Summary: Apostles, Pt. 18
THE KINGDOM OF LOVE AND LIGHT (MATTHEW 26:55-56)
Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century Italian thinker, was one of the greatest philosophers, writers and theologians of the church, if not the greatest. In his time Christians were long past being hated and persecuted and the Roman Catholic Church, in particular, had amassed power and riches beyond belief.
Aquinas told that while he was walking amid the splendors of Rome, a friend said to him, “We Christians certainly no longer have to say to the world, “Silver and gold have we none” – alluding to Peter’s famous statement upon performing his first miracle in healing a cripple: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6)
To this Aquinas replied: “But neither can we say to the lame man, ‘In the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk.’” (The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard)
The disciples followed Jesus to Jerusalem, expecting to crown Him as King of the Jews, waiting for Him to set up His kingdom and sitting on thrones and judging the twelve tribes (Lk 22:30), but things went terribly wrong that night. Instead, Jesus was arrested without any resistance or struggle. This episode remains the apostles’ greatest heartbreak.
What kind of kingdom did Jesus promise His disciples? What kind of kingdom would truly fulfill God’s plan’s salvation, reconciliation and transformation of man?
God’s Kingdom is Peaceable, Not Provoked
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. 50 Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. (Matt 26:47-50)
Abraham Lincoln was known as a gentleman even to his fiercest critics.
One evening as the president was strolling in silence with one of his old and intimate friends from Illinois, anxious and depressed over the Civil War and the overpowering responsibility, a man suddenly stepped in front of him, presented him a paper and said, “Mr. Lincoln, this is the only opportunity I have had to speak to you. Please consider my case. I…” but Lincoln interrupted him impatiently, “My man, don’t annoy me this way. I have too much to think of. You must let me alone.”
Lincoln then passed on with his companion, leaving the applicant standing dejectedly on the sidewalk. The two friends walked a short distance without speaking, when suddenly Lincoln stopped and said: “John, I treated that man shamefully. I must go back and see him.” At once he returned and walked up to the petitioner, who had remained in his despondent attitude.
“My friend,” said Lincoln, “I was rude to you just now; I ask your pardon. I have great deal to worry and trouble me at this time, but I had no right to treat you so uncivilly. Take this card, and come to my office in the morning, and I will do what I can for you. Good night.” (Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln” Anthony Gross, 1994)
Jesus demonstrated a patient and tolerant attitude facing the conspiracy and nonsense at hand. The three groups working in sync that night were the large crowd, Jewish authorities and Judas (vv 47, 49). He saw right through their act of hypocrisy, their show of force and abuse of power, and yet he was not provoked, outraged or incensed, even though He had a right to be.
The “large crowd” that showed up to arrest Jesus really made its presence felt. A small or normal “crowd” was more than enough to arrest the forefather of pacifism. Other similar occasions in the Gospels for the Greek phrase “large crowd” refer to the “large crowd” that turned to Jesus following John the Baptist’s arrest (Matt 14:14), a large crowd that argued with the teachers of the law (Mark 9:14), a large crowd of tax collectors and guests that Levi invited to his house to meet Jesus (Luke 5:29) and the “great crowd” Jesus fed (John 6:2, 5).
Matthew, Mark and Luke are in agreement the large crowd was armed with swords and clubs (Matt 26:47, Mark 14:43, Luke 22:52). The word “clubs” is translated elsewhere as “stocks” (Acts 16:24), “wood” (1 Cor 3:12, Rev 18:12) and even “tree” (Luke 23:31, Acts 5:29, Acts 10:39). A contingent of men with the equivalent of long knives and wooden bats in their hands present that night was a comedy, a circus and a farce.