And while he yet spoke, see, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves…
After the third time praying in Gethsemane, Jesus came to his slumbering disciples, and said, "Sleep on now, and take your rest" - the opportunity for watching is past. Note: Opportunities pass, never to return; therefore we should never fail to improve them in their passing. "Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners" - the hour of trial is come for which watchings should have prepared. "Arise, let us be going," not to run away from the crisis, but to meet it (cf. John 18:4). "Behold, he is at hand. that betrayeth me. And while he yet spake, lo, Judas," etc. Note here, and admire -
I. THE SUBMISSION OF JESUS TO JUDAS.
1. He might have avoided him.
(1) He knew of his coming (see vers. 45, 46). Every particular of the tragedy was vividly presented to his prophetic spirit.
(2) The Miracle worker had not lost his resources. On a former occasion, when hurried by an infuriated rabble to the brow of the hill at Nazareth, that they might throw him headlong, he knew how to pass through the midst of them (see Luke 4:30). How he did this we are not informed - whether he shut their eyes or overawed them by the sense of his majesty. But Judas knew the fact, and was probably influenced by the recollection of it when he nervously said, "Hold him fast." Instead of avoiding the traitor:
2. He endured his kiss.
(1) A kiss is the token of allegiance and friendship (see Psalm 2:12).
(2) With Judas the token of friendship was made the sign of treachery. The kiss of Judas came to be an expression for the greatest of all hypocrisies - the betrayal of innocence by simulated love. The "angel of light" seeks hellish ends in heavenly means.
(3) By enduring that infamous kiss Jesus permitted the traitor to show himself up. God's permission is judicially given to the sinner to sin. "Do that for which thou art come." Sin is its own chastiser.
3. He called him "friend," or "companion."
(1) Thus he identified himself as the Ahithophel of prophecy (cf. 2 Samuel 15:12; Psalm 41:9; Psalm 55:12-14).
(2) He was "one of the twelve." The vilest wretches lurk in the best company.
(3) Once, probably, Judas had been as sincere a friend to Jesus as Ahithophel had been to David. The Heart searcher would not have chosen him for a disciple and promoted him to the apostolate unless he had then been a true man.
(4) But how fearfully bad he fallen! A leader of the flock of Christ has become the leader of a mob of ruffians against his life. Apostates from religion become its bitterest foes. Julian and Judas are notable examples.
(5) There is truth in the irony of the term "friend." The working out of the redemption and salvation of men was the great purpose cherished in the heart of Christ. Judas, therefore, unwittingly befriended him in furthering his sufferings. Jesus called Peter "Satan" for hindering him (see Matthew 16:22, 23). God brings good out of the evil working of the wicked.
II. THE SUBMISSION OF JESUS TO THE RABBLE.
1. He might have resisted them.
(1) With what authority did he drive the throng of sacrilegious traders from the temple (see Matthew 21:12, 13)!
(2) He was the same Miracle-worker still. At the utterance of the words, "I am he," they were so overpowered that "they went backward, and fell to the ground" (see John 18:6). They never could have approached him without his consent. The power that restored the ear of Malchus could not have been controlled by that of Malchus and his company.
(3) He might have had "more than twelve legions of angels." Note:
(a) The "innumerable company of angels" are marshalled into ranks.
(b) The angels were to Elisha "chariots of fire and horses of fire," not only to secure him, but to consume his assailants (cf. 2 Kings 1:10-15; 2 Kings 2:11; 2 Kings 6:14-17; Psalm 104:4).
(c) If a single angel could destroy a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians at a stroke (2 Kings 19:35), what might not "twelve legions" do?
2. He forbade an appeal to the sword.
(1) Had he made such an appeal, there would have been a popular response. The people were disposed even forcibly to make Jesus their Warrior-King (see John 6:15). They readily followed false Christs who relied upon the sword. Peter was in sympathy with his nation when he weilded the sword.
(2) But Jesus rebuked the impetuosity of Peter. He struck without asking, "Shall we smite with the sword? "(see Luke 22:49). Peter did not intend evil, but intemperate zeal is often evil in its results.
(3) He reproved him for appealing to the sword.
(a) It was needless, for Christ could have received succour from his Father. God has no need of our sins to bring about his purposes.
(b) It was dangerous, viz. both to himself and his fellow disciples. For "he that; takes the sword shall perish by the sword."
(c) It evinced ignorance of the Scriptures. They teach that the way to glory is through suffering rather than through fighting. Peter would have the end without the means
(d) Peter's unsanctified zeal was another step toward his fall, by increasing his subsequent fear of detection.
(4) To show that he did not wish to be defended by carnal weapons, the Lord healed the ear of Malchus (see Luke 22:51). The soldiers of Christ do not war after the flesh (see 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4).
3. Instead of resisting, he reasoned.
(1) "Are ye come out as against a robber, with swords and staves?" Judaea at this time was infested with thieves, and every one will lend a hand to stop a thief.
(2) The "swords" were those of the "cohort" of the chiliarch, or "chief captain" - probably Roman soldiers from the Tower of Antonia (cf. ver. 45; John 18:12). The "slaves" were those of the creatures of the high priest. These classes were usually at variance; but, like Pilate and Herod, they find a point of agreement in hostility to Christ.
(3) Thus they treated as a robber him that came to "restore" that he "took not away" (see Psalm 69:4). He became a prisoner that he might set us at liberty. "If therefore ye seek me, let these go their way" (see John 18:8, 9).
(4) "I sat daily in the temple teaching, and ye took me not." How comes this change in your conduct? Is it not unreasonable and inconsistent? Why come clandestinely in the night? Who looks most like the criminal?
III. THE SUBMISSION OF JESUS TO GOD.
1. For the vindication of his truth.
(1) "How then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" Jesus carried the Law of God in his heart.
(2) They were "a great multitude" that came to arrest him, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled which saith, "Lord, how are they increased that trouble me!" (Psalm 3:1).
(3) By being pursued as a thief, "he was numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). This Scripture met a further accomplishment when he was afterwards crucified between two malafactors (see Mark 15:27, 28).
(4) He was shamefully deserted by his disciples. In their conduct they evinced
For why should they through fear of death forsake the Fountain of life (see John 6:67, 68)? But this desertion was to be a part of Messiah's suffering (cf. Job 19:13; Psalm 38:11; Isaiah 63:3-5).
(5) The Scripture must be fulfilled that Christ should be "led as a lamb to the slaughter" (Isaiah 53:7). Had he summoned the angels, he would not have been so led. Note: Nothing must be done against the fulfilment of the Scriptures.
2. For the vindication of his goodness.
(1) The sword of the Lord was drawn against Christ (see Zechariah 13:7). The Great One had to be smitten that the "little ones" might go free.
(2) The Redeemer of mankind had afterwards to become the Intercessor for the salvation of believers.
(3) He had to become the Example of the triumph of patience, of the victories of suffering. He accordingly denounced the human doctrine of victory by the sword, by asserting the converse, viz. "All they that take the sword shall perish by the sword."
(4) History has given its verdict. The Jews who put our Lord to death by the sword of the Romans perished by the same Roman sword. The Romans who used the sword against Christ perished by the sword of the Goths. The doom of persecuting Churches and of persecutors also is pre-written here (see Revelation 13:10). Reflect: Are there not still found among the disciples:
1. Those who betray Christ and his cause?
2. Who deny him and his people?
3. Who abandon him, his cause, his people, and his truth? - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.