Although He clearly tried to prepare His followers for the moment, sometimes I wonder if it was not until the experience at the Garden of Gethsemane, as soldiers sent from the church of Israel arrested Him, that the disciples truly began to understand the purpose of Jesus. Three of the Gospels tell us a disciple of Jesus (presumably Peter) cut off the ear of a man (a servant of the high priest) during the attempt to arrest Jesus. But in all three accounts, Jesus rebuked the violent act. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus healed the ear of the servant. “When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.” (Luke 22:49–51).
In each of the Gospel narratives, there is the intimation that right at this moment, Jesus’ followers scatter. I believe that despite His teaching, they misunderstood His intentions. When He makes it clear that He is not going to fight the battle with violence, it sends them temporarily into confusion and fleeing into the night. His motive is deeper than a simple call to pacifism; Jesus’ course of action in this scene is the defining moment in the history of the world! He seizes power from the hands of violence and places it squarely in the corner of self-sacrifice; it is this dramatic reordering of the world. It is the beginning of a rescue.
But in the dramatic hours that follow, it seems the structures that support the operations of the world — violence, power, and greed – have won the day:
The disciples have run away.
The religious establishment has enforced its rules.
The Empire has asserted its dominance.
Jesus is taken, tried, beaten, and crucified.
The man they thought would save them from Rome is sealed in a tomb.
In these dark moments of Good Friday, I can imagine many of the disciples wondering if Peter had it right by wielding his sword in defense of their Rabbi. I imagine they feel guilty for not joining in the fight. The world has won. For all who have left their lives behind to follow, for all who call him Teacher, for all who have watched this man perform miracles and raise Lazarus from the dead, for all who believe He is the Messiah…hope is lost.
The outcome looks bleak.
But we all remember this line from the famous sermon: “It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, heaven is weeping and hell is partying. But that’s because it’s Friday, and they don’t know it, but Sunday’s a coming…”
The violent order of the world appears to have prevailed.
“It’s Friday… but Sunday’s coming!”
In two days, the tomb will be empty. Hope will be restored. Self-sacrifice will forever lead to resurrection. The great invasion will begin. Love will indeed win.