Today’s Reading: Matthew 26: 47-75
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
While 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. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.’ At once he came up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you are here to do.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. Suddenly, 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. Then Jesus said to him, ‘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?’ At 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. But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
Jesus before the High Priest
Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered. But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, ‘This fellow said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.” ’ The high priest stood up and said, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, ‘I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘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.’
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?’ They answered, ‘He deserves death.’ Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, saying, ‘Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?’
Peter’s Denial of Jesus
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus the Galilean.’ But he denied it before all of them, saying, ‘I do not know what you are talking about.’ When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ Again he denied it with an oath, ‘I do not know the man.’ After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.’ Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know the man!’ At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: ‘Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly. (NRSV)
How far would you go to follow Jesus? Peter went right into the courtyard of those who arrested Jesus. That’s pretty amazing. Peter went into the enemy camp and pretended to be one of them. He was willing to risk his own life to keep close to Jesus.
How far would you go? There is so much about living as a disciple of Jesus that is difficult to understand. When the “large crowd” came with clubs and swords to arrest Jesus, one of Jesus’ closest friends drew his sword. Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.’
Force, violence and power are not the way. Jesus confronts the power of the religious authorities and even the awesome power of Rome with love. How often do we draw a sword to make things right? We want to use power, influence, wealth and privilege to make the world right. That is not the way of Jesus.
How far would you go to follow Jesus? Would you take off your shoes and let someone else wash your feet? Would you take a towel and humble yourself to wash someone else’s feet? The foot washing ritual of Maundy Thursday is so uncomfortable for us. Did Jesus really do that? Did he really put a towel around his waist and wash the disciple’s feet? Is this the behavior of a savior?
How far would you go to follow Jesus? Are you willing to humble yourself? Are you willing to love those who would dominate you with their power? As uncomfortable and as humbling, or even humiliating, as the foot washing ritual is, the rewards are worth more. Jesus went this way and defeated death. Jesus went to the cross and there, love defeats death. The way is difficult, but the reward is life. True life. Eternal life. Life lived in the joy and hope of God’s love.
Questions: What strengthens us to keep faith with those we care about? What tempts us to abandon them? Where have you felt abandoned? Where do you need the support of good friends? Who needs you?
Prayer: Lord God, protect and preserve us in this world that we might keep faith with the promises and responsibilities we have undertaken, and when we feel alone remind us that you understand and are with us. Amen.