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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:With his violent arrest Jesus enters into his suffering entirely alone
Text:Mark 14:43-52 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Suffering
 
Preached:2012
Added:2012-08-02
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

NOTE:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Psalm 123
Psalm 32:1,2
Hymn 25:1,5
Psalm 46:1-3
Hymn 79

Reading and text:  Mark 14:43-52
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ our Saviour,

We often hear a lot about violent death in the news.  It seems like we regularly hear about people being murdered, sometimes in mass killings.  It happens in North America and then elsewhere we sometimes hear about civil wars.  One word that gets brought up again and again is senseless.  The violence and death makes no sense.  What did those people do to deserve being cut down?  Bystanders who have no connections to gangs get hit by bullets.  Children are killed indiscriminately by artillery, gunships, and warplanes.  Senseless is a good word to describe it.

Violence is found in our text for this morning too.  We see swords and clubs.  We see people being pushed around.  We see swords swinging and blood flowing.  All because of Jesus.  In one way, this violence too could be described as senseless.  Jesus was the innocent Son of God.  Not only had he had never violated any commandment of God, he consistently kept the whole law.  There’s no sense in people coming after him so violently.  Yet, because they were sinners and he was not, they were threatened by Jesus.  Because he exposed their hypocrisy and false teaching, they put him at the top of their most wanted list.  In this way, the violence we see beginning in this passage is understandable, though certainly not excusable.  As we probe deeper, we find that the violence we see here is also part of the plan for our redemption.  Through Jesus’ arrest and the violence that goes along with it, he is abandoned and forsaken by all.  And, as we’ll see this morning, that was necessary for our salvation.  I preach to you God’s Word and we’ll see how with his violent arrest Jesus enters into his suffering entirely alone.

We’ll consider:

1.      The betrayal of Judas

2.      The brief fight and flight of the eleven

3.      The bizarre story of the young man

Our Lord Jesus was in Gethsemane with the eleven disciples.  He spent some time in prayerful agony over what was about to come upon him.  He struggled with the will of God, but in the end he submitted.  Meanwhile, his disciples slept.  They were him, but only in body.  Their minds were off in their dreams somewhere.  But then Jesus wakes them up one last time.  His hour has come.  The lights of the arresting party could be seen approaching through the darkness in the olive groves.  Our Saviour made his way toward the lights, towards those who were going to take him into custody.

Leading the way was Judas Iscariot.  Though we don’t really need him to do so, Mark identifies Judas as “one of the twelve.”  If we don’t need that identification, why does Mark provide it?  It’s not there to give us information that we might have forgotten.  Rather, Judas is identified as one of the twelve to underscore the weightiness of his betrayal.  This was one of the twelve.  He had been with Jesus for the past three years.  Judas had been sitting at his feet, listening to all his teaching, watching all his miracles.  He had been so privileged to have this close relationship with Christ.  And now he uses that relationship for his own advantage, to betray his master and Lord for the sake of some money. 

Along with Judas was a large crowd.  Most of them were Jews, probably guards from the temple.  In his gospel, John tells us that there were officials from the chief priests and Pharisees.  Over top of that, there was also a detachment of Roman soldiers.  Mark leaves out those details, but he emphasizes two other points.  One was that the crowd was armed with swords and clubs.  They came expecting the possibility of a violent confrontation.  At the least, they needed to be prepared to intimidate Jesus and his disciples.  The other point is at the end of verse 43.  This was an official arrest party coming from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.  This was not a random crowd of people who decided to grab Jesus in the middle of the night, but a carefully organized posse.  At the helms of the posse were the Jewish religious leaders.  They orchestrated everything in collaboration with Judas. 

One of things they arranged was a sign.  In the darkness, they had to be able to pick out the wanted man.  Since it was Passover, it’s true that there would have been a full moon that night.  But just because you have a full moon doesn’t necessarily mean that you can see people clearly, and besides, it could have been overcast and that would have blocked the light of the moon.  Thus, a sign was needed to point out Jesus to the arresting party.  Judas chose the sign of a kiss.  This would be a normal greeting in that part of the world.  Even men would greet one another with a kiss, so it would not be out of place.  Judas told the people, “The one I kiss, he’s the one.  Grab him and take him away securely.  Make sure he doesn’t get away.”  Judas wanted to make sure that he got his reward.  He wanted the money and if Jesus escaped, he would lose out.    

Without any hesitation, Judas made his way straight to Jesus.  He said the word he’d said to him many times before, “Rabbi.”  “Teacher, master.”  Then he kissed him.  Unfortunately, most of our English translations flatten out what the original says here.  Yes, Judas kissed him.  But it was not just an ordinary kiss.  It was a kiss that was different enough to mark Jesus as the man to be arrested.  Some say that it was an affectionate kiss.  Others say that Judas kissed Jesus fervently or repeatedly.  All possible, but what is clear is that Judas made a special effort with this kiss.  He wasn’t greeting Peter, or James, or John.  He was greeting Jesus and the arresting party had to have no doubts about it.  So he betrays Jesus with this out of the ordinary kiss.  A close form of personal contact usually reserved for friends becomes the instrument to single Jesus out for a violent arrest and death. 

The violent arrest is what follows in verse 46.  Literally Mark says that they laid their hands on Jesus.  They manhandled him.  They grabbed him in such a way that there was no chance that he would escape from them.  Jesus was the one whose touch had healed many.  His touch had showed love and compassion to lepers and a dead little girl.  He had used his touch to embrace the little covenant children.  A woman with a flow of blood had touched Jesus and was healed.  Now he is being violently touched by people who want him dead.  They don’t recognize that their violent arrest of Jesus would be instrumental in bringing him to continue healing and saving.  Judas didn’t see it and neither did the arresting party.  But we do see it now.  We see that Jesus was betrayed and arrested, so that he could continue to give life to the dead.  For us.  

At that moment, the disciples briefly got caught up in the violence too.  Mark says that one of those standing nearby drew his sword and started swinging it around.  In the process, he lopped off the ear of the servant of the high priest.  For some reason, Mark doesn’t mention the names of those involved.  Again, we learn that information from John.  The disciple with the sword was Peter and the name of the servant of the high priest was Malchus.  It’s Luke who relates that our Lord Jesus healed the ear.  But here in Mark, we just get a brief glimpse of this violent action on the part of the disciples.  There is a brief effort to fight back against the arresting party, but it goes nowhere.  It’s futile to resist against this large and well-armed crowd. 

Jesus doesn’t resist them either.  He goes with them, but not before rebuking them in verses 48 and 49.  In verse 48 in the NIV, Jesus says, “Am I leading a rebellion?”  The ESV has a better translation there, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me?”  Jesus will soon be crucified between two robbers and now already they are treating him like a robber.  Robbers are often violent people and when you arrest them you need to be ready for violence.  Jesus draws attention to the fact that their actions here don’t make any sense.  It doesn’t add up.    

They could have arrested him in the temple.  He was there in public teaching each day in the last while.  Many opportunities were there, but they didn’t take them.  This is a subtle jab at their cowardice.  Remember what Mark said in Mark 12:12.  The Jewish religious leaders looked for a way to arrest Jesus, “but they were afraid of the crowd.”  Fear of the people leads them to arrest Jesus at night in an isolated olive grove, accompanied by an armed crowd. 

Then Jesus said, “But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”  He doesn’t say what Scriptures he has in mind.  It seems that he’s thinking of various Old Testament prophecies which spoke of Christ being on the receiving end of a conspiracy.  Some think that this is referring again to Zechariah 13.  That passage speaks of the Shepherd being struck and the sheep being scattered.  Jesus had referred to that passage earlier on the way to Gethsemane – it’s mentioned in verse 27.  It could be that Jesus has this passage in mind.  Whatever the case may be, it was clearly God’s will for him to be arrested in this underhanded way, through the betrayal of one of his disciples.  And because he recognizes it as God’s will, he does not resist.  He willingly goes along with his captors, off to his trial.

And he goes alone.  The words in verse 50 are really the center of this passage.  Verse 50 simply says, “Then everyone deserted him and fled.”  By “everyone” we are meant to understand, “all his disciples.”  The twelve.  Jesus is arrested and they vanish.  One of them puts up a brief fight, but then they’re out of there.  From this point forward, they keep their distance from Jesus.  As Jesus walks away with his captors, he is alone.  He has no one at his side from here on.  Forsaken by his disciples and on his way to being forsaken by God.  He is on his way to his trial and he has not a soul to encourage him and stand by him.  He is entirely alone in the darkness. 

Loved ones, it’s important that we don’t just view this loneliness merely as a consequence of his arrest.  As if this is just what would happen to anyone who might get taken into custody by a band of armed goons.  What happens here forms part of Christ’s suffering.  That those who don’t believe in him would be hostile to him is no surprise.  But when we talk about his loneliness we’re talking about those who claimed to believe in him.  Here we’re talking about those who followed him.  These were his disciples.  They abandon him.  The disciples flee because their faith in him has evaporated.  All they see is the world falling apart around them and they run.  There is no faith in their action, only fear.  Their unbelief intensifies the suffering of Christ at this point.  What had he done to them to deserve their unfaithfulness? 

Yet, ironically, this is the route he travels to bear the curse against their unfaithfulness.  He endures lonely suffering here.  That becomes even more intense on the cross.  All of that lonely suffering he endures to pay the penalty for all their sins, including their forsaking their Lord.  He is isolated and cut off from fellowship with friends and brothers.  One by one, they all abandoned him:  Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot.  All gone.  And this lonely forsakenness is suffering for Jesus.  It rains down on him from heaven.  Here already he is beginning to feel the wrath of God against sin.  It is God who leaves him lonely. 

Brothers and sisters, it is because of this lonely forsakenness that we have the gospel promise of fellowship and communion in eternal life.  Jesus has borne the lonely forsakenness that each of us deserves.  Think about this with me for a moment.  Do you think that people in hell are enjoying one another’s company?  Do you think that there is any consolation in hell from the fact that there are so many others there?  No.  There is no comfort at all in hell.  God’s wrath on sin expresses itself in the inability for those in hell to take any comfort in the presence of others.  Those in hell are so consumed with their own suffering and eternal death that they do not have the wherewithal to give any thought to the damned around them.  Those in hell will be eternal narcissists, focussed only on themselves and their suffering.  Only ever concerned about getting and never ever about giving.  God says, “You wanted to live for yourself on earth, now you can die by yourself eternally in hell.”  Though there are many there, hell is a lonely place.  Think about that.  Think about how horrible that lonely hell is.  That is what we deserve for our sins.  With his lonely forsakenness, Jesus has taken that cursedness on himself and saved us from it.  Because of him and what he endured throughout his suffering, we can have fellowship and communion on this earth already with our Lord and with our brothers and sisters.  And in the age to come, the gospel promises us rich fellowship with God and with other people who have been redeemed by Christ.  Because Jesus was lonely and forsaken in his suffering, we will never be lonely and forsaken.  Brothers and sisters, look to Christ again in faith this morning and trust in him.  Rest in what he has done for you here, embrace his lonely forsakenness on your behalf.  Say, “Yes, Lord, you did this for me, and I am thankful and I love you for it and I want to live for you because of it.”

His loneliness is accentuated with one last element of our text.  It’s this bizarre story of the young man in verses 51 and 52.  There are all sorts of theories about this story.  Some of the theories have to do with the identity of the young man, others have to do with the meaning of the story and whether it’s meant to be taken literally.  With that last point, we have no reason to regard this as anything other than a historical account of what really happened at the arrest of Jesus.  It’s out of place in the Gospel of Mark to find allegory or symbolic occurrences.  This is something that really happened, just in line with the arrest of Jesus and the fleeing of the disciples. 

But then what about the other question, the identity of this young man?  Again, there have been many different theories and a lot of speculation.  The most credible theory is that this young man was Mark himself, that this was the writer of this gospel.  That seems to make sense in light of the ancient practice of authors modestly referring to themselves in the third person.  For example, we see that in the Gospel of John.  John never speaks of himself directly.  So it seems likely that this young man was Mark.   That’s a good theory, but it can only ever remain a theory.  We can’t say for sure, because the Bible doesn’t tell us.  And the truth is, it really doesn’t matter all that much.  You see, the more important question is: what happens to Jesus with the bizarre story of this young man?

The young man has nothing on but a linen garment.  Why he was wearing so little is another matter about which we can only speculate.  More important is the fact that he was following Jesus.  He had been observing all of this from a distance.  He has a vested interest in what happens to Jesus.  It seems fair to conclude that he belonged to the broader circle of disciples, those who followed Jesus wherever he went and listened to his teaching and watched his healings and so on.

When the violence descends upon and around Jesus, this young man gets caught up in it.  The disciples have run away, but this young man is boldly lingering.  Perhaps he can be the one to provide some support for our Lord Jesus in this dark hour.  But by lingering he becomes a target for the arresting party.  They try to grab him too.  They put their hands on him to bring him into custody, but unlike Jesus, he resists and runs.  He runs away naked.  His expensive linen garment left behind, perhaps in the hands of those who tried to grab him. 

This is the one follower of Jesus who stays around long enough to almost get arrested.  He is Jesus’ last hope to turn back the isolation.  But when accosted he resists and runs away, even though it meant that he had to do it without any clothes on.  Like all the rest, he too feels he has to abandon Jesus and leave him entirely alone.  Jesus truly has no one.  And that is the point of including this story.  Even this young man who seems quite brave for sticking around, even he flees.  The last hope for fellowship is gone and this sends another blow at Jesus in his suffering.  A divine blow, ordained by God.  This confirms the fact that not a single human being will be on Jesus’ side as he faces his accusers at the Sanhedrin.  It will take place in absolute isolation from human fellowship.

Loved ones, look in faith to the isolated Christ revealed in our text.  We must confess that we have forsaken him.  It is our sin that put him in that place of lonely suffering.  But as we look to him in faith, he tells us that we are accepted in him.  He tells us that we will never have to experience eternal isolation in hell, because he bore it for us.  He has broken the curse of isolation and loneliness.  Through him, we will someday be part of a great company of believers gathered in praise for him.  Through him, we will live forever in fellowship with our God and with one another.  Brothers and sisters, this is the good news for you, this is your Saviour.  Entrust yourself to him again.  AMEN. 

Prayer:

LORD God,

Thank you for the message of the gospel.  Help us not to take this beautiful message for granted.  We thank and praise you that because of Christ’s lonely suffering, we will not suffer loneliness in hell forever under your wrath.  We’re glad to have that gospel hope.  Help us to continue looking to Christ in faith each day.  Help us to be committed and loyal disciples because we love our Saviour so deeply.  Please give us more grace through the power of your Holy Spirit so that we can persevere in our faith.            

 

                                 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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