Knee Jerk Devotional: December 14, 2020

Luke 22:39-53


Leaving there, he went, as he so often did, to Mount Olives. The disciples followed him. When they arrived at the place, he said, "Pray that you don't give in to temptation."

He pulled away from them about a stone's throw, knelt down, and prayed, "Father, remove this cup from me. But please, not what I want. What do you want?" At once an angel from heaven was at his side, strengthening him. He prayed on all the harder. Sweat, wrung from him like drops of blood, poured off his face.

He got up from prayer, went back to the disciples and found them asleep, drugged by grief. He said, "What business do you have sleeping? Get up. Pray so you won't give in to temptation."

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than a crowd showed up, Judas, the one from the Twelve, in the lead. He came right up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said, "Judas, you would betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"

When those with him saw what was happening, they said, "Master, shall we fight?" One of them took a swing at the Chief Priest's servant and cut off his right ear.

Jesus said, "Let them be. Even in this." Then, touching the servant's ear, he healed him.

Jesus spoke to those who had come—high priests, Temple police, religion leaders: "What is this, jumping me with swords and clubs as if I were a dangerous criminal? Day after day I've been with you in the Temple and you've not so much as lifted a hand against me. But do it your way—it's a dark night, a dark hour."

I’ve long wrestled with this story. It makes me so angry that Judas would betray Jesus with a kiss. The symbol of familial and brotherly love. He led those who would kill Jesus to him and then betrayed him. As I picture the scene, my heart races and hands sweat. I want to intercept Judas as comes down from Jerusalem and stop him from doing this thing. I imagine I too would have taken a swing in that moment.

Yet Jesus in his subversive-gracious-love says, “Let them be. Even in this.” Then he acts by healing.

Jesus shows us in the face of betrayal and certain death that a controlled power and a healing touch are the way.

How could he do such a thing? How could he hold back? How could heal those who were to kill him?

Apartheid in South Africa is one of the greatest atrocities that has ever occurred in our world. The evil that was inherent in the system there was unspeakable. To this day, many of us can’t wrap our minds around the horror of that period of time. Particularly those of us watching from the outside.

When the apartheid government in South Africa fell the assumption for many was there would be a reckoning of biblical proportion. Many, probably, hoped that this would indeed be the case. Yet, Nelson Mandela and his new government had other ideas. The primary way of reckoning was the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” Check this brief description out from CBS,

Anyone who expected retribution and war-crime trials from South Africa’s post-apartheid government was probably disappointed. Instead of chasing down those who tortured and murdered in the name of  apartheid, Mandela’s government set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The revolutionary concept behind it? Forgiveness. 

Here's how it worked:  Victims told their stories of atrocities. Then, the perpetrators got a chance to own up to their crimes, and by doing so, became eligible for amnesty. All they had to do was tell the truth. No apologies, no remorse, and no justice.


The radical and revolutionary concept that was the building block of the new South Africa was forgiveness.

My understanding is that Mandela was very focused on not becoming the thing he despised. He knew that his new government could very easily turn the tables and become a new oppressive regime because of their overwhelming numbers. He had spent his whole life challenging oppression and calling for peace. Now, he had the chance to embody that or not. He chose to have integrity.

In this way, Mandela followed the way of Jesus.

How do we respond to folks who despise us and hate us? Do we do so with a subversive-gracious-love or do we lash out evil for evil?

As we start this third week of Advent, where the light is beginning to outshine the darkness, let us embrace the light. Let us follow the way of Jesus’ subversive-gracious-love. Let us be a people that challenge hate with love and evil with goodness.

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