Rabbi, Rabbi
Based on Series of Sermons on the Repetition of Name and Titles
Preached in PCC Worship Service, 1 January 2017
Part 3 of 3

In our study of Mark 14, which contains a repetition of name in verse 45, we’ve looked at the plot to kill Jesus and the prediction of betrayal, desertion and denial. In this article, we will look at the actual betrayal, desertion and arrest of Jesus.

The Actual Betrayal,
Desertion and Arrest
(vv. 43-52)

Verse 43, “And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.”

In the verses immediately preceding, the Lord had been in the Garden of Gethsemane praying while the disciples, who were supposed to be praying, were sleeping. On the third time that Jesus came to them and found them sleeping, He said to them, “It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” It is at this moment that Judas and the arrest squad arrived. They were armed with swords and clubs, and they had been authorized and sent by three groups of people to arrest Jesus: the chief priests, the scribes and the elders. These are the three main groups that formed the Sanhedrin, which was the highest ruling body of the Jews.

Now I want us to notice something interesting in this section from verses 43-52. Throughout this section, there are only two persons who are named – Judas and Jesus. Everyone else remains anonymous or nameless, as it were: the crowd, the one who tried to defend Jesus with his sword, the servant of the high priest who lost his ear, and the one who fled naked. The spotlight falls on Judas and Jesus. This is the final meeting between the two of them in this life.

In verse 43, Mark describes Judas as one of the twelve. This is the third time this chapter that Judas is referred to in that way. The first was in verse 10 when he went to the chief priests to negotiate the deal. The second was in verse 20, when the Lord told the group in the upper room that the traitor would come from among the twelve. The third is here in verse 43, where Mark reminds his readers of the very tragic fact that the betrayer had arisen from among the closest and most trusted followers of the Lord.

But another reason for emphasizing the fact that he was one of the twelve is so that the reader would have no doubt that even though it was all dark at night, nevertheless the One who was singled out and arrested was indeed Jesus and not his shadow or close companion or substitute.

Mark goes on to say in verses 44 and 45, “And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely. And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.” The word “token” means signal or sign. And the particular sign which Judas earlier chose and agreed upon was a kiss.

In the Bible, people kissed as a sign of respect and homage. It was also a sign of deep love and affection. But Judas chose the kiss as the signal for the armed men to arrest Jesus. A more inappropriate and hypocritical sign could not be found than that.

In verse 45, we are told that when Judas arrived, he went straight up to Jesus and said to Him, “Master, Master” or literally “Rabbi, Rabbi.” The term “Rabbi” means “my great one” or “my honourable sir.” It is a term of great honour and respect, which is why the scribes and Pharisees loved to be called “Rabbi” by the people.

Judas addresses Jesus using this term of great honour, and he even doubles it as a sign of affection for and closeness to the One whom he was addressing.   “Rabbi, Rabbi” and then he kissed Him.

Now in English, we won’t be able to tell that the word kiss in verse 44 and the word kiss in verse 45 are related and yet different. In verse 44, the word is φιλέω (phileō) whereas in verse 45, it is καταφιλέω (kataphileō) and καταφιλέω is an intensive form of φιλέω. It can be translated kissed fervently or lavishly or even passionately.

In other words, while Judas had previously agreed with the soldiers that he would kiss the person whom they were to arrest, when he actually came to kiss him, he didn’t do so in the usual way with all modesty and reserve. Instead, he kissed him in a fervent and intensive and perhaps even prolonged way. One of the reasons was no doubt so that the guards would be absolutely sure about the one they were supposed to arrest. But I think another reason why Judas did what he did was really to mock and ridicule and pour scorn and contempt on Jesus. And so to describe such a kiss as an inappropriate and even hypocritical one is really an understatement. What Judas did was an act of outright wickedness and deepest depravity!      

When Judas had finally finished his elaborate and prolonged kiss, the armed men moved in and laid hold on Jesus to take Him away. Verse 47, “And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.” Mark does not identify who this person was probably because, as I mentioned earlier, he wants to keep the spotlight on Judas and Jesus throughout this episode.

It is John was identifies this person for us. We read in John 18:10, “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus.” So John not only tells us that it was Simon Peter who drew his sword and cut off the servant’s ear, he also tells us that the servant’s name was Malchus. Luke informs us that it was his right ear that was cut off and that the Lord touched his ear and healed it.

But coming back to our text in Mark 14, we read in verses 48-49, “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.” The Lord was essentially chiding them for approaching Him as if He were some sought of violent criminal. The word translated “thief” in verse 48 means a robber or highwayman or even an insurrectionist or leader of a rebellion.

They had come to him heavily armed, expecting that He would resist arrest and put up a violent struggle and fight. But really, they ought to have known better. They had seen Him daily in the temple teaching and discussing theological issues with the scribes and priests, and they had ample opportunity to observe His character and conduct. He was not a violent or aggressive person, and He had done nothing worthy of arrest. And yet they were treating Him as a dangerous criminal.

Jesus explained their actions with the words, “but the scriptures must be fulfilled.” Which passages of scripture? Well besides Zechariah 13:7 on the smiting of the shepherd, the Lord could also have been thinking about Isaiah 53:12, “he was numbered with the transgressors.” Not only would He be crucified between two criminals but He was also treated as a criminal from the first moment of His arrest.

Now when Jesus said the words, “but the scriptures must be fulfilled,” the disciples realised that He was not going to fight or resist arrest and that the soldiers were essentially free to take Him away.

Verse 50 records their response to the Lord’s statement of non-resistance, “And they all forsook him, and fled.” This is really the climax of this section. This is the third time that Mark says something about all of them. They all drank of the Lord’s cup. They all pledged to die with Him and not deny Him in any way. But now, they all deserted Him and fled. The smiting of the Shepherd had begun and the sheep were all scattered in a moment. Scripture had indeed been fulfilled.

 Finally, in verses 51-52, we read, “And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.”

Mark is the only writer to record this, and because Mark does not identify him or even hint at his identity, we have no way of being certain who this young man was. The most common suggestion is that he was actually Mark himself. This is possible but we can’t be sure. However, more important than asking who he was is to ask what is the purpose of these verses and what do they indicate to us. Well we learn at least three things from them.

First, we get an indication of the panic and terror that came upon the disciples of Christ at that moment. They all fled in great haste and fear. They were greatly afraid for their lives. This young disciple of Christ, whoever he was, was so desperate to get away that he was even willing to go naked and be ashamed than to be arrested. This was no half-hearted attempt to get away. Mark wants us to know that this man and the rest of the disciples really ran for their lives. That was how panicky and terrified they were. 

Second, we see the unshakeable composure and peace of Christ in contrast to the fleeing disciples. He was not fearful or afraid, but filled with trust in the care and keeping of His heavenly Father.

Third, we see the Lord’s willingness to be alone and isolated for the sake of His people. No one stood with Him in His moment of arrest and subsequent trial. All forsook Him. All fled away.

Concluding Thoughts

As we draw this series of articles to a close, I’ll like to bring to our attention two concluding thoughts.

First, we see the deep depravity and unreliability of man. Judas betrayed the Lord in a most despicable way with the words “Rabbi Rabbi” and an elaborate kiss. He used his intimate knowledge of the Lord to sell Him into the hands of His enemies for a meagre sum of money. How low can one get? And yet, we must not forget that we too have radically depraved hearts and if not for the grace of God, we too would be capable of such an act of betrayal and infidelity.

Furthermore, never think that because we have been converted, we are not capable of acts of unfaithfulness and disloyalty to our master. The other eleven disciples may not have betrayed Him as Judas did, but they too were guilty of deserting and abandoning the Lord. And the worst thing is that they did so just moments after pledging wholehearted allegiance to the Lord. “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.” “If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise.”

The key is never to be proud and self-reliant but always to live as one who recognizes his deep and constant need of Christ’s redeeming and rescuing grace. I fear that there are some Christians who think that they have arrived at a high level of grace and that they have reached a point in their spiritual maturity where they are no longer susceptible to many of the temptations that other Christians around are.

O may this account of Judas and the other eleven disciples remind us of the depth of our own depravity and never to be over-confident of ourselves or to despise and look down on weaker brethren. It is all of God’s grace that we have been saved and are being preserved and sanctified. Apart from His grace, we will surely fail and perish.

The second thought I’ll like us to take away from this passage is the great humiliation of Christ, which He suffered on our behalf. It is hard to imagine the inner pain and anguish and shame that our Lord must have felt when Judas kissed Him and all the other disciples abandoned Him and fled for their lives.

Let us never cease to be grateful and thankful to Christ for being willing to be numbered among the transgressors and betrayed by His friends. But let us also be encouraged that the Lord knows and He can sympathize with us when we are faced with great trials, particularly the trial of being disappointed or deserted or even put to open shame by those whom we love.

And remember that Christ is a friend who will never leave us or fail us, especially in our moment of need. He experienced true forsakenness and abandonment so that we might never truly be forsaken or abandoned.

—Linus Chua