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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:The Light of the World Arrested in Darkness
Text:Matthew 26:45-56 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Suffering
 
Added:2024-03-12
Updated:2024-03-21
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Great Is Thy Faithfulness
God, Be Merciful to Me
In Christ Alone
Ten Thousand Angels (insert)
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


“The Light of the World Arrested in Darkness”
Matthew 26:45-56
 
In the previous passage from Matthew 26, we read how the disciples slept as Jesus prayed. It was night time. Their eyes were heavy with weariness. It was probably around midnight. It had been an exhausting day and an exhausting week. 
 
But now they wake up, and in the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane, they see lanterns.  John describes that in his parallel account. In John 18:3 we read: “So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. The torches, lanterns, and weapons point us to a number of ironies.
 
The first irony is that He who is the Light of the world was arrested in darkness. You would think that those who are in darkness would want light. What happens when the electricity goes out at night? You reach for the flashlight, for lanterns, for candles. Light is necessary to show us the path that we must be on. Jesus is that light. John 1:4: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.”
 
Jesus is the only true light in a world of darkness. In John 8:12, He says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” But now, into the dark night at Gethsemane comes this band of soldiers and religious leaders, led by Judas Iscariot. And they have lanterns. Why? So that they can find, arrest, try, and crucify Jesus, who is the light of the world.
 
You see, it wasn’t just the night that was black and dark, so too, is the human heart apart from Christ. As the Lord said in John 3:19-20, This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
 
Swords and Clubs for an Unarmed Man
 
A second irony is that Jesus was never armed, but an army was sent to arrest Him. Verse 47 and 55 describe how the crowd led by Judas was armed with swords and with clubs. In verse 55, Jesus says, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?”
 
Although Jesus wasn’t armed, Peter was. In verse 51 we read, With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.” While Matthew doesn’t mention Peter by name, John does. It is not surprising that it would be Peter, impetuous Peter, who would reach for the sword. He was probably trying to decapitate the servant of the high priest, whose name was Malchus. But Malchus must have ducked quickly, sparing his whole head but losing his ear. Luke reveals how Jesus healed Malchus (Luke 22:51). 
 
As we read of this irony, that the prince of Peace is confronted by a large group bearing weapons, clubs, and spears, we are also reminded that our weapons are not of this world. In our series on Apologetics, we looked at 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 where Paul writes:
 
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
 
The Lord often has shown us that we need not fight as the world fights because we have His divine weapons to demolish strongholds. Consider how shocked Gideon must have been when the LORD said to him, as he was ready to face the mighty army of the Midianites, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’”
 
Some of you may recall that twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. But the LORD said to Gideon, “There are still too many men.” And I’m sure most of you, including many of you children, remember what happened next. The Lord said to Gideon, “Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there...”  So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the LORD told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink.”
 
 Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.  The LORD said to Gideon, ‘With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.’”  (Judges 7:2-7) 
 
Three hundred men went out against the mighty army of the Midianites. And you know who won. It wasn’t the Midianites. It was the little group of Israelites. They won because they fought, not with the weapons of the world, but with trust in Almighty God, the source of their strength and salvation.
 
In the words of 1 Corinthians 1:27-31, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.”
 
Likewise, in 2 Corinthians 12, we read how Paul was afflicted by a messenger of Satan with a “thorn in the flesh.” Although he pleaded with the Lord to remove the thorn, the Lord did not answer his prayer request. Instead, the Lord gave Paul a much better response to his prayer. The Lord promised Paul – and promises you and promises me – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  And the Apostle Paul rejoiced to know that God’s grace was more than sufficient to deal with the pain of the thorn. He responded in verses 9 and 10: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
 
Because of God’s strength, graciously given to us, we are strong in Him even though we are weak in ourselves. As Peter swung his sword, to take on those who came to arrest Jesus, Jesus reminded him and reminds us, that we don’t wage war as the world does. We have the power of prayer. We have the guidance of God’s Word. We have the indwelling power of the Spirit so that we can declare with confidence, “He who is in (us) is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
 
The hymn writer put it beautifully:
 
Lead on, O King eternal, till sin’s fierce war shall cease,
and holiness shall whisper the sweet amen of peace.
For not with swords loud clashing, or roll of stirring drums;
with deeds of love and mercy the heavenly kingdom comes.
                                                               (Lead On, O King Eternal, stanza 2, Ernest W. Shurtleff, 1887)
 
Betrayed with a Kiss
 
A third irony in this passage is the betrayal of Jesus sealed with the sign of affection, a kiss. Why would Judas use a kiss? Some commentators point out that a kiss was the common greeting in the Mideast in that day. Paul writes “Greet one another with a holy kiss” to both the Roman and the Corinthian church (Rom. 16:16; 2 Cor. 13:12). Consequently, in the view of some, it was like Judas coming over and shaking Jesus’ hand. It was just the common greeting of that day.
 
But other writers point out that the kiss reveals how approachable Jesus was to His disciples.   He wasn’t a leader who separated Himself from others, but rather He associated with those whom the Pharisees disdained as sinners, whether tax collectors, the sick and lame, women of ill repute, and the disciples themselves. He lived as a common man among common people. The way Judas approached Jesus shows that Judas knew how approachable Jesus was.
 
And the application for us is that Jesus is approachable to us. No matter what our background, no matter what our sins, no matter what social standing or lack of it, we can come to Jesus and He will receive us. He is totally approachable. As He said in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”
  
Commentators spend quite a few pages on why Jesus addressed Judas as “Friend.” Most point out that even in His betrayal Jesus was kind, even to the son of perdition, the one about whom it is said, “It would be better for that man if he had not been born.” (Matt. 26:24)
 
Often when we are hurt, when we are betrayed, when someone has cruelly deceived us, we sink down to their level. We are all about retaliation. But Jesus remained calm. He knew the kiss of betrayal was necessary for Him to be arrested, tried, convicted, and crucified. As He said in John 18:11, “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” ­­ He realized that the kiss of betrayal was part of the answer to His agonized prayer in Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt. 26:39)

The passage goes on to teach us that Jesus offered Himself as our sacrifice willingly. We read of that willingness earlier in the passage, when after being strengthened through prayer, even though His circumstance didn’t change, Jesus went from being overwhelmed with sorrow (in Matthew 26:38) to confidence in the face of death. In verse 46 He says, “Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
 
William Hendriksen writes: “Go where? Away as far as possible from the approaching band? Fleeing? No, the very opposite: Going forward to meet those who have come to arrest Him” (New Testament Commentary on Matthew, pg. 921)
 
We see the willingness of Jesus to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins over and over. Even in verse 50 where Jesus addresses Judas as “Friend,” He goes on to say, “Do what you came for.”  He had agonized in prayer. He knew His Father’s will. He was ready to go forward with His arrest. He was ready for the judicial trials. Ready for the crucifixion itself. So He tells Judas, “Do what you came for.” 
 
If Jesus hadn’t been willing, He certainly had the power to prevent His arrest and all the events it would lead to. He had the power in and of Himself, but He also had instantaneous access to a whole host of mighty angels. As He said to Peter, in verse 53, after telling him to put his sword back in its place, Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”
 
Even one angel, glorious in splendor, could have driven away this large crowd that came to the Garden with their clubs, swords, and lanterns, searching for Jesus with Judas Iscariot. But Jesus doesn’t talk about one angel, but twelve legions of angels. Legions were used in the Roman army. Each legion comprised six thousand soldiers. Multiply that by twelve and you have not the ten thousand angels that the popular hymn mentions, but seventy-two thousand angels.
 
Jesus is saying to Peter, I don’t need your sword. In an instant I could have seventy-two thousand angels here to disband this mob of people. I could walk away a free man without any help from you and your sword.”
 
But Christ came to this earth to willingly give of Himself. Although the popular hymn is inaccurate on the number of angels, its point is well taken: “He could have called ten-thousand angels to destroy the world and set Him free; He could have called ten thousand angels. But He died alone for you and for me.” (Ten Thousand Angels, Roy Overhalt, 1959)
  
And He did die alone. There was no other person, no other being who could redeem us. It was, and is, Jesus alone. All the disciples deserted him, leaving Him alone, just as He had predicted in Matthew 26:31. That is why our faith must always be in Christ alone. He alone is the way and the truth and the life. No one will come to the Father, no one will gain entrance into heaven, except through faith in Him alone (John 14:6). 
 
The Fulfillment of Scripture
 
Secondly, we see in this passage that the desertion of the disciples, along with the arrest, trials, and crucifixion of Christ were all a fulfillment of Scripture. Twice in this passage, in both verse 54 and verse 56 Jesus points out how all that was happening was a fulfillment of Scripture. As we read (last week), in Matthew 26:31, Zechariah had predicted that the Shepherd would be struck and the flock scattered. When Jesus was arrested, His disciples all scattered. Verse 56 concludes the passage before us by saying, “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.”  At that point, they fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 13:7.
 
The same is true with the betrayal. After telling His disciples that He could call 12 legions of angels to His rescue, He added, in verse 54, “But how then would the Scripture be fulfilled that says it must happen this way?” All the details of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus were foretold in the Old Testament. His betrayal. His trials. His thirst on the cross. The casting of lots for His undergarment. It’s all there in the Old Testament
 
All those events unfold as Scripture is fulfilled in the New Testament. And just as all those Scriptures telling of the first coming of Jesus and His judgment at the hands of sinners were fulfilled, so also will be all the verses that foretell the second coming of Jesus to judge sinners with equity and justice.
 
The fulfillment of Scripture should be very comforting to you and to me. It reminds us that God will do what he has promised to do. No matter what it is, whether it is Christ being struck as the flock is scattered, or riding a donkey into Jerusalem, drinking wine vinegar, sacrificing himself on the cross for your sins and mine, or providing our daily bread, Scripture tells us God will do what he has prophesied and promised, for “No matter how many promises God has made,” 2 Corinthians 1:20 assures us, “they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
 
Perfectly Faithful
 
A third application is that God is perfectly faithful, even though we aren’t. As this section closes, we find the disciples all deserting Jesus, just as He had predicted. But do you remember in the passage we read last week, the note of grace, even as Jesus predicted that all the disciples would fall away on account of Him? In Matthew 26:31 Jesus had quoted from Zechariah 13:7 telling how all the disciples would desert Him. And then in verse 32 “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
 
Just as the death of Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New, so also was His resurrection. Death could not conquer Jesus. At the very moment when it looked to all the world that Jesus was defeated, He was instead victorious. As Colossians 1:19-20 puts it: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
 
Through His death and resurrection, the disciples found peace. They found that by grace they were reconciled through that shed blood on the cross. Even though they fled. Even though Peter would call down curses, denying that He knew Jesus. Even though they were great sinners, they were reconciled, forgiven, and are presented to the Father without spot and without blame. 
 
And the same goes for you and for me. The disciples found out that Christ Jesus is perfectly faithful, even though we aren’t. May you and I, in humble repentance and saving faith, know the same truth, and rejoice in it, now and throughout eternity.  Amen.
 
 
 
bulletin outline:
 
“So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some
officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches,
lanterns and weapons.” – John 18:3
 
 
                     “The Light of the World Arrested in Darkness”
                                                 Matthew 26:45-56
 
I.  There are several ironies in this passage:
     1) He who is the Light of the world was arrested in darkness (45-47;
         John 18:3)
 
 
 
 
     2) Jesus was unarmed, but an army was sent to arrest Him (47, 55)
 
 
 
 
     3) His betrayal was sealed with the sign of affection, a kiss (48)
 
 
 
 
II. The passage teaches us:
     1) Jesus offered Himself as our sacrifice willingly (46, 50, 53)
 
 
 
   
     2) The arrest, trials, and crucifixion of Jesus fulfilled Scripture (56)
 
 
 
 
     3) God is perfectly faithful, even though we aren’t (Matthew 26:31, 56)
       
 
 
 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Ted Gray

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