It’s dark. You can probably hear the crickets chirping. It’s peaceful, yet Jesus has just been ripped apart inside as he prepares for what is to come. There are lights in the distance. They are getting closer. You can hear the crunching of the ground under the feet of a mob. It’s a crowd intent on one thing. Jesus’ arrest.
God has used Judas to bring us to this moment. Judas has done a despicable thing. He is the traitor who has given up the Son of God for just 30 lousy pieces of silver. Yet, as he arrives with this throng of people, including religious leaders, Roman soldiers and onlookers (you know, the gawkers), he approaches Jesus, as a friend, with a kiss.
Jesus knows what Judas is doing, yet he stands there and accepts it. I’m sure he’d much rather have forgiven Judas, had Judas been seeking that instead. The kiss. It’s the sign the leaders were looking for. It was dark. That had been the plan. They didn’t want to make this scene where they would be seen. This had to be done in secret. The plan was working beautifully.
Then we see Peter strike out with the sword and an ear falls to the ground. (We know it’s Peter from John’s account of this fateful night.) Peter was trying to fight and protect his friend. But Jesus warns him, “those who use the sword will die by the sword.” We also know from John’s account that Jesus “fixed” that mistake and healed the servants ear.
Can you picture this scene? Men with swords and clubs and torches. They would have clearly outnumbered Jesus and his friends. Doesn’t this seem a little like overkill? Jesus thought so, too. He wasn’t a mercenary after all. He wasn’t about to flee or fight back. Yet, Scripture was fulfilled.
What do you think was going through the minds of Jesus’ accusers? Did they finally feel like they had won? Were they proud of their sly plan? Sly? They had called on a large force of armed men. How brave was that? They could claim no credit for what was happening here. God was simply using their evil intent to accomplish His righteous and gracious purposes.
What does this say for us? Can God use our mistakes? Does God take advantage of evil in the world around us? I would have to say that God never wastes a hurt. We used to say that in our recovery ministry. A lot. While God doesn’t like us to be hurt, there is always something good that can be found. God has a beautiful way of making beauty out of the ashes. Think of the rebirth in nature after a fire.
Our reading closes with the fearful disciples scattering. Did they think they’d be arrested, too? Were they fearful they had a number on their back, too, merely by being seen with Jesus? Perhaps they realized they were outnumbered and there was no way they could save their friend. Do we do that? When the going gets tough, do we abandon ship?
Take some time today to reflect on how you fit into this story. Are just going through the motions unsure of how God fits in (like the soldiers)? Are you a believer distracted by the world, unable to see the grace Jesus is offering you (religious leaders)? Are you reading your Bible, going to church, yet not taking the message seriously (disciples)? Are you ready to face your future with boldness because your trust in God is so strong (Jesus)?
Let’s pray. Lord, I feel the fear and uncertainty that those disciples must have felt that night, and it is scary. Lord, strengthen my faith so I can be bold. Help me to trust you completely. Use me to help others see you, yearn for you, and follow you. Place your hand on me to give me the courage and confidence to live the life you have planned for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.