While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
(Matthew 26:47-56 ESV)
Today’s passage is the most famous betrayal in history. Judas came into the Garden of Gethsemane with a great crowd with swords and clubs. By referencing the other gospel accounts of this scene, we can determine that there was likely 600 or more Roman soldiers and Jewish officers sent by the chief priests and the elders of the people.
But this scene is a picture of the way people have always treated Jesus, including in our current time. Jesus voluntarily left heaven to come to earth to save people from an eternity in hell. Instead of being thankful most people are like this crowd that came to arrest Jesus: evil, shortsighted, and cowardly.
The crowd was evil because they were arresting a man who had committed no crime. Jesus broke no laws of Rome or Israel. At His trial, which we’ll study in a few days, this was acknowledged [John 19:4]. But because Jesus spoke things they didn’t want to hear – things that were actually true such as the fact that we are all sinners – the populace turned on Him and wanted to silence Him.
Such is still the way of the world. We see it very clearly in our society, especially over the past few years. We’ve recently seen the mayor of Houston, Texas suppress the messages of several pastors in her jurisdiction because she didn’t like what they taught. The state of Kentucky recently made it illegal to teach what the Bible says about homosexuality. The US military does the same. Rather than believe what God has to say about them, people silence Him.
The crowd that came to arrest Jesus was also shortsighted. Most of them were simply doing what they were told because they got paid to do so. They didn’t understand who Jesus was or the ramifications of what they were doing.
Likewise, the overwhelming majority of people who criticize and silence Jesus have no understanding of what they are doing. No where is this more true than on social media where you can find a plethora of statements mocking Jesus. People who post these things think they have the facts and are making a point with their crude comments. But really they are ignorant. And ignorance always leads to faulty decisions and actions. Sadly, those decisions and actions have eternal consequences.
Finally, the crowd in this scene is cowardly. They came to arrest Jesus at night. They didn’t have the guts to arrest Him in broad daylight when Jesus was in public – a point Jesus will emphasize later in this passage. They also came with an excessive force armed with weapons to arrest one man who was unarmed and who had always been peaceful.
Guilt produces cowardice. Rather than admit the guilt they know to be true people will lash out at the source of their guilt and they will do it anonymously. Social media is again proof of this. Cowards also find justification for themselves in the fact that there are others who think the way they do. But obviously this makes no logical sense. Just because someone thinks the same thing I do doesn’t make either one of us right.
Jesus is the most persecuted religious figure in our world. You never see the same attacks on Buddha, or Allah, or the many Hindu gods that you see on Jesus. The reason is simple: Jesus is truth. Buddha, Allah, and the Hindu gods don’t exist. And since it makes no sense to fight against something that doesn’t exist, people don’t attack these gods.
Ironically, the very attacks on Jesus that attempt to prove He is a hoax are actually proof that He exists and what He said is true.
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