We are following Jesus to the cross in this Passion week.
In my last blog post, I talked about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He is in deep agony, as he considers the horrors of the cross. His trial on trumped-up charges before a kangaroo court of injustice will soon begin.
Enter the betrayer, Judas Iscariot.
In films about the life of Christ, Judas has sometimes been portrayed sympathetically. He is presented as a man who wanted the world to know Jesus was Messiah, and he was simply trying to get the Lord to declare Himself.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Judas was a wicked man who, despite the fact that he had spent three years walking and talking with Jesus, cold-heartedly betrayed Him.
What’s even worse is the way he did it.
Why a Kiss?
Luke’s Gospel describes the scene for us vividly:
“And while He was still speaking, behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?'” (Luke 22:47-48)
Why did Judas betray Him with a kiss? Why not just a gesture like pointing at Jesus?
Because Judas was a “hypocrite extraordinaire.” Even in this, his hour of ultimate betrayal, he wanted to appear to be spiritual!
Like when he falsely accused Mary for anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume because that could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Scripture tells us he said this was not because he cared for the poor, but because he was in charge of the money and he was effectively “skimming off the top.”
Peter to the rescue!
Despite his greed and wickedness, Judas still wanted to come off as a super-spiritual man. This is almost like a sickness, wanting to look good on the outside when you are diseased on the inside.
When it says that Judas kissed Him, this literally means Judas “smothered Jesus with kisses.” In other words, he kissed him repeatedly. This was a “kiss from hell.”
The disciples are outraged and want to take action! They are ready to take up swords and defend Jesus.
Peter wasn’t waiting around. He took action.
“When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, ‘Lord, shall we strike with the sword?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear” (Luke 22:49-50 NKJV)
Old Peter can’t take it anymore and pulls out a sword and takes a swing,
cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant (whose name was Malchus).
On one hand, we want to commend Peter for his act of bravery. But on the other hand, Jesus did not commend this action and told Peter to put the sword away.
Boasting when he should have been listening
Poor Peter just couldn’t get it right. He was boasting when He should have been listening, and sleeping when he should have been praying. Now he was fighting when he should have been surrendering.
What was he thinking? He wasn’t! He was reacting. Peter seemed to be an emotional man, given to the impulse of the moment.
Peter made a number of mistakes when he struck Malchus, and these are mistakes that we all make.
He was fighting the wrong enemy with the wrong weapon! Our enemies are not flesh and blood, and they cannot be defeated with ordinary weapons. Scripture says, “The weapons of our warfare are not physical but mighty before God” (2 Corinthians 10:4 AMPLIFIED).
Preaching the gospel and praying are two of our most powerful weapons in our arsenal. Sadly, they are often if not usually neglected.
The last miracle of Jesus
In this midst of this flurry of activity in the garden, very few noticed the last miracle of His earthly ministry. It was not a big, flashy, go-out-with-a-bang miracle, but a quiet one.
This final miracle showed His true heart. He healed the ear of one of the ones who came to arrest him. As Luke 22:51 says, “And He touched his ear and healed him” (NKJV).
If ever a man did not “deserve” a healing, it was Malchus. He probably got sliced by Peter because he was leading the charge against Jesus. And yet Jesus had compassion on him.
Our Lord received no thanks from this man (that we know of). But Jesus, in the face of this lynch mob, had not forgotten about the need of the individual.
It’s also worth noting the last miracle performed by Jesus was made necessary because of a blundering disciple. And He probably has been busy ever since then, healing the wounds made by blundering disciples.
Let’s use those “secret weapons” God has given to us as the Church, praying and preaching the gospel, especially as Easter approaches and people are more open to attending church with us.