“Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. ‘Am I leading a rebellion,’ said Jesus, ‘that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.’ Then everyone deserted him and fled. A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.”—Mark 14:43–52 (NIV)
I know “the Scriptures must be fulfilled,” but as I unpack this passage, I feel anger because Jesus—our Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for His sheep—had to endure such indignities.
They came in the middle of the night while He was praying with His disciples. They came in secret with weapons to arrest a Man who had never once incited any violence, but instead had instructed His followers to not resist an evil person, to turn the other cheek, and to pray for those who persecute you. And then the greatest of indignities: to be identified and betrayed with a kiss. To me, this was another level of cruelty.
One commentator said, “What really stands out in the mode of Judas’s betrayal is that Judas used such an intimate expression of love and respect to betray Jesus. Judas’ actions were hypocritical in the extreme—his actions said, ‘I respect and honor you,’ at the exact time he was betraying Jesus to be murdered.”
I know this was done to fulfill Psalm 41:9 (NIV), which says, “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.” And even as Jesus questions this small army on their tactics, being in full command despite appearances, went along in order to fulfill Scripture.
After this, Peter (identified in John 18:10) draws a sword and cuts off the ear of a servant of the high priest named Malchus, whom Jesus headed (Luke 22:51). Barclay notes, “Had Jesus not healed Malchus, Peter would have been arrested as well; and there might have been four crosses at Calvary.”
In this moment, Peter shows us what happens when we as believers take up the sword—whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. What happens? We cut off ears—ears to the gospel, to the truth of Christ, to salvation, hope, and freedom. I pray we put down our swords, stop inflicting wounds, and instead wield the Word of God in truth and love as Peter did throughout the Books of Acts. That way, instead of cutting off ears, we may be used to pierce hearts for God’s glory!
And then, they all abandoned Him. Not one of them stood beside Jesus like they said they would. Not one declared, “I’ve given my life to Jesus. If you arrest Him, you’ll have to arrest me, too.” But this all took place as was predicted in Zechariah 13:6–8 (NIV): Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” I imagine seeing them abandon Him had to grieve our Lord. Oh, the all-encompassing anguish He endured for us. May we never forget it!
Note: While not confirmed, many scholars believe the young man who followed Jesus and then fled naked was in fact Mark himself. Scholars consider this his humble way of saying, “I was there.” Many also believe the last supper was held at his mother’s house based on Acts 12:12.
Pause: What great lesson can we learn about taking up the sword in this passage?
Practice: This week, seek out ways to pierce hearts with the Word of life, to act as a balm for those who have been wounded.
Pray: Jesus, I’m sorry my sins led to everything You would endure from Mark 14:43 and on. I’m sorry You suffered such indignity and pain and suffering for me. But I thank You that You did that for me. Help me to not inflict harm or hurt upon others, to put down any sword I may have drawn and instead act as You did and speak the truth of Your Word in love no matter the situation. Amen.