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)
After Jesus was seized in the Garden of Gethsemane all the disciples left Him and fled just like Jesus had predicted they would earlier in the evening [Matthew 26:31]. They realized that Jesus was not going to usher in a new earthly kingdom as they had thought and they were afraid that their association with Him would get them arrested – or worse – too.
Jesus had been telling them of His upcoming arrest, scourging, and crucifixion for quite a while. Yet they were unprepared when it happened. There are a couple of reasons for this.
The disciples had too much confidence in themselves and not enough confidence in Jesus. When Jesus predicted that each of them would abandon Him they all insisted this was not true [Matthew 26:33, 35]. When we are overconfident we tend not to prepare ourselves for what life may hold. So when difficult situations arise we panic or run away.
We really don’t know our own hearts until they are tested. It is then we find out how weak we really are. Declaring confidence in a hypothetical situation is meaningless. What matters is what we do when the hypothetical becomes real.
We live in a world where we’re told that we should have “no fear”. But it’s best to live with a small, healthy dose of doubt (i.e. humility) about our abilities. Such humility gives us the incentive to plan ahead. Without it, we’ll charge forward unprepared and will likely fail.
The disciples had also failed to pray. In Gethsemane Jesus twice told the disciples to pray [Matthew 26:38, 41]. But they didn’t. They fell asleep instead. They gave priority to satisfying their basal biological needs over strengthening their spirit.
But it is through prayer that we gain spiritual strength. Prayer is to our spirit what food is to our bodies. Without it, we become weakened and incapable of withstanding the tests life throws at us; circumstances will control us rather than us being able to triumph over them.
Prayer gives us God’s strength by creating and deepening our relationship with Him and making us more aware of our need to depend on Him. Then, with His strength, we can be victorious [Deuteronomy 20:4].
As a result of being unprepared the disciples acted impulsively. They were unable to assess the situation and see it as God saw it. Instead they looked at it from a human perspective, got scared, and ran. They were controlled by their emotions rather than being controlled by the word of God.
Whereas the disciples failed to pray in Gethsemane, Jesus did. And as a result He was able to triumph over His circumstances.
Through prayer Jesus saw the situation through God’s eyes. He was not the victim of circumstance. He accepted His role in God’s plan of salvation with assurance and equanimity. While those around Him thought He was the loser, He was actually the victor.
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