were offended that He should suffer this humiliation to Himself and them. They could not understand His conduct, and they blamed Him for submitting to the mob. In their indignation and fear, Peter proposed that they save themselves. Following this suggestion, ‘they all forsook Him and fled.’(The Desire of Ages, p. 697)
So now we know. It was Peter’s idea—Peter, Mr. brave-sword guy—to scatter to the four winds. They fled at that moment and went into hiding. Jesus was now bound, left alone with the mob, and escorted back into the city.
That was a bitter moment and must have added to the suffering of Jesus. Not only had they misunderstood His kingdom by bringing out and employing weapons, but to save themselves they fled into the night. They were confused and afraid. And did you notice they were still driven by self? “They were offended that He should suffer this humiliation to Himself and them.” Jesus’ surrender they felt reflected poorly upon them. Jesus was dying for them, He was giving His life for them, but they were worried about being somehow humiliated?
Friends, we need to let go of our own concerns. This is not about whether we feel humiliated or not. This is about Jesus dying to save us.
2021-9-11 Fremont MI SDA church
2021-09-11 Muskegon MI SDA church