The Lord's Day Morning
September 11, 2011
The Reverend Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to open them with me to Luke chapter 22 as we continue our way through the gospel of Luke. The last time we were with the Lord Jesus in Luke we were with Him as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and today we are going to see some of the effects of those prayers, those prayers which God graciously answers as He prepares to face this hour of trial. And the trial that's recorded for us in Luke 22 verses 47 to 53, the trial of Jesus as He is captured in the garden by the ambush of His enemies, shows us three scenes, and I'd like you to be on the lookout for these scenes as we read through the passage. In verses 47 and 48 we see Him betrayed with a kiss. In verses 49 to 51 we see one of His assailants healed by His hand. And then in verses 52 and 53 we see the whole mob, the whole crowd, rebuked with a word, Jesus’ word of rebuke. So be on the lookout for those things as we read God's Word. Let's pray and ask for His help in the hearing of His Word.
Heavenly Father, this is Your Word. It is powerful; it is effective; it is sharper than any two-edged sword. It pierces deep down into places of our soul which are invisible and it is true. You mean it for our good because not only is it inspired, it is profitable. We ask that You would open our eyes to behold wonderful things in it. We pray that by Your Spirit that we would see our sin and we would see the Savior and that we would trust in Him and run to Him. And we ask that You would be glorified even in our hearing of this Word, that we would hear it as if our lives depend upon it, because they do. In Jesus' name, amen.
This is the Word of God. Hear it:
“While He was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss Him, but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’ And when those who were around Him saw what would follow, they said, ‘Lord, shall we strike with the sword?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And He touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against Him, ‘Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.’”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
Have you ever been so stunned that you can't speak? Have you ever been so shocked that you don't know what to move? Not only do you not know what to do, you can't even move! Has something ever so blindsided you that you were temporarily immobilized? I know what that's like, and what strikes me as I look at this passage is how unsurprised the Savior is, how unshocked and stunned the Savior is by the ambush of these assailants and how utterly prepared He is not only to respond to them but to assume the position of the person who is in charge and to serve as a physician of souls, to serve who is the one who is in complete control and who is in complete trust of His sovereign heavenly Father. And I'd like to look with you for a few moments today as to how we see that.
BETRAYED WITH A KISS
First I want you to see this scene in verses 47 and 48. If you look at the parallel passage in John 18 and you combine it with the details that Luke tells us here and the other synoptic gospel authors tell us, the scene is this: Jesus and His eleven disciples are in the Garden of Gethsemane. You remember, He had gone into the garden to pray, eight of the disciples had stayed perhaps close to the entrance to stand watch, three of the disciples had come in closer to Him, but He had moved a stone's throw from them. He had prayed, He had come back, He had found them all sleeping, He had encouraged them to rise and pray to prepare for the trial that was coming, and “even as He was speaking,” we are told in verse 47, that a crowd came.
Now, it's interesting that Luke calls them a crowd or a mob, because among these people are temple guards, we're told that here, but also members of the Roman cohort. John tells us that. Now a Roman cohort was a disciplined military group of about six hundred men. It was unlikely that the Roman leader would have dispensed that many men to go on this particular errand, but perhaps a significant number of a Roman cohort is going along with these temple guards. Why? Well, because you remember the last time that Jesus encountered the temple guards — you’ll find that story in John 7 — the temple guard's job was to go get Him and bring Him back to the chief priests and leaders of the Sanhedrin and they didn't come back with Him. They came back empty-handed. Jesus so impressed them in His engagement with them that they came back empty-handed. And perhaps now the leaders say, “We’d better send some Romans along to make sure that the temple guards do what we say this time.”
But along with the temple guard and part of that Roman cohort were also members of the Sanhedrin itself — some of the chief priests, some of the elders, they were there too. But here's the shocking thing. Leading the way, and did you catch that language in verse 47? Leading them was who? One of Jesus’ own disciples. Judas was leading this motley horde towards Jesus. It's a stunning betrayal. And as he approaches Jesus, he identifies Jesus to His assailants and captors by kissing Him. This was an expression of love and reverence that sometimes was showed to a rabbi by his disciples. In the same way, some of you can think back right now, there have been ministers, campus ministers, youth workers who ministered to you in profound ways in the course of your life, and perhaps they were with you in significant stages in your life as a believer. Maybe they were there at the baptism of a child, maybe they were there for your profession of faith, maybe they were there for your marriage, maybe they were there for a funeral when death touched your family in a profound way, and your heart has been knitted with them and when you've been apart from them a long time and you see them again, you want to throw your arms around them because that person has had a profound effect and ministered Christ into your life. And so it's that kind of an act of affection towards Jesus. But Judas is using it as his sign to identify their prey. It is a display of false affection as a cloak for deep wickedness. And J.C. Ryle says this about it: “To betray Christ at any time is the very height of wickedness, but to betray Him with a kiss proves a man to have become a very child of hell.”
And yet, and yet, do you see Jesus’ response to this? Look at verse 48. After Judas has done this, Jesus’ response is not affront. “How dare you! How dare you betray Me! How dare you do this!” Jesus’ response is to immediately assume the posture of a surgeon of souls and begin to speak words to Judas that are designed to make Judas realize his own wickedness and the terrible danger of what he is doing and to produce in him repentance and to turn him back to God. Look at Jesus’ words. “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” In other words, He's saying, “Really Judas, really — you’re going to do this this way? You’re going to betray Me with a kiss? Don't you realize the danger of this to your soul? Don't you realize what you’re doing? You think that I'm on trail here. You think that I'm the one that's undergoing the temptation. No, Judas, you’re the one who's undergoing the temptation. You are walking down a path towards hell and I am here saying to you —“ just like Jesus had just a few hours before when He washed Judas’ feet. Do you remember that? And explained to the disciples that if they were not washed by Him, forgiven through the cleansing that only His blood can provide, they have no forgiveness, they have no hope, and He has washed Judas’ feet opening the gate of repentance to him. And again, He's speaking words to Judas again, designed to get Judas to open his eyes and realize what he's doing. But Judas does not heed Jesus.
Do you remember what Billy just read in Hebrews 12 verse 25? Do you remember those words, what he just read? “Do not reject His voice” because those who reject His voice even when He was on earth, they did not escape. Jesus, in response to Judas’ treachery, assumes the posture of a surgeon of souls, diagnoses his heart sin, opens it up to show it to him, and Judas rejects Him. My friends, on the last day, should Judas stand before God and say, “But I didn't understand,” God Almighty will say from the throne, “My loving and merciful Son, the very last words He spoke to you, were designed to wake you up to the danger of your soul and you closed your heart to Him.” This is a warning for us all my friends. This is a warning for us all, because the only thing standing between the love and mercy of Jesus and Judas is not Jesus’ willingness. When He had every right to thunder condemnation on Judas, He was thinking only of his soul, but Judas’ hard heart rejected the Savior.
I want to say, because I talk to so many parents who long for their children to trust the Lord and they long to find the words to tell their children so that their children will trust the Lord and they have perhaps for years and years and years shared the Gospel with their children and their children have not accepted the Lord, I want to remind you that even the Savior spoke words of love and mercy and from some found rejection. There is no magic word that we can say. That is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a human being to break the darkness, to break the hardness, to open the eyes up to see sin, to turn from sin to run to God. You see, Judas thought that in doing what he was doing, he was going to find the satisfaction that he was looking for, but Jesus knew that the road paved before Him was paved to destruction. And in His kindness He said, “Judas, do you have any idea what you’re doing? Really, you’re going to betray Me with a kiss? Don't do this Judas, because I'm not the one on trial here, you are.”
HEALED BY HIS HAND
Secondly, immediately after this remarkable scene, a fight breaks out. The disciples recognize what's about to happen. Remember, they’d already had a conversation about carrying swords, and so they say, “Lord, this time are You ready for us to fight for You?” And before Jesus can answer, Peter springs into action and he takes out his sword and he cuts off the right ear of the chief priest's chief servant. And Jesus stops him and Jesus heals His assailant.
Now there are several things I want you to see in this. The first thing I want you to see is this — the important thing that Jesus understands at this point is not to go on the offensive and attack. The important thing for Him to do here is to accept the providence of God in this moment. And that's actually the important thing for the disciples. This is not the time for them to draw the sword. This is time for them to accept God's providence. You understand how important this is — the false charge that the Jews are going to bring against Jesus to the Romans is that He is the leader of a rebellion against Roman rule, as well as a blasphemer claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of God, a charge which the Romans, frankly, could not have cared less about. But they very much cared about the idea of rebels leading groups of people against their rule. And so Jesus must immediately establish that He has no intention of fighting this Roman cohort because He's never lead anybody in violent action before in His life. In fact, He has ministered, and He’ll say later on, in the broad daylight saying everything that He said for everyone to hear who wanted to hear it. There's nothing secretive and sneaky about what Jesus is doing. He's not fomenting a secret rebellion against Rome and so it's very important that He and His disciples respond in that way so that it is seen again, even by His accusers, that their accusations are false.
But here's something I think that's very important for us to recognize as well. And I quote at length from J.C. Ryle who says this:
“We should learn from these verses that it is much easier to fight a little for Christ than to endure hardship and go to prison and death for His sake. The lesson before us is deeply instructed. To suffer patiently for Christ is far more difficult than to work actively. To sit down and endure calmly is far more hard than to stir about and take part in the battle. Crusaders will always be found more numerous than martyrs. Work for Christ may be done from many spurious motives — from excitement, from emulation, from party spirit, from love of praise — but suffering for Christ will seldom be endured from any but one motive. And that motive is the grace of God. We shall do well to remember these things informing our estimate of the comparative grace of professing Christians. Some poor, unknown believer who has been lying for years on his back, enduring pain without a murmur, may prove at last to have brought more glory to Christ through his patience and to have done more good through his prayers than the public action of others. The grand test of grace is patient suffering. Remember God's words about Saul, Acts 9:16. ‘I will show Saul what great things he will suffer for My name.’ Peter, we may be sure did far less good when he drew his sword and cut off a man's ear than when he stood calmly before the council as a prisoner and said, ‘I cannot but speak the things that I have seen and heard.’”
There is a great reminder in this about our acceptance of the hard providences of God in our lives and the role that that plays in our witness to Christ.
But here's finally what I want you to see about this second scene. Do you realize that soon after the events recorded here, Jesus’ hands will be bound and they will remain bound until they are attached to a cross so that the very last act that Jesus’ free hand performs is to reach out and heal the ear of one who was His assailant who wanted to kill Him? Jesus, not only spoke but did deeds of love and mercy to the very end. And it is a picture of the Gospel, isn't it? You know, you may be here today and because of some sin in your life feel that you are beyond the love and mercy of Christ, but look friend, Jesus’ final words to Judas are words of love and mercy and His final act towards Malchus, the high priest's servant, is an act of love and mercy. No one, no one is beyond the love and mercy of Christ.
There's one more thing that I want to mention in passing and it's this — you will notice that Luke, as well as Mark and Matthew, do not say the name of the disciple who cut off Malchus’ ear. In fact, they don't even give Malchus’ name. You have to turn to John 18 before you find out that it was Peter who did this and that it was Malchus who was the servant. That, to me, is just one more picture of the historicity of Scripture. Why do I say that? Because when the first gospels were written and when these stories were circulated, naming Peter could have hindered his ministry. Should the Romans find out that it was Peter who had done this, they would have that much more reason and cause to arrest him and hinder his ministry. But John, which was written long after this time, was safe to record the name of the assailant of Malchus the high priest. It's just another picture of the historicity of the stories that we are reading. They are true, even in the way they record them.
REBUKED WITH A WORD
One last scene. Look at verses 52 and 53. Jesus’ response to the assembled crowd, and that's the word that Luke uses, as Jesus speaks to the chief priests and temple officers and elders who had come out against Him, Jesus’ word is a word of rebuke. And it's a display of God's sovereignty even in the face of the evil of man. Jesus said, “Have you come out against a robber with swords and clubs?” You know, His point is, “I've been in the temple every day. You could have arrested Me then. You didn't have to come out at night with swords and clubs.” And John in John 18 tells us torches as well. “You could have arrested Me in the day.” But of course, the reason that they didn't is because they were up to no good and they knew it, and they knew they’d get in trouble with the people. It's whenever I read this passage about “this is your hour and the power of darkness,” the words of my mother ring in my ears. That woman from good east Tennessee, Southern Baptist stock, would say to her teenage boy often, “Nothing good every happened after midnight.” Ever heard anything like that from your mother? I think of that every time I get to this passage. And Jesus is saying to them, “The fact that you have chosen to do this now, under the cover of darkness, shows the darkness of your own hearts. It's the power of darkness that is at work in you.”
But just picture for a second the ridiculousness of this. So they have clubs and swords, so they have torches, this is the word who was in the beginning, who spoke into being a universe that stretches 13.7 billion light years across. If He wanted, He could have collapsed a million galaxies on them at that very moment. And they have swords and clubs? Fine! He's in complete control. He says to them, “This is your hour. You've chosen this cover of darkness and this is the power of darkness at work in you, but My Father is in control and the only reason that you are going to take Me from this garden is because I have let you take Me because one word and you would cease to exist. One word and twelve legions of angels would swoop down upon you. One word and you would be dismissed. My Father is in control.”
And think of it my friends, the actions of Judas and of Malchus the chief priest's servant and of all of this assembled crowd, these actions God would use for the saving of millions and millions and tens of millions of souls. And Jesus knows that. So the trial for them, though they think it is a trial for Him, is actually, “Who's side are you going to be on?” We know that some of the Sanhedrin themselves came to understand who Jesus was and trusted Him. We also know that Judas did not. And that's the question before us today. It may well be in the trials of your life that this trial is pressed back on you. Will you run to what you think your hope and satisfaction is in and reject Jesus, or will you run to Jesus and reject your sin? That's the trial that all the people in that garden faced that night. Some of them did not pass that test, and so let the words of Hebrews 12:25 ring in your ears — “Do not reject His voice.”
In a few moments we're going to sing from hymn 568. It's called, “In the Hour of Trial.” It's about the trial of Jesus in the garden and afterwards and then finally on the cross. But the point that the hymn makes is that we must cry out to Jesus for help in our hour of trial because though this was a sore test for Jesus, the real trial was the trial that was going on in the hearts of those who rejected Him in the garden. And we want to be ready when our trials come to accept Him and reject sin, to run to Him and run away from the vain things of this world as our hope. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word. We ask that You would work it deep in our hearts and that we would response in trust in the hour of trial. This we ask in Jesus' name, amen.
Take your hymnals now in hand and turn with me to 568.
In the hour of trial, all those who respond to Him who speaks a word of hope, a word of truth, a word of mercy, hear these words. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.