Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Betrayal and Arrest
IT IS well past midnight as Judas leads a large crowd of soldiers, chief priests, Pharisees, and others into the garden of Gethsemane. The priests have agreed to pay Judas 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus.
Earlier, when Judas was dismissed from the Passover meal, he had evidently gone directly to the chief priests. These immediately assembled their own officers, as well as a band of soldiers. Judas had perhaps first led them to where Jesus and his apostles had celebrated the Passover. Discovering that they had left, the large crowd bearing weapons and carrying lamps and torches followed Judas out of Jerusalem and across the Kidron Valley.
As Judas leads the procession up the Mount of Olives, he feels sure he knows where to find Jesus. During the past week, as Jesus and the apostles traveled back and forth between Bethany and Jerusalem, they often stopped in the garden of Gethsemane to rest and to converse. But, now, with Jesus possibly concealed in the darkness beneath the olive trees, how will the soldiers identify him? They may never have seen him before. Judas provides a sign, saying: “Whoever it is I kiss, this is he; take him into custody and lead him away safely.”
Judas leads the great crowd into the garden, sees Jesus with his apostles, and goes straight up to him. “Good day, Rabbi!” he says and kisses him very tenderly.
“Fellow, for what purpose are you present?” Jesus retorts. Then, answering his own question, he says: “Judas, do you betray the Son of man with a kiss?” But enough of his betrayer! Jesus steps forward into the light of the burning torches and lamps and asks: “Whom are you looking for?”
“Jesus the Nazarene,” comes the answer.
“I am he,” Jesus replies, as he stands courageously before them. Astonished by his boldness and not knowing what to expect, the men draw back and fall to the ground.
“I told you I am he,” Jesus calmly continues. “If, therefore, it is I you are looking for, let these go.” Shortly before in the upper room, Jesus had told his Father in prayer that he had kept his faithful apostles and not one of them had been lost “except the son of destruction.” So, in order that his word might be fulfilled, he asks that his followers be let go.
As the soldiers regain their composure, stand up, and start to bind Jesus, the apostles recognize what is about to happen. “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” they ask. Before Jesus replies, Peter, wielding one of the two swords the apostles have brought, attacks Malchus, a slave of the high priest. Peter’s blow misses the slave’s head but cuts off his right ear.
“Let it go as far as this,” Jesus says as he intervenes. Touching the ear, he heals the wound. Then he teaches an important lesson, commanding Peter: “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father to supply me at this moment more than twelve legions of angels?”
Jesus is willing to be arrested. For he explains: “How would the Scriptures be fulfilled that it must take place this way?” And he adds: “The cup that the Father has given me, should I not by all means drink it?” He is in complete agreement with God’s will for him!
Then Jesus addresses the crowd. “Have you come out with swords and clubs as against a robber to arrest me?” he asks. “Day after day I used to sit in the temple teaching, and yet you did not take me into custody. But all this has taken place for the scriptures of the prophets to be fulfilled.”
At that the soldier band and the military commander and the officers of the Jews seize Jesus and bind him. On seeing this, the apostles abandon Jesus and flee. However, a young man—likely it is the disciple Mark—remains among the crowd. He may have been at the home where Jesus celebrated the Passover and afterward followed the crowd from there. Now, however, he is recognized, and an attempt is made to seize him. But he leaves behind his linen garment and gets away lightly clad. Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 17:12; 18:3-12.
◆ Why did Judas feel sure he would find Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane?
◆ How does Jesus manifest concern for his apostles?
◆ What action does Peter take in Jesus’ defense, but what does Jesus say to him?
◆ How does Jesus reveal that he is in complete agreement with God’s will for him?
◆ When the apostles abandon Jesus, who remains, and what happens to him?