And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up, accompanied by a great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” And immediately he went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus breached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? “How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen this way?” At that time Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. “But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left Him and fled.
A couple hours ago, in the context, Jesus quoted Zechariah 13 and said, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED.’” Fulfilled, right before our very eyes, almost two thousand years ago. First the disciples fall asleep on Jesus when he asked them to keep watch and now they have run away as he is being arrested and betrayed. Now I am not knocking the disciples, in the same circumstance I would have done the same thing. Self-preservation is a mighty motivator. However, see the sublime string that is woven into the continuing context. Hundreds of years prior, Zechariah described in metaphor, what would happen this night.
Jesus, a few hours ago, contextually speaking, predicted exactly what would happen this night. Jesus quoted Zechariah and told the disciples the prophecy concerned them, because of the circumstances of Jesus, the disciples would fall away this very night. We also notice how Jesus continually states that everything that happens this night, happens according to the Scripture. He has previously quoted Zechariah and now asks Peter, according to John’s account, because John named Peter as the one with the sword, “How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen this way?” Then he says to the ones seizing him, “But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Immediately following these words the disciples fled and hid, just as prophesied by Zechariah and explained by Jesus. When at all possible, let Jesus explain prophecy and not prophecy professors.
“And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up, accompanied by a great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people.” Remember the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics where; Context is king, Author’s aspirations to his audience are apex, Genre is the general, Expository exegesis of examples enlightens and Dividing rightly the Word of Truth either confirms or cancels preconceived notions and presuppositions. Therefore we remember that after fervently praying in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus woke up the disciples, saying, “‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!’ And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up, accompanied by a great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people.” We would do well to ignore the chapter and verse breaks and read the Bible as it was written, letting Scripture interpret Scripture.
We are blessed with the completed Scripture and while we are considering the context of Matthew and his aspiration to his first-century, Jewish audience, as we move forward we will be increasingly looking at the other 3 gospel accounts to see the severity of the situation. Each author has his different angles and aspirations to his audience. Yet given the importance of the events it behooves us to attempt to understand them all. Nevertheless, Matthew’s aspirations are in the forefront because it is the gospel account on which we have been focusing for almost a year. Matthew is presenting Jesus as the long-awaited, Jewish Messiah–true Israel; true Temple. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets. Matthew goes to great lengths to demonstrate this by quoting the Old Testament more than the other gospel writers combined. In today’s text alone, Jesus points out to both parties that everything that is happening is because it has been previously recorded in the Scriptures.
“Judas, one of the twelve, came up, accompanied by a great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people.” I don’t know what they were thinking; saftey in numbers, perhaps? A show of force? Were the elders and chief priests so scared of Jesus that they brought as many people as they could? Or was it to intimidate Jesus? Matthew, Mark and Luke agree that it was a multitude made up with the priests and elders, John adds that there were also Romans there, with at least one high-ranking official. We are not told specifically why they came with many men wielding weapons, other than that it was to fulfill prophecy, and all the prophecy. Not every single word–but notice the context; “all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” It is in the plural. When we read the prophets and juxtapose them to this scene, we see the multitude is a picture of; the multitude. That is the many, many people who are against Jesus. I know, it’s almost anticlimactic. Nevertheless, see the scene for what it is, many people, including one of his own, coming to Jesus, wielding weapons.
“Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, ‘Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one; seize Him.’ And immediately he went to Jesus and said, ‘Hail, Rabbi!’ and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you have come for.’ Luke includes Jesus asking, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Mark makes mention of the kiss but not the response of Jesus and John doesn’t mention the kiss at all. But John does give us an interesting insight, when Jesus made himself known to the multitude, they drew back and fell down. The reason that the others didn’t mention this could be because they had already fled. Don’t lose your joy over this, but be joyful about the masses meeting the ground on account of the Master revealing himself (John 18:6).
“The kiss;” why did Judas betray Jesus with a kiss? There is some cross-cultural contamination in this particular passage, to us who are cold-hearted in the West, as well as some–“lost in translation,” contamination. It was not uncommon in their culture for friends to greet each other with a kiss. When we go to a certain communist country in the Caribbean, the men greet us with a handshake and the women greet us with a kiss. Paul wrote to the Romans and the Corinthians; “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” We should probably be dogmatic about this. Nevertheless, we have to dig a little deeper to see the significance. I won’t give an ancient Greek lesson but will translate this passage more literally. “‘To Whomever I shall give a friendly kiss, He is the one; seize Him.’ And immediately he went to Jesus and said, ‘Hail, Rabbi!’ and kissed-against Him” Judas exclaimed, “hail Rabbi,” in a specious salute, then embraced Jesus and kissed him, big time. A big, beautiful lie, is still a lie–and what a lie! It reminds me of Isaiah; “These people draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.” Literally, this is Judas. It’s the greatest moment of historical hypocrisy. And yet, Jesus calls him, “friend.” A very few pastors and preachers theologians and teachers claim that by Jesus calling Judas his friend and by the rest of the statement made by Jesus, that Judas and Jesus had a prearranged pact, that Judas was to betray him so that Jesus would die on his own accord. Jesus did die on his own accord–he laid down his life for his sheep–no one took his life. Nevertheless, consider the context and you will see clearly, Judas was not believing in Jesus. Jesus called Judas his friend, because he was. It wasn’t Jesus who turned on Judas but the other way around.
“Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus breached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”
Poor Peter, even if John hadn’t named him as the one with the sword, we would still assume it was him. What great courage Peter displays; that, or foolishness. He was vastly outnumbered and it appears that he wasn’t considering that Jesus could call on heavenly help, based upon the context of what Jesus said to him. Absolute foolishness is what we find. Jesus has repeatedly told him what would happen, Jesus is the Son of God and Peter knew this, he’s the one who proclaimed it first. He is outnumbered by a multitude to two, based upon another account–they brought two swords. And this is one of the many reasons why we know for sure that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God, fulfilling the Law and prophets and his destiny–if he were merely an earthly teacher, he never would have let Peter have a sword. Can I get an Amen? I would have given Judas a sword before I gave one to Peter. Yet this all goes to the context of Jesus fulfilling the prophets this very night.
Live by the sword–die by the sword. The Old Testament allusions and quotes come rushing in like a torrent, flooding the mind with numerous names, places and actions, scenes, signals and systems. Jesus was correct, everything in the Old Testament points to this place. One could almost randomly open their Bible to the Old Testament, point to a passage, as is our Western culture, and apply it to this scene, setting and scenario. What I mean by this is that, despite modern, conventional wisdom, every single, solitary person in the Bible failed in one way or the other. Peter has failed again, as he has numerous times before, and is about to again, in a major way. Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Judah, Perez, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and Peter, continually come up short. But not Jesus. And this is what we must see in the context. Jesus perfected and faithful to death. Like I told teenagers, Jesus came to die, but also teach and preach and live the perfect life which none of us can. He is doing this.
“’How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen this way?’ At that time Jesus said to the multitudes, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.’”
The Scriptures and all of their genres; historical narratives, numbers, Law, poetry, prophetical, and all other sub-genres, point to Jesus. For those who desire the prophets to point to them, consider; history repeats itself. We are a type of Judas, kissing the face of Jesus while nailing him to the cross. We are a type of Peter, waiting with swords drawn but denying Jesus. We are a type of Abraham, believing what God said but protecting our own, not fully trusting the Lord. We are a type of Israel, AKA, Jacob, who wrestled with God and decieved many. We are a type of Thomas, doubting unless we feel the holes in his hands, feet and side. We are a type of the Pharisees, teaching as doctrine the precepts of men. We are a type of Elijah, victorious in the Lord one minute, than fleeing from our enemies the next. We need Jesus to do what he has to do.
The elders and priests, come after the peaceful Jesus, in droves, with weapons. Make no mistake, they hated him. Nevertheless, we were also once enemies of God and we nailed him to the cross because of our sin. Yet now the majority of us in the West, await a rescue from this world by a pre-tribulation rapture, not doing what Jesus calls us to do because we distort and manipulate the Scripture to meet our Desires; the American Dream and then, rescue. What if rescue is not God’s will for us? Oh how I wish your mind was in my mind’s stead. That is, I wish that my mind was substituted with your minds concerning the second coming. I used to believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, but after much consideration of context, my mind was changed. I am lazy and find it much easier to simply agree with the majority rather than be a voice for the minority. In John’s account of this night, Jesus prayed; “Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are.” I agree–united we stand and divided we fall. I truly believe that even with our differences, we can be united. Nevertheless, I have observed that the overly-dogmatic dispensationalists, don’t want unity; it’s their way or the highway. Which is admittedly difficult for me, because I now see the pre-tribulational rapture as the kiss of death. Therefore I will write, but also acquiesce. Believe what you will about the second coming, but we should be united in what Jesus is doing and has called us to do.
“Then all the disciples left Him and fled.” Let us not flee from that which Jesus has called us to do. That is the blessed hope, that this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to the entire world. I am getting ahead of myself again, nevertheless, we will soon see the reason why we are still here, Lord willing.