Luke 22: 47 – 53 Jesus arrested
While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’
When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour – when darkness reigns.’
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I want to start by comparing the opening of St Luke’s account of the arrest with that of St Matthew.
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Jesus replied, ‘Do what you came for, friend.’ (Matthew 26:53)
Luke’s account is ambiguous as to whether Judas actually kissed Jesus. Matthew’s is not. Judas greeted Jesus and kissed him. What I find surprising about the account is that Judas was needed to identify Jesus. Jesus had been teaching in the temple courts every day; surely he would have been immediately identifiable by any of the chief priests or elders? But perhaps the leaders insisted upon this positive identification so they could claim that even Jesus’ disciples thought he had gone too far in his ministry.
While I find the need for Jesus to be identified surprising, I find Jesus’ words to Judas astonishing.
Jesus replied, ‘Do what you came for, friend.’
To address his betrayer as “friend” shows the ultimate love of God. Even at this stage, Judas is forgiven by Jesus, and still has time to accept his forgiveness. If he had re-joined the other disciples he could have been one of the apostles of the early church.
We should never, ever imagine that we cannot be forgiven. Judas, who consciously betrayed Jesus to his death, was forgiven. All he had to do was to accept that forgiveness.
One of Jesus disciple’s – St John tells us it was Simon Peter (John 18:10) – struck with his sword, severing the ear of a servant of the high priest. Jesus stops him – and heals the injured man.
Jesus’ ministry of forgiveness and healing continues even at this time of extraordinary pressure.
Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs?
Jesus wants to make it clear that he is not leading a rebellion; far from it. He has been teaching every day in the temple courts. He contrasts his non-violent actions with the violence of the chief priests and the elders in coming with an armed mob to arrest him.
But this is your hour – when darkness reigns.’
It is literally dark on the Mount of Olives, but it is also spiritually dark. God’s Son, Jesus, is going willingly into the spiritual darkness of betrayal, torture and public execution.
It was, indeed, the hour when darkness reigned.
Thank you for Jesus’ willingness to walk steadfastly into the darkness on our behalf.
In Jesus name, Amen