Judas was on his “high horse” striding into the garden, finally in the lead. Jesus was on the move to intercept him. Judas was empowered by darkness and a crowd of temple guards and Roman soldiers wielding swords and clubs. The sound of approaching sandals on the the ground was terrifying to the disciples. You could see glimpses of armor in the flashes of torch light.
Jesus had just been strengthened by an angel of God and was resolute, just as he was when he set his face toward Jerusalem. Behind him was an apprehensive band of men, jolted from their slumbers. One palmed his small sword at his side, his heart now racing.
The intense drama in the Lord’s betrayal and arrest is undeniable. There would be a clash of good and evil like never before. You must read all the gospel accounts to get the full story (Matthew 26:47-56, Mark 14:43-50, Luke 22:47-53, John 18:3-11). A lot happened in just a few seconds. On the surface you would think Jesus was overwhelmed by the evil one, bound and wisked away. But he was in full control of every detail in order that the scriptures were fulfilled.
He initiated the encounter, perhaps after the fervent kiss of his betrayer, with “whom do you seek?” They said, “Jesus the Nazarene.” The Lord exclaimed, “I am he!” And they all fell to the ground. Stunning. He then cut a deal for his men to go free, and they ultimately scattered like sheep as predicted.
Jesus was often called “teacher” in the accounts of his ministry. While he didn’t fight back as they bound him, he schooled Judas, Peter, and the arresting party.
First, he questioned the use of a kiss to betray him, and called Judas “friend.” Whatever adrenaline high Judas was on suddenly burst with unbearable remorse. I’d have him standing stunned at the term “friend” while all the ensuing chaos swirled around him, then slowly slinking back into the darkness.
Peter, perhaps following through on his overconfident pledge in the Upper Room, unsheathed his sword with the intent of splitting the skull of the high priest’s servant Malchus, who was likely in front of the crowd. He missed and took off his ear. The Lord scolded Peter for his methodology in light the Lord’s formidable backup at a snap of his finger (twelve legions of angels), and for trying to thwart the will of God. But the Lord healed the man’s ear in a split second, no doubt setting the stage for Peter’s coming threefold denial. I can’t help but wonder if Malchus ultimately became a believer.
Then the Lord chided those who came to arrest him in the cloak of darkness as though he was a robber. After all, he’d been in broad daylight for days teaching in the temple. Why not then?
But all this happened so that the scriptures would be fulfilled. The cup that Jesus chose to drink was now at his lips.