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March 15 Pastoral Pondering column

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Jesus did not try to flee persecution, he expected it

It is the night before Jesus was crucified. In the upper room in Jerusalem Jesus had completed teaching his disciples and praying for them. John 18:1-11 tells us that he led the 11 disciples out of Jerusalem and across the Kidron Valley to an olive grove.

The Gospel emphasizes that Judas (who had left the upper room to betray Jesus) knew the place. To that location Judas led the band of armed men to arrest Jesus.

Jesus' choice of a route was no accident.

He was retracing the path of one of his ancestors. 2 Samuel 15 gives you the history. This was the route that King David had followed, approximately 1,000 years earlier, when he fled from his son Absalom, who was trying to seize the throne. David crossed the Kidron Valley and ascended the Mount of Olives.

Like David, Jesus was betrayed by one of those in his inner circle and rejected by many of his people.

Notice the contrasts. David fled for his life. Jesus was crossing the Kidron in order to be arrested and to give his life in the place of sinners. David fled to retain his throne. Jesus, already truly king, was going to his betrayal and death in order to ascend to a more magnificent, triumphant aspect of his kingship.

Judas led a group of armed men to the garden. Instead of fleeing, Jesus met the approaching group and asked, "Who is it you are seeking?" They responded with "Jesus of Nazareth."

As Jesus identifies himself, they draw back and fall to the ground. He surrenders himself to be bound like a dangerous criminal, saying about his disciples, "Let these men go." He is concerned, not just for his disciples, but for all who would come to trust in him — which is why he went willingly with his captors.

Often those interested in following King Jesus are told that this is the answer to their needs, the solution to their problems. But trust in Christ involves union with him in his sufferings. To be identified with Christ is often, in today's culture, to be associated with ridicule or worse. On the other side of his suffering, however, lies the resurrection. Those who trust him will share in his glory.

Jesus leaves Jerusalem and crosses the Kidron, not to escape suffering and death, but by enduring them to become the triumphant King. In him you have hope!

John Mahaffy is pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church