When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. First, they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.
Understanding And Applying the Text
John skips many of the details the other Gospel writers included. For example, Matthew says in 26:30 before they left the upper room, they sang a hymn. This hymn would have been Psalm 118. Think about the impact on Jesus as He sang “Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar.” Jesus knew He was that sacrifice and He was about to be bound to a cross.
John mentions Jesus went a place well known to Judas. Jesus went there often with His disciples. He did not try to hide from His betrayer. He knew what was coming. John also says Jesus went to meet the soldiers who came to arrest Him. And when the soldiers said they wanted Jesus. He does not point over at a distance and say “He went that way.” He announces He is the one they are looking for.
John includes all that for one purpose. That purpose was to show Jesus gave His life. It was not taken from Him.
The NASB says Judas had with Him a Roman cohort. The NASB inserted the word, “Roman.” It is not in the original Greek. This was a Jewish matter. It is improbable Romans soldiers were in the arresting party. Besides, Roman involvement at this point in the story does not fit the rest of the narrative. The Greek word σπείρα according to Thayer’s Greek dictionary means a military cohort. The translators of the NASB inferred military meant Roman. A cohort was a tenth of a legion or about 600 men. But it could also mean any band or detachment of soldiers. So while Roman soldiers probably were not involved, the meaning is clear. There were a lot of men.
Bringing a large number was a reasonable precaution. It was night. They considered Jesus dangerous. Jesus had a large following. The authorities had no idea what Jesus’ followers would do. Peter demonstrated Jesus followers were willing to defend Him.
OFten much is made of bringing such a large force. But should not be. Bringing overwhelming force is no different than what authorities do today. In 2000 Federal Agents raided a home where a little boy lived, Elian Gonzalez. They went in with overwhelming force. Why? They were only after a little boy. They did not know the reaction they would receive from the family or the neighbors.
Judas betrayal was horrific. Foremost, he betrayed Jesus who was God in human form. Judas did not only let them know where Jesus would be. He did not only show them where Jesus was. He led them. He was their leader. He procured these soldiers from the Chief Priests and Pharisees. The verb is active, not passive. He was involved. He did not stand by and watch as the arrest took place.
Jesus knew what was about to happen. He went forward towards the soldiers. And when He said “I am” Most translations insert the word he to make it better English. So it reads, “I am he.” But that is not what the Greek says. The Greek is “I am.” This is the same phrase used in the 7 “I am” sayings of Jesus. “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35,48) I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12; 9:5). “I am the door.” (John 10:9). “I am the Good Shepherd.” (John 10:11). “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25). “I am the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) “I am the true vine.” (John15:1) It is also the same phrase used in, “Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)
Jesus declared His divinity. “I am.” The strength of His words alone causes them to fall to the ground. Jesus was not some mythological Greek god. He does not blow and strong wind knocks them down. He did not bellow. And knock them over. He says, “I am,” and they could not stand against the truth.
Now they all knew. Judas already knew. But now, the soldiers knew. And now, we know Jesus is Lord. And they betrayed Him. We, too, betray Him. We betray Him daily when we do not keep His commands. We betray Him when we do not love Him with our whole heart.
When Christ sits on His throne in judgment imagine the fear and dread that will come over men. The sound of Christ’s voice knocks men over when He gave His life. How much stronger will be when He sits in judgment of the world.
Jesus asked them again who they sought. And again replies “I am” But this time they do not fall over. This should be a caution to us. We can become, as these soldiers, callous to the truth. The truth no longer impacts us as it once did. It was not the words which struck them down but the awareness of the truth.
Jesus submits Himself to sinful men of His own accord. By doing so He continues in the will of the Father. By doing so He blots out our transgressions.
He told the soldiers to let the others go. Christ said He had not lost any of them except Judas. The Father had given them to Jesus. And He cared for them because they belonged to Him. He protected them because they belonged to Him. He cares for all those the Father gives to Him. We may rest in that assurance. (John 6:37)
Peter, in defense of his Lord, draws his sword and wounds one of the high priest’s servant. Things were about to escalate. But Jesus responds and ends the conflict without hesitation. Luke includes the detail that Jesus heal the servant’s ear.
Peter acted under the cloak of zeal. We too defend our actions because we believe something important. We act as if God’s approval is not required. What we believe is right is what we think is important. We should contain our zeal. We are not to allow our ego to override God’s will.
The soldiers led Jesus away bound. Think about the irony. Jesus, with a simple word of truth, knocked them to the ground. So they bind His hands. It was the truth He spoke not His physical prowess He knocked them down. You think they would have gagged Him.
Do you notice anything strange them leading Jesus to “Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year?” The office of priest was not a temporary office. It was a lifelong office. The holder of the office held it until he died. Josephus tells us the Romans dethroned the high priest and installed another annually. This kept the high priest from becoming too powerful with the people.
Caiaphas prophesied, “it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.” God uses even the mouth of wicked men to deliver His message.