Wednesday, August 1st. Mark 14:43-52

Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him.


But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” All of them deserted him and fled.  A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. Mark 14:43-52


Now comes the arrest.  Led by Judas, a crowd arrives with swords and clubs.  The kiss of betrayal, the feeble attempt to protect Jesus.  Jesus being led away while those who followed him fled.  We’ve seen this before.


I know how we usually read this arrest scene.  We focus on “let the scriptures be fulfilled” and move on to the rest of the story.  Perhaps we can learn something new from it if we slow down and look at it again.


We’ve seen such scenes before.  The chief priests, scribes, and elders are all good men.  People love them.  They have positions of honor and authority.  They aren’t evil but they, in falsely arresting Jesus with intent to do him in, are doing a very evil thing.


We’ve seen this before.  We saw it in lynch mobs stringing up a black kid for looking at a white woman.  We saw it in all of those old Westerns when the posse was sent out, not always after the guilty.  We have seen it it movie after movie, from “To Kill a Mockingbird” to “Beauty and the Beast.”  We might even have done this when beating up another kid on a schoolyard.  The “crowd effect” can be a powerful force for evil in our world.


Phillip Zimbardo wrote a book in 2007 called “The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.”  On his website ( he writes:  “I offer a psychological account of how ordinary people sometimes turn evil and commit unspeakable acts. As part of this account, The Lucifer Effect tells, for the first time, the full story behind the Stanford Prison Experiment, a now-classic study I conducted in 1971. In that study, normal college students were randomly assigned to play the role of guard or inmate for two weeks in a simulated prison, yet the guards quickly became so brutal that the experiment had to be shut down after only six days.”


“How and why did this transformation take place, and what does it tell us about recent events such as the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses in Iraq? Equally important, what does it say about the ‘nature of human nature,’ and what does it suggest about effective ways to prevent such abuses in the future?”


I think he is on to something important here.  Yes, Jesus was arrested by an angry crowd intent on doing him in.  Yes, this is clearly connected to his mission and his willingness to love us to the end.  And yes, his friends deserted him.  Yes, all of that is there.


But so is the reality that the “crowd effect” can lead us to unspeakable horrors, to doing and saying things that we would never otherwise do or say.  But that same “crowd effect” can also lead us to do good.


We would do well to learn what makes the difference.


Let us pray:  Dear Lord, for us you were arrested.  For us you were taken away.  For us.  We listen to the accounts of your friends betraying and deserting you.  We know we want to do better.  Help us tell the difference.  Grant us the faith which silences our fears.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


One Response to “Wednesday, August 1st. Mark 14:43-52”

  1. kirk childress Says:

    Yes much truth to your statement the crowd effect can change normally good people, but one thing that is baffling is that if Jesus had not died on the cross and rose from the dead we would have no salvation.


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