Matthew 26: 47- 75, Arrest and Betrayal!
General Idea: This passage continues the theme of missed opportunities. Jesus takes His Disciples from the Upper Room into the garden a short walk away, where He prays passionately to the Father for the empowerment and enablement to continue His mission with success. He knew his betrayal was at hand. He already had warned Peter that he would betray Him; now, Peter's time had come. Would he remain true to Jesus and to his passionate plea that he would never be disloyal to Him? Peter claimed he was strong; now, he and the rest of the Disciples are at the crossroads of loyalty and betrayal. The test was taken and the test was failed. As they saw the betrayer at hand, they seemed to follow the betrayer and not the Savior. How often in our lives do we seem to do this, too?
Judas now comes with the community thugs, and the disloyal, conniving, religious leaders to arrest Jesus, illegally. A kiss is given, a sword is drawn, and an innocent man is given up to the hands of reprobates. Jesus comes face to face with His accusers, those who have conspired to destroy their very own Messiah because He got in their way and messed up their plans. They tried their best to bring as many false witnesses, with their falsehoods, as they could to dishonor and entrap Jesus, but to no avail. Finally, the last witness comes and blatantly lies; but, truth to those religious leaders was irrelevant; only their desires and plans were supreme.
Peter follows at a distance, watching as all these events enfold. Three times he was confronted with being a follower of Jesus, and three times he denied it, adamantly. Then, a rooster crows, and he realizes that the strength he claimed would last was no longer there. His loyalty, which he had passionately articulated, left him; all he had now was betrayal.
1. A great multitude. Since they were sent by the Chief Priests, this would include the Temple Guard and the Roman soldiers attached to them.
a. Clubs would also indicate these were the local thugs and hoodlums, as righteous people would not participate in a clandestine endeavor, nor carry a club-the weapon of a bully.
b. The Roman soldiers dealt with other, so called, revolutionary messiahs such as Barabbas, and considered Jesus' Disciples to be clear and present dangers, which they were not.
c. Kiss was a sign of affection, and common between close male friends and family. To kiss your close friend, then betray him was the ultimate sign of contempt and hypocrisy, and would horrify Matthew's Jewish readers (Prov. 27:6).
d. This betrayal was unjust!
e. The Servant, who was struck, was not a priest or Roman; hence the term, servant, rather than a hired worker. Some commentators say it was a Levite and Jesus restored his ear so he could continue to serve God, as a lost body part would invalidate a person to serve in the Temple; however, there is no scriptural support for this.
f. Put your sword in its place. Jesus' Kingdom is not one of force and manipulation as were other faiths or human rulers; rather, grace and liberty were offered freely.
g. ...take the sword will die by the sword was a common quote by Jesus, used by many over the millennias to prove passivism. Its meaning is that violence in any society is expected because of sin, as there always were violent times. However, it does not need to escalate. Peter was escalating violence when he should have been a peacemaker. This is not a pacifist expression coming from Jesus; rather, it is a call not to cause or escalate violence or tempers!
h. Legion of Angels. A legion was six thousand; thus, Jesus could summon seventy two thousand angels. Even one angel, with a mere breath, could have taken out the entire Roman army (2 Kings 6:17; 19:35). This was a testimony of "meekness," or, strength under control.
i. Be fulfilled. Jesus validated the fulfillment of prophecy (Zech. 13:7; Luke 22:37; 24:44-46). Jesus was submitting to the will of God and not to His desire to retaliate or get out of harm's way. If He had, we would not have redemption!
j. You did not seize me. They had the opportunity to get Jesus at any time, yet they chose subversion, which was considered by the Jews as how a dishonorable Gentile would behave. Nothing Jesus did had even a hint of sedition; now, He was showing them their hypocrisy!
2. Sanhedrin. The Jewish supreme court, where Jesus is being falsely tried, consisted of the full assembly of the elders of Israel (Acts 5:21-22). They met in the Temple Court or in a secret hall inside called, "Chamber of the Hewn Stone." This chamber is where they held their clandestine sessions; their own Laws from the Pharisees said these were unlawful meetings.
a. It is interesting that they had trouble finding false witnesses! Thus, they had to resort to excessive measures to rid themselves of Jesus by either coercing someone or listening to blatant lying.
b. The reason for the night attack was that Jesus was popular, and they feared an uprising; they knew the Romans would quickly squash it, then remove their positions, and possibly even their lives from them.
c. High Priest Courtyard was private property; to be there at night was trespassing. Now, Peter is being very bold! It is possible that it was open because of Passover.
d. Sought false testimony. Jewish courts are similar today with "cross examination" at is core; however, they were not following procedure, but, rather, their pride and desires. Each testimony contradicted that of another until a person just made something up; and this pleased the rulers!
e. This fellow said. Fabricating testimony was a violation of the Ninth Commandment (Ex. 20:16; 23:2; Nub. 35:30; Duet. 17:6-7; 19:15-21). As you can see from these passages, the religious leaders were in direct violation of God's Law which they had sworn to uphold and serve! Jesus' trial was a farce and a travesty, showing severe bias as well as a disregard for truth and law. However, it was necessary for our afflictions and sins. Teaching about a new Temple, when this one had just been rebuilt by Herod, was an insult to the Jewish leaders; others sought God to establish a new Temple to inaugurate the Messianic Kingdom.
f. The charge against Jesus was a misunderstanding of what He said (John 2:19). He was talking about Himself, not the physical Temple.
g. Do you answer nothing? The Priest may have considered Jesus a mad revolutionary; therefore, he asks Jesus who He is.
h. Jesus kept silent, indicating they had no right or power over Him!
i. I put you under oath. The High Priest, Caiaphas, sought to manipulate Jesus with a false oath. He was asking if Jesus was the Messiah, but he was not seeking the truth (1 Sam. 14:24; 1 Kings 22:16).
j. It is as you said. Jesus is claiming to be the Cosmic Ruler as stipulated in Daniel (Dan. 7:13-14).
k. Tore his clothes was sign of mourning, or regret and repentance. In this case, it was more of a show and pretence to so called blasphemy. The Priest did not prove Jesus blasphemed!
l. What do you think? The High Priest could not judge alone; he needed a consensus before giving the verdict, similar to a jury (Matt. 27:11).
m. As you said. Jesus answers reluctantly, possibly for our benefit, because the leader's interpretation of what a Messiah was to be was based on superstitions and not Scripture.
n. Hereafter. Jesus is foretelling His resurrection, ascension, and exaltation (Matt. 28. 11-15; Acts 7:56). Jesus is who He said He was!
o. Spitting was also a violation of their law! They sought contempt and not truth! Just as Jeremiah was in the sphere of false testimony and manipulating, corrupt judges, so is our Lord (Jer. 26:7-9)!
3. I do not know what you are saying. Peter is denying Jesus outright (Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18; 25-27)! Peter appealed to God and testified to facts that would be true but turned out not to be true (Matt. 5:33-37; 26:33-35)! This testifies, not just to Peter's disloyalty, but, rather, our sinful nature that seeks its own and not God. Later on, we will see how God's great mercy and grace covers our inadequacies and weakness!
a. The man/fellow was a saying of contempt. Peter adds contempt to his denial, a very poor showing of who he is and was meant to be!
b. Servant girls were hired workers like maids who were from the "top of the class" and in a very favored and special position. Even as a girl in a male dominated society, they looked down at fishermen. There was also a cultural class war between Judeans and Galileans; each one looked with contempt at the other as high upper class aristocrats versus blue collar workers, or, urban versus rural people.
c. Your speech betrays you. The accents in Judea varied with pronunciation of vowel infections. Thus, a Galilean fisherman would have had a distinct and harsh accent. Since Jesus was Galilean, and Peter was too, and was not supposed to be there, then, logically, he had to be a Disciple.
d. Curses. These were perhaps not slang, vulgar words; rather, regrets of one's birth and decisions (Matt. 5:33-37). And, curses were upon self if one was lying. This was not the behavior of a religious person; rather, it was of someone who let his emotions run unchecked by his faith.
e. Rooster crows marked daybreak, and showed Peter His disloyalty as well as the truth of Jesus' prediction. Imagine his remorse as he remembered what he told Jesus, and what Jesus' words told him!
Peter, and the rest of the Disciples, missed an opportunity to be strong and loyal as they said they would be. Peter's boasting became empty words backed up with confusion, as he slept when he should have been awake, fought when he should have prayed, and forsook Jesus when he should have stood by Him. We have to realize that our promises are of no value unless there is a power to back them up; only Christ, working in us, can be that power. This means we need to see Him and not ourselves in our promises so they are based on reality and faith, and we must remain committed (John 13:36; 20:22-29; 21:18-19, 28).
Jesus was still in complete control, even in the midst of utter betrayal, arrest, and a mock trial led by hypocrites and evil doers (Matt. 23). Jesus' arrest seemed to be hapless, hopeless, and the end of His ministry and life. The Disciples gave up and left Him. They allowed adversity to overtake their faith when they should have seen it as an opportunity to learn and to grow. The question that comes to us is, when we, too, are given opportunity to stand by Jesus and follow Him, do we do so, or do we let the evil desires of our heart become supreme? We will come to a crossroad of faith and desires, loyalty and betrayal; what road will we undertake? God will put us in situations we may consider adversity, and we may only see the dire circumstances and not Him. But, seek Christ and His opportunities, and let Him build your faith. The real treasures God gives us are not possessions, power, or wealth; rather, they are relationships and opportunities. What will we do with them for His glory?
1. How do you respond to danger?
2. This passage continues the theme of missed opportunities. What opportunities have you missed? How can you keep your focus on Him and what is next rather than allowing regret to take you over?
3. Why did Peter's passionate plea, that he would never be disloyal to Jesus, not come true? How often in our life do we seem to do this, too?
4. Why do you suppose Peter followed at a distance, watching?
5. Why do you suppose the religious leaders had to enlist the local thugs and hoodlums to come against Jesus?
6. What do you think of Judas' kiss?
7. How was this betrayal unjust?
8. Do you think Jesus was teaching passivism here? Why, or why not? How would you define passivism?
9. When have you denied Jesus? Consider your selfishness and desires that may override His work, character, values, precepts, and call in you?
10. Why did the Sanhedrin do this at night and against its own laws?
11. Why do you think they had sought false testimony and then had trouble finding false witnesses?
12. Why did Jesus keep silent?
13. In Peter's mind, do you think he was aware that he was actually denying Jesus outright, or was he just so overcome with grief and emotion that he did not know what he was doing? In any event, what about responsibility and commitment?
14. How do you define disloyalty? How have you experienced it? How have you done it?
15. Can you imagine Peter's remorse as he remembered what he told Jesus and what Jesus words told Him? How would you have felt?
16. Have you realized that your promises are of no value unless there is a power to back them up? Why is it that only Christ working in us should be that power?
17. What does it mean to see Christ and not ourselves in our promises, so they are based on reality and faith, and we remain committed? How can you do this?
18. How does knowing that Jesus was still in complete control, even in the midst of utter betrayal, arrest, and a mock trial led by hypocrites and evil doers, strengthen your faith and trust in Him? What about when you go through intense circumstances?
19. How have you allowed your adversity to overtake your faith when you should have seen it as an opportunity to learn and grow? What can you do to remain more faithful?
20. The question, what do we do? comes to us as we, too, are given opportunity to either stand by Jesus, following Him, or let the evil desires of our hearts reign supreme. What can you do the next time adversity strikes you? Remember, He does not always bring you out of tough times, but He does promise He will be there through them with you!
© 2004, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org