February 14, 2024

God on Trial: Restraint

Series: ,
Passage: Luke 22:47-53

Jonah Albrecht

February 14th, 2024

Ash Wednesday

God on Trial: Restraint

Luke 22:47-53

While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

Without a doubt, the occurrences in the garden of Gethsemane on Thursday evening of holy week were some of the most awe-filled events in the whole passion history. You see very clearly both the human and divine nature of the Savior. He prays so fervently that his sweat is like drops of blood, asking God for strength to follow through on His mission. This is Jesus at His most vulnerable up to this point in His ministry. And then you have our text for this evening. Here, Jesus shows that He still is true God, the perfect Lamb of God who came to deliver us from our sins. Tonight, we begin [continue] our series God on Trial: Restraint. We see how the disciples acted without restraint in a situation that was out of their control. But we also see Jesus, who showed His restraint and that He is always in control, even when faced with impossible circumstances. May the Holy Spirit bless our study of His Word tonight.

Jesus had warned the disciples multiple times during His ministry the dangers that will come with following Him. He said, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20).  Little did they know, the disciples would face that very threat the same night in which He said these words. Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus, brought a large crowd armed with clubs and swords to capture Jesus and hand Him over to the chief priests.

The response of the disciples is exactly what you would expect. Fear, uncertainty, and raw reaction. Normally, we signal out Peter as he was the one who actually struck with the sword, but he was not alone. Each one of the disciples was frightened as to what was going to happen. And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” It is easy for us to look back on their situation and wonder, “Did they not realize they had Jesus standing with them?” Did they not remember how He had passed untouched through the crowd in Nazareth who tried to kill Him? Did they not remember the night they were caught in a storm on the sea of Galilee and how Jesus controlled that disaster? Yes, the disciples should have remembered these things and trusted that God would take care of them. Yet, their reaction and failure in restraint is indicative of what we all are by nature.

You and I have the same God watching over us on a daily basis. And yet, do we always let our Savior take control of a situation? How often do we react rashly and based on emotion? Peter lashed out with a sword and struck off the ear of Malchus, a servant of the high priest. He acted without thinking and without restraint. He thought that he was going to die for his Lord and stop Him from being taken captive. Instead he placed himself and the other disciples in danger. You and I might not lash out with a sword, but we do often use something that is even deadlier than a sword: our tongues.

Whether it be an argument with someone in private or on the street, or whether it is in the comment section on Facebook, it is ever so easy to let our tongues lash out without restraint. We might think we are defending our Savior and ready to barrel through whomever might stand in opposition to us. But is that what we are really doing? Or, to our shame, are we acting like Peter and lunging forth in a foolish attempt to take control of a situation that God is already in control of for us? More often than not, resulting in harm and not good.

Our Savior demonstrated perfect restraint on that night in Gethsemane. He did not fear the mob of people attempting to arrest Him. He knew that He could simply pass through their midst if He so desired, or even call down a legion of angels to fight on His behalf. But that was not His mission. Jesus looked over those who were before Him and had the same conviction as He shows towards you and me. Those were sinners who were in desperate need of a Savior. As He was the only one who could reach out and heal the ear of Malchus, so also was He the only hope for them to receive forgiveness of sins from the Father. This was not the fight He had come here to win.

During His ministry, Jesus told His disciples to “love your enemies.” This is exactly what He meant. He could have vindicated Himself right then and there and showed the mob who He was and why it was futile to try and take Him by force. However, that would have resulted in all mankind being lost. Instead, Jesus showed restraint. Knowing that His path to the cross went through this violent mob, He submitted Himself to this abuse in order to truly help His disciples and the members of the mob. For the rest of His passion, Jesus would exhibit this restraint. Before Pilate, He did not lash out against His accusers, but let Himself be numbered among the accused. Before the Roman soldiers, He did not lash out against the injustice He endured, but rather said, “Father forgive them.”

Our Savior’s restraint took Him to the cross. It led Him to succumb to God’s wrath over the sins of world who hated Him. Rather than vindicated Himself before men, He would let God vindicate Him before the world by raising Him from the dead. In every instance, Jesus showed forth a completely selfless love when it was never deserved or even desired. He shows us what it means to truly walk the path of God and do so perfectly. This He did in your place, in my place, and in the place of all people. Jesus’ restraint took you from being an enemy to a child of God.

You will be faced with countless opportunities to live the same restraint your Savior showed. It will not come naturally to walk the same path He did. Human nature leads us to think about ourselves more than anything or anyone else. In fact, our society has created a culture in which restraint is shown as a weakness. You aren’t strong if you don’t stand up for yourself as aggressively as you are attacked. But remember, the true strength your Savior showed in the garden that night was His restraint. He could have lashed out, He could have thrown all of them to the ground, but because Jesus showed His restraint, and because He endured all suffering and death out of love for you, Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God so that He remains in control of the whole world. Yes, even in those small, volatile situations you might find yourself in, Jesus is in control. You do not need to fight back against the enemies you face, instead show restraint and love, seeing them as Jesus also looked upon you: a lost sinner who is in need of forgiveness. You can share with them the peace that comes from knowing that the Savior of the world displayed restraint. As a result, He has declared you to be righteous before God and forgiven of all your sins. May the Holy Spirit grant us all an extra measure of this restraint so we can be a living testimony of His love for all. Amen.

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