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. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.”
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.
With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.”
Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.Matthew 26:47-56
When we find Jesus in Matthew 26, he stands alone in the midst of a hateful mob of bullies. His so-called friend, Judas, has betrayed him. All of the other disciples— those with whom he lived with, traveled alongside, ministered with and taught, spending nearly every day with for the last three years— have fled.
Here, we get a glimpse of that truth that Jesus understands, in every respect, human suffering (Hebrews 4:14-16). In this short passage, Jesus was betrayed, abandoned, and wrongly accused. He knows what it feels like to be utterly alone when in most need of a friend. The angry hands that held him fast were rough and strong and coarse. There was no compassion in the eyes of his accusers.
From all outward appearances, everything has gone wrong. Jesus was supposed to be the King. Just days ago, throngs of people ushered Him into the city as Messiah. The bewildered disciples thought, “This just couldn’t be right! How could everything have gone so wrong?”
Ah, but they hadn’t been paying attention.
This is precisely how Jesus told them it would go down. Jesus taught them he would undergo great suffering and rejection (Mark 8:310), be betrayed into human hands, mocked, flogged, sentenced to death and killed by the religious elite, and in three days He would rise again. (Mark 9:31 and 10:32-34).
Jesus told them what would happen. He warned them. He laid out it before them again and again, and yet still, when the words of Jesus became reality, the disciples all fled. Let us not be too quick to condemn them— for what would we have done (indeed, what have we done) under the same circumstances?
Following Jesus had been a long journey— three years in the making. They had left everything to follow Him. They had put all their trust and hope in him. Indeed, they had staked their lives on the promise that he was the Messiah, the chosen and anointed one, the one who would redeem Israel and set them free. His teachings were often difficult to understand and nearly impossible to reconcile with the world they saw around them, but his miracles! They had witnessed God’s power at work within him.
He was the Christ, but recently he had been saying things that troubled them. They were tired, they were confused, they were emotionally exhausted. And then, he had determined to go to Jerusalem for Passover.
It had been a long week, from the glorious festive entry into the city to waving palms and cheering crowds to the disruptive confusion of the Temple when Jesus seemed to some of them to go mad, to the things he was saying about the teachers of the Law right to their faces, Jesus seemed to determined to make enemies with everyone! They had been glad to retire with him to the upper room for the celebration of the sacred Passover meal, but then, what began as a celebration had become a very long night.
It had been a long night
Following a long day, there had been a long Passover Meal (the Last Supper).
Then there was the washing of the feet.
Then there had been a long walk through the vineyard (Vine and the branches)
Then, Jesus had prayed a long public prayer (John 17).
Following all of this, there had been a long private prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yes, they had fallen asleep, twice, but it had been a long night! When they awoke the second time, they were surrounded by the sounds of an angry mob. They were startled, disoriented, confused. And yes, they were afraid. What would happen next? Would this be the big show down where Jesus revealed his power and glory? Were they about to witness the cosmic battle between God’s good Son and the world’s evil minions?
Jesus seemed eerily calm.
They took hold of him and Peter lashed out.
But Jesus ordered peace and brought healing.
He was giving himself into their hands!
The disciples were human—and they fled.
So, where did all the disciples go from Gethsemane when everything went so seemingly wrong? Some of their stories we know from the testimony of Scripture.
We catch up with Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, in Matthew 27, who was seized with remorse and returned the ransom money to the chief priests. But it was too late, and he hanged himself.
From the arrest at Gethsemane, Peter followed at distance, and then we read of his three denials, just as Jesus had foretold. He went outside and wept bitterly (Luke 22.54-62). And we find John standing at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ mother and sister and a few other women (John 19.25-27).
So, Judas, Peter and John are accounted for. But what about the other 9? Where did they all go when everything went so seemingly wrong? Where would they turn for safety? They had just seen one of their own betray their leader. Whom could they trust?
Scripture does not reveal where they went, but given the recorded context of what we know about their lives, we may wonder. Perhaps they returned to Bethany where they had been staying with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Or maybe they went to hide amidst the tens of thousands of Galileans who had swarmed into Jerusalem for Passover. Maybe Simon went to consult with the Zealots. Maybe Matthew, the former tax collector, went to make a case to the Romans. Maybe one of them went to Joseph of Arimathea and another to Nicodemus to see if they might buy Jesus’ release.
From the time of Jesus’ arrest to his death on the cross the disciples are virtually invisible. We don’t know where they ran from the Garden of Gethsemane, but we do know that by Sunday they were all together, hiding in the upper room, behind a locked door. Well, everyone but Thomas.
After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”John 20: 19-29
Without him they had been in chaos.
Without him they had been panicked, scattered, lost.
But with Jesus again in their presence they were at peace.
Indeed, there is no better place to be when everything goes wrong than at the side of the One who makes all things right.
Things don’t always seem to go right in our lives. There is conflict and loss and disappointment and heartache in every human life. Your particular pain might be physical, spiritual, financial, emotional, relational, psychological or even social. You might be feeling very much alone in the world and you may be wondering if anyone really cares. Whatever is wrong, there is ultimately only One who can make it right.
Jesus came to make things right. To give us His righteousness.
To make us right with God, right with ourselves and right with one another.
Jesus came to make all things new.
Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly.
Jesus came not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him.
Jesus came to make you right, to make you new, to give you life, that you might be saved through him.
It looked to the disciples as if everything had gone horribly wrong, when in fact all things were going exactly the way God planned to make all things right. You might be feeling today as everything has gone horribly wrong but from God’s perspective the things of your life are just now shaping up to be made right. Not by you, not by your own efforts, not by pressing the full force of your life into your problems – but by receiving the full weight of the glory poured out upon the Cross.
As the disciples of Jesus Christ in the world today we have a choice to make when everything seems to go wrong. We can abandon the One who has brought us this far or we can trust him to lead us through. We can run and hide or can take a stand for the truth we know will set us free. We can make alliances with the powers of the world or we can rely on Jesus Christ whose power has overcome the world.
Where will you choose to be the next time everything goes wrong? Let’s choose Jesus because He alone can make all things right. For the rest of our days, let’s be everyday Easter people, living the Resurrection Reality every day.
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash