God On Trial Exercised Perfect, Holy Restraint

February 14, 2024

Pastor John Hering

Luke 22:47-53

Luke 22:47-53

47 While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd appeared, and the man called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He came near to Jesus to kiss him. 48 But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

49 When those who were around him saw what was about to happen, they said to him, “Lord, should we strike with a sword?” 50 Then one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.

51 But Jesus responded, “Stop! No more of this!” Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him. 52 Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as you would against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour—when darkness rules.”

It’s Ash Wednesday.  Are you nervous as you confess your sins to God?  What about God?  I wonder how nervous he is?   When you’ve been wronged you know the feeling.  The pressure builds in your chest. Heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature rise. Respiration and perspiration increase. You’ve been wronged! And you want to do something about it—right now. What do you do?

On Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus and his disciples gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem. He told them he was about to be treated like a criminal. He also warned them that their lives and ministries were going to become more difficult. In the past, they had been welcomed into homes and accepted by people. From now on, they would face hostility.  It didn’t take long for the disciples to get their first taste. When the Passover meal was over, Jesus led his disciples out to the Garden of Gethsemane.

47 While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd appeared, and the man called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He came near to Jesus to kiss him. 48 But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” 

They came to arrest Jesus. You can imagine the disciples’ blood pressure, respiration and perspiration increasing. 

49 When those who were around him saw what was about to happen, they said to him, “Lord, should we strike with a sword?” 50 Then one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus responded, “Stop! No more of this!” Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him. 

Jesus certainly wasn’t engaging in a violent insurrection that would call for a detachment of armed soldiers.  If that were true they easily could have arrested him on many occasions.  But Jesus knew why they had arrived under cover of darkness because they had no legitimate case against him.  It was completely unfair.

What did Jesus do?  He had plenty of options in a situation like this. With one word, Jesus could have called down a legion of angels to defend him. John’s account tells what happened when Jesus asked the mop who they were looking for and he said, “I am he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:6). Jesus had every right to defend himself.  But he didn’t. Instead,

God On Trial Exercised Perfect, Holy Restraint

Because He Was Thinking of You

Restraint is the ability to hold back. It’s an aspect of self-control, and it’s not easy—especially in circumstances when you feel wronged. How do you respond when someone accuses you of doing something you didn’t do? Or when people aren’t listening or things aren’t going your way?   Restraint is not typically our first inclination. Why? Because we tend to think of ourselves first: “How did this hurt me? What did I do to deserve this? Why didn’t they think of my needs and how this would make me feel?” It’s about pride, dignity, our sense of justice.  When we’re on trial we feel like we need to defend ourselves.

So the pressure builds—along with our heart rate and blood pressure. We want to get rid of that feeling think about what will make us feel better. Maybe we don’t swing a sword, but we lash out with our tongues. We fire off an angry text or e-mail or leave a bitter critique in the comments box. We give a glare. We fight back. It is one of many sins we confess on this Ash Wednesday.

Jesus says, “Stop! No more of this!”  Then he heals.  Look at Jesus. He was not thinking about himself. He was not thinking about the fact that he had done absolutely nothing to deserve this or about what would make him feel better. No, he looked at this man bleeding from the place where his ear used to be. Jesus saw him not as an enemy to be defeated but as a man with a soul and a name—Malchus, John tells us. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had said, “Love your enemies.” Now he showed his disciples—he shows us—what that looks like.

Jesus wasn’t thinking of himself. He was thinking of you. The path to your salvation began with his surrender to this unholy mob in the garden. Restraint is a theme in Jesus’ passion.  With restraint Jesus stood in the garden, when he stood on trial before Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate.  They taunted, ridiculed, spit, struck and whipped Jesus and never once did Jesus lashed out, lose his temper, or call down curses from heaven. Even as they nailed him to the cross, there was loving restraint: “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34).  Jesus did all of this for you!

We need this Jesus as our Savior from sin. We need his quiet and purposeful obedience to his Father’s will. We need his perfection, his holiness, and his righteousness to be able to stand before our Father.  And that’s exactly what Jesus came to give us by his restraint, dying on the cross and rising from the dead.

We need his example too.  You know the temptation to refuse restrain and choose the quick comeback, the zinger, and the demeaning answer. Talk shows and news channels thrive on inflammatory reports to gain more viewers and secure a loyal audience.  “Get even” is the theme of our natural heart.  Thinking of the other person becomes far less important than making sure we are heard.

What if we did something different?  A young man in his 20s was shot and spent months in a coma on life support before he died. A small group gathered at an old Lutheran church for his Christian funeral. It was time for the service to start, but his mom wasn’t there yet. Finally, those in attendance heard screaming in the back of the church. It was the mother, hysterically yelling at her daughter and other family members. She was swinging her arms, threatening them, and calling them killers and murderers for making the choice to take her son off of life support, even though he had no chance of survival. Still screaming and threatening, she ran to the front of the church and fell on the casket. When the funeral directors came to close the casket, she began hitting them. After what seemed like an eternity for those present, she ran outside to the hearse—still screaming and crying and threatening. As she stood near the hearse, an attendee who didn’t even know the mom walked up and gave her a hug and whispered, “It was an honor to know your son. He was a good kid. It was a privilege to know him.” The mom’s shoulders dropped, and her demeanor immediately changed. For the first time in a long time, there was quiet. Then another person walked up and did the same. And there was grace. There was Christian love and restraint.

Imagine the impact you can have in this overcharged world where restraint is a lost art. But, you know Jesus. You know the one who showed love and restraint all the way to his sacrificial death on the cross for sinners like us. You know Jesus who is in control of all things, working them for the good of his people. This means you can be different. We can all chose to use restraint and use our words to heal and help instead of to inflame and destroy. We can think of the hurt others feel rather than the hurt they have caused us. We can respond graciously and not impulsively when we are provoked by those around us.  That’s exactly what our Father in heaven is doing for us on this Ash Wednesday.  He choses to use restraint for Jesus’ sake.  

To Give You a Position of Strength

Behavior like this may be interpreted by some as weakness, but in fact it takes strength.  It takes strength that can only come from our Savior who has walked the path before us. In the garden, Jesus’ power was seen in his miraculous healing, but his strength was seen in his restraint.  

52 Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as you would against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour—when darkness rules.” 

The world would say he had the right to fight back. There was no question he was wronged!  But he set aside justice for himself in order that the “not guilty” verdict would be proclaimed for you.  While it was the moment of darkness for Jesus, what do you think Malchus thought of Jesus from that moment on?

It is Ash Wednesday and we repent for all our sins before God, especially our sins of failing to restrain ourself.  We confess that we are nothing before God but dust and ashes.  But, we also trust in Jesus’ forgiveness.  Let’s also look to change our life from revenge to restraint.  When you are wronged, remember that you operate from a position of strength. God has declared you righteous and forgiven; you don’t have to prove anything.  God has a plan.  God is in control.  God On Trial Exercised Perfect Holy Restraint for you.  You are not standing alone for the Holy Spirit points you to Jesus.  Instead of fighting back, live in Christ and swing the sword of the Spirit—the gospel of Jesus.  Amen!

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