1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples across the Kidron valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas, procuring a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to befall him, came forward and said to them, "Whom do you seek?" 5 They answered him, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus said to them, "I am he." Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When he said to them, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, "Whom do you seek?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." 8 Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he; so, if you seek me, let these men go." 9 This was to fulfil the word which he had spoken, "Of those whom thou gavest me I lost not one." 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's slave and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus. 11 Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?"
Meditation: Do you know the pain of rejection from someone close to you? The greatest pain and injury comes not from our enemies but from those closest to us. Psalm 55 foretells the suffering of rejection which God's anointed King and Messiah would endure for our sake: "It is not an enemy who taunts me-- then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me-- then I could hide from him But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to hold sweet converse together; within God's house we walked in fellowship" (Psalm 55:12-14). After the last supper meal, Jesus descends with his disciples into the Kidron valley and crosses over to the garden of Gethsemane, which means "olive press". Between the Kidron valley stands the Temple Mount on one side and the Mount of Olives. Many olive groves and private gardens dotted this Mount which overlooks the great Temple built by Herod. Some wealthy friend undoubtedly gave Jesus free access to this private garden where Jesus often came to pray. Jesus knew that this would be his last night before his death. He came to pray at this place with the full knowledge that Judas would soon hand him over to his enemies.
Judas likely chose to have Jesus arrested here since it was a lonely place away from crowds in the city. John tells us that a band of Roman soldiers and Temple police came out to arrest Jesus. During Passover time, the Romans kept extra forces in Jerusalem at the Tower of Antonia which overlooks the Temple. The band could have been a cohort which usually numbered 600 soldiers, or a smaller group of 200. In either case, a small army came to the garden to arrest an unarmed Galilean carpenter! They must have feared that Jesus' many supporters would surely resist his arrest. Peter had a sword and used it forcefully when he cut off the right ear of the high priest's slave.
When Jesus identified himself to the soldiers, John tells us that "they drew back and fell to the ground" (18:6). The power of his presence was enough to make them not only stop in their tracks, but retreat for a moment as well. Jesus could have escaped if he wanted to save himself, but he chose to die. He even helped his enemies arrest him. He chose to die out of obedience to his Father and out of merciful love for sinners. Jesus protected his disciples from arrest by insisting that the guards only take himself as their hostage. He loved his own to the very end. Jesus met his betrayal and arrest with serenity and with confident trust in his Father. He knew that this was Satan's hour of darkness but God's light and truth would prevail in the end. How did the other apostles meet this trial? They were unprepared even though Jesus has warned them about his betrayal. And they had forgotten God for the moment. Their will was to resist force with force rather than peaceably submit to God's will. Jesus never failed to show mercy and compassion even to his enemies. Luke tells us that Jesus "touched" the severed ear and healed the high priest's slave who had been struck by one of Jesus' own disciples (Luke 22:51). When adversity strikes how do you respond? With fear and panic or with confident hope and trust in God?
"Lord, only you can save us from the blindness of sin and despair. May
your light dispel the darkness of our lives and give us hope and joy.
Fill our hearts with mercy and compassion that we may bring hope to those
who have no hope and show them the light of Christ."