Portrait of a Traitor
[Luke chapter 22, verses 39-53]
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Last week when we left off at verse 38, Jesus had just finished making a point with his disciples as the conversation continued after the Last Supper Passover celebration was over with. While the apostles never took anything with them during the entire 3 ½ years they were with him and still had all their needs met, Jesus was now telling them to get prepared for battle: “…if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one…”, Jesus told them. As you can see here, it is perfectly OK for Christian believers to own weapons, meaning firearms of one kind or another. Although the mainstream news media may say otherwise, if it’s OK with Jesus then it’s fine with me too! That’s why we have our Second Amendment to the US Constitution. If more Christians owned firearms, church massacres such as what happened in Texas this past week would stop immediately. Any human being caught trying to shoot up a church would similarly be stopped – immediately!!
This week as we pick up at verse 39, Jesus and the apostles – minus Judas at this point – go out to pray at the Mount of Olives. As we will see, the remaining apostles have trouble staying awake, but with good reason. Beginning right there it reads: “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone’s throw from them, and knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him to strengthen him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22, verses 39-44)
When Jesus told the disciples to pray that they not fall into temptation, they probably thought he meant they should not allow themselves to be distracted, and to maintain their guard. They had no way of knowing that the hour of Jesus’ betrayal was at hand. It is apparent from the apostle Luke’s narrative that Jesus was under enormous duress, even to the point of asking his Father in heaven to “take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done”. Jesus knew what he had to do, and what he was about to undergo, and what he was feeling was raw fear – understandably – and an overwhelming sense of dread. This was so extreme that Jesus had to be strengthened by an angel to uphold him, for he could barely uphold himself any longer. “…being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” This is a clear indication of being under extreme stress, to the point that Jesus was drenched in sweat mixed with blood. Although it is medically possible for this to occur, few if any human beings could survive this without having a stroke, aneurysm or a heart attack. Jesus Christ is the only known exception to this, and even then it took an angel to help him through it. And just think – his suffering had just barely begun! Now let’s move on to the 2nd part of this Biblical lesson.
“When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. ‘Why are you sleeping?’, he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’ While he was still speaking, a crowd came up, and a man 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 Guards, and the elders, who had come for him, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you come after me 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.’” (Luke 22, verses 45-53)
The remaining apostles, as I wrote further above, all fell asleep while Jesus was praying. But this was not a sleep having its origins in laziness in any way. Luke’s narrative states that Jesus “…found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.” The disciples, who were only a stone’s throw away from Jesus, had become anguished and sorrowful in spirit after seeing Jesus become the same way during the course of his prayer. They had literally cried themselves to sleep because our Lord’s sorrow was so extreme! Now we can all take a lesson from this. True followers of Christ have lots of empathy towards others. When they are happy, so are we. When they are sad and sorrowful, so are we. We laugh when they do, and we weep with them to console them in their sorrow. So, one of the ways we can tell whether someone is an authentic Christian is by how much empathy they have for other people. I can only imagine how startled the disciples must have been to have been awoken by a sweat-and-blood-drenched Jesus. You have no doubt noticed they didn’t go back to sleep after that. I wouldn’t have either!
When the crowd of people arrived, led by Judas Iscariot, Jesus already knew what he was there to do, as we saw in last week’s study. So Jesus asks 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?” Having seen for themselves that it was Judas who was the traitor to our Lord and Savior, the disciples were clearly ready to kill him where he stood! Judging by the legal standards of that time, it is quite possible that a court of law would have acquitted the apostles had they killed Judas since he was a proven traitor at this point. There’s really no way to know for sure, but if ever there was a man who stood for justice, it was Jesus, because he is just like his Father! That’s why in the following verse reads, “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.” Hurt no one, Jesus admonished whichever disciple it was that cut off the servant’s ear. What Jesus already knew was that Judas would be taking care of his own demise. He would not be requiring any assistance, as we will see in a later study.
“Am I leading a rebellion, that you come after me with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me.” At this point Jesus was at the end of his 3 ½ year ministry on earth. Although he did remain on the earth for 40 additional days and nights after his resurrection, I am not counting that here. But the same bunch of people from the Temple at Jerusalem who had been following Jesus around all this time – those who I have written about previously – were the same ones Judas had sold Jesus out to. And now they were here to arrest him on some trumped-up charges so they could hand him over to the Roman authorities. They had had every opportunity over the previous 42 months, Jesus complained to them, to arrest him. Yet they couldn’t do that until a turncoat like Judas came along. ‘If it weren’t for Judas’, Jesus was telling them, ‘we wouldn’t be having this conversation.’ This, to put it mildly, was put very appropriately.
“But this is your hour – when darkness reigns.” ‘This is your hour, but mine is fast approaching.’ That’s exactly what Jesus was telling his captors, right in front of the disciples, Judas, and the chief priests and everybody within earshot, which must have been several dozen people altogether. He knew why they were there, and Jesus knew what was about to happen to him. How else could our Lord and Kinsman Redeemer have sweated droplets of blood just beforehand? Jesus knew they were there to forcibly take him to his executioners. The chief priests, temple guards and the elders – the religious leaders of the time who collectively saw Jesus as a threat to their livelihoods – probably knew that Jesus knew, but evidently that made no difference to them, and Jesus must have known that as well. ‘I know’, Jesus was saying, ‘why you’re here. Let’s just get this over and done with.’ And next week we’ll study the balance of Luke chapter 22, the trial of Jesus before Pilate and Herod. This will also include some commentary on Peter’s denial of Christ. Until then, don’t forget to pray often and to do so earnestly. Because that’s what Jesus still wants us to do, even after all these centuries. How can we have a relationship with Christ if we never or seldom talk to him? Pray and build up your relationship with your Savior. Talk to God and let him answer you. There is much power to be derived from this, a Spiritual power that cannot be denied. Engage with it, and let Jesus engage with you.