Betrayal, Bravado, and Fear

Betrayal, Bravado, and Fear

Matthew 26:47-56

“Then all the disciples left Him and fled.”


            When we look at the arrest of Jesus, we often focus on Jesus, and rightfully so, for he remains the central point of all scripture.  However, looking at the disciples' responses is also helpful, for we often see ourselves in them.  When we look at the disciples, we see ourselves, for they were not exceptional men.  They were not super saints who were called because of their profound faith and character.  They were ordinary people who had lived everyday lives until Jesus confronted them with the calling to be his disciples.  Even when they responded to the invitation, they had little idea what was in store.  

            When the large crowd descended upon them in the garden of Gethsemane, their world collapsed.  Everything they believed suddenly came crashing down upon them.  In the story, we first encounter Judas. Judas suddenly reappears after leaving Jesus and his fellow disciples, leading the crowd to Jesus.  We can only imagine what the other disciples felt and thought when they saw Judas leading the armed men.  As Judas approaches Jesus, he does something remarkable.  He greets Jesus as he would an old friend.  He approaches Jesus and kisses him.  This act implies deep love and familiarity.  It is an act that a close companion would perform, not someone who is angry and bitter, not an enemy. In his act, his name would become synonymous with betrayal and deceit.  He would become famous but for all the wrong reasons. 

            Peter, on the other hand, reacts in typical Peter fashion.  Act first and think later.  With great bravado, he pulls out his sword and strikes a nearby slave, cutting off his ear.  Peter reacts as one who will stand firm no matter what the cost.  However, for all his bravado, he would soon be remembered for his denials.  Before the night is through, even a young slave girl would prove so intimidating that she would cause him to fade into the shadows of the night in fear.  It is easy to make pompous claims and react with boldness in a single moment, but dreams become destroyed, and fear grips the heart; acts of boldness can soon turn into a heart of cowardice.

            Last, we turn to the rest of the disciples.  The silent ones, the ones who stood by frozen in action, not knowing what to do.  They said nothing and did nothing.  They did not know what to do as their world crashed.  In the end, they fled into the night.  Fear had overcome faith, and the circumstances around them turned against them. 

            As we read the story and their response, if we look closely enough, we see ourselves often in our life of faith; we mirror their actions.  Like Judas, there are times when we give all the outward signs of our commitment to Christ.  We attend church.  We say the right things, sing the songs of praise loudly and boldly affirm our allegiance to Christ.  However, in the depths of our hearts, sin has taken control.  Publically, we claim to be followers of Jesus while we privately pursue a life of sin.  Rather than confess our sin, we attempt to conceal it under the guise of false righteousness.

            There are times when we are like Peter.  We speak boldly of our faith in the church.  We triumphantly proclaim our faith when we are with friends and fellow believers.  Yet, when confronted with ridicule about our faith in a crowd, we silently shrink back into the shadows.  We are gripped by fear of what people would say and think.

            Last, we are like the other ten disciples who remain silent.  We don’t do anything.  We attend church, sitting in the same pew and joining in the worship.  But when adversity strikes and our faith is challenged by the struggles we face, we soon lose touch with our faith.  We go back to our lives and become silent.

            Yet for Peter and the disciples, something would change them from men of fear to men of faith, from those who remained silent in the face of opposition to those who would boldly proclaim the gospel even in the face of certain death.  So what happened?  The resurrection and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  When we genuinely surrender to Christ and allow his Spirit to work through us, he transforms and empowers us to live a life of faith with confidence and fearlessness.  Today, ask God to give you boldness and empowerment to proclaim Christ in all avenues of life. 


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