Student Bible - Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Appointment with Destiny: Betrayal in a quiet garden

Matthew 26

Matthew 26:39 “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

In a stroke of bitter irony, the intimate scene of the Last Supper butts up against the brutal scene of betrayal in Gethsemane. The ordeal begins with Jesus praying in a quiet, cool grove of olive trees, with three of his disciples waiting sleepily outside. Inside the garden, all is peaceful; outside, the forces of hell are on the loose.

An armed mob makes its way toward the garden to seize and torture Jesus. He feels afraid and abandoned. Lying facedown on the ground, he prays for some way out. The future of the human race—more, the universe—comes down to this one weeping figure whose “sweat [is] like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

Blustery Peter is prepared to fight evil in the traditional way—by force. When he hacks off a guard’s ear, however, Jesus stops the violence and performs, notably, his final miracle: He heals the guard (see Luke 22:50–51).

No Rescue Plan

Although Jesus has the power to defend himself—he could dispatch squadrons of angels to fight his battles—he will not use it. When the disciples realize that they can expect no last-minute rescue operations from the invisible world, they all flee. Fear extinguishes their last flicker of hope. If Jesus will not protect himself, how will he protect them?

Matthew’s account of what transpires in Gethsemane and before the Sanhedrin shows that, in an odd inversion, the “victim” dominates all that takes place. Jesus—not Judas, not the mob and not the high priest—acts like the one truly in control. “Are you then the Son of God?” the chief priests demand. Jesus finally answers, simply, “You say that I am” (Luke 22:70).

That single admission condemns Jesus to death, for the members of the Sanhedrin have a different expectation of the Messiah. They want a conqueror to set them free by force. Jesus knows that only one thing—his death—will truly set them free. For that reason he has come to Earth.

Life Questions

How would you respond if your life were threatened because you were a follower of Christ?

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