“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: but the scriptures must be fulfilled. 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 14:43-52)
The agonies of Gethsemane are over. The temptations our Lord endured there, from the assaults of the prince of darkness, are finished. In verse 42 the Lord Jesus called Peter, James, and John, rousing them from their sleep, and hurried them to follow him, as he went forth in holy zeal to meet the betrayer and the band of soldiers following him, to finish his work. Let us never fail to remember that in the totality of his work as our Substitute our Lord Jesus Christ did what he did for us as Jehovah’s voluntary Servant (Psalm 40:6-8; John 10:16-18). Robert Hawker wrote…
“He had said before to Judas at the table, that thou doest do quickly. But no man at the table knew for what intent Jesus said this unto him (John 13:27-28). But we may learn from it, that it showed the promptness of Christ’s heart to the work. And though he knew the sorrows which it must induce, yet, for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame. Yea, Jesus called the time, the hour of his glory. And as soon as the traitor had left the company, Jesus declared that he was now glorified. (See John 13:31-32).
I request you never to lose sight of those two grand points, in the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus. The one is: the infinite dignity of his person, God and Man in one. The other is the free-will offering of the Lord. Behold him under these views coming forth from the garden to meet the traitor, and crying out, Rise up! let us go! lo! he that betrayeth me is at hand.”
With those things in mind, let’s look into this passage of Holy Scripture dealing with our Savior’s arrest in the garden, and ask God the Holy Spirit to inscribe its lessons upon our hearts. I direct your attention to five things in these verses.
The Enemies of God
This passage opens by identifying the enemies of God. We should always be aware of who our Lord’s enemies are and where they are found. His enemies are the same in all ages; and they are found in the same places. We need to be able to recognize them, because our Lord’s enemies are our enemies. Notice how they are identified for us in verse 43.
Š “Judas, one of the twelve.”
Š The Roman Soldiers — “a great multitude with swords and staves.”
Š “The chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders.”
Our Lords enemies and ours are ever to be found among the people of the world. That is no surprise. We expect the world to oppose Christ, the gospel of his grace, and us, as we preach it. If we preach the gospel, insisting that men have no righteousness of their own, declaring that the only righteousness there is is the righteousness of God in Christ, we expect the world’s opposition. The offense of the cross has not ceased (Matthew 5:10-12).
We have come to expect opposition and persecution from religionists as well. The lost religious people of this world, being duped, deceived, lied to, and instigated by their leaders, their chief priests, their scribes, and their elders, being ignorant of Christ and the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in him, are historically the most incessant persecutors of God’s saints in the world. History demonstrates the fact that the politicians of the world become persecutors of believers only when instigated (as here) by God hating religionists, who are too good in their own eyes to need grace, a sin-atoning substitute, and imputed righteousness. No one hates grace like lost religionists! There is no missionary field in the world more needy or more hostile today than the professed church of this reprobate age.
We expect to find our enemies in the world, and even in the religious world around us. But, often the Lord’s enemies and ours are wolves in sheep’s clothing and, like “Judas, one of the twelve,” are found in the house of his friends (Psalms 41:9; 55:12-13). Our Lord warned us repeatedly, as did his apostles throughout the New Testament, that our most dangerous foes are those whom we least suspect, those who are, by profession, our brothers, sisters, and friends. These warnings are given not to make us suspicious and wary of one another, but to prepare us for the shock and pain of betrayal (Matthew 10:24-26).
The Kingdom of God
Second, we must never expect the people of this world, neither the politicians, nor the educators, nor the religionists of this world, to understand the nature of the kingdom of God. In fact, our Lord’s own disciples did not grasp what he taught in this regard at the time.
This blood thirsty mob came out against the Lord Jesus, as if they were hunting for a wild, murdering revolutionary, with swords and clubs. When they did, one of the Lord’s disciples drew out a sword and cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear. John tells us that that bold, zealous, but mistaken disciple was Peter. But the Lord Jesus stopped the conflict by healing the man’s ear, as Luke tells us.
The chief priests and scribes clung tenaciously to the errant idea that Messiah’s kingdom would be a worldly, political, Zionist kingdom. They, therefore, expected that this man who claimed to be the Messiah would defend his kingdom with the sword. They came prepared for a blood letting conflict.
Our Lord later told Pilate plainly that his kingdom is not of this world. This is a lesson which still needs to be taught, and taught often (John 18:36). The kingdom of God is not, has never been, and can never be built, promoted, and propagated by the arm of the flesh. The cause of truth does not need political, legislative, or carnal force to maintain it. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). It is written, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
Papacy, Mohammedanism, Hinduism, and Judaism must have the sword to survive. The kingdom of God stands not by the sword, but in spite of it. False religion depends upon and survives by every carnal means imaginable: programs, puppet shows, entertainment, bake sales, tricks, gimmicks, rituals, and ceremonies. Whatever it takes to be successful is what is done!
It is a sad fact that pastors, local churches and religious denominations and organizations in the United States (both liberal and conservative) commonly engage in political debate. We cannot protect or expand the cause of Christ by political and social activism, no matter how great or sincere the efforts. Ours is a spiritual battle waged against worldly ideologies and dogmas arrayed against God. The only way we can triumph over them is by the gospel.
The church and kingdom of God, the gospel of his grace stands by the power of God the Holy Spirit, by the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and the effectual operations of his grace in the hearts of men by the Word (Hebrews 4:12). The Lord God has not left us here to be political activists, but to be evangelists. It is not ours to seek to reform the nation. Our only business is the glory of God in the salvation of sinners.
If we would do God’s work, in God’s name, for God’s glory, it must be done in God’s way. The church and kingdom of God can only be built by the preaching of the gospel. Our needs for that work are supplied by the generous giving of God’s people, as they are directed by the Spirit of God.
The Word of God
Everything that happened to our Savior, everything he suffered at the hands of ungodly, reprobate men, from Gethsemane to Calvary, was written hundreds of years before in the Word of God. These men, by their wicked deeds, not only fulfilled the Scriptures, they stand as unanswerable arguments for the infallible, inerrant, verbal inspiration of the Word of God.
“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: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.” (Mark 14:48-49)
“Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.” (Acts 13:26-29)
The rage of his enemies, the betrayal of Judas, the price of the betrayal (30 pieces of silver!), the forsaking of his friends, our Lord’s being dealt with as a malefactor, numbered with the transgressors, the piercing of his hands and feet, the parting of his raiment, all were precisely foretold in the Word of God. Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 were precisely fulfilled, exactly as they were written. How can we account for these things?
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:19-21)
Everything that took place in the sufferings of the Son of God was ordered and ordained by God, written in his Word, and brought to pass by his hand for the ransom of our souls, to make atonement for our sin. Those armed men Judas brought with him to take the Master, Judas, the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, the Jews, Herod, and Pilate, were but the hands of God, unconscious instruments of his sovereignty, by which he accomplished his purpose!
“Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword: From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes.” (Psalms 17:13-14)
Children of God, here is rest for our souls, a soft, soft pillow for our aching heads. Everything and everyone in this world is ruled by the wisdom, grace, and goodness of our omnipotent God! The course of this world is usually contrary to our desires. The church of God seems always to be struggling to survive. The wickedness of men appears to abound on every hand. The inconsistencies of our brethren often hurt and disturb us. Our own sins and inconsistencies disappoint and disturb many, and cause us great distress. But he who is our God and heavenly Father knows exactly what he is doing. And he always does only that which is absolutely best. He is simply fulfilling his purpose, working out his plan, accomplishing his predestination, fulfilling his Word. Read the 2nd Psalm and rejoice.
On the resurrection morning, when all things are made manifest, our Lord will show that even in the most distressing times and circumstances, he was simply fulfilling his wise and holy will.
The People of God
Again and again, the Holy Spirit reminds us of the faults and failures, fickleness and falls, sins and shortcomings of the people of God in this world. — “And they all forsook him, and fled” (v. 50). Noah’s drunkenness, Abraham’s fear, Lot’s choice, David’s adultery and murder, Peter’s fall, and the abandonment of our Lord by all his disciples in the garden are things recorded for our learning. They are written to teach us and remind us that all flesh is grass and salvation is of the Lord. Our only righteousness is that which God has given us in Christ. If we are kept in grace, we are kept and preserved by grace alone. We must never place any confidence in ourselves.
With these faithful, faithful men, faith gave way to fear. Overwhelmed by their circumstances, they all forsook their Savior and fled. We ought to be humbled before the Lord, knowing that our flesh is just like theirs, weak and prone to any and every sin. How charitable we should be to our erring, fallen, inconsistent brothers and sisters. We ought to be most thankful to our God for his faithful, preserving grace. We should ever be mindful of and give praise to our God for such a sympathizing High Priest as our Lord Jesus Christ is who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities.
If there is one trial more difficult to bear than any other, I think it must be disappointment, betrayal, or abandonment by one who is close and trusted as a friend, companion, or loved one. But there is one faithful Friend who never disappoints his friends; and his compassions fail not!
The Gospel of God
“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” (vv. 51-52).
We are not told who this young man was. That may be because no one knew his name. It seems that he was awakened in the middle of the night by all the commotion going on around him. He seems to have simply wrapped a sheet around himself to step outside and see what was happening. As he followed the crowd, trying to see, the soldiers grabbed him. So furious was the blood thirsty mob that they were ready to arrest and kill anyone even suspected of being a follower of Jesus. Realizing the danger he had unwittingly stepped into, this young man “fled from them naked,” leaving his sheet behind.
Why is this, seemingly insignificant, event written in the Book of God? I know it is written for our learning, that we might through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures have hope (Romans 15:4). But what are we to learn from this event? It seems to me that this young man is held before us here as a portrayal of the gospel itself, a picture of a sinner redeemed by the blood of Christ. He seems to be a providential antitype of what took place on the day of atonement and at the ceremonial cleansing of the leper (Leviticus 16:22; 14:7).
When the leper was cleansed, one bird was killed and the other bird, being dipped in the dead birds blood, was set free. One the day of atonement one goat was slain and the other set free. Even so, in the gospel we learn that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, was slain for us, and we are set free, just as he was taken in the garden and this young man fled away to freedom.
I have no idea whether that is why this event is recorded; but I do know by the glorious experience of grace that the allegory is true! The law of God and hell itself held me in its grip; but when it took my Substitute, I fled away to freedom. The law stripped me naked. Fearing for my life, I left my filthy rags of self-righteousness in its teeth, and fled away naked to Christ.
“Nothing in my hands I bring.
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
Helpless, look to Thee for grace,
Naked, look to Thee for dress!”
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