A. The arrest of Jesus (18:1–12)
B. The Jewish trial and its witnesses (18:13–27)
C. The Roman trial before Pilate (18:28–40)
D. The verdict: “crucify him!” (19:1–16)
E. The crucifixion of Jesus (19:17–27)
F. The death and burial of Jesus (19:28–42)
Where Adam failed, Jesus Christ succeeded. Jesus entered into a garden and willingly surrendered himself to the betrayal of the world, in order to drink the cup of suffering from the Father for the salvation of the world.
The “exit” of Jesus from the previous location is the “exit to death” to which the entire narrative has been building up. But it is also an entrance, the beginning of the end, the beginning of “the hour”.
The brook of Kidron - a well-know wadi to the east of Jerusalem - dry for the greater part of the year but a torrent in rainy season.
The Kidron valley pursues a long winding course south-east to the Dead Sea. Ezekiel in his vision saw the river flowing from under the sanctuary threshold that enters the “sea” - considered to be the Dead Sea (Ezek 47:1–8; cf. Zech 14:8). Opposite the temple area the bottom of the valley is over 61 meters below the platform of the outer court. East of the Kidron valley rises the Mount of Olives, on its lower slopes was the ‘garden’ to which Jesus and his disciples went. Mark (14:32) and Matthew (26:36) call it Gethsemane - the place of the oil-press.
The unnamed “garden” in this Gospel were the arrests takes place makes a connection with the first “garden” in Genesis 2:8–16. The significance of the “garden” in this Gospel is evident from the fact that Jesus was not only arrested in the garden, he was also crucified and buried in the garden (19:41) and resurrected in the garden (cf. 20:15) - which is specifically recorded as occurring on the first day of the “week” (20:1) - another connection to Genesis-creation story. The Prologue (1:1 ff) has already indicate for us this connection.
The “garden” mentioned before and after the resurrection frames the story of Jesus’ passion.
The contrast between the first garden (the garden of Eden) and the second garden (the “garden” in the Gospel of John) relates to the first and the second Adam. Both gardens saw the production of life and death, but the second reversed the order of the first:
The first garden was the place where death was born out of life; the second garden was the place where life was born out of death.
Judas is introduced as the betrayer and as the one who “knew the place” - the “garden”.
In the first garden, we also have Satan working behind the scenes (Gen 3:1–5; cf. John 6:70–71; 13:16–27).
Judas’ act of betrayal was not done in isolation; he brought with him two different groups of people.
“A detachment of soldiers”. With great possibility it refers to the Roman soldiers. There was a garrison of Roman soldiers in the Antonia fortress (around 1000 men). Each time Pilate came to Jerusalem for the Passover festival he brought with himself more troops. The scholars divide in the estimation of how many soldiers could a “detachment” mean - from 200 to 600 men.
“Temple police”. The term “ὑπηρέτας” refers to a person who functions as a helper or an assistant. In this context it probably refers to the ‘temple police’ under the supervision of the high priests and the Pharisees.
Thus, both the Roman and Jewish authorities collaborate in this arrest.
But, it was Judas, one of Jesus’ own disciples who was at the head of the crowd made up of both Jews and Romans (gentiles), guiding them to the “place” where Jesus was. The leading role of Judas is highlighted by the fact that a “commander” was also present with the detachment of soldiers, but that captain (see 18:12) was not leading the crowd.
Thus, we have an intimate betrayal (Judas) that involved the whole world represented by both the group of Jews and the Gentiles.
The narrator again highlights Jesus’ knowledge (2:24–25; cf. 1:47–48; 4:18). God is in control of all those events.
The phrase “upon him” can refer to the incoming passion, but it can have a theological reference to the ‘sins of the the world’ (1:29) that will be placed “upon him”.
Rather than running away from what he knows is coming, Jesus actually goes out and confronts it directly. He asks them whether they know their own intentions and agenda.
Remember how important the questions in the Bible are (Gen 3:9).
Jesus had asked his disciples almost the same question before (1:38): not “whom” but “what do you seek?”.
This is a very different “arrest”, with no attempted escape or denial. It is as if the one that they seek (Jesus) is in the position of authority, and they can ‘find’ Him only because He allows it and wills it (10:18).
In the ancient world name often involved a person’s first name followed by their city of origin (cf. 1:45). The crowd knew who they were after and provided the name.
The mention that Judas was present among the crowd can indicate that there is one more group present - the spiritual forces of darkness (cf. Eph 6:11–12).
Jesus is opposed by the authorities and powers of Jerusalem, and of Rome, and by the spiritual forces of darkness.
Jesus responds with well-known “I AM”. The God of Exodus, the Son of the Father stands before them - that is the deep meaning of this powerful phrase often translated as “I am he”.
The crowd apparently grasps the meaning of this powerful phrase “I AM” and fell to the ground, as if defeated by a greater power. The response of the crowd indicates fear, reverence, and even worship.
Hundreds came to take his life, and they could make no claim on him - they are hopelessly outnumbered by one.
These verses repeat nearly the exact sequence of events recorded in 18:4–6.
Did Jesus repeat his initial question while those who came to arrest him were still facedown toward the ground? Did they all rise and compose themselves before answering? The Evangelist does not tell us, which indicates that something else is important.
The repeated question clearly indicates who is here in control. Jesus has never been more in control than when his arrest, trial, and death are at hand; it is his “hour” not theirs, and the events happen according to his authority, not the authority of Jerusalem, Rome, or Satan himself.
Jesus makes it clear (18:8) that is his second statement already. This is the third time “I am” has been stated in the narrative, twice by Jesus and once by the narrator.
With his authority, Jesus disassociates his disciples from his arrest and fate. Perhaps, that was the reason why Jesus twice stated in whom they were interested, namely in him, not in them. And so by His authority his disciples are let go.
The Evangelist explains Jesus’ action by referring to his prayer in 17:12 (cf. 6:39; 10:27–30).
Interestingly, the Evangelist before used the phrase - “so that … be fulfilled” - in reference to the fulfilment of the OT. Thus, Jesus’ own words are placed on the same level as the word of Scripture!
Acting on his own accord Peter drew “a sword” - again an action that shows that Peter still did not grasp Jesus’ intention and the meaning of the evolving events.
Only John provides so many details regarding the injured servant: (1) the injury - right ear being cut; (2) the name - Malchus; (3) his master - the high priest.
Some commentators see the action as a challenge to the high priest - to have a servant with a mutilated ear shamed the master of that servant.
And what is the significance of his name? Does it mean “his king”?
Jesus rebukes Peter for his action with a rhetorical question.
The “cup” is a symbol of suffering and can also serve as a symbol of the judgement of God. The “cup” is what the Father “has given” to him and he is the Suffering Servant whose self-sacrifice effects the salvation of the world (Is 53:1–12).
Some commentators understand the “cup” as the wrath of God or the judgment of God (John 3:36; Is 53:6, 10).
On the historical level, it means that Jesus is not arrested by the soldiers but surrenders himself to them in obedience to the Father.
Earlier Peter tried to prohibit Jesus to serve him, here he tried to prohibit Jesus to ‘serve’ the whole world (see also Mk 8:31–38).
After stating that he must drink the “cup” given to him by the Father, the Evangelist writes that Jesus is arrested. The list is the same like in 18:3, but now the captain of the soldiers is also mentioned.
The term “ὁ χιλίαρχος” means “a leader of a thousand soldiers”, but could also refer to a military commander in charge of a large group of soldiers. But this commander is not actually in charge here.
The binding of Jesus reminds us of the binding of Isaac in Gen 22:9.