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Jesus' very different idea of “power”

December 8, 2023

Daily Scripture

Matthew 26:47-56, Philippians 2:5-8

Matthew 26
47 While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came. With him was a large crowd carrying swords and clubs. They had been sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 His betrayer had given them a sign: “Arrest the man I kiss.” 49 Just then he came to Jesus and said, “Hello, Rabbi.” Then he kissed him.
50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came and grabbed Jesus and arrested him.
51 One of those with Jesus reached for his sword. Striking the high priest’s slave, he cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put the sword back into its place. All those who use the sword will die by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I’m not able to ask my Father and he will send to me more than twelve battle groups [Or legions (of the Roman army, about five thousand soldiers each)] of angels right away? 54 But if I did that, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this must happen?” 55 Then Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come with swords and clubs to arrest me, like a thief? Day after day, I sat in the temple teaching, but you didn’t arrest me. 56 But all this has happened so that what the prophets said in the scriptures might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left Jesus and ran away.

Philippians 2
5 Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
6 Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
7 But he emptied himself
        by taking the form of a slave
        and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
8         he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
        even death on a cross.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Peter the disciple often showed natural human reactions (cf., Matthew 16:21-23). Jesus regularly reminded Peter that things were different in “the kingdom of heaven.” That came vividly to the fore when a large armed crowd came to arrest Jesus. “When someone swung a sword around in among the olive trees in dark Gethsemane, thinking it was his God-given duty to defend Jesus, Jesus told him not to bother. In fact, he told him… people who live by the sword tend to die by the sword.” *

  • Peter tried a conventional armed response to the crowd arresting Jesus. Jesus told him that if he wanted to use force, much more was available than one Galilean fisherman’s sword. That crowd, whatever its size, would certainly be no match for around 60,000 or more angels! But “Jesus consistently resists the use of force as a sign of the kingdom (e.g., Mt 10:7–10, cf. Lk 22:49–51).” ** How could Peter imagine that Jesus’ self-giving was victory, not defeat?
  • Imagine that you oversaw strategy for God’s plan to come to earth in person. It’s Advent, so how would you have had Jesus be born? Would you have chosen poor peasant parents, a small Judean village, only shepherds (a low prestige occupation) and foreigners even noticing his birth? Later, a “career path” that led to a cross? The early Christian hymn quoted in Philippians 2 said “he emptied himself.” What does that tell you about the counter-cultural nature of Jesus’ kingdom?

Lord Jesus, your Kingdom is not of this world—yet, for now, I have to live here. Give me wisdom to know how to live as one of your disciples in a world that too often rejects you. Amen.

GPS Insights

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe and his wife, Doris, first met in a Resurrection Single Adult Sunday School class in 1997 and were married in what is now the Student Center. They are empty nesters with 2 college-aged sons, Matthew and Jacob. Darren serves as a Couples Small Group co-leader & Men's Group Leader, while volunteering in a variety of other capacities at Resurrection.

Having had the opportunity to read these Scripture verses while visiting the Garden of Gethsemane this past February with a Resurrection trip, my perspective on this scene has been enhanced.  Let’s take a look:

Jesus has just finished praying & is approached by a large crowd carrying swords & clubs.  This mass of men would have been easily seen & heard as they hiked from Jerusalem, down through the Kidron Valley, then back up the steep hill to Gethsemane.  Factoring in that it is nighttime, then the mob would have likely needed torches/lanterns to help them see.  Further, since it is Passover, there wouldn’t be many other people out & about.  It would seem that, if so desired, Jesus would have had plenty of advance warning to escape.

     Christmas Humor: Interestingly, even though Jesus was known as a Carpenter,
 never actually sang on their albums.

Judas leads the posse to the Garden to identify Jesus for arrest.  At first glance, this seems a bit unnecessary: Why would the religious leaders pay Judas to locate & I.D. Jesus?  However, consider this:

  • Jerusalem is flooded with Jewish pilgrims in town for Passover &, as Doris & I discovered, Old Jerusalem is literally a maze of streets & alleys.  Thus, it’d be a “Where’s Waldo” scenario for the authorities seeking to arrest Jesus at night.
  • In case something went amiss, the religious leaders would want plausible deniability & not appear at the arrest scene in person.  Also, the contingent of soldiers probably wouldn’t be able to recognize Jesus on sight.
  • Finally, having one of Jesus’ own Disciples betray Him would have the added benefit of demoralizing His other followers.

A plurality of scholars condemn/mock Peter for pulling out his sword/knife to attack the high priest’s slave, but I offer some grace to Peter.  In spite of the futility of facing a huge contingent of armed soldiers in this limited space with little chance of success, Peter is still willing to give his life to defend Jesus.

     Christmas Humor: The 3 Wise Men placed lanterns on the saddles on their
This was the 1st known use of saddle light navigation.

The healing of Malchus’ ear has to be one of the most overlooked miracles of the Bible.  One wonders what the soldiers thought when they witnessed this miracle & did Malchus later become a believer or did he consider the healing to be just a coincidence?

Jesus, in the midst of all this chaos, drops one of His greatest truths: “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.”  Initially, I lamented that Jesus hadn’t expounded on this theme, for example, during His Sermon on the Mount; however, upon reflection, I would contend that Jesus’ entire ministry was a rebuke of this philosophy.  While scholars point to the destruction of Jerusalem some 40 years later as validation of Jesus’ prophecy, I would submit that, sadly, we have 2,000 years of history to substantiate the truth of Jesus’ teaching. 

     Christmas Humor: I dropped a hardcover copy of “A Christmas Carol” on my
It hurt like the Dickens.

However, thanks to our focus on angels, this scene’s ultimate “Whoa Moment” is Jesus saying He could call on a legion of angels to defend Himself.  Wait.  What?  This emphasizes (or re-emphasizes, for people like me) that Jesus knew that He could bail on the whole torture/crucifixion/death ordeal anytime He wanted.  Jesus was not swept along by an out-of-control regime of politicians & religious leaders.  He could have wavered at any point during the next 18 hours & immediately been saved.  But He didn’t.  Why?  Because Jesus loves you.  Not humanity, not humankind, but you.  Even if you were the only person in the world who believed or accepted Him as their Savior, He would still volunteer His life on your behalf.

So, this is the perfect time of the year to reflect on His sacrifice & love for us & realize that the day He was born was, indeed, the day that joy came to the world.

     Closing Christmas Song Humor: Mariah Carey is opening her Christmas present. 
     Inside the box, she finds a deed to an undeveloped plot of land in her
     neighborhood.  Disappointed, she sighs, “I don’t want a lot for Christmas.”

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Wright, N. T., Matthew for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 16-28 (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 162). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
** Article “Army/Armies” in in Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, general editors, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998, p. 48.