Now as I promised you, let's work our way through the specifics of Luke's account of the arrest of Jesus, occasionally dipping into the other gospels as we put the pieces together.
"But even as Jesus said this" - said what? This opening element of the arrest pericope causes the arrest of Christ to intrude into the prayer in garden. Jesus has just finished saying, "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation." Now that is interesting, isn't it? Jesus has been warning the disciples of pending "disaster". In the context of such disaster He has warned them of its imminence and of their need to pray and be watchful. Temptation is coming, prepare for it. He gives them the same warning again and then suddenly in mid-sentence almost the temptation / disaster comes. The way Luke has put the story together is fascinating. I will leave the analysis of the structure until the end but suffice to say in typical Luke fashion, this is all very carefully organized to make a point.
The conclusion we must draw from the account at the moment for each of us is that temptation and threat can come upon us at any moment. Even when we least expect it. When we are in the middle of prayer it can come. Or even more likely when we are in middle of sleeping it WILL come. Wake up sleeper and prepare. We must all take note of the fact that temptation can come upon any one of us. Especially on those who don't think temptation will impact them. They are the ones who are most susceptible. [See Bible Gemz 1197 - Betrayal: It could happen to anyone of us]. Take heed of Jesus warning to Peter that he will fall and betray Jesus. Peter's response is classic. Oh no Lord, that will never happen to me. Jesus says it again for emphasis, "yes it will Peter you WILL fall into temptation". In Peter's case the temptation is to forsake the One he says he will never forsake. Yet he does! And so do they all. If it can happen to Peter, it can happen to you and me.
After all, that was an impressive crowd that had gathered. Their specific purpose was to arrest Jesus. It appears they were most interested in Jesus and not the disciples. But the disciples didn't know that. It was a matter of guilt by association in their minds. But it is clear before the crucifixion or after the resurrection, the message was still the same. If you associate yourself with this Man of Galilee you are in for trouble. Not much has changed has it? You may think you can lay low and not say anything, but if you truly follow Jesus then it will be apparent. You can't hide. Either you are His or you are not. As Jesus said if you deny Him before men, He will deny you before the Father in Heaven. I know which I would choose. The crowd that had come to get Jesus was pretty impressive. As we noted before suddenly this impressive group of people appears. The leading priests and elders of the people the teachers of religious law , the Pharisees (of course they would be there – they have been nibbling at Jesus heels for the last number of chapters). As well as that there was a contingent of Roman soldiers and the Temple guard. As I said to you in the previous Gemz, the Sanhedrin were there en mass. Can you imagine being the disciples at the moment when you see this impressive crowd bearing down on you? As we have noted already, Luke initially describes them as a crowd which appears suddenly, but later on he makes it clear to us that in the crowd were the leading priests, including the High Priest himself, the captains of the Temple guard, inferring there was more than one regiment of the temple guard, and the elders. That crowd is enough to make anyone shake in their shoes. In addition to that I am sure the crowd was swelled with a horde of on-lookers, rubberneckers and those who have been following Jesus since Galilee. Wherever Jesus went He attracted a crowd, why would this be any different. I reckon such a crowd of people, led by the ones you knew were after His blood and probably yours as well would be enough to make you turn and run. Unless you were made of sterner stuff.
In all three synoptic gospels we find the element "Judas, one of the twelve". It seems innocuous but its not. Luke (and the other two) want us to remember clearly that the one who betrayed him was one of His close followers. Isn't that what betrayal means? Someone close who turns against you. You can't be betrayed by an enemy. It is clear that your enemy opposes you at every turn. It is not called betrayal when your enemy comes to attack you or arrest you. That is what you expect. This case is a matter of contra-expectation. We don't expect that one of Jesus' TWELVE will betray Him. But there it is in black and white in each of the three synoptic gospels. Jesus' betrayer was one of His close band of followers. The way Luke has put together this story more so than the other gospel writers emphasizes the fact that the disciples didn't know which of them it would be. It could have been any one of them. Now that is a telling comment. Applicable to us as well.
You might think you are a close follower of Jesus, but you are just as likely to end up forsaking Him as anyone else. I guess there is one consolation and that is that the betrayer was not one of the THREE – Peter, James or John. That's a comfort, isn't it? No. The way Luke writes the story puts them all together in the betrayal to varying degrees. Of course Peter didn't betray Jesus to the extent that Judas had. But forsake or abandon Him he did, to save his own skin. John, hung close with the other disciples at the time and was there at the foot of the cross with Jesus mother. So it seems on the face that he stayed true. But Jesus' comment about Peter strengthening the brothers when he returns (repents) seems to implicate John as well. It is a sweeping betrayal that is depicted by Luke.
The question remains, and let me ask it for your sake: where would you be in all of this?
Where are you now? Are you one of the TWELVE? Truly, or one of the TWELVE like Judas was?
Or are you one of the THREE? Do you have an intimate relationship with Jesus and go everywhere He goes?
(Or should I say He goes everywhere you go in the form of the Holy Spirit?)
Do you see yourself being able to forsake Him to one degree or another?
Be careful. The way you answer that question may predispose you to being tested. Do you know what I mean?
If you were to be put on trial for following Jesus would there be enough evidence to convict you?
If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters.
An excuse is worse than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded. The mere fact of fact of guarding it ensures it will stay with you. Ian
It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend. William Blake