The Arrest of Jesus (Matthew 26:47-56)
As a college kid, I went to the jail a few times a week to teach inmates. One afternon while I was there, a deputy brought a troubled juvenile into the cell block so he could see what jail life was really like.
One of the inmates with whom I was studying turned to this boy and said, “Don’t ever end up in here. I don’t have any privacy—I can’t shower by myself, I get to go to the bathroom in front of God and everybody. I live in this little cell—I never see sunlight. Son, you don’t want in here.”
While I’m sure we all agree with that inmate, some of you might have spent a night in jail as a young adult who drank too much or was disorderly in public. Maybe you’ve been to the jail to visit someone—either doing jail ministry or visiting a friend or family member. I’m sure that just about every one of you has been pulled over by a cop. Many of you have been to court—perhaps for jury duty or for speeding or some other minor offense.
But think for just a moment. If the police arrested you for a murder you did not commit, don’t you think you’d tell them you’re innocent? When your attorney came to visit, don’t you think you’d tell him you’re innocent? When you’re arraigned, wouldn’t you enter a plea of “Not guilty?” When you took the stand in your own defense, don’t you think you’d tell the jury you’re innocent of all charges?
When Jesus was arrested, he had every opportunity to protest his innocence, but he didn’t. Instead, he willingly went with the “great crowd” which had come to arrest him. Why on earth would Jesus willingly allow himself to be arrested when he was the most innocent person ever to walk this earth? Simply because: “Jesus submitted to God.”
We could, of course, speak of Jesus’s love for us and how he went to the cross to redeem us from sin. However, at the very root of his arrest, his trial, and his crucifixion is Jesus’s submission to God. We want to learn this morning that: “Jesus submitted to God,” and we’ll then explore how we ourselves can submit to God.
Scripture (Matthew 26:47-56)
Those who came to arrest Jesus were likely the temple guard, for they came from the chief priests and elders. They were well armed “with swords and clubs,” for they expected a revolutionary messiah who wanted to overthrow the government.
In the first century, a kiss was a sign of affection between family members or close friends. Disciples also kissed their teacher as a sign of honor; however, the rabbi would kiss the disciple first, so Judas’ act shows insubordination. Think about that for a moment—Judas used a special sign of friendship and affection to betray the Lord.
Once Judas kissed Jesus, the temple guard arrested him.
A disciple drew his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Jesus rebuked the disciple by saying, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Jesus was no revolutionary, and he would not use force to escape his destiny.
Jesus could have appealed to his Father for “more than twelve legions of angels.” A legion normally consisted of 6,000 soldiers; Jesus, therefore, was saying he could call for more than 72,000 angels to rescue him.
Twelve legions of human soldiers could easily have overtaken the temple guard. But think about a divine army of angels which will accomplish precisely what God wills and will not lose.
Yet, Jesus refused to call those angels because “how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” God had spoken. He had revealed in the Scriptures precisely how Jesus would be betrayed, arrested, tried, and crucified. Jesus spoke these words in Gethsemane where he has just begged his Father for a way to avoid the cross. But God refused Jesus’s request, and “Jesus submitted to God.” Once God had rejected his plea, Jesus didn’t argue, he didn’t protest his innocence, he didn’t curse those who had come to arrest him—he willingly submitted to the Father’s will.
Jesus asked the guard if they had come out to arrest him as a robber. The Greek term for “robber” is different from “thief.” A thief is simply someone who steals; a robber is someone who takes with violence.
Jesus never spoke in secret, but he “sat in the temple teaching” for days on end. Those who sought to subvert the Roman government acted in secret to avoid being caught. Jesus made clear that everything he had done had been in public, and he never sought to avoid capture.
“All this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Again, Jesus declared that his betrayal and arrest were what God had decreed. God had spoken, and “Jesus submitted to God.”
“Jesus submitted to God.” In the context, Matthew was telling the story of Jesus and how he was arrested and died for the sins of mankind. And one theme shines through the story of Jesus’s arrest and crucifixion—his submission to the Father’s will.
You will not be called upon to be betrayed, arrested, crucified, and raised for the sins of the world. However, “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2:21). While you will absolutely not face a situation comparable to Jesus’s situation in the Garden, you, like Jesus, must submit to God.
You submit to God by abandoning sin and living according to the Scriptures. Let’s think about how you can do that.
Let’s face it, you are seduced to sin frequently: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8). There is no sin in being tempted; the giants of the faith experienced temptation:
- Abraham didn’t sin when he was tempted to lie to Pharaoh.
- David didn’t sin when he saw a beautiful woman bathing.
- Zacchaeus didn’t sin when he thought about defrauding his customers.
- Judas didn’t sin when he saw dollar signs for betraying Jesus.
- Saul of Tarsus didn’t sin when he thought he would be a great idea to murder Christians.
- Jesus didn’t sin when he faced the same temptations you face: We have a high priest “who in every respect has been tempted as we are” (Heb 4:15).
What tempts you? What seduces you to sin? You need to name it and look it straight in the eye. Without recognizing your temptation, how do you think you can overcome it and submit to God?
You must admit the sovereignty of God; you must, in other words, understand that God is God and you are not God. Yes, Jesus was God in the flesh, but he wasn’t the Father, and he submitted to his Father’s will as outlined in Scripture.
You must understand God’s sovereignty as outlined in Scripture and that you cannot change one little bitty word of what he has said. Scripture came from God, not man: “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21). Because “men spoke from God,” that word is final: “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” (Ps 119:89). You cannot change one word of that word; you have two options—you can submit or you can sin—you cannot change the word!
People like to bring difficult situations—whether about baptism or denominationalism or marriage, divorce, and remarriage or some other subject—to me and ask me about this, that, or the other. That’s fine, but no situation you present will ever change one letter of Scripture.
You must decide whether or not you will submit to God’s sovereignty.
You must be careful with your friends, your acquaintances, your neighbors, and your coworkers who might seek to pull you away from God’s will. A disciple—we know from other texts it was Peter—sought to overcome the temple guard and rescue Jesus from arrest. While Peter certainly meant well, his actions sought to keep Jesus from submitting to the Father’s will.
We all have people in our lives who would make it easy to sin: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1 Cor 15:33). You must look around you and see who might entice you to sin. If you can cut that person out of your life, cut him out—you don’t need that negative influence in your life. If you can’t remove that person from your life, make sure you keep him at arm’s length; do not—under any circumstances—allow him to keep you from submitting to God’s will.
We’ve talked about submission all morning, but now it’s time to quit talking and start acting. You must keep temptation from overpowering you; you must submit to the will of God.
God gave you freewill, but submission to God is vitally important. When Saul took spoil from the Amalekites he was to annihilate, he made the excuse that he was going to sacrifice the best to God. The prophet Samuel told him, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams” (1 Sam 15:22). Peter and the rest of the apostles told the council, “We must obey God” (Acts 5:29).
You must obey God. How are you going to obey God this week? How will you obey him tomorrow morning? How will you obey him when you’re with your family? How will you obey him at the supermarket? How will you obey him at work? How will you obey him in the assembly? How will you submit to God?