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THE MARCH TO GETHSEMANI.
Fudas therefore having received a band of soldiers, and from
the Chief Priests and the Pharisees servants, cometh thither
with lanterns and torches and weapons (St. John xviii.). As He yet spoke, behold Judas, one of the Twelve, came, and
with him a great multitude with swords and clubs sent from the Chief Priests and the Ancients of the people
(St. Matt. xxvi.). And while He was yet speaking, cometh Judas Iscariot, one
of the Twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the Chief Priests, the Scribes,
and the Ancients (St. Mark xiv.). As He was yet speaking, behold a multitude, and he that
was called Judas, one of the Twelve, went before them. (St. Luke xxii.).
If we read attentively these different narratives, we gather these details.
1. That the Chief Priests, the Ancients, the Pharisees, and the Scribes, are all taking part in the war against the Lord, and against His Christ.
2. St. John, writing later than the other Evangelists, states a fact omitted by them, that in addition to the servants furnished by the Priests and Pharisees, Judas had received a band of soldiers, apparently not provided by the Priests; therefore, not merely the police of the Temple guard, but a cohort of Roman soldiers-a band of soldiers--and, from the Chief Priests and the Pharisees, servants.
3. St. John writes that Judas received these soldiers. From which we may see that he is taking the lead, that they are put under his orders, that probably he had gone with the Priests and Ancients to ask the Roman authorities for the use of the soldiers, and was himself the spokesman to represent the difficulties of the enterprise, and the necessity for a strong guard.
Some painters represent the traitor as a man more refined in appearance, and better dressed than the other Apostles.
He was not a Galilæan fisherman, as most of them were.
He was a Jew of Judea, the only one among the Twelve, Judas of Kerioth. His ill-gotten money, perchance, enabled him to have better garments, and more culture, and more comforts than the others had.
A. On this holy night, then, Judas is placed in an unenviable prominence. He is holding a brief, short-lived authority and leadership. Possibly there are among the Priests and Ancients some who are envious of his precedence. In such cases we are often inclined to ask:
Why doth the way of the wicked prosper? Why is it well with all them that transgress and do wickedly ? (Jerem. xii.). We have the answer in the 72nd Psalm. When they were lifted up, Thou hast cast them down. How were they brought to desolation ? They have suddenly ceased to be they have perished by reason of their iniquity (Psalm lxxii.).
Each of us here has his short day of power and authority; but in this short day, by the way in which we use our power over our own Creator, we determine whether the long, the never-ending eternity, shall be for us happiness and life everlasting with our God, or slavery everlasting with Lucifer.
4. St. John is also the only Evangelist who mentions that the multitude of servants carried lanterns and torches.
5. Judas, as leader, and knowing the way, walks down the hill in front of the multitude. Judas, one of the Twelve, went before them.
6. While the crowd of servants have their clubs and lanterns and torches, the Roman soldiers have their swords, which they will most gladly use if there is any rising of the Jewish people, or any resistance. They had willingly, at Pilate's bidding, mingled the blood of the Galilæans with their sacrifices (St. Luke xiii.); and if there were a prospect of cutting down some of the Jewish multitude, whom they despise, they would perchance be more content than they are now to give up their night's rest to go in pursuit of one foolish impostor from Nazareth.
B. The gate in the Eastern wall, which is nearest to Gethsemani, is the Shusan Gate, or Beautiful Gate, afterwards called Golden Gate. Through this gate, which, as we have seen, is opened during the Paschal solemnity, Judas leads the cohort and the armed multitude. Many of the Chief Priests and Ancients, as we shall afterwards see, are marching with the crowd, directing and urging them forward, and keeping a close eye on the traitor. He leads the way in
front, but close to him are the watchers appointed to see that he does not escape among the trees in the valley.
C. As the armed multitude pass through the Eastern Gate, through which, five days before, our Saviour rode in His humble triumph, the Priests and Ancients have some consolation for the chagrin they endured that day, while compelled to listen to the Hosannas of the people. shall soon see whether this time He comes blessed in the name of the Lord.
Not many Hosannas will welcome Him to-night."
Under the guidance then of the traitor, who well knows the road, the Roman soldiers, followed by the armed multitude, need not more than a few minutes to march down the steep pathway from the Golden Gate to the Bridge. They cross the torrent and the high-road, and at once they are among the trees at the base of Mount Olivet, and close to the Garden of Gethsemani. The traitor points out the cave belonging to the Blessed Mother where Jesus is to be found. Thither they rapidly bend their steps, and now they have reached the sacred spot.
END OF THE SECOND NIGHT WATCH,
THE THIRD NIGHT WATCH.
GETHSEMANI. THE TRAITOR.
Judas therefore having received a band of soldiers, canie,
and with him a great multitude with swords and clubs, lanterns and torches (St. John xviii.; St. Matt. xxvi.).
A. “ Attendite et videte.” Let us stay a little while to contemplate this armed multitude hurrying eagerly to the holy Garden.
Why, the Holy Spirit asks, why have the people devised vain things, and the princes met together against the Lord and against His Christ ? (Psalm ii.). What can be a more vain thing, more useless and superfluous, than this large armed force? If Jesus is willing to deliver Himself up for
? us, troops are not needed. Abraham had no strong guard when he led Isaac to the mountain of sacrifice. This obedient son went whithersoever his father led. Of the times that are now coming, the happy days of Christ's reign on earth, the Prophet has foretold, that the wolf, the leopard, the calf, the kid, the sheep, shall all be so tame that a little child shall lead them (Isaias xi.). Jesus, Who is here to-night, is the source and beginning, the author and the model of all this docility. As His hour is come, and He now wills to deliver Himself up, one little Jewish child would be enough to take Him prisoner and lead Him as a sheep to the slaughter, as a lamb to the shearer.
B. A great inultitude with swords and clubs, lanterns and torches.
Call to mind how vain and abortive all the plots and plannings of these Rulers and Ancients against Christ have hitherto proved. There is no wisdom, there is no prudence, there is no counsel against the Lord (Prov. xxi.).
They resolved that they must catch Him in His speech, and they set their best men to do this; but all in vain.
Again, after much deliberation they decreed that He is not to be arrested or slain on the festival-day; and, lo! on the festival-day He shall be arrested and put to death.
Moreover, with all prudence and caution they came to a resolution that nothing must be done that might excite a tumult of the people; and yet, here in the stillness of the midnight, is a tumultuous and disorderly rabble assembled, which will most surely disturb and excite the people if God's providence be not watching over their sleep.
And now, a large force is ready; much money has been paid for their services; the campaign is planned; all the positions are to be occupied where escape is possible ; and an abundance of lanterns and torches have been secured by fair means and foul—for the hour is so critical, the danger so great, that they cannot afford to be scrupulous ---all these preparations, however, all the plans, all the swords and clubs and lanterns and torches are utterly vain and superfluous. The light of the full moon is ample for all that is wanted.
Indeed, there is light far more than enough for these princes and rulers. For they who are doing evil hate the light, and must hate the light. He whom they are seeking with torches is the Light of the world. Little they think of that word which is written: Darkness shall not be dark to Thee, Lord Jesus, and night shall be light as the day (Psalm cxxxviii.).