Please forgive me if I seem a little tired, but this has been one heck of a night, and I am afraid the day is going to be even more brutal. Say again, what’s that? What am I talking about? Have you not heard? … the word is swirling around the city this morning, and is spreading like a wild fire with an energy which seems to only get stronger hour by hour. Confusion seems to be everywhere, and for a person like me, who does not know what to think, the emotion of the night has been very tiring and exhausting.
Personally, as a good Jew, I have always adhered to what they say in the Temple; but now someone, who appears to be so real and authentic, is questioning what is taught in the Temple. And now, the latest word on the street is that last night this fellow, this guy they call Jesus of Nazareth, gathered his Apostles and fed them bread and wine, but before doing so, listen to this, he did some kind of blessing for this food and drink and told them that it was now His Body and His Blood. He then instructs them that they must continue to “do this.”
The story is that they did just as this Jesus told them to do, and then just as their hearts were full of love, awe, and wonder He lead them out from the upper chambers where they had eaten and told them to follow him into the darkness of the night, to a special place where he had taught them in the past…a place that all knew. And now we are hearing that this good and just man was betrayed by one of his own followers, can you imagine, a traitor from within.
During the past hour fear has been justified as we hear that they have captured him and brought him to the authorities who seem to despise him, some even say that they feared him and they are scared of this man whom they have captured. Do you understand my confusion, they have captured him and they are afraid of him. I know not why they fear for it is not like he has an army or weapons. And now, this confusion in the streets is odd because just a week ago he was celebrated as he came to Jerusalem, but tonight we are told that they punched him and spit on him as they dragged before the authorities.
I have seen some people cheer and celebrate in his agony, but there are those of us who are brought to tears by the hatred shown to this man, who proclaims peace to the world and who some say is bringing somehow the dawn of a new era: the “Kingdom of God” some say he brings…I am afraid that this is going to be a very long day as there seems to be some type of spiritual battle going on. I must go now as I am afraid they may have followed me. I am afraid of what the authorities may do to him and to his followers…
The Gospel of St. John: Chapters 18 & 19
John 18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.
Jhn 18:2 – And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples.
Jhn 18:3 – Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.
Jhn 18:4 – Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?
Jhn 18:5 – They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.
Jhn 18:6 – As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.
Jhn 18:7 – Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth.
Jhn 18:8 – Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way:
On this ugliest of days;
the day that we crucified our Lord, and the innocence of one who is above all innocence endures a hardship, even the death, of a hateful and distorted world. A world in which often the most beautiful can become defaced and abused by an ugly and jealous world – a world which is angry at the joy and happiness of others and is only content within the emotions of their anger and jealousy of others. We will walk (for the next three hours) with our Lord as he is shown all of man’s hatred and anger…
As they move to the mount of Olives, called Gethsemane, we first cross over a brook called Kedron – a deep and dark ravine, northeast of Jerusalem which we reach before the Garden as we cross a deep and dark ditch, and is this not often the way of life?
Before we enjoy the fruit of our labor, that we must first labor and prior to seeing the beauty of the world we often must endure the many obstacles which enter into our lives. This journey of our Lord this night is filled with pain and heavy labor as He endures many obstacles prior to sitting upon His Throne this day – this throne, this day, we will call his Cross.
Matthew’s Gospel tells us that they had just finished the very first Eucharist, in which Jesus had told them (Mat 26:30, 36) “this is my body” and this is “my blood of the new testament,” and then Jesus and his disciples even sang an hymn as they proceeded to the garden. Often in life we move from a high to low – from having a meal with our Lord to running from and denying him, do we not do this today. The peace and love of partaking in our Lord during the Eucharist so easily seems to become an explosion of expletives’ as soon as someone angers us. Peace to hostility, within a blink of the eye. Anger is often close even we think it not – a trigger happy mind is often just one word away.
And now, Judas. . . who knew the place, for he was with Jesus oft-times (in the Gospel of John 8:1 they went to mount of Olives and Luke tells of the night that they abode in the mount) … so, oft-times with him, with his friend. Yes, we as friends often go to a common place to be together in friendship and love, and the normal thought, of this place of commonality, would be for convenience … hey let us meet here or let us meet there … for it is a meeting place, never would it be a place of betraying one’s friend, yea much less betraying of one whom you had called “master” in the past (Matt 26:25.)
And the pain of this night is just starting, for this was a place where they resorted together, He and his disciples—as friends of whom He would die for. The love He had for them, the joy they experienced would make one believe that this place was a garden of bliss for Jesus and his friends – a place where he taught them and lead them – a place where he loved them and corrected them – a place of true friendship.
So, the baseness of this abuse of knowledge that Judas had, derived from admission to the closest privacies of his Master, is most touchingly conveyed here, though nothing beyond bare narrative is expressed. Let us dwell a moment to reflect upon the pain, the abuse of knowledge, which caused Jesus to suffer. No, not a physical pain, for it will be great also, but the spiritual pain. The pain of when someone is stabbed in the back, by this word or that word, or by this action (or inaction), or by betrayal and lying…when the innocent – the victim, is viciously assaulted by misdeeds and distortions. It is as if one decides to cheat on their spouse, and as if this is not bad enough, they decide to go to that special place, maybe where they had had their first date together, so the sin becomes even worse by the sin using a prior knowledge viciously and so now the sin becomes even greater. How low can man go?
Jesus however; knowing that it is in this spot that Judas would expect to find Him, instead of avoiding it, goes Him thither, as a Lamb to the slaughter. Sometimes it is difficult to understand, why someone, who could avoid the pain, submits themselves, knowing in advance, the outcome. But, love is often that way. With our children and yes, even with one’s spouse, we often can avoid the pain by avoiding the situation. And yet it is the situation that makes the pain necessary. Although in avoiding the pain, if I do not this then they will never learn; or if I avoid this because of the pain it will inflict upon me then my love for them may not be a strong love, but a weak one. It is the sacrifices we make in life that brings the greatest benefits to us and others.
“No man taketh My life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself” (Jhn 10:18). We must always remember, we are in control of very little. We do not know the outcome of this action or that action, for actions bring counter actions and this continues what we call a chain of events…in which the ending is rarely known. But this is not so with our Lord…our God is so great, that it is He, who is in control. He knew from the day of His becoming Man what would be his fate. There are no unanswered questions to God and on this day of Him being betrayed, there was never any doubt of the ending. And as a Christian, we too must have this same certainty…if we will do as our Lord did and say to God “not my will, but thine, be done” – if we truly engrave those words into our heart, soul, and mind, then the outcome for us is as sure as it was for His Son…for He has told us:
“Jhn 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. 5 thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? 6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
So why did Jesus take his disciples to the mount of Olives – why did he go to this place of theirs where such fond memories were made – some have said, and I believe it true that they left the upper room after the First Supper so not to cloud the great gift that He had just given them, His Body and His Blood. This gift must never be tarnished for it is forever real and it is forever present…Amen.
This scene in the garden filled up the little bit of breathing time that they had left together, this awful interval, between the Supper and the Apprehension, the beginning scene of Mel Gibson’s movie Passion of the Christ portrays this scene in its first act. It is as if there is a brief “silence in heaven for just a few moments” between the breaking of the Apocalyptic Seals and the peal of the Trumpets of war as read in ( Rev 8:1 ) for it is as if the final war was about to begin between Heaven and Hell and this moment could be described as St. John wrote his Revelation in Chapter 8
“Rev 8:1 And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. 2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. 3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. 5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.”
It seems that these moments have much in common, and the agony would have been too terrible for the upper room; nor would Jesus place a cloud over the delightful actions associated the last Passover and the first Supper by pouring out the anguish of His soul there. The garden, however, with its amplitude, its shady olives, its endeared associations, would be congenial to His heart. Here He had room enough to retire–first, from eight of them, and then from the more favored three; and here, when that mysterious scene was over, the stillness would only be broken by the tread of the traitor.
(Meditation thoughts and questions:
- They tread a deep and dark ravine, a ditch. Do I have ravines in my life keeping me, separating me, from my God? What and where are those ditches and how can I traverse them?
- How much of my life do I really control? Are my plans often delayed or changed by this event or that? How can I gain more control of my life?
- Doubt often weakens us and makes us question all things and doubt blocks out trust. As a Christian, how are we to deal with doubt and how can we build upon our Trust in Christ?)
If I was a gambling man, I would bet that Judas was a prideful man. Which way would you bet – prideful or not? He seemed so sure that he knew what was best and when things did not exactly go the way that he imagined, he became an angry man. This anger, as is usually the case, made the work of Satan much easier. Judas convinced himself, which is easy to do when angry (you know how it works when we work ourselves up into a lather over something we often forget years later) and because Jesus was not doing it “right” (the way Judas desired) this impatient man decided that he would “speed up the process” of returning Israel to its proper position within the world. It is a shame that Judas did not recall the words of the great prophets Isaiah and Jerimiah for they had said:
“Isa 57:13 … but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land and
Jer 39:18 … For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, … because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD.”
Now, moving forward that night, with Judas, we read Judas then — the one – “He that was called Judas, one of the Twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.” says Luke ( Luk 22:47). This language used seems to brand Judas with a peculiar infamy, as if saying, yes he was in the sacred circle while in reality having no sense of it.
We have all known people like this – they are part of this group or that group (or both) while not really being a part. To be part of a group can make one feel better and give confidence, you know – raises their esteem, by being seen with the group while in reality not being a true member; maybe, a member by their association to the group but not a member by their actions or works. This seems to be the man that became angry, maybe he was ridiculed – who knows, but for whatever reason he allowed himself to become just the opposite of what he confessed. He said the words, but they were obviously not of his heart, soul, and mind.
We also have this band of men—they were “detached by the Romans who were on duty at the festival for the purpose of maintaining order”, thus you can imagine there state of mind. I am sure it was not very good nor pleasant – to be assigned to controlling the mobs that fled to Jerusalem during the Passover would not have been a job which one sought after. And with them, to add to the level of anxiety, were officers from the chief priests and Pharisees–captains of the temple and armed Levites – oh you know this had to be a miserable group of people, going through ditches in the darkness of night together – the Romans not liking the Jews and the Jews despising the Romans – and they together as one had one mission – to get this one man, called Jesus.
They had lanterns and torches—By all accounts there was a full moon this night, but just in case He should have secreted Himself, hid somewhere in the dark ravine, they bring the means of exposing all of its hiding-places, not knowing whom they had to deal with. One can only imagine the scene, as the soldiers were probably drinking (dealing with the Jews would make one do such), slipping and sliding all the while verbally abusing one another as they searched for Jesus, you could probably hear their frustration as they probably murmured to one another “let’s get this over with.”
Eventually they arrive to begin their devious plot. For whatever reason Judas, out of his desire to mock Jesus or maybe required and forced by the Jews in advance for we now read: “Now he that betrayed Him had given them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He, hold Him fast” ( Mat 26:48 ). The one that betrays is now instructing the Romans and Jews to “hold Him fast.” Once again, it seems that just doing the filthy deed is not enough, but now we seeing a type of boasting by Judas giving instructions and even demanding that they “hold Him fast.” This showing of power, over those he was leading to capture Jesus, portrays the same condition of instructing demons to do this or do that which CS Lewis writes of in The Screwtape letters as we see this same type of works unfolding this night.
The cold-bloodedness of this speech was only exceeded by the deed itself. “And Judas went before them [ Luk 22:47 ], and forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master, and kissed Him” ( Mat 26:49;)
“And kissed him” – oh these words of pure deception always sends chills down my spine each time I read them – words of such betrayal that it exceeds my ability to fully understand their ugliness when used against one’s God – and hear them – would not these words normally indicate affection and love? And now distorted and used by Satan as hate and pain replace affection and love. To kiss one – to love one we read:
In Exodus Exd 4:27-28 “the LORD said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him. 28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him. From the Old Testament we move to the New:
In the Gospel of Luke (7:35) we read of the woman who was a sinner: And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: … And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. To kiss ones feet even exalts the love shown. Normally a kiss is sought; however my friends, normal was not this night nor these times.
Continued next week at 9:15 Adult Sunday School Class