The final moment of confrontation has come, the great battle to end all battles has begun. The Enemy, working though his servants, strikes first. Studying the passage, we might notice a few things:
• Jesus’ gentleness and grace, even in the face of utter betrayal. Here was a man who'd been chosen by him, worshiped with him, performed miracles in his name, ate with him, and who finally handed him over to his enemies for 30 pieces of silver. And how did Jesus address him? “Traitor”? “Scum”? “Piece of filth”? He certainly would've been justified in doing so, but no. He called him “Friend,” even as this man was kissing him on the cheek to signal to the soldiers which one was Jesus.
• The utter cowardice of Jesus’ enemies. Of course they couldn’t arrest him during the daylight hours, could they? Of course not. Are you expecting the Enemy or his servants to fight honorably? Why would you think a foolish thing like that?
• Jesus’ condemnation of force used in his name. I think we have here a strong prohibition against using the sword in his defense. The sword has its uses. God has put it in the hand of government to restrain evil in the world and maintain civil order. But it’s not to be used to defend the name of Christ or spread the Message of Christ. That’s one of the beauties of this nation: That we believe in freedom of religion. We try to persuade, and we pray for peoples’ hearts to be changed. We don't try to have the state do the Church's job.
• Jesus’ submission of his own will. He makes it abundantly clear in this passage that he was not a prisoner because he failed to escape. There were thousands upon thousands upon thousands of angels who were awaiting the word. One word from Jesus’ lips, and and there wouldn't have been enough left of the soldiers for their own mothers to identify. But that word never came. Why? Because he was there to submit to the Father’s will. This meant submitting to his enemies’ tender mercies.
• Our tendency to overestimate ourselves. Jesus had predicted it, but none of them really believed it until it happened. Look, most (if not all) of us are guilty of this fault. When the sun is shining and the birds are singing and all is right with the world, it’s easy to make promises about future faithfulness to him. But as soon as troubles come or the pressure is turned up, we drop those vows like the proverbial hot potato. All of us are masters of self-deception, so we need to cultivate, by God’s grace, a spirit of humility and healthy self-distrust. As Alistair Begg reminds us, “The best of men are men at best.” His grace is the only thing keeping me from falling, and I'd better remember it.
Like the rest of the Gospel (and really all the Bible), this passage highlights the brightness of our Savior and the utter depravity of men. Pretty good thing to remember, if you ask me.
Lord Jesus, it’s easy to point a finger at the disciples who couldn’t run away fast enough, but what about me? How many fights have I fled when you asked me to stand my ground? Please forgive me and change me.