What do you think of when you hear the name Benedict Arnold? When we think of that name, we think of someone who is a traitor. Benedict Arnold was a general in the Continental Army fighting against the British in the Revolutionary War. He had some significant success and had shown great bravery in some of the early battles. However, in spite of his achievements, the Continental Congress passed him over in promotions while others took credit for them, which left him very bitter and frustrated. As a result, he worked to become the commander of West Point in New York with the hope of turning this American fort over to the British. George Washington knew Arnold and in fact trusted him a great deal. One can only imagine how George Washington felt when his trusted colleague and fellow soldier had betrayed him and his country.
“Betrayal” is an ugly word, isn’t it? When someone leaves their spouse to be with someone else, it is a betrayal. It is ugly because one who was once deeply trusted has intentionally turned their back on someone and has abandoned them. Betrayal is something that is tragic and clearly wrong. Betrayal is what we read about this morning in Mark 14: 43-52.
I. Let’s look first at Jesus’ betrayal.
Mark makes it clear that Judas was the one leading this mob and again emphasizes that he was one of the twelve. It is not fully clear what motivated Judas to do this. Perhaps it was greed although thirty pieces of silver was not that much money. Perhaps he wanted a Messiah to lead a rebellion against the Romans but Jesus was clearly not going to do that. There may be many reasons as to why Judas betrayed Jesus, but the awful truth is that even though he was so close to the Lord for so long, it made no impact on him. He chose to live for himself rather than live for Jesus.
Mark says that he brought along a crowd armed with swords and clubs. These more than likely were the Jewish “Temple Police.” The Roman government let the local people pretty much rule themselves as far as local laws and customs were concerned. Therefore, the Jewish leaders had their own police force to enforce the Jewish law and to provide security for the Temple. Mark makes it clear that they were sent by the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders, the ones who wanted to get Jesus and who used Judas to do this.
The way that Judas betrays Jesus shows how hard-hearted Judas had become. He tells the crowd that the one he will kiss is the one they are after. It must have been dark with only the torches lighting the garden. Judas wanted to make absolutely certain that they got the right man. So he greets Jesus with a kiss and calls him “rabbi.” This was the way that the Jews would lovingly greet their rabbi. Both the kiss and the greeting would usually show great respect for their teacher. Yet Judas clearly had deep contempt for Jesus. Judas had been surrounded by the love of Jesus for a long time. But he failed to see what was really important and betrayed Jesus.
But before we are quick to condemn him, we had better look at ourselves.
II. Then verses 46-49 describe Jesus’ arrest.
The temple police arrest Jesus and one unidentified disciple decides to fight back. John’s gospel tells us that Peter used his sword to try to defend Jesus. Peter tries to prove his professed loyalty to Jesus and defends his master. He lashes out and mostly misses a servant of the chief priest who was there to observe and report back to the chief priest what was happening. But Jesus discourages this according to the other gospels.
In fact, Jesus gives no resistance, but he did protest this show of force against him. They treated him as an armed robber when he was really innocent. It would be like having the SWAT team surrounding your house and with helicopter flying overhead, coming to arrest you for a parking ticket. Part of Jesus’ humiliation was being treated as a common criminal. But he also makes a remark that must have stung the Jewish leaders. He had been teaching publicly in the Temple every day for past week or so. But the Jewish leaders had not arrested him during the day because the people would have cried out against this and the Jews knew it. They used great force and acted in the cover of darkness because they did not want to have a public scene that would arouse the people in the city.
They were trying to stamp out this Jesus movement, but it would not work.
In fact, Jesus says this was all happening in order to fulfill the Scriptures. Isaiah 53:12 says that Jesus would be identified with common criminals in his death. But Jesus also knew that the resurrection was also coming!
III. Then Mark describes in verses 50-52 how Jesus is abandoned.
Mark simply says that everyone deserted him and fled. Again Scripture is fulfilled for Zechariah 13:7 says, “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.” This was all supposed to happen and Jesus had told the disciples they would do this.
Then Mark also includes the fact that a young man flees. Evidently a young man had come to watch what was going to happen to Jesus. He was wearing a linen garment or possibly just wrapped in a sheet. He had likely thrown this on in a hurry to see what was happening. When they tried to seize him, he slipped naked from their grasp. Only Mark includes this detail and some think that this young man is actually Mark himself who includes himself in this story to lend credibility to his account.
More likely he mentions it to fulfill another Old Testament passage. Amos 2:16 describes the day of judgment as so severe and terrible that even the “bravest warriors will flee away naked in that day.” The term used for young man is one that would be used to describe someone who was very brave and mighty. The arrest of Jesus begins the judgment announced by Amos, and not even the valiant will be able to withstand that day.
The point is that every one of Jesus’ followers abandoned Jesus on that night. One of his disciples had betrayed him. The three who had said that they would suffer with Jesus and never leave him had fallen asleep and then fled in terror. Every one had left Jesus all alone, including even the bravest of the brave. Mother Teresa once said, “The biggest disease today is not leprosy or cancer. It’s the feeling of being uncared for, unwanted - of being deserted and alone.” Jesus was abandoned and left all alone without a friend. But let’s ask ourselves: “How do we treat Jesus today in our own lives?”
IV. Do we betray or abandon Jesus today?
Do we ever betray Jesus? Do we give him over to the enemy? What was the chief sin of Judas? He was in the company of Jesus but never took a stand for Jesus. He saw Jesus’ love as he healed many and forgave the sins of others. He had a very clear picture of who Jesus was because he lived, walked and talked with him for a long period of time. But Judas never really ever gave himself fully over to Jesus’ control.
That is a stern warning to those who may consider themselves “Christian,” but never really give themselves fully over to the Lord. They may say and do all the right things. They may go to church, work on committees and give to the church. But when they feel that Jesus isn’t doing what they feel he should be doing for them, they leave him behind and do what they think is best for them.
So these verses call us to ask: Are we genuine in our belief and trust in the Lord Jesus? Or are we just going through the motions because we think we should or it’s good for the children or good for us in some way. Let’s examine ourselves to see if our faith is real. And if it is not, remember what Jesus came to do for you and me. He came to die for our sins! If you feel that you are not really committed to the Lord, then hear Jesus’ invitation to come to him, believe in him and live for him.
But the betrayer still had one more request: Would Campion help him escape from those who now wanted to kill him? Campion was ready to do this as well and promised that he would write a German nobleman who would care for him. The next day, Campion was dragged through the streets of London and then hanged. But in spite of all he had suffered, he had forgiven the one who had betrayed him. If a mere man is able to do this, imagine what Jesus will do when we come to him, confess our sins and ask him to forgive us!
And let’s also remember that because Jesus forgives us, we too are to forgive those who have hurt us. Think of those who have betrayed you or hurt you for whatever reason. Will we forgive others who have hurt us?
Secondly, do we abandon Jesus? And try to save our own necks out of fear? When it comes time to take a stand for our faith, do we turn and run? Your boss says, “Do it this way. I don’t care if it’s ethical;” what do you do? How many times do we not dare to voice our Christian commitment because we are afraid we might offend someone or turn them off? Someone swears or gossips or puts someone else down, and we don’t say anything because we are afraid of what others may think of us. When confronted with the need to stand up for what Jesus taught and what we believe, we too often do turn tail and run. There will be times, perhaps this week, when you will be tempted to run away.
So what do we do? Let’s confess our shortcomings and ask God to forgive us when we fail. Let’s pray for strength and confidence to be strong in those difficult times. Pray for wisdom so that you may know what to say when those times come. And above all, know with full assurance that God in Christ forgives us when we confess our sins to him.