Judas arrives. And as if to tell us how deep was the betrayal, we are reminded that he was one of the twelve. To be betrayed is one thing; to be betrayed by a companion is another; to be betrayed by one sworn to loyalty to you is a terrible, terrible wound. Judas comes with a rabble with clubs and swords, as if for battle, and with the religious along for the ride too. The betrayer’s signal is woeful: a kiss. No doubt this was their usual greeting, as it often is in the Eastern world among friends. Judas, perhaps not wanting to be given up as the double agent who has betrayed Jesus, greets Jesus in the normal way; but by doing so he indicates to the authorities who this Jesus is. Did they not recognize Jesus? Perhaps they had only seen him at a distance.
Jesus is seized. One of the disciples, Peter, fights back. Note while brave souls may want to fight for Jesus, it is a worthier thing yet to die for Jesus. Jesus rebukes the authorities: they have come to him sparring for a fight, but Jesus is innocent. All this is done only to fulfill the Scriptures. Now much of the Old Testament is fulfilled in the cross of Christ. Note the reverence that Jesus has for the Bible. We should seek to follow Scripture, and in so doing point people also to the crucified Christ. Then, verse 50, they all leave him and flee. A brave soul may swear allegiance when in comfort, but it is a different thing to show allegiance when under persecution. May God give us strength to be faithful in temptation.
Verses 51-52 are a little obscure. Because they only occur here in the Gospels, and because the name of the young man is not mentioned, it is possible that this is an oblique reference to John Mark, the author of the Gospel (Acts 12:25; Philemon 1:24). His naked flight is symptomatic of the desperate desertion all around Jesus. Jesus is alone. Alone, and yet bearing the sins of his people—and ever in communion with God, until that fateful moment when bearing the wrath of God, he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and experiences the agony of hell, that we might through his righteous life and death rejoice in the eternity of life with God.
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