August 27, 2017
Every year, the US publishes a list of the most popular children’s names for the previous year. So, for example, in 2016, the most popular girl’s name was – anybody want to guess? Sophia. The most popular boy’s name was, guesses? Jackson. As I read through the top 100 names, while I was incredibly disappointed Scott did not make the list, others were notably and shockingly absent.
The first was Brutus. When I was in high school, my best friend had a Great Dane named Brutus. Do an image search, and you’ll find lots of dogs named Brutus. As many of you may remember from Act 3, Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Brutus was the trusted friend who murdered Caesar in the Senate. Brutus has become known as one of the most famous traitors in history. I’ve personally never known someone named Brutus. I know, someone’s going to say, “I have a great uncle on my mother’s side from Bosnia named Brutus.” That’s great – I’m sure there are exceptions – he still didn’t make the top 100.
I conducted another search for the name Benedict. I love Eggs Benedict – English muffin, poached egg, Canadian bacon, real Hollandaise sauce – not that powder stuff. But the name Benedict did not appear in the top 100 either. Why? Most of you know General Benedict Arnold is perhaps the most famous traitor in American history. During the American Revolutionary War, he corroborated with the enemy, promising to hand over West Point to the British in trade for money and a commission in the British Army. The plot was uncovered and Benedict was forced to flee. Soon after, he actually led British forces into battle against the Continental Army with whom he had served. He eventually went to England, where he died in relative obscurity. Even the British don’t care for traitors.
There are other traitors we could discuss, but without doubt, the most famous of all traitors – his picture appears next to the definition of traitor in most dictionaries is – Judas. Judas did not appear in the top 100 last year, or any year I could find. Most people don’t even name their dogs Judas. His traitor story is found in our text today, Mark 14:43-52. It’s a story you know, the story of the betrayal and arrest of Jesus Christ. Let’s read that.
Please notice there are actually three betrayals that take place, which form our outline:
- First is the Betrayal by the Crowd (43)
- Second is the Betrayal by Judas (44-45)
- And then third, the Betrayal by the Disciples (46-52)
As we begin, you should know this story is about Jesus. Which means, we’re continuing to learn about the price Jesus paid for our redemption. Today, the irreversible events leading to His crucifixion are put into motion, beginning with His betrayal and arrest. There’s not a lot of personal application we’ll make to our lives – because here’s the point – we could not have done what Jesus did. Only His death and resurrection secured our salvation. So, we’re going to focus on Jesus and what happened to Him. Let’s start by looking at the large crowd that came to get Him in verse 43.
It was Thursday night, probably after midnight by now. Jesus and His 11 remaining disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. He’d left 8 of the disciples at the entrance and gone about a stone’s throw into this olive tree garden. Then, He left the other three, Peter, James and John, behind to watch and pray with Him. He went another stone’s throw into the garden and prayed three times – between each time returning to find His disciples asleep. After the third time, He woke them with these words in verse 41, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough, the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”
While He was still speaking, He looked across the garden to the entrance and saw the crowd, led by Judas, making their way toward Him. Matthew calls it a large crowd – it was comprised of different groups of people. Mark says they came from the chief priests, scribes and elders – that’s the Sanhedrin, making this an official delegation. John actually says it included a Roman cohort. A cohort usually consisted of 600 men. Along with them Luke says officers from the temple came, that is, the temple police, and the chief priests and elders themselves. This was a large, hostile group.
The soldiers would have been carrying the swords, the police the clubs. I don’t know if all 600 men from the Roman cohort were there. I do think this was a large group – a hundred, maybe more, armed men who had come to arrest Jesus. Now, why would the Roman soldiers be involved at this point? No doubt Jesus had been accused by the Jewish leaders of insurrection – a capital offence requiring Roman intervention – and the Romans were especially careful during Passover to squash any rebellion. Remember, they already arrested Barabbas, a murderous seditionist. Jesus, who claimed to be a king, would not be received by the Romans.
I say this large group betrayed Him because Jesus says, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? Every day I was with you in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me.” I haven’t been hiding – why didn’t you take Me then, in front of the crowds? And Luke adds these interesting words – Jesus said, “but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.” In other words, I was there with you in the temple, with all the people – were you scared to take me then? Fine – this is the hour – the power of darkness is with you – take Me now.
Now again, why do you suppose they sent so many to get Jesus? Why such a large crowd? Again, I don’t know if there were 600 or not, but it was a big group. Why? I think they were scared. I think they had heard the stories – that once a crowd in Nazareth had tried to throw Him off the cliff, and were unable. They had heard how another crowd started to stone Him, and He just walked away. They had heard about His miracles – they had even accused Him of being empowered by Satan. Once before, the temple police had been sent to arrest Him, and they came back astounded at His teaching, empty-handed. Perhaps they thought, this time, there will be no escaping.
So get the picture in your mind. Jesus, surrounded by a large crowd of armed men. He’s got 11 very courageous disciples with two swords. Groggy, sleepy disciples. That’s the picture. I’m sure the crowd’s feeling pretty powerful – pretty confident – big, bad, and mean. And something happens that Mark, for some reason, does not record. But John does:
John 18:4 says, “So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them” – stop right there. Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him – knowing everything that would happen over the next 12 hours or so – the arrest, the beatings, the scourgings, the crucifixion, went forth to them. Get that – Father, let this cup pass from Me. He could have run. He knew what was coming. And He went out to them. Throughout the gospels, we are constantly reminded Jesus willingly went to the cross for us. Did He struggle in His humanity? You bet. Was He obedient? You bet.
He “went forth and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ They answered Him, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ He said to them [two simple words, ego eimi], ‘I am He.’ And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” Why? Because I Am is the name of God, introduced to Moses at the burning bush. Jesus was saying two things – first, I Am that I Am – I Am God. And second, you may think you’re in charge, but you are not in control. I Am.
Get the picture. Large group of men, armed to the teeth. Jesus, an itinerant Rabbi, 11 sleepy disciples [you know, bashful, dopey, sleepy, grumpy, sneezy, goofy] – former fishermen and tax collectors. Big bad men – this is looking a lot like David and Goliath. Who is it that you want? I Am – boom! They fall to the ground. I firmly believe at this point Jesus could have said nothing and walked right out again – stepped right over the top of them – just like He had done before. But not this time – because now was His time. So He asked them again, “Who are you looking for?” And from the ground, they look up and say, “Jesus the Nazarene.” And He said, “I told you, I am He – so let these other ones go.” And they got up and arrested Him.
John underscores the truth that Jesus was a willing sacrifice. It really was true, as Jesus would later tell Pilate, “You could have no power over Me at all if it were not given you from above.”
You ever feel outnumbered? Tiny? Small? Like those who are against you are greater than those with you? May I remind you – greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. The old saying is true – you plus God make a majority – no matter the crowds, no matter how big, bad and threatening – no matter how sharp the swords or menacing the clubs. They are not in control – God is. I do not want to sound flippant or trite – but even if you find yourself in a small band of brothers and sisters, surrounded by those who threaten you because of your faith, God is still in control. He doesn’t promise to deliver – but He is in charge.
Which brings us to our second point, the infamous betrayal by Judas Iscariot. Notice in verse 43 Mark refers to Judas as one of the twelve. That’s fascinating. It’s like we forgot or something. Not exactly. Did you know Judas is referred to as one of the twelve by every gospel writer – in fact, eight of the nine times the phrase appears, it’s referring to Judas? The only other disciple referred to as one of the twelve, and only once – was Thomas in John 20. Judas is referred to over and over, including here, as one of the twelve. Why? I believe it is to emphasize the enormity of his betrayal. This wasn’t just any Tom, Dick or Harry. This was Judas – and not just any Judas. Judas was a common name back then – but it isn’t now. This was Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve. One of the actual band of Jesus’ brothers – His disciples – the one who betrayed Him.
Interesting, most movies or paintings displaying Judas depict him as this mousy, beady-eyed weasel who looks like a crook. Look closely – the guy on the left even has pointed ears. His name was Basil Rathbone and he played the lead character in a play called Judas in 1929. Stereotypical. But remember, earlier that evening, when Jesus said to the disciples, one you will betray Me, none of them said – is it Judas? Must be Judas – look at him, he looks like a weasel. That’s not what they said.
There have been all kinds of legends about this guy – mainly from apocryphal writings – that is, writings about this time that were not considered Scripture. One such writing, The Story of Joseph of Arimathea says Judas was a nephew to the high priest Caiaphas and had been sent from the beginning to infiltrate Jesus’ band of disciples. Why? Because the thought of one of the twelve actually betraying Jesus is difficult to accept. But he did – because there can be wolves among the sheep. People can fake being followers of Christ for what they can get out of it – for Judas, it was money. Turn on Christian TV – you’ll see lots of Judases.
Another book called The Acts of Pilate says after the betrayal, Judas went home to tell his wife who was roasting a chicken. He told his wife he was going to commit suicide because he was afraid Jesus was going to rise from the dead. She mocked him and said Jesus could no more rise from the dead than the chicken she was cooking would jump out of the fire. The legend says the chicken did exactly that.
All we really know about Judas is he was one of the twelve – a professing disciple, probably from the area of Kerioth, who never really accepted Jesus, and who betrayed Him. As you know, Judas had gone to the chief priests and elders and agreed to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. He had been looking for an opportune time – but remember, he was supposed to wait until after the 8-day celebration of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. But, Jesus said now was the time – He sent Judas to get the crowd. So even though the feast had just begun that night with the Passover, Judas acted. Jesus had tipped over the domino to begin the chain of events.
There is one additional piece of information you should know. John 13 says Satan entered Judas at the last supper, right before he left. Judas was possessed by Satan himself. While he was culpable for his actions in rejecting and betraying the Messiah, his actions were made that much worse by the indwelling presence of none other than Satan himself. It adds to the vileness of the event. In the garden, the man Judas kissed the man Jesus – in betrayal. But it was more. In the garden, Satan, in betrayal, kissed God. One said it this way: evil was kissing holiness, murder was kissing life, the life stealer was killing the life giver, hatred was kissing love, perdition was kissing grace. It is the picture of absolute hypocrisy. It was a kiss to kill.
But I want you to remember: the chief priests, elders, scribes, Judas and even Satan himself was not in charge – God was. And while they wanted to wait until after the festival – Jesus said – no, you’ll take Me when I say. You’ll take Me now – at the Passover – because I am the Passover Lamb, come to take away the sins of the world.
Judas had left quickly to gather this large mob. He told them, the one I kiss is Jesus – arrest Him. Now, you may wonder – why did Jesus have to be identified? He was rather well-known – but, it was night, dark – no street lamps – and they wanted there to be no confusion – no mistake. He’d slipped away before – not this time. Judas, you’ve been with Him for three years – identify Him, and we’ll take over.
Perhaps Judas led the crowd to the upper room first – it was the last place he’d seen Jesus. But the place was empty. So, after some thought, he realized Jesus would most likely be at the Garden. He had often gathered there with His disciples to pray. So they made their way through the streets, across the Kidron Valley, to Gethsemane. And Judas marched up to Jesus in great pretence and said, “Rabbi,” and kissed Him. Rabbi was a term of respect.
A kiss was a common form of greeting at this time – but there were different kinds of kisses. A slave would sometimes kiss the feet of his master. Ordinary servants may kiss the hand of the master. To kiss the hem of the garment was a sign of reverence and devotion. But an embrace and a kiss on the cheek was a sign of close affection and love, reserved for those with whom you had a close, personal relationship. Judas, one of the twelve, chose the latter of these kisses – heightening further the atrocity of the event. In feigned devotion, loving friendship, Judas kissed Jesus. Luke tells us Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” By this act of friendship – this act of commitment and relationship, are you betraying Me?
It was probably at this point the falling to the ground thing happened. After which, they laid hands on Jesus, seized Him. Which brings us to our third point, The Betrayal of the Disciples. One of those with Jesus – I wonder who was? John says, surprise, “Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear” – John even tells us his name – Malchus – the servant of the high priest.
There are two very important things I want you to see. First, Mark doesn’t record it, but Jesus healed the man. Bent over, picked up the ear, and put it back on. Jesus was making clear this was not a physical battle – it was a spiritual battle. Remember, Satan was present, and so was God. Matthew says Jesus said to Peter, put your sword back. Don’t you know those who take up the sword will perish by the sword? This is not a physical battle, Peter – put your sword away – I don’t need it.
Peter, there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye. Don’t you know that I could at this moment call 12 legions of angels – one for Me, and one for each of you eleven disciples – 12 legions of angels. A legion was over 6,000 – don’t you know, Peter, I could call 72,000 angels if I wanted to? How much damage could that kind of force do? One angel in Exodus 12 went throughout Egypt and killed all the firstborn. One angel went into the camp of the Assyrians in II Kings 19 and killed 185,000 soldiers. In Revelation, we read of just a few angels wreaking havoc on the entire planet. How much damage could 72,000 angels do when their God, who was being mistreated, called for them?
Peter, you don’t understand. This is the reason for which I’ve come. This is my hour – this is the hour of darkness. Satan had entered Judas – he was present in this garden – just like the first garden. Only this time, the second Adam would not be tripped up. There is a real sense in which Satan is attacking God. And yet, Jesus would ultimately win by His death and resurrection – but victory went through the cross. And it would not be won with a physical sword.
Later, Jesus would tell Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Jesus’ kingdom is not an earthly kingdom, it is a kingdom of peace. As His followers, we bring the peace offered by the Prince of Peace. Can I suggest that any so-called holy war fought in the name of Christ has never been holy.
So also, as followers of Christ, our battles are not physical battles against physical people. We must remember that. People are not the enemy. Yes, I understand unbelievers are not children of God, that they are children of the devil – that’s what Jesus said. Yes, I understand Paul says in our unredeemed state, we are enemies of God. But that’s only because they have been captured by the evil one – that’s why we use the term, redemption – to redeem is to buy them back. To recapture them, if you will.
It’s why Paul said in II Corinthians 10:4, “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” – that is, fortresses of the evil one. It’s why Paul would say in Ephesians 6, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
Peter, put your sword away – this is not a physical battle, this is a spiritual battle. And a spiritual battle is one most often fought on your knees, as I instructed you to do a couple of hours ago. The fact is, Peter boasted too loudly, prayed too little, slept too much, and acted too fast. And as a result, he always seemed to miss what the Lord was saying and doing.
And the crowd missed it, too. Isn’t it interesting that this large crowd, bent on arresting Him, missed the fact that with one little phrase, ego eimi, I am, they all fell to the ground. No sword, no clubs, no weapons at all, and He leveled them. They missed the fact when a physical sword was used, He bent over and put the guy’s ear back on. They missed it – they seized Him, they arrested Him, and took Him to His death.
The second and thing I want you to see is this. I’ve already referenced it, but having prayed, having received strength, Jesus was resolved to face what lay before Him – because it was a fulfillment of unalterable prophecy. He says to the crowd in verse 49 – you guys didn’t arrest Me in the temple, did you? You want to know why? Because all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures and the prophets – Psalm 41:9 said that a close friend would betray the Messiah. Isaiah said that He would be treated like a common criminal. Zechariah said strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter. The point is this: you guys are just pawns. You think you’re marching to the orders of the chief priests, scribes and elders, the Roman governors – but you’re not. You’re marching to the orders of God and the fulfillment of His Scriptures. And Jesus willingly allowed Himself to be seized, to be arrested, to be taken, to be crucified. Because it was the plan of the ages, revealed in Scripture.
All of this led to the betrayal of all the disciples in verse 50. A few short, terse words, “And they all left Him and fled.” Just like He said. And the betrayal was complete. Which brings us to the brink of the brutal, savage suffering of the cross.
As we close, Mark alone records verses 51 and 52. A young man was following Him – that is Jesus. He’s not identified, and lots of people through the centuries have tried to do so. The most popular, and perhaps most reasonable, is that it was the author of this book – John Mark himself.
There’s lot of rationale for that. From this, we know he wasn’t one of the twelve – they would not be dressed this way. Apparently, he had quickly dressed to follow Jesus and the twelve to the garden. He stood by, until Jesus was seized. Then he, like everyone else, fled. His identity isn’t important. What he did, is. He fled like everyone else – like you would have, like I would have. And Jesus went to the cross alone – just like He predicted. It wasn’t just the Twelve who fled. And so, Jesus went alone, to die for people who would not even stand by His side. Sleepers. Betrayers. Deserters. Sinners. Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.