Scripture Reference: Matthew 26:47-56
Looking at the scene of Jesus’ arrest, it quickly becomes clear that He had more to deal with than just the arrival of an armed crowd. One of His friends betrayed Him with a kiss and the other one decided He needed a violent rescue. Yet, through all this, Jesus portrayed perfection. Here’s a look at Judas and Peter‘s actions and Jesus’ perfect reactions even through His own pain and agony.
Arising from His tormenting time in prayer, Jesus speaks to His disciples, “Rise and let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” He was still saying this when along came Judas Iscariot.
He came with a crowd armed with swords and clubs. They were sent by the church leaders, who cowardly hid in their homes while sending their subordinates to do the dangerous work. This alone shows how their leadership style was the polar opposite to that of Jesus who never expected anything from His followers that He was not prepared to do Himself.
Judas had pre-arranged a signal with the crowd: “Arrest the one I kiss.” Of all the ways one could betray a friend, he chose one of the most intimate and beautiful signs of friendship –a kiss. He turned it into something ugly and despicable. In the East, a kiss is a confirmation of love between friends. Judas used it to betray his friend.
Jesus wasn’t swayed by Judas’ false display of friendship. He knew Judas came to betray Him and still He called Judas “Friend.” Jesus wasn’t being sarcastic when He said that. He was deeply affected by the betrayal. Looking ahead to this moment, David was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write:
If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
I could hide.
13 But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
at the house of God,
as we walked about
among the worshipers. (Psalm 55:12-14)
Betrayal by someone we love and trust cuts so much deeper. I have heard someone say that Jesus was just using Judas as an instrument to achieve His purpose, but here we see that although Judas certainly was an instrument in the great plan of God, Jesus loved Judas. “If it was my enemy, I could endure it.” We are not surprised when an enemy betrays us. Betrayal hurts because it comes from someone we love. This adds to the agony of His suffering.
Hebrews 4 states that we don’t have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses because He has been tempted just as we have, but without sinning. He knew the pain of being betrayed by someone He loved. Jesus can therefore fully relate to the pain that comes from being betrayed by a loved one. Yet, even in the act of betrayal, He called Judas “friend.”
Now, when we are hurt and angered by betrayal, we may revert to name-calling, insults and threats, but not Jesus. He tenderly addressed Judas: “Friend, why have you come?” Judas never responded to that question. The deadly machine that would put Him to death has already been put in motion. The armed men stepped forward and arrested Him.
But alas! This was a little too much for Jesus’ other friend: the vivacious and brave Peter. He was not exactly known for sitting by idly and accepting things. He liked to get up and make something happen when things went a little slow. He certainly was not the kind of guy who resigned himself to circumstances. From Peter’s point of view, Jesus appeared to resign Himself a little too much to these events. It was clear to him that Jesus needed some help! Peter saw violence as the solution. He grabbed his sword and chopped off the ear of Malchus, servant of the high priest.
Jesus didn’t commend Peter for his bravery. God does not need us to come to His rescue –especially not with violence. Besides, Jesus preached love, not violence. He says to Peter, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” As you choose to live, so you will die.
Jesus reminds Peter who He is connected to: the God of this entire universe. A shortage of power is not the problem here. God’s arm is not too short. Violence is not only unnecessary, it is destructive, and a sign of a lack of faith in God’s power. Besides, violence breeds violence. Jesus stops the downward spiral right there and then.
If we are mindful of who are connected to, we will be less inclined to revert to destructive and wicked ways to protect ourselves. It is often a lack of trust in God and His power that lies at the root of violent behaviour, insults and abuse. If we are disconnected from our Protector we will come up with our own selfish ways to protect ourselves.
Even in the chaos around His arrest, Jesus takes the time to put things in perspective for Peter. He is thinking in terms of the resources available in this world. But our resources go way beyond the limits of this word. With one call, Jesus could have the threat wiped out. But He was submitted to God’s will and the Scriptures will be fulfilled in these actions. It is good and wise to know the Scriptures, because through them we learn about God’s plans and how He operates. This understanding of God allows us to remain calm in adverse situations because we can clearly see God is in control.
Jesus said to Pilate, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” Understanding that deep truth will help us to rest in God and His purposes. God doesn’t forsake His people when things get tough. He is right there with us in the valley of the shadow of death, “I will fear no evil for You are with me.” (Psalm 23:4) This verse does not deny the presence of evil. It says that in spite of the presence of evil, we need not fear because we know God is with us.
After all this, having to deal with the betrayal of a close friend and the impulsive behavior of another, Jesus’ wounds ran deeper still when he was deserted by all His close friends at a time He needed them the most. “Then all the disciples deserted Him and fled.”
As we see later, Judas regretted what he had done and took matters into his own hands and ended his life. Peter denied that he knew Jesus when he perceived that connection to be life-threatening. And yet, Jesus was merciful to Peter and later asked him to take care of His Sheep. Although he failed, he was given another chance and encouraged his brothers and sisters to persevere under trial for after they have suffered a little while (as he had), God will Himself restore them.