Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” All of them deserted him and fled. A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.'” But even on this point their testimony did not agree.
Here we are, the Monday of Holy Week. The drama ratchets up. Heavy-footed soldiers. The kiss. Swords drawn. An ear sliced. An arrest. Accusations. Lies. Desertion. Jesus’ arrest at Gethsemane is notable because it marks the first two examples of discipleship failure—betrayal by a kiss, and desperate flight. A kiss, the sign of respect and intimacy, becomes the symbol of betrayal; those who are closest become the enemy. And, as if a match has been struck in the dark of night, the others scatter like cockroaches.
Peter did not flee like his brothers but hung back and skulked around, trying to be invisible. And just as Jesus confirms his own identity, Peter denies his. We know what happens next—three maddening denials punctuated by a crowing cock. Why do you think Jesus’ companions abandoned him when things got hot? Fear? Panic? Did they hightail it out of there because doubt lingered all along? Is the Rabbi really who he claims to be? I DON’T KNOW!
I want to challenge you this Holy Week, wherever you are, to go to church, even if only online. Walk the walk. Show up. Wash feet. Have your share of Jesus by taking a seat at the Last Supper. Kneel at the cross on Good Friday. Let yourself feel a smidgen of the suffering and desolation Jesus must have felt at his crucifixion. Experience the darkness of the Vigil. Don’t abandon Jesus this Holy Week. You cannot truly experience Easter joy without first facing the cross. Let us walk toward the Passion together. You will not regret it.
O Jesu, Master Carpenter, who at the last through wood and nails purchased our whole redemption; wield well thy tools in this thy workshop, that we who come to thee rough-hewn may be fashioned to a nobler beauty by thy hand; for they name’s sake, O Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Martin P.G. Leonard (1889-1963) Scouts Own, 2000 Years of Prayer, p. 451