Harvest Time in the Garden

Take your Bibles and turn with me this morning to Mark 14. We will be looking together at Mark 14:43-52 today. We’re going to look at this passage today, specifically as a set of character studies.

There are different ways to unpack and frame up truth. And so in this one today we are going to look at the scene and draw out character implications from the key players.

One of the great responsibilities of parents to children is to teach them that in this life you will reap what you sow. One of the great responsibilities of shepherds is to teach their people that in this life you will reap what you sow. 

It’s loving to speak the truth that:

Galatians 6:7—Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

In a sense, where you are today is a product of the past. The one who sows to the flesh will reap corruption, and the one who sows to the spirit will reap eternal life. These are important words. 

The point of these verses is not to leave us as fatalists—imprisoned by our pasts. Lamenting where we are based upon what we’ve previously sown and are now reaping. Rather the emphasis in Galatians 6:7 is to recognize that the decisions you make today impact tomorrow. 

There are two alternatives here: 

Negatively, ending up somewhere that you never intended, reaping destruction. Positively, reaping the fruit of a life yielded in submission to the Spirit of God.

Tonight, the scene in Mark’s Gospel is a moment that has been brewing the past couple of years, but it has increased in intensity over the past week. All of the players are going to be reaping tonight what they have been sowing.

For Jesus and the disciples in particular, this is the fruit of how they spent the evening.

See, in Mark’s storytelling these verses indicate a strategic transition in the same story. It’s one location. One evening. One composite. The first half we covered last week, the second half we encounter today, the results of what we saw in the first half.

This is not primarily about Judas. He plays a necessary, but minor role this evening. Judas gets a lot of press, but this is as much about the other eleven men as it is about Judas.

Only one disciple will hand Jesus over to enemies, but all of them will become disloyal. Each one contradicts Jesus’ own prediction and fiercely pledges allegiance to Jesus, even if it costs them their lives (14:27-31). However, before the night is over, they will turn their backs on Jesus (14:50).

And as hearts are revealed and exposed, it’s mostly dark, but Jesus will shine through in distinction to all the rest. One pastor comments:

… on that historic night, against the backdrop of mayhem and darkness, the undaunted majesty and triumphant tranquility of Christ shone brightly as ever.

Mark is going to show us: Four Hearts Exposed in the Betrayal of Jesus—We See the Majesty of Jesus Shine Through the Fallout of Self-Preservation

Three different flavors of self-preservation. Each will manifest itself in a terrible fallout. Then the selflessness of Jesus stands in magnificent relief to each of these. It’s like the song on Sesame Street that teaches children observation skill—one of these things is not like the others. You have three pairs of sunglasses and then the fourth item is a baseball cap.

Here you have three characters who reap the fruit of their self-centeredness, and Jesus is the one thing that’s not like the others. 

  1. Religious elites who scheme to protect their influence (43)

  2. A renegade disciples who sells out to profit himself financially (44-45)

  3. A sovereign Lord who stands to perform his responsibility (46-49)

  4. Self-reliant sheep who scatter to preserve their safety (50-52)

43 Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.” 45 After coming, Judas immediately went to Him, saying, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 46 They laid hands on Him and seized Him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? 49 “Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.” 50 And they all left Him and fled. 51 A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. 52 But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.

The first heart exposed on this night is one that we have seen so many times before.

  1. Religious elites who scheme to protect their influence (43)

Jesus has just woken the men up in v. 41 when they were supposed to be watching and praying:

Mark 14:41–42—41 And He came the third time, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 “Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”

(43) Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas… came up

If you’ve ever woken up in the night by a sound that causes you to think there is an intruder, the adrenaline rush is amazing. You make the transition from deep slumber to up and at ‘em in a split second.

Jesus has been awake waiting and watching for this moment.

The others are all caught off guard. Judas probably expected to catch the men by surprise. He’d waited long enough into the evening that they would be asleep.

Mark refers to him here as:

Judas, one of the twelve, 

That’s how each of the gospel writers refer to him. It isn’t because we don’t know that he’s one of the twelve. It’s to make sure we don’t miss the treachery.

Judas, the one who got three years of personal discipleship time with Jesus. Judas who could have left the group early on or never signed up, but instead hung around like a parasite sucking resources only to squander them later. 

Judas, the one who used his advantaged position as a trusted friend for personal gain. He shows up at the Garden late, with his new friends. The text says that Judas…

came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 

This crowd is a menagerie. 

It includes Roman soldiers. John 18 says that it was a cohort, which would be between 600 and 1,000 soldiers. It’s possible it wasn’t the full dispatch, it may have been a maniple, which was a smaller group from the cohort, number 200 soldiers known as a maniple.

No matter whether it was 200, or 600, or 1,000 it was way too many. Total overkill. These are the ones Mark says came with swords.

Then ones with clubs then would be the temple police.

These are Jews who enforced policies in behalf of the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Jesus is going to mention this soon, but these men are from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.

Remember these leaders make up the ruling party in Jerusalem and they hate Jesus because he brings light and it exposes their sin and rather than turn to the light for cleansing, they want to silence it.

Jesus knows this is sham. This is a false arrest. There’s not probable cause. There isn’t due process. There’s no arrest warrant.

In a minute he exposes the ridiculousness of it all in v. 49 when he looks at them and says—

Mark 14:49—Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me;

I haven’t been in hiding. I’m not some renegade or fugitive on the loose. You are doing a middle-of-the-night raid with the first century SWAT Team to make an arrest. Who shows up with a mob carrying clubs and torches at night? It’s like some dark fairytale where the townspeople go out to get an ogre or a beast in a mob.

I don’t want us to miss the sin behind the timing of these vents. The religious elites have gone about capturing Jesus in this manner in order to protect their influence.

It’s the very idolatry that Jesus has threatened since the beginning and now even in their arrest of him, they are still protecting it. 

See, they’ve contracted with Judas and the Romans and their local authorities to carry this out in the dead of night because they are cowards.

They had to save face.

They are doing this deed at night because they are enslaved to protecting the idol of their reputation and influence and Jesus is threatening that. Just think of a few of the statements Jesus has made about them.

Their financial contributions were influenced by how it would make others view them as being generous:

Matthew 6:2—So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

They loved righteousness, at least doing good deeds. They made it a point to let others know about their devotion to God. Their memorization of Scripture…

Matthew 23:5–7—But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.

And they loved the thrill of other people looking up to them for their spiritual maturity:

They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.

But at the end of the day one thing mattered most:

John 12:43—for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.

And so now here we are in the dead of night. Reaping what’s been sown. They are arresting an innocent man with the intent to kill. These men are unbelievers. The don’t want to believe or accept that Jesus is God.

If you are in Christ, you believe Jesus is God.

But we’re familiar with this bosom issue of valuing what others think of us. And the Pharisees stand as an example of where this sin can take you.

Here’s who you identify this—where is the controlling influence of how you operate, based upon the esteem and regard of others? 

The religious variety here for them is the practice of spiritual disciplines and religion. You church attendance, how you dress at church, how your family applies principles of truth—is it for appearing spiritual before men or simply an act of worship before your God.

A good indicator is do you broadcast your righteousness? I remember in the spiritual discipline of fasting I wouldn’t want to tell anyone that I was fasting, but then kind of secretly wanting to be in a spot where I was obligated to explain that I was fasting.

Do you commonly in conversation bring the focus back to yourself and your spirituality? Taking about your prayer life, and your bible reading, and your family worship. You can certainly encourage others with those things, but godly people leave you thinking about God, not them.

Look, this is something that you need to see in your life and turn from. In a broad sense—how is your personal style, the vehicle your drive, the way you view decorating your home if you are honest, about your own personal reputation and gaining esteem and value in the eyes of others, rather than the glory of God?

God show me what my motives are, and help me to see the vanity of these things.

And now we will turn our attention from the religious elites to Judas. We have referred to him here as…

  1. Religious elites who scheme to protect their influence (43)

  2. A renegade disciple who sells out to profit himself financially (44-45)

Judas plays a role in this night, but he isn’t the star. In fact, Mark mentions him it seems, only because he has to in order to tell the story.

(44) Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.” 

Judas and the authorities had a pre-arranged signal.

Now, this seems odd. Jesus is famous. Jesus had thousands shouting Hosanna when he came into town five days ago. There is a decree that had gone out with wanted posters all around concerning Jesus.

First of all, it’s dark they don’t want to mess this thing up. Second, what if one of his guys took his place instead. They want to make sure they have the right guy.

Judas approaches Jesus.

(45) After coming, Judas immediately went to Him, saying, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 

Judas embraces Jesus as a friend. This coldblooded, hard-hearted, brazen hatred. He will say of himself later, that he is in this moment betraying innocent blood. 

He marches right up to Jesus. And he grabs him. And he says, “teacher” and begins kissing him. Kissing is not romantic here, but a cultural display esteem and honor and filial love. 

It’s profuse. It’s the type of kissing that the father showered on his prodigal son in Luke 15 when he returned home after squandering his inheritance. It’s the type of kissing that the Ephesian elders showered Paul with when they said goodbye to him for life before he left for Miletus.

Sometimes you might wonder how someone could do something so wicked. This is the fruit of rejecting truth in hardness. You lose your moral conscience. Judas could have told them where Jesus would be and then said he would point him out in a line up later.

Judas chose the signal (v. 44).

“Let me kiss him.”

Jesus responds by calling him, “friend…” I’m sure you know the pain of betrayal at some level. A friend or a relative who double-crossed you, took your kindness and twisted it back on you and accused you.

But it wasn’t like this. This is betrayal unto death. And he’s so brazen that he can look Jesus right in the eyes and repeatedly kiss him without shame.

Listen, here’s the warning of Judas—don’t think you can remain in a neutral position. The light of the truth is either melting you or hardening you. People love to take up a moderate position. It’s not possible.

And Judas reaps what he had sown. 

The love of money is a root sin. It’s rare for me to hear someone say, “I love money.” We usually explain how we don’t based upon a specific definition in our minds of what it looks like to love money, and how we aren’t like that.

It’s not how many zeros are in your bank account. It isn’t whether you are pursuing a high-paid career. It isn’t money itself, it’s what money gives us.

Things like power, control, status, freedom, pleasure, distinctiveness, ease, and security. See, you aren’t repenting of a love of money if you aren’t repenting of those issued. Power and control? Idolatry as we submit to God.

Freedom? We’re slaves. Status? Foolishness of the world (dregs of society). Ease? In this life you will have many tribulations. Security? Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord.

This is why you cannot love God and money. Because money replaces God in your life and you begin to derive satisfaction and place hope in the gifts given to you by a good God, rather than the giver himself.

Judas was earthly. He loved this world.

He wanted the earthly kingdom and glory Jesus offered. He wanted prestige and riches. It ended being a bondage that took him far beyond where he imagined early on I’m sure.

Mark’s done with Judas. Never mentions him again. We have to read Matthew and Acts to learn about his demise as he sensed his condemnation and hung himself. Judas ends in 

Matthew 27:3–5—3 Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” 5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.

Thankfully we get a reprieve here and the next heart exposed is majestic. It is the only one of these hearts that is not like the others. The first two are the fruit of self-preservation, and both are unbelievers. But now we see:

  1. Religious elites who scheme to protect their influence (43)

  2. A renegade disciple who sells out to profit himself financially (44-45)

  3. A sovereign Lord who stands to perform his responsibility (46-49)

(46) They laid hands on Him and seized Him. 

They arrested Jesus.

(47) But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. 

Mark isn’t naming names, but it’s Peter. The slave of the high priest is Malchus. We know from Luke 22 that the disciples have two swords tonight. Obviously, Peter has at least one of them. No one intentionally cuts off an ear in a battle scene.

Peter’s a fisherman, not a trained soldier. He was going for the throat and missed as Malchus dodged.

Now it’s a little mystifying here. Why did Peter do this? It’s at least 100 to 1 in terms of weapons, possibly more like 500 to 1. Not only that, but Jesus has clearly stated that this is the plan right now. Everyone’s been brought up to speed plainly.

I mean fight or flight—Peter goes into fight mode. Is that such a bad thing? Yes. And he’s gonna do both tonight.

But what’s going on here is that Peter is momentarily emboldened by the display of power at the word of Jesus. 

John 18:4-10—4 So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. 6 So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 

Hundreds of soldiers and the temple police all thrown backwards at the power of his majestic voice. Right here a display of sovereign power.

7 Therefore He again asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus the Nazarene.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go their way,” 

Jesus said, “I’m the one you want, leave them alone” And so Peter right after that statement thinking, “between these two swords, plus your powerful voice, I think we can take these guys.” 

Of course, he would have been right. So far, Jesus always triumphs. But that’s not the plan tonight. Not because he couldn’t win, but because it’s not the plan.

In fact, Jesus told Peter right here as he was putting Malchus ear back on and miraculously displaying his deity that he told him to stop. He said, “Peter if I wanted 72,000 angels here I could have them in instantly.”

That’s the math on 12 legions (Matthew 26:53). Not really necessary. With angel power, a dab will do ya: one angel killed 185,000 men in one night in 2 Kings 19:35).

There’s so much going on here with Peter. Jesus is letting him know, “Peter I don’t need your help, I need your holiness.” I didn’t ask you to take the kingdom by force. You misunderstand how my kingdom advances. But the thing I did tell you to do (believe my words about your weakness and depend upon me in prayer) you totally ignored.

And so unintentionally, Peter is opposing God’s plan:

Matthew 26:54—“How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?”

If Jesus relied on himself, he would have called down the angels. He depended upon the Spirit in obedience to his father. He sowed to the Spirit.

Jesus said he was going to drink the cup. Peter is on the wrong side here working against God’s glorious plan to save the world. Just like when he rebuked Jesus back in Chapter 8 when Jesus said he was going to die.

Now Jesus asks:

(48) And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? 

“Am I robber? Hello? Is this my group of bandits? I’m just out here as a vigilante with my little trained militia?”

You’ve got eleven pupils, who with the exception of Matthew had no criminal backgrounds, led by a former carpenter-turned-prophet. Jesus looks at them and just asks,

“Does this look fishy to any of you?” 

Jesus is being treated like a robber. The irony is that four days prior he was calling the religious leaders robbers as he cleansed the temple. Jesus will be crucified as a robber, between two of them. But he’s no robber.

He continues…

(49) “Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; 

You could have nabbed me on Sunday, on Monday, on Tuesday. I’ve been there all week, right before you. But this is all part of God’s perfect. Plan. Jesus revisits that theme again and says:

but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.” 

Zechariah 11 was on his mind. Zechariah 13. Psalm 41. And especially Psalm 55:

Psalm 55:12–14—12 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, then I could hide myself from him. 13 But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend; 14 We who had sweet fellowship together walked in the house of God in the throng.

I’m being handed over and betrayed by a friend. I’m being unjustly arrested, and yet that’s what has to take place for me to be able to take away sin. I have to be condemned without cause.

The final hearts exposed this night, are the followers of Jesus. These are men who first abandoned all to follow Jesus and now in this moment abandon him.

  1. Religious elites who scheme to protect their influence (43)

  2. A renegade disciple who sells out to profit himself financially (44-45)

  3. A sovereign Lord who stands to perform his responsibility (46-49)

  4. Self-reliant sheep who scatter to preserve their safety (50-52)

(50) And they all left Him and fled. 

Mark’s manner of expressing what took place brings clarity to the practical and personal nature of this event. On a practical note, these men ran for all they had. They fled. Turning and sprinting, stumbling through the dark, jumping the enclosure around the Garden.

I’ve had a couple of experiences many years ago where I was being chased on foot by someone bigger than me who wanted to hurt me. I was fleeing. You aren’t looking back. You aren’t stopping for obstacles. You are running as hard and as fast as you can until you can’t run anymore.

But Mark also draws attention to the personal nature here of this activity. Abandoning him… in order to run away, these men had to leave Jesus by himself to fend for himself.

And then we get this funky little ending, brought to you exclusively by Mark:

(51) A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. 52 But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.

Alright, let’s exposit this one!

Young man—maybe late teens. Has only a sheet over his body. Strange scenario. We have no idea what circumstances surrounded this. Traditionally many speculate that this was John-Mark. Nothing in the text that would indicate this specifically.

The possible explanation is that linen sheets were a sign of wealth, which Mark’s parents were wealthy as the church met in their large home in the nice part of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). Furthermore, it seemed to fit that Mark was awoken when Jesus and the disciples left and he followed them to the Mt. of Olives in the first century equivalent of a bathroom.

But it’s really speculation.

The identity of the young man isn’t the significance. The significance is to reveal how serious this threat was. To reveal how urgent it was. To show the danger, and the energy required to get away. To show how you were literally escaping for your life.

This guy gets apprehended and he squirms away by fleeing naked and leaving his sheet behind. It gives you a dose of what the terror and danger was really like. It takes it out of a story and makes you think of having a night church service when the state police shows up unexpectedly to arrest the believers and you are trying to figure out whether to run away or be arrested.

As with the others, this night didn’t happen out of nowhere.

That’s where I want to conclude for this morning.

These men got here based upon previous patterns. They are reaping what they’ve sown.

A couple of lines of thinking that led to this. First, they consistently overestimate their own spiritual ability and second, they haven’t yet embraced the mission of Jesus.

Just think with me, anytime the topic comes up about the rejection of Jesus they shut it down or they shut down. In the upper room during Passover they are still focusing on the earthly kingdom of Jesus and how awesome it is going to be when they are the ones in positions of control, and influence, and no longer under the thumb of Rome. 

They haven’t embraced rejection as the expectation for following Jesus.

For examples of self-reliance, in Mark 9 when Jesus leaves, the disciples can’t cast out a demon. They hadn’t even prayed about it because they had become self-reliant in their ministry. Then in the Garden they are sleeping rather than praying, even after being told that it is a heightened moment of spiritual need.

Wrong expectations where they aren’t putting to death the desire to be safe and secure and then combine with that with an attitude that they have the spiritual gumption to obey without depending upon the Spirit, and when danger comes, they bolt.

You and I would have done the same.

I am so thankful that this isn’t the end of the story for these men. Jesus is going to commission them. He is going to use them. Peter who acts like a coward here will later go to prison, later be flogged, and later even crucified for his identification with Jesus.

Listen, if you give in to self-preservation and you are a disciple, there’s hope for you. If you are given to your fears rather than conviction, there’s hope. We can grow in these things by the grace of Jesus Christ.

My desire is that I would embrace the Christian life as one of being viewed as a fool and rejected by the world. Standing with Jesus in this present age is going to cost you something. It may cost you your job, or some freedom. Might cost you a friendship.

It helps if we at least can begin to expect that.

Peter came to expect it. Listen to how he shepherds the people of God many years after this evening:

1 Peter 4:12–14—12 Beloved, [the ones who are loved by God] do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; [learn to expect that following Jesus means testing and persecution and rejection, not popularity and comfort] 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. [what feels like a negative is actually a positive because you are fellowshipping with Christ, and God will bless you and his Spirit is resting upon you.]

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