Matthew 26:47-56

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large 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; arrest him.” At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.

Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting 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 would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?”

At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. Matthew 26:47-56

He was a troublemaker. He challenged the best thinkers, the governmental leaders, the whole system of human interactions. He claimed no wisdom of his own yet he made the wisest of the wise look foolish. He became a scapegoat for all that was wrong in the changing world in which he lived. He was arrested and tried for causing social unrest, for filling the young with wild ideas, for corrupting his culture. Living four hundred years before Jesus, Socrates died by drinking poison, covering his face as the poison slowly put him to sleep.

Jesus, on the other hand, was lynched.

The religious leaders paid an informant, gathered a posse, stirred up their hatred, and then led them in the night to where Jesus was praying. A sign of friendship and mutuality, a kiss, became a betrayal of the worst kind. The crowd took him, mistreated him, and delivered him to those with the power to see to his death.

One feeble attempt to protect Jesus failed miserably. A slave lost an ear. Perhaps a symbol of the inability to hear the message of Jesus? Matthew doesn’t tell us much. Unlike Luke, Jesus doesn’t reattach the ear. Unlike Matthew, Luke says nothing about the scriptures being fulfilled. From the beginning, followers of Jesus have wrestled with this sudden and tragic turn in the story.

Jesus was lynched. But that was yet to come.

For now, Jesus made it clear both to his captors and to his followers that he would not fight against anyone. He said “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Add this to the list of most often ignored words of Jesus throughout history!

I remember the time when a “gun rights” guy told me that Jesus expected his followers to be armed, that is why his disciple had a sword. I suggested that the sword (knife?) might have been a common tool for everyone, a kitchen accessory, especially for fishermen. That Jesus very explicitly denounces violence as an appropriate response to the world. I think I heard him very well. I don’t think he heard me at all.

The crowd now has Jesus where the religious leaders want him. They don’t know Jesus but they sure know those leaders. They must have figured that they might give them a better deal. As the crowd pushes Jesus into town, the disciples all flee into the night.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, as often as we have heard it, this turn in the story will always hit us between the eyes. The betrayal, the arrest, the shouts of the crowd, the glitter of swords and clubs. Don’t let us turn our heads away from this. Don’t let us stand outside of this story. For we, like all people, live in the tension of trusting you or trusting swords, of following you or fleeing into the safety of the night. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “Matthew 26:47-56”

  1. Dave Armstrong Says:

    Amen!

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