A False Friend and Pragmatic Priests
In the world of real politics when your leader blocks the path to the money, you feign love and devotion while handing him over to his enemies. When a young upstart threatens to destroy your church and your influence for good, you seize him, manufacture false charges, and then hand him over to death.
Pragmatism spells everything out. It’s better for one innocent man to die then for an entire nation and its religious traditions to be destroyed. For the greater good you plot and destroy. If you’re on the other side, the side that remains faithful to the good, gifted leader, if you see the hypocrisy and the lust for power that’s threatening the man you love, shouldn’t you unholster your weapons and fight?
Luke’s account of Jesus’s betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane raises all these questions, and we have to decide which role we will play today.
“While Jesus was still talking, look, a crowd led by Judas, one of the Twelve. He approached Jesus to kiss Him. Jesus said, ‘Judas, with a kiss will you betray the Son of Man?’
When those with Jesus saw what was about to happen, they asked, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. Jesus responded, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the ear and healed him.
Then Jesus said to those who had come against Him, high priests, temple officers, and elders, ‘Have you come against me, as if I were a common thief, with swords and clubs. Daily, I was with you in the Temple and you didn’t lift a hand against me. But this is your hour, the hour when darkness has authority.” Luke 22:47-53
As I live my life this fall, will I play Judas’ role, the trusted disciple, who kept the money bag for Jesus’ band, but was stealing and then betrayed his Master for silver?
Will I play the role of the religious leaders who secretly arrested Jesus at night on false charges of insurrection and false prophecy?
Will I play the role of the faithful disciples who ripped out their weapons to defend Jesus?
Or will I trust that in the end Jesus is still in control, even during the times when it looks like the darkness has completely taken over?
When I read the story of the arrest in Gethsemane, it’s easy for me to piously boast about which character I will play. It’s much tougher when all hell breaks loose in a concrete situation and I’m tempted to run away in the night.
LORD, when a close friend betrays or when religious leaders I love and respect use weapons and stealth to take out innocent victims, I’m tempted to get angry and fight and then run away, like the disciples, and withdraw. Give me courage to stand with You, to obey your command to love my enemies (Luke 6:27-28), and to still believe You can touch and heal, even the enemies who are trying to destroy me.
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