Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 
"All the disciples forsook him and fled"

Gospel reading: Matthew 26:47-56

47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the  elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him." 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, "Hail, Master!" And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, "Friend, why are you here?" Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?" 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the  temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.

Meditation: Do you know the pain of rejection?  The greatest pain and injury comes not from our enemies but from those closest to us.  Psalm 55 foretells the suffering of rejection which God's anointed King and Messiah would endure for our sake:  "It is not an enemy who taunts me-- then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me-- then I could hide from him  But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.  We used to hold sweet converse together; within God's house we walked in fellowship" (Psalm 55:12-14). In the ancient world a kiss was a sign of intimate friendship and trust. Judas' betrayal with a kiss shows the hypocrisy of his love and trust. This is literally a "kiss of death" not only because it leads to Jesus' death but is also a sign of the death of one who lost all hope and abandoned God. In betraying Jesus Judas rejected the one and only hope for freedom from sin and condemnation and the hope of reconciliation and restoration to friendship with God.  Jesus met rejection not with bitterness or resentment, but with love and pity. God will never stop loving us no matter how far we stray from him or abandon hope.   When you encounter injury and rejection from others, how do you respond?  With merciful love and a forgiving heart or with bitterness and revenge?

Jesus met his betrayal and arrest with serenity and with confident trust in his Father.  He knew that this was Satan's hour of darkness but God's light and truth would prevail in the end.  How did the other apostles meet this trial?  They were unprepared even though Jesus has warned them about his betrayal.  And they had forgotten God for the moment. Their will was to resist force with force rather than peaceably submit to God's will.  Jesus never failed to show mercy and compassion even to his enemies.  Luke tells us that Jesus "touched" the severed ear and healed the high priest's slave who had been struck by one of Jesus' own disciples (Luke 22:51).  When adversity strikes how do you respond?  With fear and panic or with confident hope and trust in God?

"Lord, only you can save us from the blindness of sin and despair. May your light dispel the darkness of our lives and give us hope and joy.  Fill our hearts with mercy and compassion that we may bring hope to those who have no hope and show them the light of Christ."

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 (c) 2002 Don Schwager