Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses fifty-seven through sixty-eight of the twenty-sixth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find the events surrounding Jesus’ betrayal and trial taking full shape. As you being reading the words which are found and contained within this passage of scripture you find the events of the betrayal having already been completed as Judas led a great multitude into the garden—those who were armed with swords and staves. Please don’t miss the incredible and tremendous significance of what is taking place in this chapter, for what began with the chief priests, the elders of Israel and the scribes conspiring together against Jesus Christ how they might put Him to death would gain support as the conspiracy of religion would be met with the betrayal of relationship. This chapter opens up with Jesus now for the second time revealing unto His disciples how He would be betrayed unto the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel, and how He would be put to death, yet would rise again from death to life on the third day. The chapter would begin with Jesus’ own words concerning His betrayal, and yet as you continue reading in this chapter you will find religion conspiring together within itself against Jesus, as well as Judas increasing and enhancing the conspiracy by agreeing to betray Jesus into their hands. By the time the first sixteen verses of this chapter come to a close, not only has religion conspired against Jesus to put Him to death, but we also find relationship entering into that place of betrayal, as Judas sought for the perfect occasion for which to betray Jesus Christ into the hands of the religious leaders of that day. When we come to the end of the first sixteen verses we actually find the conspiracy of religion and the betrayal of relationship partnering together in order that Jesus might be put to death and completely removed from the picture.
This particular chapter is absolutely incredible, for while it began with Jesus once again foretelling His betrayal, death and resurrection, we find the events actually taking place and unfolding within this chapter. What would begin with the conspiracy of religion in Jerusalem would be met with the betrayal of relationship as both religion and relationship would align themselves together to bring about and accomplish the same end. In fact, it’s actually quite interesting to read and consider the progression of relationship and fellowship within this particular passage of scripture, for within this passage of scripture we find the first mention of relationship being Judas secretly meeting with the chief priests, scribes and elders of Israel to betray Jesus into their hands for thirty pieces of silver. As you continue reading this particular chapter you will find relationship and fellowship being manifested in the upper room as prior to His betrayal and trial, Jesus sought and wished to partake of one final meal with His disciples. WHEN BETRAYAL IS SEATED AT THE TABLE! What’s so interesting and intriguing about the Passover meal being partaken of there in the upper room is that while Jesus sought to partake of a meal with His disciples, His betrayer would actually be seared at the table there with Him. We dare not and must not miss this reality and fact, for to do so would be to miss the awesome reality of just how much fellowship meant to Jesus. Consider the fact that even before Jesus partook of the Passover meal with His disciples, He already knew that He would be betrayed unto the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders. Here at the table, however, something much different was revealed, as Jesus didn’t merely reveal that He was going to be betrayed, but Jesus was how revealing that it would be one of them sitting at the table who would be responsible for betraying Him. Pause and consider that reality for a moment—the reality that not only was betrayal merely words which Jesus had foretold unto and before His disciples, but now betrayal was found to be closer to home as Jesus revealed that it was one of His own who would betray Him. It was one thing for Jesus to prophesy and foretell that He was going to be betrayed, but it was something else altogether to consider the fact that the one who would betray Him was not only one of His own, but would also be one sitting at the very table of fellowship, communion and relationship.
This chapter found within the New Testament gospel of Matthew is that chapter in which we not only find the conspiracy of religion and the betrayal of relationship, but we also find an act of fellowship and relationship being manifested in the upper room as Jesus sought to partake of the Passover meal with His disciples. It would be there in the upper room where Jesus would speak of the blood the covenant which would be drunk again until He drank it anew with them in the kingdom of God in heaven. There in the upper room we find Jesus not only breaking the bread and distributing it amongst His disciples, but we also find them partaking of the wine as well. There in the Upper Room Jesus shares the Passover meal with His disciples, and as the apostle John will later record, there was more that took place in the upper room than simply partaking of the bread and partaking of the cup. I absolutely love that within this particular passage of scripture we find Jesus seeking to engage Himself in fellowship and communion with His disciples on the night in which He would be betrayed. On the very night in which He would be betrayed, Jesus sought to partake of one final meal before His death, and engage Himself in one more act of fellowship, communion and relationship. Within this chapter—not only do we find fellowship and relationship displayed in the Upper Room as Jesus engaged in the Passover meal with His disciples, but we also find within this passage of Scripture Jesus taking three of His disciples—Simon who was called Peter, as well as James and John the sons of Zebedee—into the garden of Gethsemane with Him where He would pray unto His Father before the hour of His betrayal would take place. This is actually quite interesting, for you will find that although Judas sought for occasion to betray Jesus into the hands of the scribes, the chief priests, and the elders of Israel, he did not lead an insurrection and bring an insurgent into the upper room where Jesus partook of the Passover meal with his disciples. If you read this particular passage of Scripture you will find that the betrayal of Judas took place in the garden of Gethsemane—in a place he himself was familiar with, for Jesus often withdrew to that place to pray unto His Father who was in heaven. Judas undoubtedly knew of this place because perhaps he, as well as the other disciples had accompanied Jesus into the garden, and into the place of prayer and fellowship with the Father. When Judas finally did lead the insurgent and insurrection against Jesus, he led them into the garden of Gethsemane where he knew Jesus would be at His most vulnerable place. I can’t help but wonder within my heart and mind whether or not Judas chose the garden as the scene of betrayal because he knew that it would be the one place where Jesus would be the most vulnerable, and where Jesus would be the most exposed. Consider if you will the account of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane with His disciples, as well as with Peter, James and John whom He brought further and deeper into the garden with Him:
“And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto Him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto Him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto Him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples. Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith He unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And He went a little further, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And He came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And He left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh He to His disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, He is at hand that doth betray me. And while ye yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He: hold Him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master; and kissed Him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took Him. And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thickest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook Him, and fled” (Matthew 26:30-56).
The more I read this particular chapter which is found in the New Testament gospel of Matthew, the more I can’t help but come face to face with the tremendous reality that when Judas led an insurrection and insurgent of those armed with swords and staves into the garden against Jesus—not only did he lead them into the place of prayer, fellowship and communion, but he also led them into that place when he knew that Jesus would be the most vulnerable, and when Jesus would be the most exposed. When I begin reading with the thirty-sixth verse of this chapter, I can’t help but find Jesus taking Peter, James and John into the garden where He would kneel and bow Himself before His Father in heaven, as not only did He engage in the Passover meal with His disciples on the night in which He was betrayed, but He also engaged Himself in prayer and communion with His Father there in the garden. It would be in the upper room where Jesus would enter into fellowship and communion with the disciples, and it would be in the garden where Jesus would enter into fellowship and communion with His Father who was in heaven. How absolutely wonderful and remarkable it is to think that on the same night in which He was betrayed—not only did He engage Himself in fellowship and communion with His disciples there in the upper room, but He also engaged Himself in prayer and fellowship with His Father in the garden. FELLOWSHIP IN THE UPPER ROOM! FELLOWSHIP IN THE GARDEN! Please pay close attention to what we find and read in this passage of Scripture, for when Judas led this insurgent of men armed with swords and staves against Jesus, he did so in the place that was very familiar to both Jesus and His disciples. When Judas led this insurgent of men armed with weapons against Jesus, he did so knowing exactly where Jesus would be and what He would be doing. There is not a doubt in my mind that Judas knew that if Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, He would undoubtedly be praying to His Father who was in heaven, for Jesus often engaged in prayer, communion and fellowship with His Father who was in heaven. There in the garden of Gethsemane—while Jesus was praying unto His Father who was in heaven—Judas led an insurrection and insurgent against Jesus, in order He might be betrayed and handed over into the hands of those who had conspired together against Him to put Him to death. With that being said, I can’t help but consider the tremendous fact that what we find in this passage of Scripture is not only Judas leading an insurgent of men armed with swords and staves against Jesus, but he also did so in that place when Jesus would be the most exposed, and when Jesus would be the most vulnerable. The garden of Gethsemane was a place of prayer, a place of fellowship, a place of communion with the Father who was in heaven, and as such would be the most ideal place to lead an insurrection against Jesus. Judas knew that it would be there in the garden where Jesus would be found in the place of prayer and communion before and unto His Father who was in heaven, and it was in and from that place of vulnerability that Jesus could be seized without incident.
As I sit here and consider the fact that Judas led an insurgent of men armed with weapons against Jesus so as to seize and lay hold of Him, I can’t help but think within my own heart that he waited until Jesus was the most weak and was the most vulnerable. Perhaps Judas chose the garden because of how it was in fact laid out, and he knew that if he was going to betray Jesus into the hands of those who sought to put Him to death, it would have to be in a place where Jesus would be separated from His disciples. I have often wondered why Jesus separated Simon who was called Peter, as well as James and John the sons of Zebedee from the other disciples as He went further into the garden, and yet I can’t help but think that it was in and from this place of separation that Judas further sought to exploit the vulnerability of Jesus there in the garden. Not only was Jesus the most vulnerable and exposed in the garden because it was a place of prayer [most don’t expect the place of prayer to be a place of betrayal and warfare], but so also would Jesus be separated from the rest of His disciples. At this point in time there were only eleven disciples remaining, for Judas had left the upper room and Passover meal in order to further conspire together against Jesus with the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel. That reality and statement of not expecting the place of prayer to become a place of warfare and betrayal is actually quite remarkable and astounding when you think about it, for there are very few who would ever expect such a place to become such a place of violence and turmoil. It’s interesting to note that the place of prayer in the garden would become a place of betrayal, a place of warfare, and a place of violence, and it is also true that the Temple of the living God which stood in the city of Jerusalem would also become a place of violence and warfare. If you study the history of the Jewish people—not only will you find that the Babylonians laid waste and burned the Temple to the ground with fire, but centuries later the Romans would also completely and utterly destroy the Temple of the living God by burning it to the ground with fire. On two separate occasions the very house of prayer, and the very Temple of God would be subject to violence, warfare, and the weapons of men, and here we have in the garden of Gethsemane a picture of the garden becoming a place of violence as not only did Judas lead men armed with swords and staves against Jesus therein, but so also did the apostle Peter strike one of the servants of the high priest with the sword, and smite off his ear. There in the garden—that place which was previously a place of rest, a place of reprieve, a place of communion, and a place of prayer and fellowship—violence and betrayal would ensue as those led into the garden by Judas would lay hold of Jesus, and as Peter would take up the sword in order to somehow defend Jesus from those who would seek to lay hold of Him.
As I am sitting here right now, I can’t help but be absolutely and completely gripped with and by the fact that Judas deliberately and intentionally chose the garden of Gethsemane in order to betray Jesus Christ into the hands of those who desired to kill Him, for it would be in the garden where He would be at His most vulnerable. It would be there in the garden where Jesus would engage in prayer and communion with the Father as He had previously done time and time again with the disciples. I can’t help but wonder how many times Jesus brought the disciples with Him into the garden of Gethsemane, and prayed before and unto His Father there in the garden. I can’t help but wonder how many times the disciples witnessed Jesus lead them into the garden, and then as He would journey further into the garden where He would pray unto his Father into heaven. There is not a doubt in my mind that Judas chose this particular place to lead the insurgent of men armed with weapons against Jesus, for Judas had been there before with the other disciples. Judas knew that it would be there in the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus would be the most open, the most vulnerable, and the most exposed, for more often than not when Jesus led His disciples into the midst of the garden, He did so in order that He might pray and commune with His Father in heaven. If you read the words which the apostle Matthew wrote and recorded in this passage of Scripture you will find that not only was this a place where Jesus would be the most exposed and vulnerable in that this would be the place of prayer and communion with the Father, but on this particular moment Jesus was perhaps at His weakest. It was on this particular occasion when Jesus was undoubtedly the most vulnerable, as Matthew records for us that Jesus was began to be sorrowful and very heavy. What’s more, is that Matthew also records how Jesus declared unto Peter, James and John that His soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this tremendous reality, for it brings us face to face with when the adversary can and will come against us the most. If we are to truly understand how the adversary and enemy operates and functions within our lives, we must recognize and understand that more often than not he comes against us when we are at our weakest, and most vulnerable place. I can’t help but be reminded of the account of Jesus in the wilderness where He was led by the Spirit of God to be tempted of the devil. Consider if you will that which is written in the New Testament gospel of Matthew concerning Jesus’ time in the wilderness where He would be tempted of the devil:
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:1-4).
The beloved physician Luke wrote and recorded this same account in the treatise he wrote unto the most excellent Theophilus. In the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ we find the beloved physician Luke writing and recording the following words concerning the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness:
“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were winded, He afterward hungered. And the devil said unto Him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:1-4).
Please don’t miss out and lose sight of that which is written and recorded in these two passages of Scripture, for within these passages of Scripture we find Jesus being led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, as well as the devil coming unto Him when He was at His most vulnerable point, and when He was at His weakest. You will notice that both Matthew and Luke wrote and recorded how Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights, and how afterward He was an hungered. This concept of Jesus being hungry is of tremendous significance and importance, for it brings us face to face with the reality that the devil waited unto Jesus was at His weakest in order to come unto Him with his various temptations. What’s more, is that the devil came unto Jesus—not only when He was at His weakest and was most vulnerable, but also when He was hungry. Even more than this, we find the very first temptation which the devil brought against Jesus was a temptation to turn stones into bread, and thus satisfying His hunger there in the wilderness. Oh, please don’t miss and/or lose sight of this reality concerning Jesus in the wilderness, for just as the tempter came unto Jesus when He was at his weakest, and when He was most vulnerable in the wilderness, so also Judas would come unto Jesus in the garden when He was at His most vulnerable place. Judas would wait until Jesus was deep in the garden, and had prayed unto His Father who was in heaven, and it was there in that place of prayer, communion and fellowship where Judas would lead an insurgent of men armed with weapons against Jesus. On this particular night the garden of Gethsemane would be transformed from a place of quietness, rest and prayer into a place of betrayal, violence and warfare. On this particular occasion the garden of Gethsemane was transformed from a place of prayer and communion with the Father into a place of violence as not only would men armed with swords and staves lay hold of Jesus, but so also would Simon called Peter would lay hold of his sword and strike off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest. There in the garden—that place where Jesus and His disciples would go to experience rest from ministry and from works—Judas would lead an insurgent of men armed with swords and staves against Jesus, in order that those who sought to put Him to death might lay hold of Him. It would be here in the garden where Jesus would be at His most vulnerable place, and where Jesus would be most susceptible to violence and attack. What’s more, is that there in the garden, Jesus invited Peter, James and John to join Him in the struggle. As surely and as much as the garden would be the place where Jesus would be the most vulnerable and the most susceptible, Jesus would invite these three disciples into a place of warfare and prayer, as the hour in which they found themselves was one of tremendous darkness. Please do not miss the tremendous importance of that which Jesus invited Peter, James and John to enter into within this passage of Scripture, for Jesus invited them to more than simply prayer and intercession, but into a place of warfare, conflict and struggle in the spirit. In fact, when Jesus returned the first time and found the disciples sleeping, He instructed them to watch and pray in order that they enter not into temptation, for the spirit indeed was willing, but the flesh was weak.
It’s worth noting that while three disciples were invited into the place of spiritual warfare and conflict with Jesus in the garden, there was another disciple who was engaging himself in a different type of warfare and conflict. While Peter, James and John were invited to partake in and join Jesus in the struggle and conflict there in the garden, Judas chose to engage himself in a different act of warfare and conflict, as he led men armed with swords and staves into the garden against Jesus. By the time the fifty-sixth verse of this chapter comes to a close we find Judas having successfully led an insurgent of men armed with swords and staves against Jesus, and Jesus being laid hold of and seized by them. When the fifty-sixth verse of this chapter draws to a close we find Jesus in the hands of those who sought occasion to destroy and put Him to death, and the disciples forsaking and fleeing from the face and presence of Jesus. When you begin reading with and from the fifty-seventh verse of this chapter you will find that once Jesus was laid hold of by those whom Judas led into the garden, Jesus was led away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and elders were assembled. Do not overlook that which is found in this single verse, for within it we find the scribes and elders already pre-assembled in the place of the high priest, so as to engage themselves in accusation against Jesus the Christ. Within this chapter we find Judas betraying Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, while within it we also find the scribes and elders seeking to put Jesus on trial, and raising up against Him false witness and false testimony. It’s interesting and worth noting that in order to put Jesus to death those who claimed to uphold and teach the law actually violated one of the Ten Commandments—the commandment to not bear false witness. This is actually truly remarkable and intriguing when you consider it, for in order to put Jesus to death, and in order to find grounds to kill Jesus, those who claimed to teach and uphold the law violated the commandment not to bear false witness. Consider if you will the concept of bearing false witness against the very Son of God in order that you might put Him to death. WHAT COMMANDMENTS ARE YOU WILLING TO VIOLATE IN ORDER TO PUT THE SON OF GOD TO DEATH? I can’t help but be absolutely and completely confounded by the fact that in order to put Jesus to death, and in order to find grounds to do so, the scribes, the elders, and the teachers of the Law would actually violate the commandment to bear false witness against the Son of man. Consider what is written and recorded in this particular passage beginning with the fifty-seventh verse:
“And they that had laid hold on Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed Him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. Now the chief priests, and the elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put Him to death; but found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto Him, Answerest thou. Nothing? What is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held His peace. And the high priest answered and said unto Him, I abjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:57-64).
THE CONSPIRACY OF RELIGION! THE BETRAYAL OF RELATIONSHIP! THE FALSE WITNESS AND FALSE TESTIMONY OF RELIGION! It’s worth noting that in this passage—not only do we find religion conspiring against Jesus to put Him to death, but we also find religion seeking false witness and false testimony against Jesus in order that they might find fault with Him and occasion to put Him to death. Within this passage of Scripture we find religion violating the very commandments they sought to uphold and teach, for not only were they violating the commandment to not bear false witness, but they were also violating the commandments to not kill or murder. Oh, it’s absolutely and utterly amazing to consider the great lengths men will take in order that they might remove the influence of Jesus from within their lives. It’s absolutely amazing what religion can and will do in order that it might utterly and completely destroy Jesus from the midst of the people, for not only will religion seek to bear false witness and false testimony against Jesus, but religion can and will also seek to violate the commandment not to murder. Despite all of this that is written and recorded in this chapter, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that the conspiracy of religion and the betrayal of relationship were all part of the divine plan and will of God, as the Father foreknew the events that would take place, and permitted both the conspiracy of religion and the betrayal of relationship to partner together to utterly destroy Jesus the Christ from the midst of the people. Despite conspiracy against Him, despite betrayal, and despite false witness, and even being forsaken by His own disciples—everything that happened to Jesus the Christ on this particular occasion happened and took place according to the predeterminate will and counsel of the living God. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this particular reality, for it will help us understand that which takes place within our own lives, as we might find ourselves facing and experiencing betrayal, false witness, false accusation, and those who seek to destroy us. Everything that took place within this chapter—even leading up to the death of Jesus upon the cross of Jesus Christ—took place according to the predeterminate will of the living God, in order that His divine work and will might be fulfilled and accomplished. Oh that we would recognize and come to terms with this, and that we would allow the very Spirit of the living God to speak to us, and even to encourage us concerning this reality within our own lives and that which we find ourselves facing.