Mark 14:43-52 43 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 And they all left him and fled. 51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
At the Last Supper much earlier in the evening, Jesus had revealed to the twelve disciples that one of them would betray Him. Jesus wanted each of the disciples to examine their own hearts and to recognize that any one of them was capable of betraying Him if they did not continually seek Him. The Christian life is not a life where we can seek Jesus once or when it is easy or convenient and then live for ourselves. No! It requires a continual seeking and a continual dependence upon God for we are all prone to returning to the evil ways that we all once knew and loved if we do not continually grow in holiness. We must examine Jesus Christ for who He really is and what He has done for us in His death upon the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and to provide a new life for us in Him. We must enter into salvation through repentance and faith but our salvation is also dependent upon our continual pursuit of God.
Judas Iscariot did not pursue Jesus Christ in this way. He was willing to betray the Christ to save his own skin and tried to make the most of a situation where he felt trapped as there was a real threat that he could be killed for following Jesus. Beforehand he had agreed to hand over Jesus to the high priests for money. The boldness of His betrayal is almost beyond comprehension as he gives those with him the sign of a kiss to identify who Jesus of Nazareth is. The darkness within the garden of Gethsemane must have been great such that it was hard to recognize who was who in the dark. Judas Iscariot did not want any mistake or confusion to occur in the darkness as he betrayed Jesus. He could have hid in the background and pointed out from a distance who Jesus was as He was with the eleven in Gethsemane but if the wrong person was arrested what would happen to him? I’m sure Judas Iscariot feared Jesus but also the chief priests who would have come against him if he was unsuccessful. He would betray Jesus to His face as well as in the presence of the eleven disciples. He would never again see them face to face as the devil would then lead him to hang himself (Matthew 27:3-10). His betrayal would ultimately lead to his own destruction and death and this will be nothing compared to the judgment he awaits when he faces Jesus Christ in the final judgment.
Even more surprising is not Judas Iscariot’s betrayal but rather Jesus’ response to His arrest and to the actions of His disciples. It can be so hard to have any empathy or compassion for a known enemy as they stand opposite to the side that you have taken. During times of war it isn’t difficult to be conditioned to fight against the enemy that you cannot see or the enemy who is different from you. Perhaps they speak another language or have a different skin colour. It is easy in a sense to dehumanize someone who doesn’t view things the same as you do and to hate them. But the hatred against someone who betrays you whom you know and trust and whom you would consider your friend is much more intense as it is personal. When Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus with a kiss he not only betrayed Jesus but every single one of the disciples. I do not doubt that every one of the eleven would have killed Judas Iscariot that very night if given the opportunity. It is more than likely that the fisherman Peter, who was not so good at yielding a sword, intended to kill Judas Iscariot and ended up cutting off the ear of the servant of the high priest. It is possible he attacked whomever tried to arrest Jesus but it is also extremely likely that he turned in a rage upon Judas Iscariot. How could he! How could one of Jesus’ closest friends betray Him? Just think of the anger that the eleven disciples felt against Judas Iscariot.
But Jesus did not permit any of His disciples to respond to His arrest in violence. He in fact performed His final miracle of healing to one of His enemies- the servant who had just lost his ear because of Peter’s lack of swordsmanship (Luke 22:51). Without the ability to respond in violence the disciples did not know how to respond and so they fled. If only they had prayed as Jesus had commanded them to do earlier. They still did not understand spiritual warfare. Why did Jesus not defend Himself? Ultimately because, as He said, the Scriptures must be fulfilled. Everything He did was in obedience to the Father but also to fulfill what had been prophesied about Him by the Old Testament prophets. He must go to the cross. His time had come.
But more specifically with the enemies who came to arrest Jesus, Jesus wanted them yet to be saved. God allows evil to be carried out upon this earth to reveal the wickedness in the hearts of those who carry out those evil actions. Any time someone does evil the condition of their heart is exposed. Any person can be convinced that they are good and others are evil (the enemies are only those on the other side of the battlefield) but when you see with your own eyes the wicked deeds of your own hands you cannot deny the depravity of your own soul. Your own actions condemn you. They reveal that you are guilty in the sight of God. They reveal that you need a Savior- someone else to provide for your salvation. Your wicked deeds should lead you to Jesus Christ. And, if they do not God will be just in the final judgment to condemn you forever. Every person who was involved in the arrest of Jesus of Nazareth should have known that what they were a part of was wrong and evil. If Jesus had responded in violence they could have justified their actions. His lack of defense proved their guilt in the sight of God.
Jesus Christ did not see those who came to arrest Him as His enemies. He viewed them as lost souls blinded by the devil and unaware of the judgment that they were already under apart from repentance and faith in Him. I would not be surprised if at least one of the men who came to arrest Jesus is now in the Kingdom of God because of the way in which Jesus responded. The true Christian does not see his enemies as the world does. The true Christian sees their enemies as Jesus does and responds with the love of God even in the face of evil. Is this you?
Pastor Murray Hack