Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
“Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then everyone deserted him and fled.
A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
Understanding And Applying the Text
Mark is careful to state Jesus knew what was happening. In verse 42 Jesus said, “Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” Now verse 43 Marks said, “And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came.” Nothing occurred by chance. Christ predicted and directed everything.
Both Matthew and Luke agree with Mark. Judas came with a crowd. It is John who tells us these were soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees. These were not Roman soldiers. Romans were not under the command of the Jews. Plus, Romans carried more lethal weapons than clubs.
It appears the Sanhedrin sent the crowd. This is because of the three categories of people mentioned.
This was more of a mob with some temple soldiers. That would explain Matthew, Mark, and Luke calling them a crowd. This was not a band of trained, disciplined soldiers. This is clear from the sloppy execution of Jesus capture. They were a mob. And as we will see they had a mob mentality.
Jesus could have fled. But he did not.
Judas identified Jesus to the mob by kissing Jesus and calling Him, Rabbi. A kiss was a sign of respect disciples used toward teachers. Judas feigns submission and respect.
Many have speculated why Judas betrayed Christ. Was he trying to force Christ’s hand to restore the Kingdom to Israel? Maybe. Was Judas disillusioned with Christ? Maybe. Was Judas only after the money? Maybe. The motivation remains unimportant. The fact is, he betrayed Christ with the most personal and intimate means. John tells us Judas was a devil and Satan himself entered Judas. (John 6:70; 13:27)
Judas calls Jesus Rabbi. Matthew tells us Jesus called Judas friend. (Matthew 26:50) Christ does not use the term friend in an ironical sense. He charges Judas with ingratitude. Judas was an intimate friend. He sat at Christ’s table. Yet he became a traitor. The Psalmist predicted this in Psalm 55:12-14.
Mark tells us some who stood nearby drew a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. John tells us it was Peter. (John 18:10) A few verses back (v 31) they all claimed they were willing to die for Christ. Now they show their willingness to fight. They were willing to go to battle for Christ. They were more ready to fight than to bear the cross. And when Christ told them not to fight but to bear their cross, they fled.
We, along with the eleven may say we are willing to die with Christ. We may mean it. We may believe it. But Christ calls us to pick up the cross and follow Him. After all, death is an event. It happens and is over. But bearing the cross is continual. That is what Christ demands of us. He demands our life, not our death. We too often let our zeal exceed the bounds of reason and moderation.
Jesus asked why they came at night with swords and clubs. “Have you come out as against a robber…” The Greek can mean either “robber” or “insurrectionist.” Based on the charges brought against Jesus at His trial (Luke 23:2), “insurrectionist” is a better translation.
Jesus asked why they came armed at night. He was in the temple every day. They did not need to lose sleep to capture Him. His question reminded them of two things. First the dishonesty of their mission. Second, they had a traitor as their leader.
The mob led Jesus away. And the disciples fled. But Mark tells us a young man followed. Some say this was John. Some say this was Mark. The identity is unimportant. But the reason God inspired Mark to include it was to show the mob mentality had overtaken them.
It is probably a young man who had some attachment to Christ. He jumped up from his slumber and did not have time to put on his clothes. He wrapped a cloth around himself and followed.
The mob grabbed the young man. They did not know him. They did not suspect him of a crime. It was reasonable to follow peaceably. But this was a mob not a group of disciplined soldiers. When enraged men are violent and out of controlled.