By: Cynthia Butler
Peter’s heart began to pound. A crowd was approaching, moving through the shadows. They were armed. They were coming for Jesus. Peter had been asleep only seconds before, although he and his companions were supposed to have been keeping watch. But Jesus’ voice had woken them: “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Even as He was speaking they could hear the sound of marching, the clinking of weapons. Startled, Peter’s weariness was replaced with panic or perhaps some misplaced heroism. He clutched the hilt of his sword and swung it through the air. It tore through flesh, severing a servant’s ear. “No more of this!” Jesus directed. He touched the servant and healed him. “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
Peter was speechless; his sword motionless beside him. He had heard of the battles won by the great men of old like King David. Peter had been ready to fight for Jesus, even die defending him. He had not realized that Jesus intended to die for him.
As a boy he had heard the prophets being read in the synagogues. And now before his eyes Jesus was living out what they had predicted: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” But why did Jesus accept punishment as if he were guilty, as if he were a helpless victim? If He could call down angels to save him from his enemies why did he say nothing? Each Sabbath Jesus had worshiped side by side with his friends. They had sung Psalms together, words of security: “God is a shield for all who take refuge in Him”; words of glory: “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame”; even words of invincibility: “If you make the Most High your dwelling then no harm will befall you, for He will command His angels to guard you”. Jesus’ disciples had seen God’s deliverance before. An angry crowd had wanted to stone Jesus for blasphemy on more than one occasion, but he had slipped away unharmed. Certainly the angels were on their side, just as Jesus had said. But on this night their angelic defenders would not come, not because they could not or would not, but because Jesus did not call for them. Jesus was making a choice.
“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows.” They were not his to carry, but he made a choice. It may have seemed like his enemies had overpowered him or misfortune had overtaken him, but he could have been rid of it all in a moment. He needed only to summon the spiritual army that was poised and ready to protect him. But he made a choice. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
It was at that moment of sacrifice that the veil separating us from the presence of God was torn. And all the blessings that our creator had desired for us from the inception of humanity became accessible: every joy, every victory, every promise in scripture. The very verses that spoke safety to Jesus speak the same to us. Sin would have made us unworthy to claim such riches, but Jesus’ sacrifice has qualified us. We are crowned with glory and honor, accompanied by invisible bodyguards, and healed by the wounds of Christ. The guarantees given to Jesus were given to us as well, and even more, because He has fulfilled God’s word and added His own blessings to those that had already been given.
There is only one reason Jesus was not delivered from his oppression on the night of His crucifixion; he made a choice. Now it is our turn to make a choice. Will we continue to carry what Jesus has already taken from us: our sorrows, our guilt, our infirmities? Or will we let go of them, trading them for the wholeness and peace that Christ won for us? Will we passively accept the attack of the enemy, or will we remind him that though 1,000 may fall at our side, even 10,000 at our right hand no pestilence or plague or sword or snare is allowed come near us. Will we try to fight a physical battle as Peter did, trusting in our own efforts? Or will we call on our Father to fight for us, knowing that He already has an army prepared to come to our defense? If Jesus had the power to summon them and the same promises were given to us, then we have that power too. If He had a choice, then so do we.
From Matthew 26, Luke 22, John 18, Isaiah 53, Psalm 34:5, 91 and 18:30 (TLB, and NASB)