In this section of Mark’s Gospel we find the method Judas Iscariot used to betray the Lord Jesus Christ into the hands of His enemies.
“And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely. And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him. And they laid their hands on him, and took him. And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not” (Mark 14:43-49a).
The enemies of Christ failed to understand that His Kingdom was not an earthly one; therefore they thought that they needed weapons to take Him by force. They probably believed that His followers would defend Him, and though Peter made an attempt at doing so, all of the disciples deserted Christ (see below). “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36). Judas betrayed the King of Kings with a traitor’s kiss, because he did not believe in the Kingdom of God. We wonder what went through the traitor’s mind when the Lord asked him, “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48).
“When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none. Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus” (John 18:1-10). We see that even Jesus’ own disciples thought that the Kingdom was of this world. Jesus only needed to say the word and His enemies would have been defeated, but He chose not to do so because it was His Father’s will that He should be the Saviour of the world. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).
Any religion that bears arms to defend its cause proves itself to be of the flesh rather than of God. The believer’s arsenal is not made up of bombs, guns and knives. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” (2 Corinthians 10:4) … “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). The true Gospel stands by the power of the Holy Spirit, and it grows in man’s heart and conscience through His influence alone. Those who use violence to propagate their theories and religion are destined to fall. “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matthew 26:52).
“But the scriptures must be fulfilled” (Mark 49b).
Whatever intentions they had that night, every person in the garden was playing his part in fulfilling prophecy. The words of Psalm 22 and the prophet Isaiah were literally fulfilled between Gethsemane and Calvary. God’s plan and purpose for sending His only begotten Son into the world was foretold throughout Scripture. All that took place was the working out of God’s great design to provide the means of salvation for a world lost in sin.
There are times when it seems like the world around us is in chaos, but we can assure our hearts that God Almighty rules and overrules. “God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness” (Psalm 47:8). No matter what may appear to go wrong, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). The governments of this world might conspire together against the Lord and His people, but God is still on the Throne. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision” (Psalm 2:2-4). All things will be done according to the will of God.
“And they all forsook him, and fled. And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked” (Mark 14:50-52).
As soon as the Lord was taken prisoner the eleven disciples fled for their lives. Their former declarations of faith were all forgotten in the face of personal danger. We should learn from this incident that we must never be over-confident about our own strength. Solomon was right when he wrote, “The fear of man bringeth a snare” (Proverbs 29:25).
Everything was fulfilled according to the prophecies of the Old Testament and Jesus’ own words about His betrayal. None of this ought to have come as a surprise to the disciples, but it did because they did not truly listen when the Lord spoke to them. We too have the Scriptures, but do we bother to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as we read and study its pages?