Arrest and Trial of the King | Matthew 26:47-68
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 26:47–26:68
Christopher Rich – February 21, 2015
Passion of the King - The Book of Matthew Pt. 5
Wk4: Arrest and Trail of the King | 26:47-68
Introduction | Parties Over
Good Morning! This week we are continuing the “Passion of the King” We are spending the weeks leading up to Easter, looking to Jesus on the cross taking our defeat for us including Good Friday, His victorious resurrection on Easter, and the commission He gives his disciples to make disciples and live for him. Things have moved quickly the last three weeks as we saw a dramatic gift/blessing response to who Jesus is. Betrayal is in the air. Passover is celebrated, Communion has been instituted, a hymn has been sung and the party is over. Jesus then retreats to the garden of Gethsemane to deal with the trial and sorrow and face his final temptation, moving from restlessness to resolution through prayer. The last verse we read said “Rise, let us be going, see, my betrayer is at hand.” Jesus is going to proactively engage in what God has called him to do. Things continue to build in intensity and today we’re going over a large section of scripture we’re going to break into two distinct sections that resemble an episode of Law & Order where the first part is focused on an arrest while the second scene is a court room trial.
PART I | Verse 47-56 | Arrest of the King
Matthew 26:47-56 | 47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
As Jesus walk and leads in obedience it doesn’t take but a moment for significant conflict to ensue. The background conspiracy has now come to the fore front as Judas’ intention to betray Jesus has become action. He has rallied people with him on his mission to take down Jesus and you have a “great crowd” with “swords and clubs”. They are servants of the chief priest and likely include the temple guard. They are armed because they see Jesus as a revolutionary and revolutions require overthrowing the status quo; and it’s time to “crush is puny rebellion.” Here comes Judas to Jesus and again calls him “Rabbi” (Jesus is just a good teacher) and betrays him with a sign of affection giving him “the kiss of death.” Jesus, not resigned but resolute, simply says “do what you came to do.” The armed crowd comes around Jesus and seizes him.
The disciples respond. We’ve got an armed crowd including professional security guards or police on one side and 11 disciples of Jesus (fishermen, tax collectors) on the other. We know from Luke’s gospel that one of the disciples says “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” We don’t know if Peter is the one who asked but we do know he endorsed the idea. Before Peter hears an answer from Jesus we know from John’s account, Peter is the one that take out a sword and strikes a servant of the High Priest named Malchus.
Faced with conflict, Peter’s answer to the opposition to Jesus is to wage an individual crusade against the enemies of Jesus. It didn’t go well. Peter isn’t interested in Jesus mission he just wants to eliminate Jesus’ opposition. He’s quick to act without direction and believe he will secure victory. We often think Jesus too weak and His kingdom so fragile. So we pick foolish battles with the world as if Jesus needs us to defend him or the Kingdom of God needs to keep it from crumbling. Have zeal and boldness, be faithful, contend for the faith, but your actions (especially where aggressive) better be directed by God. Don’t launch with what seems like a good idea without waiting for God to answer and direct. At best our attempts are like Peter’s wild stab in the dark where we randomly hurt someone who is likely just obeying their boss.
Jesus has a different answer. Jesus answers his enemies with gracious action. Jesus, we know from Luke, actually takes the ear and heals him with his touch. Jesus doesn’t want to eliminate his enemies; he wants to heal them. “Love your enemies” is lived out perfectly at this moment. Jesus corrects his disciples with clear words. “If you want to wage a worldly war, shedding the blood of your enemies hoping for victory you better not be surprised when it is the brute force of the world that leads to your defeat. This is not how the kingdom will be built or fought for.” These are not the words of a violent revolutionary that hopes to over through the status quo with military force. A fisherman with a sword is a lame army. (yet.. God does use the weak to shame the wise)Jesus at this point is the suffering servant in humility he’s not living out as the victorious king. That will come later, after the resurrection, during his Return. Disciples of Jesus fight differently than the world. Ephesians 6:12 | For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
The crowd there to arrest Jesus sees this healing take place, they see Him correcting His disciples. They then hear Jesus affirm His divinity and role as the Son of God while he is explicit about what he is capable of. “I can call down legions of angel armies.” A legion is thousands of troops; this is a massive amount. After seeing the miraculous healing I am guessing few doubt what Jesus is saying at this moment. Jesus can end this with overwhelming “shock and awe” amounts of force. But He won’t, because God’s promises to his people would not be fulfilled. Jesus knows victory is coming; but He has to take our defeat for us first. John 18:8 Jesus answered, “I told you I am he, So if you see me let these men go.” Jesus stands in between his disciple and a hostility that seek to destroy them; he speaks in their place securing their release.
Jesus then address the crowd (who has just seen his power to heal, who has just heard of his ability to call in angle armies and he says. “You’ve come with clubs and swords like I’m a common thief?” another translation says “Subversives” Rome hated the idea of secret sleeper cells. Regardless of the translation, Jesus is saying “All I have done has been out in the open, you know who I am, and what I have done and yet you’re approaching me as if I am some secret rebel or criminal. Those who know me and have experienced my gracious ministry love me so you fear their response if you arrest me in public. You fear people when you should fear me.” This isn’t you brought a knife to a gun fight. This is you brought a stick (which God created) to a cosmic battle with the Eternal, Divine, Creator of the Universe. Good luck winning that battle. Worldly opposition to the creator of the Universe just looks weak and foolish. In this we are reminded that while the course of events seems to be spiraling out of control; God in Jesus is still completely in control. Jesus is not overwhelmed by the crowd or taken forcibly while he resists. This is a willing surrender, not because Jesus sees the chess board and can’t figure a way out of the worldly plot against him. Jesus is practically “turning himself in” his arrest is absolutely on his own terms. Jesus, arrested, the disciples released, he is alone with the crowd. Matthew says “we all left him and fled.” Yes they were released but Matthew wants to be clear the disciples had no more stomach to fight; only for flight.
PART II | Verses 57-68 | Trial of the King
Matt 26:57-67 | 57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered.58 And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
The scene has transitioned from the arrest near the garden to a kangaroo court. This court is convened by power drunk men to put God on trial, not seeking justice, submission, or even truth, but seeking to give reason to kill Jesus. It says Peter was following Jesus at a distance. Close enough to see what is going on to hear what is happening and what is being said about and done to Jesus; but far enough away that he isn’t in any danger of being accused with Jesus. So the guy who was boldly going to wage a one man holy war is now trying to fade into the background. If we are sometimes too quick go on the attack for Jesus; there are other times we hope to follow Jesus “at a distance” a nice safe distance away from any danger. We become spectators when we’ve been called to act and enter the fray. We don’t commit and we wait and see which side is winning before jumping on to any team. Peter is not standing with Jesus, but sitting with the guards to “see the end”.
The trial begins witnesses are called to say something condemning of Jesus. The guy who heals people, who turned water in to awesome wine, who calms storms, who loves children, who preaches Love God and Love People, who raises the dead, who calls people to repent of sin that leads to death and embrace abundant life, who feeds to poor, who casts out corrupt business men from the holy temple and casts out enslaving demons from men’s souls. Come stand up as a character witness against why this man should be rejected by the world. “but they found none.” Sure there were people who wanted to please the leaders but they couldn’t find two “false witnesses” who could even get their stories straight. Eventually some came forward who “agreed” as accusers saying “Jesus is going to destroy the temple of God, (THE means of sinful men to approach a perfect God through sacrifice and prayer) and rebuild it in three days.” OH now we have treason against the religious establishment! THE accusation against Jesus in this court is “You’re going to forever end the way God and His people have been able to have communion and interaction with each other and then going to completely establish a new and eternal way in just three days.” YUP! That is exactly what Jesus is going to do. The High Priest, the highest temple authority, gets up saying “What is your answer to this accusation?” Jesus is silent, one because there is not point to contradict the truth or answer foolish men and two because he’s fulfilling the prophecy spoken about the Messiah.
Isaiah 53:7 | He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
The silence is only making the High Priest more intense and finally he asks a questions, really the only questions that has mattered since. “PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF THE HOLY LIVING GOD YHWH, tell us are you the promised Savior-King of God’s people?!? JESUS are you the Son of God!?” This is the whole ballgame, Jesus either is or he isn’t there is no middle ground. The room is waiting for the answer. This is where Jesus should be answering, “WHOA! Let’s not get carried away, I am just a good teacher. I am just a prophet who speaks for God, I am just a religious leader, a community organizer, I am just a super spiritual miracle worker who uses the force to heal people.” But that is not what he does. When facing life and death in the trial of his life, the next words out of Jesus mouth are incredibly important. He absolutely affirms who he is, and just like Judas asking about if he’s the betrayer, Jesus puts all the responsibility right back on the High Priest. “You have said so.” And then Jesus doubles down on His divinity, His authority, and His glory. I will be seated at the right hand of POWER. I may appear weak, fragile, you will see me bleed and die, you will think you are in charge of what is going on, but I am in ultimate authority. I have come humbly, as baby, a poor carpenter, a humble teacher, but the next time you see me will be in Heavenly glory!! Don’t ever let anyone tell you Jesus never claimed to be God. He does it right here when his very life is on the line and does so clearly and boldly. Jesus isn’t just the savior of his people; He is the ruler of the entire universe the Prophet Daniel spoke of in Dan 7:13-14, one who is and will reign forever. Jesus is saying “from now on you are not my judge; I am yours.”
What is High Priest reaction? Does he fall down in worship? Does he weep tears of joy that God is good and has fulfilled his promises to his people to deal with their sin and lead them to life and freedom? Does he ask Jesus what he should do faithful live out God’s purpose in his life? Does he ask to be forgiven of his sins? Does he even say “if you’re in authority and power can you at least do something about this Roman occupation? Can you finally enact God’s Kingdom right here and now and end the impact of individual and corporate sin in the world? No! He doesn’t do any of these things. He doubles down on his rejection of Jesus. He tears his clothes in bitter rage at the man who stands before Him that says “I am God meaning you are not!” THIS IS BLASPHEMY! JESUS says He is God! Everyone, what is your judgement? The collective wisdom of the other leaders and elders agree with High Priest. “He deserves death.” Jesus is not God. This sets in motion Jesus going to the cross where he will be executed between two robbers.
What is your judgement? This is the question each of us must ask ourselves? Who is Jesus and how will I respond to him? But before we put Jesus on trial in our minds and heart there is another courtroom scene we need to consider. Not us putting God on trial, but what will happen when God puts us on trial? We need to understand that our sin against God is one of blasphemy. We assert we are the ultimate authority over our lives, not him. We have heard and know there is a Creator who made us with purpose and we violently reject him, accuse him of not knowing, loving or caring for us. We spit the face of His commands and authority of our lives. In God’s courtroom He is completely just and His witness to our lives is more accurate than our own. We have no defense before God. His verdict is absolutely guilty; His sentence is ultimate death and separation from God. The gospel is good news because Jesus while innocent is declared guilty, he takes our guilt and he endures our sentence in our place so we do not have to. Like the disciples at the point of arrest; He tells unruly mob wrath built up against us to take him and lets us be free. Unlike the disciples our response is not to flee or leave Jesus but to follow. Not at a safe distance; but close behind even in the mist of accusation, trial, difficulty; not tentatively wondering if Jesus is going to be defeated or foolishly trying to ensure his victory on our own strength and action. But peacefully, resolutely, knowing Jesus has already faced and owned our defeat, and He is raised in victory, seated in power and authority, returning in Glory. Whatever challenges we face, pain we endure, we know there is freedom when we Trust Jesus!