While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour – when darkness reigns.”
While Jesus was still encouraging them to pray, a crowd appeared, led by Judas. He attempted to kiss Jesus in greeting, as a friend might, but he was no friend and Jesus exposed the shocking hypocrisy of his actions.
The shock of seeing Judas leading the crowd to arrest Jesus roused the disciples to respond: “shall we use our swords on them?” Their reaction was natural and understandable. It was also wrong. It wasn’t governed by the desire to seek God’s wisdom, or to understand and do his will. It was governed by natural instinct, confusion and by their decision to take refuge in sleep rather than in prayer. One of them (we know from Matthew that it was Peter) went ahead without waiting for Christ’s response, and struck the High Priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear.
Jesus now made clear what he had meant by dismissing their comment about having two swords. Violence has no place in his kingdom, either in defence of the King or in the propagation of his message. Jesus put an immediate stop to their attempt to use physical force and he healed the damage they had caused.
A man’s ear had been cut off. Unless Christ had intervened and healed him, he would literally not have been able to hear any gospel message! Violence allied to the gospel has the same result it had here: it cuts off people’s ears so that they can’t hear the true message.
Sadly, we know this only too well in my own country of Northern Ireland. The widespread perception that in Christianity people are free (and sometimes even encouraged) to take up arms in the name of Christ, to defend Christ’s cause, has proved devastating for the gospel.
Peter’s rash action, had Jesus not intervened, would have played perfectly into the narrative the chief priests wanted to create. They could easily have claimed that Jesus was leading some kind of armed political insurrection, which required their show of force. Their narrative was, of course, bogus and they knew it. As Jesus pointed out, he had moved about openly among them in the Temple courts and they could have arrested him at any time. They didn’t because they had no legal justification. And the ordinary people knew it. The best they could do was to come up with this ridiculous charade and carry it out under cover of darkness.
Their scheme was even darker than the night in which it was carried out for it came from a very sinister place. The chief priests had given themselves over to the powers of darkness.Blinded by darkness, this was their moment.