Reading Time: 8 Minutes
Today, the imaginary narrator continues telling the events of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. After Jesus had finished his time alone with the Father in prayer (Matthew 26.36-46), Judas came with the Temple authorities to arrest Jesus.
We were awakened by Jesus, who told us that his betrayer was coming for him. He had no more finished speaking than Judas appeared with a mob of people. The chief priests and elders were in front and they were flanked by men with clubs and swords.
Judas came up to Jesus and gave him the customary greeting, just like he was a friend and follower. He said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” (Matthew 26.47-49).
I was close enough to hear Jesus say, “Friend, do what you are here to do” (Matthew 26.50).
After that, everything happened to fast. Rough men grabbed Jesus and the leaders said that he was under arrest. Peter was one against a mob of armed men, but he tried to fight them all. All he accomplished was injury to the high priest’s servant.
Jesus stopped Peter with a word and said, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26.52-54).
To say that I was frightened and traumatized is an understatement. My emotions were running overtime. Yet, it still struck me how Jesus’ prayer to his Father had him completely prepared for this moment. He was being arrested by a the highest leaders in the land and yet he had command of the whole situation.
While Jesus was speaking, Peter was able to move into the darkness of the garden. Jesus turned his attention to the leaders and the mob and said, “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. But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled” (Matthew 26.55-56).
The Temple leaders had what they wanted. They didn’t send anyone to look for Peter and any other of Jesus’ followers. We all blended into the foliage of the garden, completely heart sick at what had just taken place.
Before the High Priest
Peter, James and John scrambled up the mountain to tell everyone what had happened to Jesus. The entire contingent of people who had followed Jesus from Galilee was angry, grieved, shocked, afraid, and a multitude of other emotions. Many of us just wept like we had never cried before in our lives.
After a time, Peter stood up and began moving down the Mount of Olives in the direction of Jerusalem. He had told Jesus that he would be with him to the very end (Matthew 26.33) and he was determined to do just that. John told Peter that he wouldn’t let him go alone. The two of them began walking toward Jerusalem. After a few minutes, I gathered the courage to follow them.
I had never been anywhere near the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. I was able to sneak into the courtyard, following a little behind Peter and John. I was barely able to see inside the high priest’s house, but the place seemed to be filled with every important religious leader in Jerusalem.
It was clear from the beginning that the Caiaphas and the others had their minds made up about Jesus. To them he was already guilty. All they needed was some sort of legal loophole so they could murder him. A few people gave testimony that had to be rejected.
Someone came up and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days'” (Matthew 26.57-61).
I couldn’t imagine the kind of composure that Jesus had in the time when he stood before the highest court in our land. He looked at peace and didn’t say a single word in defense. It was like he had said already said everything through his teaching and his healing ministry.
Finally, the Caiaphas seemed to have had enough of Jesus’ silence. He stood right before Jesus and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” (Matthew 26.62).
Jesus still remained silent. I couldn’t help but thinking to myself, “Good for you Jesus. Their arrogance and pride wouldn’t allow them to hear you when you taught so many wonderful truths by the Temple. The still don’t want to hear. Go ahead, and stay silent!”
The high priest still had one last way to get Jesus to talk. He said, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God” (Matthew 26.63).
I knew this was it. From the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry the religious authorities had resented the way Jesus used his authority. They wanted to control the religious and political life of Israel and Jesus was the biggest threat to their authority and power that had ever come along. I knew he would answer truthfully and I also knew that his answer would condemn him in their eyes.
Jesus ended his silence and said, “You have said so. But I tell you,
From now on you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of Power
and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26.64).
I was so familiar with what Jesus told Caiaphas. So often did he refer to himself as the “Son of Man,” I knew the full quote from Daniel. In my mind I rehearsed that quote:
As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a Son of Man
coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed. (Daniel 7.13-14).
I knew what was coming next. Caiaphas reached up and tore the front of his robe. What a hypocrite! How dishonest! He was supposedly offended for God and showing it by tearing his robe.
At any rate he said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” (Matthew 26.65-66).
All of the religious leaders cried out as one, “He deserves death” (Matthew 26.66).
Then, some of these great religious leaders began going up to Jesus and spitting in his face. A few of the rough men gut punched him and other slapped his face. As if that was not enough, they insulted him with jeers, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?” (Matthew 26.68).
One of my seminary professors described meditation on Bible passages with the image of a cow chewing her cud. The cow eats and then chews what has been eaten throughout the day. It may be a gross image, but it is a good one for Bible passages like this one.
When I began writing blog articles, they were a way for me to “chew” on Bible passages throughout the day. While driving or talking a walk, I can imagine what it would be like to be present for the events of Jesus’ life.
I encourage you to approach the events of Jesus last week on earth in a way that allows you to go deep into what happened. It will do something to your inside condition to see the love of God for people, played out against the backdrop of such evil and pride.
Dear Jesus, in the face of such human evil, you stand alone as the person with the greatest character of all. Your love exposes the darkness of our self-centered and pleasure-seeking lives. We praise you for your transforming friendship and love.