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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Mat. 26:47–56. Mark 14:43–49. Luke 22:47–54. John 17:3–12]

WHILE Jesus was yet speaking, Judas came with a great crowd of soldiers and servants from the chief priests and ancients. Now the traitor had given them a sign, saying: “Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is He; hold Him fast!” As soon as he saw Jesus, he approached Him, saying: “Hail, Rabbi!” and he kissed Him. Jesus said to him: “Friend, whereto art thou come? Judas, dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Then, advancing towards the troop, He said: “Whom seek ye?” They answered: “Jesus of Nazareth”. He said to them with a look of majesty: “I am He!” At the sound of His Voice they started back, and fell to the ground as though they had been struck by lightning. When they had raised themselves up, He asked them again: “Whom seek ye?” They spoke as before: “Jesus of Nazareth”. He answered: “I have told you that I am He. If, therefore, you seek Me, let these go their way.” They then laid hold of Him.

The apostles, seeing this, asked their Lord if they might not strike with the sword in His defence. But Peter, without waiting for permission, struck a servant of the High Priest, called Malchus, and cut off his right ear. Then Jesus said to Peter: “Put up thy sword into the scabbard. Thinkest thou that I cannot ask My Father, and He will give Me presently more than twelve legions of angels? How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled that so it must be done?” So saying, He touched the ear of Malchus and healed him. He then held out His Hands, and they bound Him and led Him away. Then the disciples all fled, leaving Him alone in the hands of His enemies.

The Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before our Blessed Lord gave Himself up into the hands of His enemies, He manifested His Godhead in several ways: 1. By casting His enemies to the ground by His words: “I am He!” The power of these simple words sufficed to fell to the ground a whole troop of rough soldiers and servants who were thirsting to capture Him. Jesus required no help from outside, no legions of the heavenly host; His word alone sufficed to render his enemies powerless, and their weapons harmless; for it was the word of Him who “shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall slay the wicked” (Is. 11:4). By thus overthrowing the troop and bidding them rise again, our Lord proved that no human force, but only the excess of His love could chain Him. He manifested His Divinity 2. in the effect produced by His command that His disciples should be left untouched. Although He was Himself a captive in the hands of the ruffians who had seized Him, He spoke to them as a Master to his slaves, as a conqueror to those he had vanquished; and they, full of hatred as they were both towards Himself and His doctrine, obeyed Him without demur, and did not dare to lay a finger on any of those men who, after their Master’s death, were destined to spread His doctrine over the face of the earth. They did not even venture to touch Peter, or take vengeance on him for attacking and wounding Malchus. Was not this a wonderful thing? Our Blessed Lord manifested His Divinity 3. by His miracle, which instantaneously cured the wounded Malchus; 4. by calling God His Father, who was ready at His request to send legions of angels to His aid; and 5. in the proof afforded of His Omniscience by the way in which His disciples, through their cowardice and flight, fulfilled that which He had foretold of them: “All you shall be scandalized in Me this night, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be dispersed.”

1. His Goodness to Judas was also divine. He did not refuse his treacherous kiss: He suffered His sacred Face to be touched by the lips of this vile traitor, and He even called him: “Friend!” “I have always treated you as My friend”, He meant to imply, “why therefore do you come now at the head of My enemies, and betray Me to them by a kiss!” This loving treatment on the part of our Lord was to the ungrateful traitor a last hour of grace. Jesus gave him to understand that He still loved him in spite of his vile crime, and was ready to forgive him even now, if he would repent; but Judas resisted this last grace, and remained hardened and unmoved.

2. His Goodness to the eleven Apostles. Full of loving care for them, though willing Himself to be taken captive and led away to death, He desired to assure freedom and life to His disciples. His enemies might rage against Himself, but they must not lay a finger on those whom He loved, and it was only on this condition that He gave Himself into their hands. Oh, how loving is the Heart of Jesus!

3. His Goodness to Malchus. He exercised His Omnipotence and healed Malchus, who, like his master, Caiphas, was one of our Lord’s bitterest enemies, and who had pressed forward so as to be the first to seize Him. Jesus has taught us not only by His word, but by His example, that we are to return good for evil, and to love even our enemies.

The voluntary and vicarious Sufferings of our Lord Jesus. Jesus gave Himself up to His enemies, of His own will. He went to meet them, encouraged them to seize Him, and offered His Hands to be bound. He gave up His liberty, to atone to God for our abuse of the liberty He has given us. He gave Himself up as a prisoner, to save us from the everlasting prison of hell. He let Himself be bound, that we might be delivered from the bonds of sin and Satan.

The malice, ingratitude and depravity of Judas. Our Blessed Lord had loaded this man with benefits and graces. He had chosen him to be an apostle; He had let him witness His miracles and the holiness of His life; He had imparted to him His divine doctrine; He had borne with him patiently and warned him lovingly, had washed his feet and given him His own Body and Blood to be his Food; and yet he repaid his Master’s love with the basest treachery, placed himself at the head of His enemies, feigned friendship for Him, called Him Master, and betrayed Him with a kiss! But Christians behave quite as basely and ungratefully when they make an unworthy Communion!

APPLICATION. When we contemplate Jesus, bound and taken prisoner, we feel as if we could cry out to these Jews: “Hold! How can you bind the Hands of Him Who has shed such blessings on you! Unbind Him, for He is your God Who delivered you from the bondage of Egypt, Who went before you in a pillar of cloud, and led you into the Promised Land. Woe to you if you lay a hand on Him!” Thus would we fain cry out, but faith says to us: “Spare your indignation! The Jewish servants and pagan soldiers could not have held and bound Jesus if it had not been for your sins! Be not angry with those men, for they knew not what they did; but rather be angry with yourself and your sins, and bear in mind that, each time you sin, you are forging new bonds to bind Jesus and lead Him away to death!”

You are quite right to detest the black ingratitude of Judas; but remember how often you too have been ungrateful to your Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Bear in mind, especially, that every mortal sin is a shameful act of ingratitude towards God, your Father, and a dark act of treachery towards Jesus, your Redeemer.








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