Not in Vain
Text: Matthew 26 : 45 - 56
Jesus had spent the better part of the night in prayer. The disciples on the other hand could not stay awake. They slept through the night! Time spent in prayer is never in vain. This became most plain in the way Jesus conducted Himself as He faced His betrayer and the soldiers sent to arrest Him. Prayer was not a form of escapism. Prayer was Jesus’ vital source of renewed strength.
STRENGTH TO COPE
Jesus had entered into the Garden feeling deeply burdened. He said to His disciples, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38). That soul was now fully prepared for the worst. His prayers were more than answered! Tremendous strength was now given to Him. The synoptist Luke added this observation in his account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
“Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven,
WITH THE GREATEST SENSE OF PEACE
Time for prayer was now over. What lay ahead was betrayal and suffering. Prayer gave to Jesus that peace that passes all understanding. Quietly He roused His disciples from sleep. In the same quiet tone, Jesus spoke of His hour as having arrived and with it, the darkest and the foulest deed of being betrayed by a disciple, into the hands of sinners! Imagine being able to say these words with deep calm and composure.
“Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”
THE ACT OF BETRAYAL
Matthew carefully noted the act of betrayal. It had all the marks of a plan carefully devised by a person with a calloused heart.
“And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve,
with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief
priests and elders of the people. Now His betrayer had given them
a sign, saying, ‘Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.’
Immediately He went up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’
and kissed Him. But Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, why have you
come?’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.”
1. Betrayal – A dark irony
Judas was “one of the twelve”. This was Matthew’s way of describing the privilege of being one of the chosen apostles, and not just disciples (Cf. Matthew 10:1-2). Yet, it turned out that one of the twelve betrayed his Master! What dark irony indeed. The irony is seen in a number of ways.
a) That he collaborated with the enemy at all
Betrayal always leaves an awful sense of distaste in the mouth. It makes “erstwhile friends” angry. However, it does not necessarily result in winning new friends from among the enemies. Often traitors end up friendless for the act of betrayal is little more than a business transaction.
b) That he should come with a well-armed brigade
Judas did not come alone. He brought with him “a great multitude with swords and clubs”. Of course, this was probably something that the chief priests and elders insisted upon. Judas might also have felt more secure and safe if he had armed soldiers to protect him just in case his former friends turned against him in fury and disgust.
c) That he should greet Jesus with a kiss
How Judas could have come up to Jesus and brazenly given him a kiss (the usual form of greeting among friends) is astonishing! The kiss was nothing more than a sign to identify Jesus! It held no affection whatsoever!
2. The Response to the Betrayal
The response of Jesus to the betrayal was all that we may expect from Him.
a) It was all anticipated
Jesus had known all along that Judas would end up betraying Him. He was more than prepared for this act of betrayal.
b) Great grace was extended all along
Jesus graciously gave to Judas the many benefits of His friendship. He extended to him all the rights and privileges of being His disciple. He “protected” him from the wrath of his friends by not disclosing to them that he was the traitor.
c) Great love right to the very end
Jesus’ word of greeting to Judas was “Friend” even when he came to him with people who were armed to the teeth with “swords and clubs”.
A QUIET ARREST
Judas had done his job. He had led the armed escort to the Garden of Gethsemane. He identified Jesus for the soldiers, so that there would be no mistakes made. The work of the soldiers seemed too simple to be true. They had come, fully armed, expecting great trouble, but there was not the slightest whisper of a suggestion of resistance at all. Did they really need to muster a great company of soldiers to make this arrest? The display of strength and authority seemed almost farcical. The chief priests and elders had completely failed to comprehend who Jesus really was.