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, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 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? 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.” Luke 22:47-53.
The story of Jesus would be relegated to obscure history if He died in a violent clash between His disciples and the local authorities. Instead, He died as the most innocent man in history, fulfilling the scriptures by the numbers. He died as the Savior of the world. To stay on that course, He had to restrain His disciples, who were willing to blow the whole operation out of anger and fear.
Yesterday we celebrated the memory of a man who died a martyr for the civil rights movement. He insisted that his followers not take up arms, that they turn the other cheek, and that they insist on being treated with the same dignity that they demonstrated as peaceful citizens. This is the power that the wicked fear most. People who are willing to die for their cause possess an aura of righteousness that armed insurrections lack. Today, Martin Luther King is the undisputed patron saint of the civil rights movement because he kept his eye on the real prize: justice, not revenge.
Not everyone in MLK’s camp agreed with him. There were some who separated themselves from him and used violence, committed crimes and acts of terror in the name of justice. Their names are mostly forgotten, although that spirit still persists today. And it is a spirit that infects everyone who feels wronged, and who wants to be avenged.
Jesus told His disciples to stand down and let the power of darkness overplay its hand. Injustice will always be temporary because there is a God who gives the final adjudication. Let us act like we believe that.