THETRUTH SOMETIMES WE ENTER INTO A SITUATION EXPECTING ONE THING TO HAPPEN, BUT A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT RESULT OCCURS. Those surprise endings could be either good or bad. Maybe you think everything is going just fine on your job, but then you get a review by your boss and an evaluation that’s less than favorable. Bad ending. Or perhaps you were just about to feel sorry for yourself for having to spend your birthday alone, but then 20 of your pals burst in with a surprise cake. Good ending.
I think Judas and the detachment of troops he gathered to arrest Jesus received one of those unexpected surprises when they rolled up on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. John relates more details about the event than do Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as John tells of the reaction of the arresting horde. Let’s take up the story in John 18:3-6 (NKJV). Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
All Jesus did was identify Himself and “they drew back and fell to the ground.” What kind of “detachment of troops” was that supposed to be? First of all, these guys were armed with “lanterns, torches, and weapons,” and second, they got all geared up like that to arrest one man. Obviously, they were anticipating some kind of fight. However, what they encountered was more than they had bargained for. Just the words that identified Jesus were enough to knock them to the ground. They never had a chance to even get their weapons ready. They certainly were not expecting that. Do we know Jesus as He really is? Are we ever
knocked down by the Word, so to speak, until we indeed see Him for who He is? Do we approach God all ready with our own “lanterns, torches, and weapons,” i.e., our own plans, only to find out that His goal for us is to simply get to know a little bit more about who He is? Jeremiah 29:11-12 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen’” (NLT). Ephesians 3:20 says that God is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (NKJV). Do we relate to God as the One who has good plans for us? Do we believe He actually does want to give us a future and a hope? Do we honestly anticipate the exceedingly-abundantly-above-all blessings that God is well able to bring into our lives? Do we know Him well enough to know what He wants? What are we expecting? In our rush to “arrest” Jesus, to get Him to come with us and do what we want Him to do, let’s stop long enough to hear how He wishes to identify himself to us. As we grow in our knowledge of who He is, we’ll deepen our understanding of what He wants us to do. And His goals for us are probably much larger and richer than anything we possibly could have been expecting. This is the fifth year of our publication of Leading Hearts. As I personally reflected upon those past five years and the above devotional thought, I wondered just how often over those years I had rushed to “arrest” Jesus, to get Him to do what I wanted, rather than approached Him first to hear what He wanted of me. My answer was, “A lot.” I want to work to advance my career as an author and speaker, but I also want to be careful to balance that work with listening to God’s leading. The work was on the heavy end of the seesaw more than the listening was. I’m determined to see the sides switch. It’s not that I plan to work less, but I will definitely listen more. My word for the year is “trust.” May we all listen and trust as we “arrest” Jesus daily.