Jesus Arrested in Gethsemane

47While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. 52Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:47-53).

Judas knew the place where Jesus often slept through the night, so he brought a detachment of Roman soldiers and officials from the religious elite. The Greek word speira, translated as “detachment” (John 18:3), is a term to designate a specific subgroup of Roman soldiers sent from the Antonia Fortress situated to the north of the Temple Mount, where Pilate, the Roman governor, had his garrison. This subgroup consisted of 450 fighting men. This was in addition to those sent from the Chief Priests and Pharisees. Some scholars have estimated that there may have been as many as six hundred soldiers and men from the religious elite.

Why so many? It was likely that the religious elite and soldiers were expecting a fight and that there might be more of Christ’s disciples in the garden with Him. They brought lanterns because, perhaps, they were expecting Jesus to hide. The Lord didn’t wait for them to come looking for Him, He took the initiative; He went out of the garden to them (John 18:4). His concern was for His disciples so that His prayer of protection in John 17 would be answered during the arrest. He was in control of the whole situation. The apostle John gives us a bit more information as to what happened. Jesus asked them:

“Who is it you want?” 5“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground (John 18:4-6).

The Roman soldiers were ready for anything as they approached the garden. When they said they were looking for Jesus, the Lord replied uttering the divine name in Greek, the name of God, “I AM” (egō eimi). Some of you have the words, I am he in the text, but the word “He” is absent from the original Greek and added by the translators to make the statement easier to understand in English. Again and again in the Gospels, we have seen Jesus adding the name of God to different aspects of His character. I am the Gate; I am the Good Shepherd, I am the Light of the World, I am the Way, etc. When He said those words, this was a display of raw spiritual power before these soldiers. Jesus was letting the soldiers know that He was willingly giving Himself into their hands. What a picture it must have been, hundreds of men terrified of one Man and His eleven disciples, and only one of them is using a sword in defense.

In his usual rash behavior, Peter slashed at the high priest’s servant named Malchus with his sword, severing the man’s ear. Peter was risking a fight at this point, but the Lord intervenes and gently reminds His disciples to put up the sword, reminding Peter that it must be this way, that there is a cup of suffering that He must drink to put away sin for all men. Why don’t the 450-600 men attack Peter and the disciples? It seems that the presence of the Lord had unsettled the soldiers. Luke tells us that Jesus put His hand to Malchus’ ear, and it miraculously sprouted another ear—“he touched the man’s ear and healed him” (Luke 22:51). The healing was instantaneous. There was no hunting around for the ear, Jesus just put His hand to the ear and gave him another. I wonder if Malchus found the ear that had been cut off after the Lord was taken away.

Christ was in control at every point. He didn’t run away. He confronted the armed soldiers. We might not always know what will happen to us when we say, “Your will be done,” but there is a peace that passes all understanding when our lives and will are given into the Lord’s hands. Many of you are at the crossroads of Gethsemane. Submitting to God’s will is the big question: will you submit to His purpose for your life? Will you lay down your will and place your life into His hands?

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 60, Jesus at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-53). Keith Thomas

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