It All Begins

47 While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. 48 But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”Luke 22:47–48

This intense scene, coming right on the heels of Jesus’ final words to his men in the garden, is described in all four gospels (Matthew 26:47-56, Mark 14:43-50, Luke 22:47-53, John 18:3-11). The accounts therefore must be composited to fully understand what went down that night.

The arrival of the “crowd” with “swords and clubs” was certainly not by stealth. There were too many men coming (perhaps hundreds) and the light from the lanterns and torches danced against the charcoal backdrop as blinking warning lights. Since the disciples could see Jesus a stone’s throw away, there’s a good chance that the moon also illumined the garden.

The arresting officers were the temple guards backed by a Roman cohort for good measure. They were there to accompany the chief priests and elders, along with Malchus, the slave of the high priest, and of course Judas, who led out.

Judas was to identify Jesus with a kiss. This kiss symbolically sealed his fate. But unexpectedly, Jesus made the first move, calling out, “Whom do you seek?” They replied “Jesus the Nazarene,” and he announced, “I am He.” Now the the words “I am” carried the force of a thousand bricks, for they were a pronouncement of his diety. The response was not laughter but the involuntary collapse backward of the arresting party to the ground (John 18:6). As one commentator put it, if Jesus could send them to the ground, he could have just as easily sent them to their graves.

In all the unfolding drama and confusion, it might be easy to lose track of the tragic figure of Judas, delusional in his thinking that what he was doing was in some way beneficial, filled to the brim with Satan’s false bravado, he was stripped naked with these words, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” There he stood all alone, with the deafening howls of the hounds of hell in his ears. What he had done could not be undone.

The disciples immediately called out to Jesus, perhaps as the mass of men returned to their feet, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” (Luke 22:49) This was indeed comical with them possessing only two daggers, compared to the weapons and armor of the Romans. Before Jesus could convince them otherwise, Peter lunged forward, perhaps wildly missing the flinching chief priest, striking the right ear of his slave. Immediately, all eyes focused on the gushing blood, as Peter looked on in horror. Seeing it all Jesus shouted, “Stop! No more of this! The cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” (Luke 22:51, John 18:11), He then reached up, pressed his hand over Malchus’ ear, and healed it on the spot. I can’t help to think that when all was said and done over the course of the next few days, this man began to serve a new Master. Then knowing that his men were now willing accomplices, especially Peter, Jesus had the presence of mind to compel whoever was in charge to let them go free, that he’d lose “not one.” (John 18:9)

So, it all began. Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God, gave himself into the custody of the men he created, those he could have struck dead that night with a word, on behalf of all of us, saying, “This hour and the power of darkness are yours.” (Luke 22:53) “All this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets.” (Matthew 26:56)

About Rick Reynolds

You'll find me in the far right hand corner of evangelical Christianity. Been studying the Word for nearly 45 years and counting.
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