MY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron
The past few weeks have featured a series of people who walked in faith. Today we’ll look at Jesus, the “author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2) as he faced arrest and trial. Two things we realize are that it wasn’t just Jesus who would be tried. Judas, Peter and the other disciples, the crowd, and Roman soldiers would all be tested to see where their faith lay. The second point is that throughout each event, including crucifixion, Jesus remained the one in control.
Fortified by prayers of agony in Gethsemane, Jesus met trouble head-on. He told his friends, “‘Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays me is at hand!” (Mark 14:42). We’ll mesh accounts from Matthew chapter 26, Mark 14, Luke 22 and John chapter 18 to try to bring into focus details from different perspectives betrayal, defense, and indictment.
The betrayal began immediately, “…while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, came up, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who were from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.” The group included a cohort of Roman officers and the temple guard, far more manpower than was warranted, coming at night as they feared resistance from his followers.
Judas approached Jesus, addressed him as “Rabbi”, and gave a predetermined sign for the soldiers. Jesus addressed him. “‘Judas, are you betraying the son of man with a kiss?’”, and later, “‘Friend, do what you have come for [or why are you here]’” Despite his years as a trusted disciple, Judas evidently had never acknowledged Jesus as Lord. Even to label him Rabbi or Teacher was an empty statement, yet Jesus’ kindness contrasted with the traitor’s kiss. The encounter reminds of God’s question to Adam in Eden, “Where are you?” Though Jesus offered in love one last chance for Judas to respond and repent, the betrayer was lost.
As the crowd prepared to seize Jesus, Peter rose to his defense and cut off the ear of a servant named Malchus. While the others mentioned this incident, John is the only Gospel writer who identified that it was Peter. Jesus responded, “‘Stop! No more of this.’ And he touched his ear and healed him” (Luke 22:51). Our Lord not only rejected the idea of violence and arms to achieve kingdom objectives; he brought healing and restoration in the face of it. It’s true that in the last days he will utterly destroy evil. But until then, the only approved weapons for the Church seem to be suffering and forgiving love.
If this is a new thought, I would challenge each person to review these passages and other scriptures to see what is revealed about defending ourselves in similar situations. The Church’s history is filled with sacrifices and martyrs. Judas put his faith in the Roman government and power; Peter took up a sword; we often try to take matters into our own hands. We resort to our own abilities rather than placing faith in God’s resources and resting in his plan.
The indictment that Jesus gave to the nighttime crowd began in the garden and continued to the cross. He met the throng asking, “‘Whom do you seek?” When they replied, his response, “‘I am’” came with such power, “…they drew back and fell to the ground.” He said, “‘Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a man inciting a revolt? While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours’” (Luke 22:52-53).
The ministry of Jesus had remained open, transparent, available for everybody to see. Powers of evil are exercised in darkness, hidden times and practices. Followers of Christ are to be children of light, honest and sincere in all our dealings.
After Jesus was placed under arrest, the eleven disciples left him, trying to save themselves while he willingly submitted to his captors. One account tells of a young man who followed the crowd. He was seized, but managed to pull free, leaving his garment behind. Only found in Mark, it’s thought this probably referred to John Mark who may have been with Jesus as a follower, and who later traveled with Paul.
All the disciples eventually learned from watching Jesus on trial. Peter wrote later, “…while being abusively insulted, he did not insult in return; while suffering, he did not threaten, but kept entrusting himself to him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). Jesus the “Great I Am”, the Son of God, possessed authority and confidence to save himself. However, he yielded himself according to the will of the Father. As we approach Easter this week, each of us should be encouraged in our faith journey. Whatever trials we face, we can trust his word, his sacrifice, and resting in God’s power, we will make it through.