Presented at Trinity Fellowship on 03/03/1996
Luke 22:47 While he was still speaking, a multitude came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them. And he approached Jesus to kiss him. 48 And Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And a certain one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 And 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 against a robber? 53 While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this hour and the power of darkness is yours.”
Of twenty-four chapters in his Gospel, Luke devotes twenty-two to the last three years of Jesus’ life. Of those twenty-two, five and a half are devoted to the last week of it and the forty days that followed that. Of 1, 151 verses, 268 are devoted to the one week between the Triumphal Entry and the Resurrection. In other words, twenty three percent of the book is devoted to less than one percent of the time Jesus spent in public ministry, to .0005 of his life. This ratio is similar to that in the other Gospels, and it points out the supreme importance of these events that we are covering in these weeks. We will therefore look at each episode in some detail. In the Arrest, I would like to highlight three things that are not necessarily related conceptually, except by alliteration and their near simultaneity of occurrence: The Perfidious Kiss, the Petrine Cut, and the Power of the Curse.
I want to preface my remarks about verse 48 by reminding you of the reality of the incarnation. Jesus was God. He was the same person as the eternal Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity. At every moment of eternity and at every moment (save one) of his earthly life, he enjoyed perfect communion with the Father. By that personal connection to the Godhead he still possessed all the attributes of God, including omniscience. But for our redemption he had also taken on human nature, and that human nature was also absolutely real. So the divine Person emptied himself of his glory and his prerogatives and identified himself with us so closely that he normally limited himself to operating through that finite human nature. As a result, the totally self-sufficient One could get hungry; the omnipotent One could get tired; and the living God could die.
As a result, the constant experience of omniscience is part of the glory that our Lord laid aside in order to come to us and identify himself with us as our Head, our Lord, our Substitute, and our Savior. As God he still had omniscience—the Father could give him any information he needed to pursue his ministry. But he normally limited himself to operating through the few paltry million neurons of the finite human brain that came with the man Jesus of Nazareth. You see this clearly in Matthew 24:36. Speaking of his Second Coming, Jesus said, “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” How could the divine and therefore omniscient Son not know this? Because there was only room for a finite amount of knowledge in the finite human brain he was using. The day and hour of the Second Coming was on a “need-to-know” basis, and he didn’t need to know. (Neither, apparently, do his disciples, despite the rather arrogant and disobedient attempts by many of them to figure it out.) My point in this theological digression is to bring into focus one of the strange paradoxes of the divine-human Messiah. Jesus (in one sesnse) knew everything, but he was capable of being surprised.
And that is what makes this the unkindest kiss on record. The word order in the Greek of verse 48 puts a strong emphasis on the word “kiss.” “Iouda, philemati ton huion tou anthropou paradidos?” “Judas. . . with a KISS you betray the Son of Man?” Jesus knew that Judas was going to be the betrayer, but he was not expecting the method to be so cruel as this. He loved Judas; Judas was one of his closest friends. He knew that Judas had been driven to this action, perhaps by disillusionment over Jesus’ failure to be the military messiah everyone was expecting. But Jesus was affected by the level of brazen hypocrisy, he was shocked and hurt by the meaning behind, that kiss. This kiss cut deep. It was worse than he expected.
The words still echo through history. “Et tu, Brute?” “Judas . . . with a KISS?” No one has captured it better than Michael Card:
Why did it have to be a friend who chose to betray the Lord? And why did he do it with a kiss? That’s not what a kiss is for. Only a friend betrays a friend; a stranger has naught to gain. And only a friend comes close enough to ever cause so much pain.“Et tu, Brute?” “Judas . . . with a KISS?” I simply pause on it for a moment as one small insight into the sufferings of Jesus Christ for our redemption.
We know from John’s account (18:10) that the impetuous disciple who drew his sword was Peter. Surprise, surprise. What impresses me here is the astounding level of his gross misunderstanding of the situation. We have already seen that he missed the point of Jesus’ advice to sell your cloak and buy a sword. No doubt he was one of the two who pulled theirs out to show they were ahead of the curve. The sadness in Jesus’ sigh, “It is enough,” went right over his head. But that was not the only thing that had gone over his head! After all this time Peter was still looking for a military Messiah to overthrow the Roman oppressor. After all this time he still did not realize that Jesus had come to die a sacrificial death for sin. He did not understand that, because Jesus was the innocent Lamb of God, it was important that it be plain that his trial was irregular and unjust. Therefore, Peter almost blew it by giving the temple officials a legitimate excuse for arresting Jesus. He was not a very good swordsman. No doubt, his blow was intended not just to cut off the servant’s ear, but to cleave his skull. Give me Aragorn and Gimli at my side, not Peter, if I every have to go up against any orcs! But despite the incompetence of his disciple in using both the physical and the spiritual sword, Jesus stayed in control of the situation. He rebuked Peter and healed the ear, and things proceeded according to the Father’s plan after all.
Peter’s stroke here shows us the power for evil of preconceived notions. Just think of what Peter had heard; listen just to a part, from Luke’s account, of what he had managed to miss, reinterpret, or ignore. “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priest and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Luke 9:22). On the Mount of Transfiguration, he had heard Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus about “his departure [Greek, exodus] which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem” (9:31). “Let these words sink into your ears, for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men” (9:44). “Whoever does not carry his own cross cannot come after me and be my disciple” (14:27). The Son of Man will come in power and glory, “But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation” (17:25). “And he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged him, they will kill him; and the third day he will rise again’” (18:31-33). “But when the vine growers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him that the inheritance may be ours’” (20:14). “And in the same way he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood’” (22:10). “For I tell you that this which is written about me must be fulfilled, ‘He was numbered among the transgressors’” (22:37).
This teaching was incisive in its clarity, unparalleled in its authority, more than sufficient in its quantity, indeed abundant to the point of tedium in its repetitions. Yet Peter not only missed it, but he was so far out of harmony with the Lord’s real purpose that his zeal served only to threaten to wreck God’s plans for our redemption. How clueless can you be? Well, when we were natural men and women, we were just as bad. For the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned.
What are the lessons we should take away from this near fiasco? Sincerity is not enough; zeal is not enough; good intentions are not enough. A sound and accurate understanding of biblical doctrine is absolutely essential equipment for Christian service and faithful discipleship. Judas with evil intentions betrayed Jesus with an act of love. Peter with the noblest of intentions almost betrayed him with an act of war. And if you are not grounded in sound doctrine, you are capable of doing exactly the same thing.
Let us then beware lest our own assumptions cheat us of the truth of Scripture! My experience as a preacher tells me that the people of God have an almost infinite capacity to listen the Word of God read and expounded without hearing a single solitary thing they do not already believe. It never even occurred to Peter that his assumptions might be wrong! Has it occurred to you? Let us begin with an awareness of the problem. That combined with a sincere love of God’s truth and unmerciful honesty with ourselves as we read and hear is half the battle.
They are among the most mysterious and chilling words ever spoken: “The hour is yours, and the power of darkness.” Evil is about to do its worst, and that worst—the torture and murder of God—is a horrible thing to contemplate. Yet even in these most chilling of words are hidden the seeds of hope. The Evil Power in the universe was strong enough to kill the Son of God. But it was not strong enough to prevent his resurrection! It is the same in our lives. If you are a Christian, the power of darkness may be given an hour in your life. But God reserves eternity for himself!
Let us beware of betraying the Lord who endured so much for us. Judas did so by his nefarious treachery. Peter did so by his impetuous stupidity. By God’s grace we need do neither, if we cling to this One who was so faithful to us. As we receive Communion today, let us renew our vows of faithfulness to him.
Here endeth the lesson.
Dr. Donald T. Williams