John 18 – The Arrest of Jesus

Judas leads a group of soldiers and guards to the garden to arrest Jesus (18:2-9). Judas’s role as betrayer is to lead the temple guard to the place where Jesus is camping. It is likely that there are a number of campsites on the Mount of Olives, the Passover crowds probably made finding the exact spot where Jesus was nearly impossible. In addition, it is possible that another person could substitute themselves for Jesus, Judas provides a positive identification of his master.

The solders include Temple guards (who make the actual arrest) and Roman soldiers. Two observations are important about these two groups of soldiers. First, it is historically plausible that the Romans would assign a few soldiers to accompany the Temple guards to arrest Jesus. Passover was a celebration of the Exodus, the time when Israel’s God redeemed his people from their slavery. That imagery was a vivid reminder that the Romans were now the power which “enslaved” God’s people.

Jesus was claiming to be the anointed one of God, he selected twelve disciples who form a new Israel, he rode a donkey into Jerusalem just as Solomon did when he was crowed king, the son of David. The Romans therefore were present to “keep the peace,” or at the very least they were there to keep Jesus from initiating a nationalistic riot.

Second, the two groups represent both Jews and Gentiles. Both come to arrest Jesus and both will have a hand in his execution.

When Jesus speaks, the crowd “drew back and fell to the ground” (18:4-7). Jesus asks the crowd who they are seeking, recalling the first words of Jesus in the book, spoken to two disciples who began to follow him: “What do you want?” When a group representing the whole world arrives, Jesus demands to know their intentions.

Jesus’ response is “I am,” and the guards and soldiers “fell to the ground.” The phrase is rare, the adverb χαμαί appears in Job 1:20, Job fell to the ground in worship; Dan 2:46 (Old Greek), Nebuchadnezzar fell to the ground to honor Daniel (cf. Ant. 20.89). It is hard to know what the solders expected when they went out to the garden, but it was not hearing the voice of God, so powerful that they are driven back in worship!

Jesus specifically asks for the disciples to be left alone, John tells us this fulfills Jesus’ own prayer that not one of his followers should be lost. Peter, however, attacks the servant of the High Priest, cutting off his ear with a short dagger (μάχαιρα). The servant is named in John’s Gospel, although he is unknown to us. (BDAG points out that the name appears in inscriptions, although almost exclusively for Gentiles, Nabatean Arabs (implying that the servant represents the Herodians).

Peter’s actions are sometimes dismissed as laughable, but the represent the actions of the most zealous of Jesus’ followers. Jesus wanted to protect them by giving himself up to the arresting guards, but Peter seizes the moment and “starts the revolution.” Even if this is a colossal failure, it is better than the response of the rest of the disciples!

11 thoughts on “John 18 – The Arrest of Jesus

  1. I didn’t know that Solomon also rode in as king on a donkey. That is interesting because it was by David’s request that Solomon rode a donkey. I wonder if that was actually weird for the people to see because David might have had access to chariots and other more sophisticated animals that Solomon could have rode in on. I found in Zechariah 9, it talks about a king coming as righteous one, but also lowly riding on a donkey. It also says that He will “proclaim peace to the nations,”(Zach. 9:10, NIV). The reason why I bring this up to share is because it is interesting the tie between the prophesy in Zechariah 9, Solomon’s story of riding in as king in 1 Kings 1 and then Jesus riding on a donkey in John 12 and coming as king!
    We see in that in John 12, after Jesus gets up onto the young donkey, He actually says in John. 12:15 saying,
    “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt,”(John. 12:15, NIV). John includes that to show how the prophecy is being fulfilled through Jesus and that He is the coming Messiah!

    “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,
    and that by believing you may have life in his name!”(John. 20:31, NIV).

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  2. what Peter does is often brushed off as a laughable, failed attempt to kill the high preist or the servant of the high preist. Knowing what we know about Peter, he was a zealous man a very passionate man, but he was a disciple of Jesus and on top of that a good Jew. I doubt Peter was aiming to kill the servant of the high preist right there infront of roman soldiers and of course Jesus his teacher! I think it is possible that Peter had in mind or knew of the Law stated in Leviticus 21:17-18 whe he drew that sword. If Peter wanted to kill that man he could have and he would have been able to. But Peter did this as a mockery to the high preist’s servant to make him “unfit to to come near”, talking about the holy of holies. He was saying and making the statement that he was unfit, and the high preist was unfit. Peter was creating a deformity of the man. This was very intentional of Peter and not simply a failed attempt of murder. It is then even a more amazing picture when Jesus puts the man’s ear back on, showing that Jesus has made him fit, and can restore what is defiled…even if it was his enemies.

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  3. It is so interesting to look at what Peter did in the moment of fear and love. Peter was acting a way that may have been irresponsible and rash but a way that showed the love and passion he had for Jesus. I love this story because although he acted wrongly, this is still the man that Jesus said He would build His church on. God looks at us in our brokenness and sees beauty. He wants us to worship Him in the state we are in, and Peter did that throughout the Gospels. In Matthew 14:22-33 we read the story of when Jesus walked on water. Peter, out of all the disciples, had the faith to get out of the boat. Although he began to doubt and started to sink, he at least had enough faith to get out of the boat. Jesus may seem critical of Peter when He says he is one of little faith, but Jesus would not build His church on someone He did not see had faith. I relate to Peter. I find that I have enough faith to get out of the boat most of the time but once I do I begin to doubt and have fear. It is comforting to know that Jesus sees my faith and it makes me want to deepen my faith in Him even more.

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  4. Given the build-up behind Jesus’s ministry through the ancient world, it is difficult to judge Peter’s actions due to the significance of the moment. It seems me; Peter did not want Jesus’s ministry to come to an end and might of felt that was threatened by the arrival of Roman soldiers. As Kostenberger states in more than one occasion, Peter has been the one to resist the will of God by seeking to take things into his own hands (Kostenberger, 177). Peter has quite a unique character, and there are a few highlights of his resistance throughout the gospel of John. However, I think Peter acted out with the thought that his actions were good, and maybe Jesus was going to applaud him for his rebellious act. That was not the case, Jesus had his faith already planned out, and Peter’s actions were not aligned with His agenda. Jesus had more to show his disciple through his crucifixion, and Peter’s actions could of but probably not initiated a revolution, as you mentioned.

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  5. I like the picture in this post, I find it funny how it shows Judas as a satanic looking person, I find that a lot of people think of Judas a horrible person, and I would as well if I just knew that Judas was that one that told the people who wanted to kill Jesus where he was at. I think that it is also important that we note that without Judas we have no death of Jesus, sure that sounds horrible like we want Jesus to die, but that is what he came for, he came to give us eternal life. that is not to say that if Judas did not do it it would not have been done another way, but I believe that this is the way that God had made it happen. we also see a lot of guilt come over Judas when he comes through and realizes what he has done when he kills himself. I also liked your point about peter, and how he chopped the soldier’s ear off. most people think o silly peter, and I would say that most people think that about peter when he messes up, but in reality, a lot of us are most like peter in the sense that we look away from God when we get in sticky situations, like peter on the water, and we doubt Jesus raised himself from the dead when he is standing right in front of us, or like this situation, we try and go against the will of the father because we love our comfort. I think that the best thing to do is realize that we are all somewhat like peter and we doubt God, but we need to remember when we doubt to always run back to God.

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  6. As many times we hear and learn about the arrest of Jesus, there is always something more than we can learn about or notice something that we want to dig into deeper. One of those things I see in this story is the passion that Peter had. I would say this because Peter is a man and although the drawing of his sword and cutting a man’s ear off isn’t good it still shows how much Peter cared about Jesus and would do anything to save him. As I read this story it is hard not to imagine how awkward it is that the disciples minus Judas are with Jesus and then Judas is on the other side with the mob coming to get Jesus. At that point Judas is looked at such a horrible person and a betrayer of the “Family” in a sense. They were a family and when one turns on you it’s hard to look at them again. So as I read this passage and dig deep into it, it’s hard not to think about the disciples and Judas as their feelings are growing about what is going on with Jesus and what is about to happen.

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  7. No matter how many times I have heard this story or any other story I have heard multiple times, I always seem to see something I had not seen before. Something new I have wondered about this particular event is how did Judas know that Jesus was in the garden? Was this a common place for Jesus to spend time? Jesus had to have told all the disciples including Judas where he was going to be spending his time that night. Or does Jesus use his Holy powers to ‘place’ the idea into Judas’ head, which is likely not a probable idea. (but may be possible?) Another aspect of this passage that is interesting to me is that “Jesus specifically asks for the disciples to be left alone” (Long). It is interesting to me because the Roman and Jewish guards respected that request. They could have easily just taken the disciples as well considering they were following a man who was claiming to be the king and not following Roman laws to view their leader as king. They could have easily dismissed Jesus’s request, especially after Peter slices off the ear of one of the servants!

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  8. In light of why Judas needed to come with the soldiers to arrest him, I never thought about the fact that there would have been a lot of people in this area. I never really questioned why it was that Judas went with them, that was just the way it happened. One reason for not questioning it might be because I know that Jesus is going to identify himself to them, and give himself up, so any reasoning for what could go wrong just dies not come to mind in this story. I also had never thought of the fact that it is indeed both Jews and Gentiles that play a part in Jesus execution. Even though the Jews are the one who do not take part in their role of bringing the world to God, Gentiles still stand there and sentence Jesus to death right along with the Jews. I think that this is a powerful statement being made, because Jesus came to save all, Jews and Gentiles alike, even though both of them stand before him and cry out to have Him crucified.
    The other thing that really stands out to me in this passage of His arrest is verse six. When Jesus speaks, and says that “I am He” those who came to arrest Him stumble back and fall to the ground. I wish that there was more to that statement. How did they respond to that? Did they seem confused? Why do we move on so quickly and not get to know what the reaction to that was? Even though we do not know what happens fully here. We are still shown that there is power in just the words that Jesus speaks, even in a time where He is being betrayed by the people He came to save.

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  9. What happens in the Garden of Gethsemane is something that I personally have always found interesting. One of the most intriguing parts to me is when the guards fall when Jesus speaks. There is so much power in Jesus’ words that the people standing in front of him literally fall to the ground. Kostenberger describes what happens as a theophany, or appearance of God (Kostenberger, 166). The voice of God has so much power, and it is put on display in this passage. Another aspect that led to the guards falling to the ground is the fact that Jesus says the words “I am.” This is the name of God, and holds just as much power as the voice of God. While it is not God’s name of Yahweh, but rather ehyeh, there is still this calling to God’s name. Regardless, when Jesus says these words, the power is manifested and we can see a physical reaction to it. The other interesting part is the idea of them falling down. Whenever I read this before, I thought that the words knocked them backwards because of the power. But after seeing the other uses of the words in Scripture, and how they typically relate to worship or honor, I can’t help but think it was in that sense of the words. It would be interesting to see how that actually happened.

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  10. This may be a very bold claim, but I believe that everybody in their lifetime must confront the person of Christ. When encountering Him for the first time, they have only two options: they may either accept or reject Him. But no matter what someone decides, the power of Christ, I believe, will be prominent. Just as the soldiers in the Olive Garden fell over in a posture of worship when Jesus identified Himself, so too will everybody react when they meet Him. The fact is, Jesus will be known as the one and only God by everybody in the end–whether or not they reject Him. Disbelief does not annul His existence. Moreover, I think it is very significant that both Jews and Gentiles were present for the arrest of Jesus. This conveys the idea that there was not one specific people group that was responsible for the condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus. As it states in Romans 3:23, everybody is guilty; we “all fall short of the glory of God”. Kostenberger, in writing about this passage, argues that the Romans were present during the arrest of Jesus in order to suppress any revolution or insurrection that might have taken place. But I think the theological importance is that we were all, at one point or another, an enemy of Christ; we all rejected Him in the garden. Little did we know that that was the very means by which He was going to reconcile us.

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  11. I always like to see how different events in the Bible lead up to another event taking place, and the arrest of Jesus is a good example. I never realized how important it was that Judas be part of the group that was going to arrest Jesus until now. Jesus knew that one of the disciples was going to betray, and because Judas did, he was able to be a part in identifying Jesus. I also did not think about how the crowd would have made it much more difficult to find Jesus, and if there are a lot of followers then there is the possibility that someone would try to impersonate him to save his life. The fact that when Jesus says “I am” it not just stops them in their path, but it drops them down into worship. I think of when I am worshiping at church and when a song is played that just seems to stop and make me think and worship, and that does not even compare to the power Jesus has and what it felt like for those who felt the presence of Jesus. It is important too that it was both groups that were looking for Jesus, the Jews and the Gentiles. Jesus was going to give himself up, but Peter started a uproar. Peter gave a good effort, and I found it interesting that it doesn’t say anything about Peter striking the high priests servant. Jesus arrest was such a focus that the fact that Peter cut off someones ear goes practically unnoticed.

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