The “Third Week”: Week Twenty-Four/Session One.
Theme: The Arrest of Jesus.
Our reading for today: Matthew 26: 47-56.
The words were barely out of His (Jesus’) mouth when Judas (the one from the Twelve) showed up, and with him a gang from the high priests and religious leaders brandishing swords and clubs. The betrayer had worked out a sign with them: “The one I kiss, that’s the one—seize him.” He went straight to Jesus, greeted Him, “How are you, Rabbi?” and kissed Him. Jesus said, “Friend, why this charade?” Then they came on Him—grabbed Him and roughed Him up. One of those with Jesus pulled his sword and, taking a swing at the Chief Priest’s servant, cut off his ear. Jesus said, “Put your sword back where it belongs. All who use swords are destroyed by swords. Don’t you realize that I am able right now to call to My Father, and twelve companies—more, if I want them—of fighting angels would be here, battle-ready? But if I did that, how would the Scriptures come true that say this is the way it has to be?”
Then Jesus addressed the mob: “What is this—coming out after Me with swords and clubs as if I were a dangerous criminal? Day after day I have been sitting in the Temple teaching, and you never so much as lifted a hand against Me. You’ve done it this way to confirm and fulfill the prophetic writings.” Then all the disciples cut and ran. (Matthew 26: 47-56 MsgB)
Betrayal is a bitter fruit.
When your enemies do evil or hurtful things to you, it’s one thing, but when really bad things befall you at the hands of family or friends, the pain of that betrayal is multiplied exponentially.
For Jesus of Nazareth, this evening is like none other. This is a night for deep betrayals. First, a man who has been a close associate and intimate friend for three years has now turned away from that friendship. With little or possibly no outward warning, Judas suddenly decides that he doesn’t like the way his rabbi friend is conducting business for God. He goes to the other side and sells out his friend for a handful of silver.
I’m guessing, like the others who spend a great amount of time with Jesus over this three-year period, Judas likes a lot of what he hears and sees as he follows the Master. He hears Jesus, for example; personally call his name, inviting him to be a part of His inside circle of friends. While Peter, James and John seem to be the most closely connected with Jesus; certainly Judas must have excellent access to the Master for much of the time they spend together. As one of the chosen twelve, I’m guessing Judas can have Jesus’ ear anytime he needs it.
Yet, for one reason or another, Judas chooses to betray this intimate friendship with Jesus of Nazareth and leaves the group of disciples, looking for another path of enlightenment, breaking trust with those he once called brothers and sisters.
Before this night is over, other betrayals will come. Judas is just the first to fall. The other eleven disciples will follow as well. A team that once looked to be a tight-knit party of comrades for life is now coming apart at the seams. Each and every man who Jesus has mentored and loved for nearly three years will now default to his base nature.
Oh yes, at this moment there looks to be a sign of strength present as one of the disciples takes a sword and slashes off the ear of the Chief Priest’s servant. But this is too little, too late and, in all honesty, Jesus knows full well that He is not here this night to wage war in the way the world wages war. He is here to be betrayed. Sold out. Hung out to dry by friends who said they are friends, but when push comes to shove, are all cowards at best, betrayers at the worst.
As the Spiritual Exercises have walked us through the life and ministry of Jesus, there are countless stories that give me reason to love Jesus and who He is. The healing stories are amazing. The stories of deliverance so encouraging. The signs and wonders speak volumes. And yes, the teachings and parables all point to Jesus as being the unique Son of God.
But as I see it, it’s this late Thursday evening outside the garden on Mt. Olive that truly tells me who Jesus really is.
You see, a regular man or woman just can’t stand up to this much deep betrayal in his or her life. A normal person would throw in the towel when everything and everyone they have invested in for three years suddenly decides to walk away. A typical good person would collapse when betrayed in the ways Jesus is betrayed this night.
But not Jesus. Not the Son of God.
Instead of being crushed by these devastating blows of flat-out rejection, Jesus knows why He is here. He is God’s Chosen. He is the Christ who loves unconditionally and sacrificially even when the recipients of that same generous love reject and betray the very vessel in which it is served.
As I see it, it’s only the Son of God who can do what Jesus does during these dark hours of deep betrayal on Passover 33 AD. Even though everyone forsakes Him, He still moves forward on our behalf.
That, my friends, qualifies for me, hands down, the One sent by God.
My prayer: Lord, after three years of Kingdom ministry, bringing the manifest agape of God into this darkened world, one would think that no one could betray something like that. Yet Jesus, You saw each of your closest associates, beginning with Judas, turn their backs on You, betraying You, leaving You alone in this world to accomplish what only the Son of God can do. Thank You, Master, that despite our betrayal as Your followers, You still love us, died for us, and live for us today. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So how has betrayal and rejection affected me and my faith? Have I allowed rejection by family or friends to discourage me so deeply that I’ve given up the work God has called me to do? How can I be encouraged by Jesus’ ability to keep going despite betrayal, so that rejection not win the battle in my life?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.
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