After the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus spent Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday teaching – culminating in His celebration of the Passover meal – the Lord’s Supper, as He would transform it – one last time before His crucifixion.
Jesus dismissed Judas from the dinner, and the other eleven went with Jesus out to the Garden of Gethsemane, where they sang a hymn, and then Jesus prayed – with Peter, James, and John nearby – portraying in His prayer the horror that was about to occur.
When He had finished praying, Jesus told them to wake up and be alert, for the betrayer had come – which brings us to this evening’s text.
And, we see first, Jesus was feared by those who came to arrest Him.
“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.”
Judas had never believed savingly, and when the Pharisees sought a way to have Jesus eliminated, they looked at the disciples and found Judas was the weakest link. Judas had a love for money above all things – the Gospel writers tell us that Judas embezzled from the common fund of the Apostles – and Judas accepted a bride of thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus.
That Thursday night, he came – not alone – he didn’t have the authority to arrest Jesus. Not with the High Priest and members of the Sanhedrin, which would have been enough to arrest Jesus on the charges of blasphemy they brought against Him. But, with a great crowd – with the chief priests and the elders and many other Jews, carrying torches, and clubs, and swords.
What was the need for this militia? Might they have been afraid?
Now, Judas had told them that he would identify Jesus by kissing Him – the traditional familial greeting between friends.
And we wonder why they needed Judas to identify Jesus? They knew Him very well. Was it due to the darkness of the night in the garden?
And then, in one of the most grotesque verses of Scripture, Judas went immediately, straight-away to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi.”
By Judas’ reaction later, it seems that Judas truly believed that he was acting for the good of the nation – that he truly believed that Jesus was deluded – or power-hungry – and had to be stopped, so it may have been with a triumphant sarcasm that Judas reached Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi.” “I have stopped a great evil in Israel!”
“And he kissed him.”
And in English, we don’t see that the word “kissed” in this verse, is not the same word that was used earlier. The word that is used here means a long-lasting kiss – not a sexual kiss – but one that was intense and lingering – perhaps to make sure that everyone saw who he was identifying. But, in any event, the perversion of a greeting meant to show great love and friendship.
Jesus responded with sarcasm, “Friend.”
And Jesus was ready. He had prophesied all that would happen and just wrestled in the Garden in prayer to prepare Himself for all that He would endure for the sake of all those who would believe.
So, Jesus told him, “Do what you came to do.”
And the crowd leapt forward and grabbed Him – they had caught Jesus!
Second, we see that the disciples still didn’t understand what was happening.
“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?’”
Peter, always willing to jump without thinking, pulled out his sword and cut the ear off of the high priest’s servant. But Jesus stopped Peter from continuing and disciplined him, and – as we are told by the other Gospel writers – Jesus reached out and healed the man’s ear.
Jesus told Peter to put his sword away – he didn’t understand what was happening – this was not a time to take up the sword – and if he continued, he would lose his life to the sword. Jesus didn’t need Peter to take up his sword.
“Don’t you understand? Don’t you know that I have the authority to call to My Father for more than 72,000 angels to fight by My side? Haven’t you understood that I have told you that this would happen. This must happen. This is what was prophesied about Me in the Scripture. I must fulfill the Scripture, or I will not be the Savior.”
Jesus didn’t do anything accidently. The Son of God came to earth in the person of Jesus with a purpose and a plan – to save a people for Himself – and a very specific way in which He would have to accomplish that work, so God would be just and justifier.
In order for God to be just, sin had to be punished; in order to be justifier – in order to save His people – He had to also – at the same time – in the same person – be a sinless and holy human being.
So, Jesus lived a sinless and holy life, which He credits to the account of all those who will believe, and He suffered Hell at the hands of men and God for our sins, that they would not be counted against us. This was all prophesied from the beginning. This had to happened that the Scripture would be fulfilled. If it did not, we would have no salvation, no hope, and the Scripture would be false.
“Put your sword away, Peter. I am God Incarnate, and I know what I am doing – what I must do to fulfill the Scripture.”
We will remember what Jesus said right before the Ascension: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18b, ESV).
Jesus has all authority in Heaven. Jesus has all authority on earth. Jesus is Sovereign over everything and every creature that exists. Nothing happens that He does not permit to happen.
Everything that happens is according to Jesus’ sovereign plan.
Was it outrageous to arrest Jesus? Yes.
Was is horrific to mock Him, and flog Him, and crucify Him? Yes.
But He was never out of control. Everything was going as it was prophesied in the Scripture and as it must be for Him to accomplish the salvation of His people to the glory of God.
Third, Jesus rebuked the crowd and submitted to His Father’s Will.
“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.”
Jesus rebuked the way the crowd came after Him: “Am I a dangerous criminal – a thief – that you had to come after Me in a mob with swords and clubs to capture Me? I sat in the Temple day after day – with no guards or anyone to keep you from arresting Me, but you did nothing. You waited until I was in the Garden, away from the public.”
It was as though Jesus said, “Aren’t you ashamed to come after Me like this? What were you afraid of in the Temple?”
Of course it was necessary. Every step of the way to the cross was necessary. Jesus reiterated His statement that this had to happen that the Scriptures would be fulfilled. Jesus had wrestled in His prayers – there was no other way for Him to accomplish salvation – so He submitted to the Will of the Father, as He had always done – and He did what was necessary.
Remember what Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:38-40, ESV).
Jesus came to obey the Will of the Father which was to save the people that God gave Jesus for Himself. And everything that Jesus did was in accordance with the prophets and what was necessary to secure our salvation.
We will remember that after the Resurrection, Jesus met two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus, and He asked them what they were talking about:
“Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’ And he said to them, ‘What things?’ And they said to him, ‘Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.’ And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself”
(Luke 24:18-27, ESV).
Jesus told the crowd arresting Him that He was fulfilling the Scripture.
Jesus told the disciples on the road to Emmaus that all the Scripture points to Him – it is all fulfilled in Him.
That should lead us to read the Scripture with new eyes – especially the Old Testament – if everything in the Old Testament – somehow – points to Who Jesus is and what He would do to secure the salvation of His people – we ought to read the Old Testament looking for how these things point to Jesus.
Jesus was upset that the disciples didn’t understand the meaning of the Scripture. We have far greater resources – with far more revealed – now that we have the New Testament. Let us take the time to pray that God would help us to understand all that He said in Moses, and the Prophets, and all the Scripture about Jesus.
Now, we have to be careful not to just automatically say that every bush and animal and piece of footwear points to Jesus. That is a type of interpretation called “allegorical interpretation,” which is limited – and it is not what Jesus is talking about.
But we may read the Scripture – we can see how the New Testament authors interpreted the Old Testament as prophesying Jesus – Who He is and what He did – and receive instruction from them, even as we ask that God the Holy Spirit would help us.
And so we see, as the fearful crowd lead by Judas came to arrest Jesus, and the disciples misunderstand and are rebuked by Jesus, and the crowd is rebuked by Jesus for coming to Him in that way, when He was fulfilling the Scripture and obeying His Father, as we read the Old Testament, we ought to pray for God the Holy Spirit to show us how these texts point to Jesus. We ought not to be afraid of the Old Testament, but learn more about Jesus and what has been revealed about Him in all of the Scripture.
That’s what we do when we love someone, is it not? We want to know them better?
Let us read the Old Testament to see Jesus.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, as Your Son was betrayed and carried away by the mob, He told His disciples and the mob that everything in Your Word points to Him and all that He was doing was to fulfill the Scriptures. Help us to see these things in Your Word. Make us desire to see them. And give us joy in all You have said. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.