Keep Your Eyes Upon Jesus Today

by Jan Shrader


On the night the disciples shared their first communion, Jesus prophesied that one of the twelve would betray him.  Jesus’ prediction proved very inflammatory for the disciples.  With all their fears stirred up they had trouble listening to anything Jesus said after this revelation.  Betrayal is like that for most of us.  Stories of bitter betrayal hit a special nerve and can distract us from hearing anything of importance after that affront.


When you think about the betrayal and arrests in the garden of Gethsemane what character do you focus on the most?  Many people when they read this story think of Judas and his actions.  But, some might look to Peter and what he did when he swung a sword and took off Malchus’ ear. (John 18:10)


It is also, really easy in this incident to analyze the different characters and wonder what we might have done in the same circumstances.  These different dramas may cause us to either judge these people or judge ourselves.  But, what if there is a third option?  Instead, as we search this passage let’s try to keep our eyes on Jesus.  He is the person who will give us hope in this story.  Look at how he reacts when he is betrayed and what he does.


Consider this story in Luke 22:47-53.


  47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant[a] of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” ESV


Keep your eyes on Jesus because He is merciful.

What does Jesus say when Judas comes to betray him?  Jesus asks Judas a searching question.  He doesn’t attack Judas, he appeals to Judas’ motives even as Judas is using a loving action like a kiss to betray him.  Jesus can be merciful to Judas because Jesus does not see Judas as his enemy.


In Ephesians 2:4-6 Paul teaches us that God is rich in mercy.  On the night Jesus was arrested he overflowed with mercy for Judas even as Judas was betraying him.  Being rich in mercy means that the God we serve is the God of second chances, and third chances and even more.  While we have breath he is always pouring out his unlimited mercy upon us.


Meanwhile, back in the garden the disciples rising from their sleepy prayers are slow to realize what Judas is doing.  Before Jesus can answer their requests about swords, Peter has already swung his and taken off the ear of the high priest’s servant.  Again, keeping our eyes on Jesus, what does he do in verse 51?


These arresting forces, coming cowardly at night, cannot restrain Jesus’ mercy.  At this crucial time Jesus does not act with fear or with violence, but with healing.  This is our merciful Savior.


When we are struggling why is it important to remember Jesus is rich in mercy?

Keep your eyes on Jesus because he is not a victim. 

Look back at Luke 22:51-52.  They might be arresting Jesus but he does not see himself as a victim in this story.  He knew what was coming and he chose to be obedient to God’s will that night.


The four New Testament Gospels each give us a different perspectives on the same events.  Their unique viewpoints add to the validity and the richness of the story because no two people will view the same circumstances exactly the same.  Look at John’s perspective on this arrest and it will clarify that Jesus was never a victim in the garden.


John 18:1-11


          When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.”[a] Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus[b] said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant[c] and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” ESV


Why is it important to see Jesus’ willingness to go to the cross?


Keep your eyes on Jesus because he knows who the real enemy is.  Back in Luke 22:3-6 we see Judas had become a puppet in Satan’s hands.  Luke’s revelation shows us that there was a greater evil behind Judas’ betrayal.  Look specifically at Luke 22:3.  Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve.  ESV


Who was the real enemy Jesus was confronting on that night?  Satan.  Jesus came to destroy the works of the evil one.  This night, this assignment of reconciling the world was more important than the saving of Jesus’ physical life.


In Ephesians 6:12 Paul writes that our spiritual enemies are not flesh and blood.  Where do you think the early church first learned this principle?  Probably in the garden when Jesus refuses to come against a fleshly enemy, and discerns the true powers of darkness at work that night.


Why is it important to recognize our enemy is not flesh and blood?


In his book,  Peace Child, Don Richardson records the story of his life as a young missionary who went to the island of Irian Jaya to serve the Sawi, a head hunting and cannibalistic tribe.  After Don had painstakingly learned enough Sawi he taught them the story of Jesus’ betrayal in the garden.  As Don told the story he was shocked and confused when the Sawi saw Judas as the hero of the tale.


That day Don learned how the Sawi culture admired deception and betrayal.  When they heard Judas had walked with Jesus for three years before his betraying kiss they were impressed with what they saw as his great deception skills.  This revelation drove Don to his knees.  As Don continued to live prayerfully among the Sawi, he often found himself bandaging up life threatening injuries even though he never trained as a doctor.  This was because the Sawi’s culture often triggered conflict and open war between the villages.


One day after a bloody battle Don in frustration threatened to leave the Sawi if they would not make peace with their neighbors.  This upset the village leaders because by now they relied on Don for his tools, medicine, and practices he brought from the modern world.  They told him “Don, you don’t know how hard it is to make peace.  We hate war, but we hate the cost of peace even more.”


It was then that Don learned how the Sawi for generations had brokered peace.  For peace to be made between two waring villages, the two Sawi chiefs would have to exchange one of their own babies to be raised by the rival chief.  As long as both of these children lived the two villages could enjoy peace.  After the giving of a peace child both groups worked hard to protect these children.  The cost of giving up a baby they loved was also the reason the Sawi would sometimes endure war over peace.


With this revelation Don unearthed a hidden picture of God’s love for all mankind within the Sawi culture.  Jesus was the ultimate Peace Child.  God sent Jesus to earth to secure our peace with him.  Within the Sawi narrative anyone who would harm a peace child was truly evil.  After the Sawi understood Jesus was God’s peace child they knew Judas was not a man they could admire.


Like the Sawi, when we first hear the story of the betrayal of Jesus it is easy to focus on Judas’ actions.  But, judging him will only exhaust us.  If we want true peace we need to keep our eyes on Jesus because he is the real hero in this story.


Hebrews 12:2 says,


            Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him   endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  ESV   

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