Tuesday, August 08, 2017
Fresh Look at Matthew: Matthew 26:47-56
This passage brings up a lot of thoughts from me.
If we have any temptation to “feel sorry” for Judas, who is often portrayed sympathetically by secular media, this should disabuse us. He kisses Jesus, a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern custom of deep friendship between members of the same sex. My female Islamic students kiss each other when they meet, showing that they don’t have phobias about getting too close and they value community. Judas kisses Jesus in order to identify him for the purpose of betrayal. You can’t get much lower than that. No wonder he committed suicide. Who could live with it?
Second, the text says that a multitude came with clubs and swords. Who were these people? Not soldiers, but civilians who had decided to join the religious elite, maybe for pay, maybe for acceptance and position, maybe because they were being blackmailed, and maybe because they just didn’t like Jesus and his teachers, and thought he was really a blasphemer. The word multitude is interesting. I can’t help thinking about the logical fallacy of bandwagon or ad populum, appeal to the majority.
We will always be in situations where we are, or worse, seem to be, in the minority. 99% of the time it has no bearing on whether we are right or wrong. Most of the time it just seems like we are in the minority because the media are blaring how weird we are if we don’t own a certain product or dress a certain way. To be a Christian is often to be your own person and not be influenced by the supposed majority that isn’t. Jesus and his disciples were outnumbered, and the disciples fled, the ultimate test.
They didn’t flee until someone used violence, and Jesus makes it clear that that is not the way. We learn in Luke that Peter had a sword. What was he doing with a sword at prayer time? Probably he had taken the threats that were milling around seriously and he wasn’t the kind of person afraid to use a sword. Luke also tells us Jesus healed the victim.
Jesus is in complete control here. He corrects Peter but does really rebuke him. He understands that this is the way of men, and he has to remind them that is not the way of the gospel. “If you live by violence, you will die by violence. We are not going to operate that way” (a direct response to Mohammed’s methods.)
Third, he reminds them all he is in charge. "God could send thousands of angels (and the emphasis on legions is not a coincidence—they would be warrior angels) if I asked, but we’re doing this to fulfill Scripture," a theme of Matthew.
Fourth, even though the Scriptures must be fulfilled, no one gets off the hook for being part of the plot to kill him. So he rebukes the multitude, asking them, “Why did you choose now? You could have taken me at any time.” And really, they could have, as he led a very public ministry. Why did they wait until late at night, in a private place? Good question. I think he is pointing out their cowardice (they chose late at night so that the masses who followed Jesus would not see it) and again, because that is how Scripture in the Old Testament said it should be.
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