Jesus alone refused to flee, fight, or summon the very angels that He long ago brought into existence. This is why we confess that salvation is of Christ alone. Peter and the other apostles who together with the prophets of old became the foundation of the Christ’s church are just as much recipients of God’s grace as we are. We are all poor and wretched sinners who would be damned eternally if Christ were not the all-sufficient and ever-triumphant Savior.
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. 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.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” And they all left him and fled.
And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
Mark 14:43-52 ESV
The story of Joseph resounds with primordial echoes of Jesus’ own life. As Jacob’s most beloved son, Joseph’s brothers came to hate him. One day, when they were pasturing the flocks near Shechem, Jacob sent Joseph to check on them. Yet as they saw Joseph coming from a distance, the brothers plotted to kill him, and when he drew near, they stripped of his robe and threw him in a pit to die, since Reuben had convinced them not to shed his blood directly. Yet seeing a caravan of traders going to Egypt, Judah led the brothers into selling Joseph for twenty shekels of silver into slavery.
Of course, we already read in chapter 3 that Jesus was rejected by His own brothers, but in our present text, we find Jesus being betrayed by one of His closest companions and abandoned by the other eleven. As Matthew 26:15 notes, Judas traded the life of his Master away for thirty pieces of silver. Indeed, if our previous passage was Jesus resolving through prayer to submit to the Father, today’s passage finds the greater Joseph being cast into pit and sold for silver.
Betrayed with a Kiss // Verses 43-45
Just as verse 42 concluded our previous passage with Jesus telling His disciples, “Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand,” so do we now presently read:
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.
I find it tragic that because Judas came up to Jesus while He was still speaking, there is the possibility that he could have heard clearly Jesus’ final statement: See, my betrayer is at hand. But, of course, that is exactly what brought Judas to that hallowed garden. Jesus entered Gethsemane as the Seed of the woman, the long-awaited second Adam. Judas, however, entered Gethsemane as the Seed of the serpent, at continual enmity against the Maker and His images. Indeed, the craftiness of the serpent is evident in the manner of Judas’ betrayal:
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.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him.
Is Judas not imaging the nature of his father here? Did the serpent openly call for Eve to rebel against God? No, he began with a seemingly innocent question: “Did God really say…?” We find the same approach whenever Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, where each temptation wore the masquerade of compassion. Could not the Son of God make stones into bread to satisfy His hunger? Would not everyone believe in Him if He threw Himself from the temple and was saved by angels? Would it not be better to worship the devil and receive the kingdoms of the world without having to endure the cross? Being entirely void of love himself, there is apparently nothing that Satan enjoys more than making a mockery of this glorious attribute of God Himself. Indeed, R. C. Sproul notes the twisted hideousness of Judas’ kiss:
It was a gesture of profound honor and affection, customarily given by disciples to their rabbi, that Judas used for his evil mission. The language here describes Judas’s kiss not as a brief peck on the cheek, but a kiss lavishly bestowed, signifying an especially deep sense of affection and honor. This kiss was an act of hypocrisy with a vengeance.
In the Pilgrim’s Progress, Christiana looked upon the cross and begins to wish that others could look upon it as well. “Surely, surely,” she said, “their hearts would be affected.” In moments when we freshly behold goodness and majesty of God, we easily think the same thing. “If only others could see this.” Sadly, reality teaches us another lesson. When faced with God’s holiness, some are drawn into worship, yet others are repelled away. So it was that the whole generation that heard God audibly speak from Sinai went on to perish in the wilderness. So it is that here at the most sacred moment in all of history we find Judas at his most satanic. Indeed, the light of the world can do no less. In His presence, shadows and shades pass away and all is exposed as being either of the light or of the darkness.
O brothers and sisters, let us be certain of this: all of creation is increasingly coming to a point. The day is ever nearer when all creatures will bow their knee to Christ as Lord, willingly or unwillingly. The great question that we must all answer is into which camp will we belong. Make no mistake, there are no neutral days. Each day we either step further into the light of His presence or step away into darkness.
Not of this World // Verses 46-47
After Judas’ kiss, we read:
And they laid hands on him and seized him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.
So begins what Jesus had already told His disciples must happen: “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days, he will rise” (9:31). Yet the disciples still did not understand what was happening, and one disciples displayed this even more than the others by cutting off a servant of the high priest’s ear. John’s Gospel tells that this disciple was Peter and even that the servant’s name was Malchus. Luke’s Gospel also tells us that Jesus did one final earthly miracle by healing Malchus’ ear.
I have heard it said by some that Peter meant to cut Malchus’ ear off because since he was a servant of the high priest, he could no longer enter the temple to do his duty. Yet I think that runs against the plain reading of the text. It seems clear that Peter intended to split Malchus’ head in two, but whether from having little skill with a sword or from nerves (probably both!), Peter ended up taking off his ear.
It is as we said last week. Peter was not quite the outright coward that we might too readily paint him as being. Here he at least worked up in himself enough courage to begin fighting for Christ. He even seemed ready to die for Christ. But, of course, it is one thing to die swinging a sword; it is another thing entirely to go like a lamb to be slaughtered. Peter was still not prepared for the upside-down nature of God’s kingdom. John Calvin notes:
It is as I said, his mind is seething, and he is carried away by the mad desire to protect our Lord Jesus Christ as he chooses and in his own way. May his example teach us to walk according as God calls us, and may we not find it hard to do as God commands. Let us not, however, attempt to do anything, not even to lift a little finger, unless God approves and we have evidence that it is he who is guiding us.