EHP17: Day 4

The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ They answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus replied, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he’, they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.’ This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken, ‘I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.’ Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’

So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

Symbolism is constant in the Bible; in both the old and new testaments. Details are not included in by accident, but are deliberate references, designed to help you link one story to another. A garden? Definitely a reference to the first garden, the garden of Eden, in Genesis 1 – 3.

Theologians generally understand that there are two creation narratives in Genesis that have been spliced, like Frankenstein’s monster, together. The first is the story of creation in six days, where God creates and sees that it is good. The second is focussed on the creation of man, the knitting together and formation of flesh. As John described in the opening to his gospel, Jesus is the word made flesh and now, in the second garden, he becomes the new Adam. In this case, though, the roles are reversed with Jesus not betraying God, but coming to meet his challenge straight on.

He boldly states who he is, and that he is the man these armed men are looking for. And he has to do this not once, but twice. For while the other gospel writers describe Jesus’ suffering in this garden passage, John portrays him as defiant and calm, ready to play his role and dismissive of the disciples getting in the way, as with Peter’s actions. Luke 22:42 had Jesus pleading “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me”, but here Jesus almost disdainfully rebukes Peter with: “Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”.

Peter’s action in and of itself is very unusual in the gospels – of a disciple performing an actively violent act. Had Peter not been listening to Jesus throughout his ministry? Read Genesis 3:24, a final reference perhaps?