Mark 14:43-50

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. Mark 14:43-50

If you have ever invested money, then you have heard something like this: “Past performance does not predict future returns.” Except, over time, with a large enough sample, it usually does. The leopard can’t change his spots.

Jesus is betrayed by Judas with a kiss. A sign of friendship and trust is perverted. This betrayal cuts much deeper than Judas “telling on” Jesus.

A church member once reminded me of this passage when he was explaining the godliness of the 2nd amendment. He assured me that “Even Jesus’ disciples were armed!” I guess we are always tempted to do what we want with Bible stories.

It is interesting to note that Matthew, retelling this same story, includes Jesus’ response to this feeble attempt to be helpful: 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?” (Matt. 26:52-54)

Luke goes even farther in cleaning things up. He writes, “When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. (Luke 22:49-51)

No surprise, I didn’t change my friend’s mind about the godliness of violence, even in self defense, Luke and Matthew didn’t help either. We’re always tempted to hear only what we want to hear. Jesus used to say that…Let those with ears, hear.

What ought we hear in this story? The scriptures were being fulfilled. Or is it that the scriptures were being repeated? Because there is nothing new about people rejecting God and God’s ways of being in the world. From the forbidden fruit to the Dance of the Golden Calf to the excesses of Solomon to the rejection of the prophets, there is nothing new to see here.

What ought we hear in this story? Jesus was left alone. Everyone fled but his captors. The very people who ought to have known better were the ones leading the charge.

It is so much easier to focus on the innocence of Jesus than to acknowledge the shame of everyone else. We’re always tempted to twist the story to suit ourselves even if that means turning this passage into an argument for the 2nd amendment.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we’ve seen this happen far too many times. Crowds gather and blood is in the air. Violence breaks out and, once again, you are betrayed with a kiss. Teach us anew to reject violence, to meet the crowds with love rather than joining them in hate. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

One Response to “Mark 14:43-50”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you Pastor Kerry! You’ll never know how much your words of wisdom and study of the scriptures help us in this our daily lives in this very difficult time.

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