Passion Week XXII

While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him.  But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”  When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?”  And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! 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 against Him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a robber?  While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.” (Luke 22:47-53 NASB)

The arrest is the “Garden Scene” all four Gospels record.  Yet, again, all record different details.  Together they give an interesting picture of the event.  Even so, the details in Luke and John are my favorites.  The character of Jesus is so completely at odds with the event it’s startling.

In Matthew and Mark the account is nearly word-for-word the same.  But in Luke, while similar, there are some important differences.  In Luke, Judas approaches to kiss Jesus, but Luke never says Jesus let him.  In stead, there’s a “…but Jesus said to him…” response, and we’re left wondering if Judas ever did.  I like to think that he tried but Jesus didn’t receive it.  It’s not clear from Luke he failed, Matthew and Mark say Judas kissed Jesus, and John ignores the whole attempt.  Luke alone records Jesus’ reply to Judas of betraying with a kiss.  Matthew has the enigmatic, “Friend, do what you have come for” reply of Jesus.

John has Jesus going to the soldiers and Judas first, and asking who they have come for.  They are so startled they fall back, some to the ground.  He then repeats the question and His answer and says to let the disciples go since they’re only after Him.  This picture of Jesus is the beginning of John’s depiction of Jesus leading everyone involved to the cross.  In John alone, Jesus goes to the cross, He is not taken to the cross.  If you’ve seen the movie, The Passion of the Christ, this is where that quality of Jesus is derived, from John.  It’s actually hard to watch, from the beating all the way through to Jesus crawling to the cross to lay on it, Jesus leads the way.

At this point of the arrest, all four agree someone (in John it’s Peter) cuts off the ear of the servant of the high priest.  In John we also learn the servant’s name was Malchus.  In Luke and John, it’s Malchus’ right ear that gets cutoff.  So, if you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes,  Criminal Minds, or some other cop show, you’re probably already going, “Hey! Peter’s left handed!”  There are other explanations actually, and that’s probably not the right one.  Left-handedness was so unusual that it would have been noted before (like in Judges of Ehud, Judges 3:15).  All that we can know for sure is that the blow resulted in a glancing cut.  Even so, it’s hard to say that Malchus was “fortunate”, that had to hurt.

At this point, Jesus’ response to the attack is different.  In Mark, Jesus doesn’t address it at all.  In Matthew, Jesus rebukes the attack, states that those living by the sword die by the sword, claims to have twelve legions of angels if He wanted them, and then states this fulfills Scripture.  In Luke, Jesus simply says, “stop it!” and heals the servant’s ear.  In John, Jesus tells Peter to “stand down”, that this is what is supposed to happen (the cup the Father has given Me).  I love that Luke includes the detail that Jesus heals Malchus.  The love of Jesus does not take a break in this dark time.

Jesus’ comment to the guards is great, but Luke’s version is greatest.  In Matthew, Mark, an Luke, Jesus points out they come to him as if against a robber, even though He was with them in the Temple all week.  But Matthew and Mark point out the fulfillment of Scripture, where Jesus simply says, “…but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.” The literal construction in Greek is, “…, but this is of you the hour and the authority of darkness.”  It’s an economy of grammar where the pronoun is feminine singular, and, in Greek, so is “hour” and “authority”.  This is the time (hour) when the authority of darkness reigns.

The word for authority or power is a compound Greek word made up of the preposition, “out of”, and the word for “existence”; so out of the fact it exists.  In other words, the basis of this power or authority is that it is.  It’s existence is it’s explanation or support.  It’s kind of like God saying, “because I said so.”  We don’t like that as post-modern Americans, but that’s just the way it is.  At this point, can you hear Huey Lewis singing the response, “…Oh, but don’t you believe it,” while playing his piano?  I hope you can, because in this particular instance, the time of the authority of darkness truly is only an hour.

That’s my view through this knothole.  What do you see of God through yours?


Passion Week XIXg

And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.”  And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.  For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And HE was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.”  They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:35-38 NASB)

Once again, Luke provides a unique glimpse of Jesus to us.  Jesus reminds the disciples of being sent out without provisions, and yet, they were provided for.  Having reminded them, Jesus now says they are to go with provisions. But in addition to the provisions they avoided before, Jesus instructs them to sell a coat and buy a sword.

I’ve read commentators who claim the instruction is “spiritual”, as if the coat has a spiritual meaning as does the sword. But is the explanation that Jesus would be numbered with transgressors also only spiritual?  How about the direction to take money belt and bag, was that only spiritual?  I suspect the idea of an armed ambassador of the peace of God causes uncomfortable feelings in most theologians.  I just don’t just derstand why being on the run as a religious refugee doesn’t bother them as much or at all.

Regardless of what theologians do or don’t understand, maybe the question that troubles people most might be the “why” of the sword.  Why would they need one?  Jesus explains that the reason for the sword is that He will be counted, not as a criminal, but a “sinner”, as one who transgressed the law.  So, why is a good question to ask. Why does a transgressor of the Jewish law need a sword?  Or why do the disciples of a transgressor of Jewish law need swords?  

The disciples already had two swords for the eleven of them, and Jesus says that was sufficient. Clearly, the point isn’t that every disciple have a sword.  Maybe it was the selling of the coat and buying of the sword, rather than that everyone has a sword. If a sword is more important than a coat, what does that imply about that person?  I think the real problem is that it’s difficult to discern a purpose in two of twelve being armed.  But if we take this statement of Jesus at face value, then there are all sorts of possibilities.  Perhaps they will need guards now.  Maybe they will need some to stand to delay attackers so the rest escape?  There are all sorts of things that can be imagined. But in that culture was there an obvious reason more likely than another?  Honestly, I don’t know, but I suspect there was.

I think it was essentially that some of them have a sword, not everyone.  The obvious reason for this would be because they aren’t a “fighting force” in the typical sense but still needed a defense for some reason.  If they are considered “sinners”, their personal safety could be in jeopardy.  Yet, they wouldn’t be in danger from the Romans as much as from the Jewish establishment, synagogues, the Sanhedren, and religious leaders; maybe the people.  So they wouldn’t be on their guard from an army as much as from a mob.  

Only much later does Paul refer to Scripture as a sword.  So, seeing this reference of Jesus as obtaining Scripture I believe to be mixing metaphors improperly.  I think that, as uncomfortable as it may be, the reference is to arming His followers, at least minimally.  The reason escapes me, but I suspect it has to do with guarding the group, the safety of the people.  I’m not sure how the swords were to be used specifically, but I still can’t allegorize the reference without also obscuring the other elements.  And seeing the whole reference as allegory just doesn’t make sense to me.

That’s my view through the knothole this morning.  What do you see through yours?