Seeing the world through a theological lens...
While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.
But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? 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!”
He knew it was coming. Jesus had predicted, forewarned, and foretold this moment; spelled out for his disciples that he would be turned over to the authorities, that he would be beaten, and that he would be killed. And now, the hour had come. The crowd had come.
Did you notice Jesus wasn't arrested by a band of soldiers? Or, at least there are no soldiers mentioned in Luke's version of this story. Look who is in the "crowd"- Chief Priests, officers of the temple police (which are different than roman soldiers), Elders (!!!!) and the slaves of the High Priest! These are 'church people!' And they are literally up in arms! They are so intent on protecting their faith culture that they have brought clubs, swords, and who knows what else in order to take Jesus in...
I'll leave that out there without commentary or sarcasm. I ask you to read that paragraph again before going forward.
When that last paragraph sinks in, it may be that we feel indignant, or angry; we may feel disgusted and judgmental, we may even feel a little embarrassed. We've seen what people of faith can do when we feel threatened. We see how far we are willing to go to obliterate a threat to our "freedom," or a challenge to our theology.
That's really what it is, isn't it? Jesus was challenging their theology... and something in his words rang true. It is the only reason to have him arrested; so they would no longer have to listen, no longer have to feel conflicted and convicted.
Think about it; he wasn't telling them that they had to shut down the temple, or even stop practicing their religion as they knew it. So why would his words and actions be so threatening to them? Was it really that Jesus had done serious community organizing of the poor and marginalized? Surely with Rome on their side, the religious leaders could have stopped any kind of uprising of the disenfranchised.
No- Jesus had clearly hit a nerve- by building a ministry based on love and compassion and rational thinking, he had touched something inside the religious elite that resonated with them... they knew he was correct. But to follow the words and teachings of Jesus, would mean that they would lose power, and it would also mean that they would have to acknowledge that they had it 'wrong.' So, instead of admitting they needed reformation and renewal, they resisted and responded by shutting him down.
Don't judge. We do it all the time. We like things (especially spiritual things) packaged neatly so we can understand them. We like the feeling that we are in the right. We count on the fact that our beliefs, our religion, our church, has been teaching us correctly; that our pastors and leaders have taught us the right things about God and Godly living. We don't leave much room for free thinking, and even less space for our beliefs to change. Whenever our core values are challenged, when someone rejects the things we hold most dear, it serves to make us uncomfortable. Our discomfort in God being bigger than we thought, can quickly grow to anger, especially when we see others jumping on the bandwagon. This is normal human behavior.
Jesus knew this about human beings. It's why he predicted so accurately that he would be arrested, beaten, killed. Its what happens to revolutionaries. It is the fate of anyone who stands in the face of injustice and preaches fairness and equity. It happens to heros; to those whose lives reflect mercy and compassion and love.
Disciples, our lives also speak and reflect... may we live lives with space for God to grow bigger than we think, and grace for the challenges ahead.
Have a blessed Maundy Thursday,
He knew it was coming. He