Prepare to Listen. Take a moment to breathe deeply, before praying: In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me. (Psalm 71:2)
Prayerfully Read Matthew 26:47-56
47While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.’ 49At once he came up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. 50Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you are here to do.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. 51Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?’ 55At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
Most of us are quick to defend ourselves and those we love when under attack. Some use words, others resort to weapons. Wanting to defend and protect ourselves is understandable, a natural and sometimes necessary reaction. Jesus’ disciples thought violence was needed that night. One of them (whom John’s Gospel identifies as Peter), carried a sword and was quick to unsheathe it in defense of Jesus when Judas’ men attacked. Jesus was equally quick to stop the attacker. “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Violence, as Jesus knew, begets violence and rarely, if ever, proves anything, a lesson our increasingly violent world desperately needs to learn. Even as we struggle with this covid-19 pandemic, sales of guns and ammo in the U.S. have skyrocketed, as fear takes control and dictates behavior.
Jesus neither needed (he could appeal to the Father for legions of angels) nor wanted protection from his followers, not even against a man he still called ‘friend.’ As that night progressed, Jesus was tortured, insulted, mocked, spat upon. He never once reacted, never once sent out a vindictive and hateful tweet, never once let fear control him. He remained calm, silent, accepting. He knew he was part of a greater script laid out in the scriptures and willingly followed it.
Jesus warned his disciples they’d be hated by the world and persecuted just as he was (John 15:18ff). How should we respond when under attack or when fear creeps in? I think Jesus’ example in Gethsemane and during his trial is our standard. Always choose the way of non-violence first, trusting yourself to God’s safe-keeping and love.
Jesus’ response to Judas is remarkable: “Friend, do what you are here to do.” It has the sense of, “Do you really want to go through with this?” (Matthew for Everyone by N. T. Wright 2004), showing Judas compassion he didn't deserve. How can Jesus’ non-violent and compassionate way guide how you respond today in this era of an international pandemic and the fear that accompanies it?
Respond to Jesus
Lord of Peace, let me fear nothing more than I fear you and love nothing more than I love you, for then I shall fear nothing in this world. Amen.
Go live obediently in the world as an instrument of peace.
Because I believe that Scripture is food for our soul (our entire being) I seek to read it and encourage others to read it in ways that nourish and transform our beings. I invite you to read the Bible with me during Lent and into Easter. I am a Bible teacher, spiritual companion and retreat director. I know the Bile and how to read it for spiritual formation.