Prayer, Betrayal, and Arrest

A sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – April 6, 2014

  1. Jesus had been teaching in the smaller towns and villages outside of Jerusalem for three years. His miracles and radical ideas had attracted quite a few followers, and at the same time had attracted the attention and anger of the chief Priests and Elders of the church.

    1. Then, at the time of the Passover when the streets of Jerusalem were crowded with visitors, Jesus rode into the city on a donkey, a symbol of royalty, and then went into the temple. There He cleaned out the people who were selling animals for sacrifice and the money changers, saying that the temple was “His house” and that they had made it a “den of thieves1.”

      1. This was a powerful message. One might have expected that having entered as royalty, He would go to the palace to confront Herod. Instead, He went to the temple, showing that instead of being an earthly king, it was His intention to be the king of a spiritual kingdom.

    2. All these things, both taken individually and as a whole, enraged the leaders of the church. They believed they had just cause to arrest Him, but they feared His popularity. If they were going to act, it would have to be in secret.

      1. If Jesus had spent the night in some private home in Jerusalem, away from the crowds, He surely would have been arrested. He knew that would be the eventual result, but He needed to control the time and circumstances, so He and the disciples left Jerusalem every night and rested in Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives.

    3. On Thursday, the Lord and His disciples celebrated the Passover in Jerusalem. It was here that the Lord instituted the Holy Supper, and it was from this meal that Judas Iscariot departed to lead the chief priests and the soldiers to arrest Jesus.

      1. After the Passover meal was completed, the Lord returned to the Mount of Olives, and it is here, on Thursday night, where the events we are interested in unfold.

  2. (Mat 26:36-56) Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” {37} And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. {38} Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” {39} He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” {40} Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, “What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? {41} “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” {42} Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” {43} And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. {44} So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. {45} Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. {46} “Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

    1. Three” = complete. (Many passages)

    2. Sleep” = a lack of perception of spiritual things. (Many passages)

    3. Cup” = temptation. (Many passages)

    4. AC 1787. …Every temptation is attended with some kind of despair (otherwise it is not a temptation), and therefore consolation follows. He who is tempted is brought into anxieties, which induce a state of despair as to what the end is to be. The very combat of temptation is nothing else. He who is sure of victory is not in anxiety, and therefore is not in temptation.

      [2] The Lord also, as He endured the most dire and cruel temptations of all, could not but be driven into states of despair, and these He dispelled and overcame by His own power; as may be clearly seen from His temptation in Gethsemane….

      [3] From these passages we may see what was the nature of the Lord’s temptations-that they were the most terrible of all; and that He felt anguish from the very inmosts, even to the sweating of blood; and that He was then in a state of despair concerning the end and the event; and also that He had consolations.

    5. But, how is it that the Lord, who is the God of the Universe, all powerful, all knowing, could be tempted?

      1. First of all, we need to be clear that His love of the human race was never tempted. He was only tempted in regard to how it would happen, the truth of the matter. And even this could only happen if He metaphorically tied one hand behind His back, by taking on the limitations of a physical, human body.

        1. AC 2813. And bound Isaac his son. That this signifies the state of the Divine rational thus about to undergo as to truth the last degrees of temptation…. That to “bind” is to put on the state for undergoing the last degrees of temptation, is evident from the fact that he who is in a state of temptation is no otherwise than as bound or chained…. “Isaac the son” is the Lord’s Divine rational, here as to truth…. All the genuine rational consists of good and truth. The Lord’s Divine rational as to good could not suffer, or undergo temptations; for no … spirit inducing temptations can come near to Good Divine, as it is above all attempt at temptation. But Truth Divine bound was what could be tempted; for there are fallacies, and still more falsities, which break in upon and thus tempt it…. It was Truth Divine which was no longer acknowledged when the Lord came into the world, and therefore it was that from which the Lord underwent and endured temptations. Truth Divine in the Lord is what is called the “Son of man,” but Good Divine is what is called the “Son of God.” Of the “Son of man” the Lord says many times that He was to suffer, but never of the Son of God.

      2. It’s important to remember that although the Lord was going through temptations throughout His life in the world, they are only recorded in two places: His 40 days of fasting in the wilderness2, and the events surrounding the crucifixion.

        1. In the wilderness series we see three different kinds of temptations. This was to show that all the Lord’s temptations could be divided into these three types, and therefore they were a symbol for them all. Here the forty tells us that it was a temptation, and the three tells us that the series was complete.

        2. Notice also that when on Gethsemane, the Lord goes away to pray three times. The three tells us that this was not the only time He prayed, but that it was to represent all His prayers throughout His time in the world, the complete set.

        3. And the number three occurs again in the resurrection in that He rose on the third day. The number three associated with His resurrection indicates that the state of being in the world in a human body was now complete and the next state, that of the glorified Divine Human, was about to begin.

      3. Earlier that evening, at the Passover meal, Jesus said to the twelve, “one of you will betray Me” (MAT 26:21). What’s interesting is that when He said that, the twelve responded by asking him, “Is it I?” (MAT 26:22) and when Judas asked Him the same question, the Lord responded, “You have said it” (MAT 26:25).

        1. Whatever motives Judas may have had at the time, the fact is that this was part of the Lord’s plan, something that needed to happen.

          1. This becomes clear when we think about the situation. The Lord and the twelve were camped in an olive grove on a mountain top some distance from the city. If there was any light at all, it would have come from small campfires, and all the men would have been roughly the same age and dressed in roughly the same clothes. The men coming to arrest Jesus would have needed someone who knew Him well to be able to positively identify Him so that they could be sure to arrest the right person.

          2. The word “betray” also has the meaning of “to reveal” as in “the child’s giggling betrayed his hiding place,” although by taking things into his own hands and working secretly with the Chief Priests and Elders for money there was certainly an element of the traditional concept of betrayal.

    6. {47} And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. {48} Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” {49} Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. {50} But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. {51} And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. {52} But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. {53} “Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? {54} “How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” {55} In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me.{56} “But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.

      1. Notice the sequence of events as described by Matthew.

        1. A large crowd of armed men arrived, likely also carrying torches, led by Judas. One could easily imagine that they would have been both seen and heard a long way off, and if the Lord had wished it, He and the disciples could have slipped away in the dark.

        2. When the men seized Jesus, a fight broke out. The disciples were carrying swords. They drew them and attacked the men in the crowd, leading to the injury to the servant of the High Priest.

        3. Jesus healed the servant, admonished the crowd for coming in secret when He had been daily in the temple, and then meekly submitted to them.

        4. It appears that the disciples were indeed expecting Him to call down a legion of angels, or at least use His powers in some other way to defeat this crowd, but once they realized that He was giving Himself up without the fight for which they had been preparing for years, they fled in confusion.

  3. There are several things we need to reflect on in preparation for Easter.

    1. The importance of doubt in temptation

    2. The Lord’s two states of Temptation and Glorification.

      1. When He taught and acted with authority, He was in the state of Glorification, feeling one with the Father within.

      2. When He expressed anger, or doubt, He was in the state of Temptation, feeling distant from the Father within, and doubting that the course He was on was the correct way to ensure the salvation of the human race.

    3. The Lord’s love was never tempted, only the process.

      1. The hells could not touch the Lord’s Divine Love, but they could introduce falsities in the forms of alternative plans that would have the ability to create doubt, thus temptation to deviate from the original plan.

    4. While His temptations are more grievous than we can experience or imagine, still they are recorded so that we can by guided and comforted by them.

    5. How to do they comfort us? If the Lord can fight and overcome in these circumstances, surely He can fight and overcome for us, too.

    6. Finally, remember that the goal was redemption of the human race.

      1. Not wiping away sin, but restoring spiritual freedom by conquering the hells and putting them back into order.

      2. Every moment of every day we are free to think about anything we want, and we are free to choose our own course. That is freedom of choice in spiritual things. It makes it possible for each one of us to go to heaven. And for that we should be eternally grateful. Amen.

Hear now the Word of the Lord …

First Lesson: Isaiah 53:1-12

Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgement, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked– But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

Second Lesson: AC (Elliott) n. 3381

3381. ‘Because Abraham hearkened to My voice’ means the union of the Lord’s Divine Essence with the Human Essence by means of temptations.

[2] That these considerations are meant by hearkening to the voice of Jehovah, or the Father, is also evident from the Lord’s words uttered in Gethsemane, in Matthew, My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will but as You will. Again, for the second time, My Father, if this cup cannot pass from Me unless I drink it, Your will he done. Matt. 26:39, 42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42.

But because Jehovah or the Father was within Him, that is, He was in the Father and Father in Him – John 14:10, 11 – ‘hearkening to Jehovah’s voice’ is used to mean that the Lord through temptations united the Divine to the Human by His own power, as is also clear from the Lord’s own words in John, As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father, and I lay down My life,3 for the sheep. For this reason the Father loves Me, that I lay down My life,4 so that I may receive it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself; I have power to lay it down and I have power to receive it again; this commandment I have received from My Father. John 10:15, 17, 18.

Here end the lessons. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. Amen.

1MAT 21:13, MAR 11:17, LUK 19:46

2Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4

3Literally, soul

4Literally, sou

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