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The Betrayal of Christ

John 18:1-11

Human history began in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2) where  Adam rebelled against the Father’s will and brought sin and death to all mankind. In contrast, Jesus, the last Adam (I Corinthians 15:45) went to the garden of Gethsemane and obeyed the Father’s will, bringing righteousness and life to all who trust Him. It was in the garden of Gethsemane that Judas betrayed Jesus into the hands of the Jews and Romans, who took Him away and crucified Him. But Jesus was no victim. In John 10:17-18 he declared, “I lay down My life so that I may take it up again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again.”

Looking deeper into this passage, we see Christ’s courage and control (18:1-4a). Jesus had finished the Upper Room discourse (13-17) including His high priestly prayer and then left Jerusalem with His disciples. They went east from the Temple Mount, descended a couple of hundred feet and crossed the Kidron Valley, which was actually a wadi where water flowed during the winter rainy season. Continuing east they reached the Garden of Gethsemane on the western side of the Mount of Olives. Gethsemane means oil press. What a picture of suffering–our Lord would go through the “oil press” and the “winepress” (Isaiah 63:3) and taste our judgment for us.

The Lord sovereignly arranged the time and place of His betrayal. All His enemies’ previous attempts to seize Him had been unsuccessful because Hhis hour had not yet come (John 2:4; 7:30) but Jesus often went to the garden to pray so Judas knew where to look for Him. Directed by Judas and the temple police, the Roman cohort (about 200 men) brought lanterns, torches, and weapons, assuming Jesus would attempt to flee. Jesus had no intention of fleeing. The Lamb of God would meekly submit to the will of the Father, and voluntarily lay down his life.

But then we also see Christ’s power and love (18:4b-9). Jesus took charge of the situation asking, “Whom do you seek?” The officials answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” He said to them “I am He.” “He” is not in the original Greek; as Jesus had done on several occasions, He uses the Old Testament name for God. He states, “I AM.” When Jesus said, “I AM,” the contingent fell to the ground. All Jesus had to do was speak His name and His enemies were rendered helpless. John inserts that Judas was with them, experiencing Jesus’ absolute power. This amazing demonstration clearly reveals they did not seize Jesus–He went willingly. The One who spoke the worlds into existence is the same One who will speak and execute judgment on His enemies “with the sword which comes from His mouth” (Revelation 19:21). The Word of God is the ultimate power!

Jesus asked again “Whom do you seek?” “Jesus the Nazarene.” He makes His captors state their orders twice to arrest Him alone, then commanded, “Let these go their way.” The Lord kept His disciples from being arrested because they were not ready to face persecution and trial. After the resurrection of Christ and after they received the Spirit they would be, but not yet. God knows what trials we are ready to face. He never tests us above that which we are able to endure (I Corinthians 10:13).

Although John’s Gospel does not mention Judas’ betrayal kiss the other three gospel accounts do (Matthew 26;49; Mark 14:45; Luke 22:47). Judas’ betrayal kiss must be one of the greatest acts of treachery recorded anywhere in sacred or secular history. It showed the depravity of his heart and the depth of his deception. Religious pretenders, brazen hypocrites, and traitors to Christ will have a special place of judgment in Hell.

Finally, we see Christ’s obedience and compassion (18:10-11). Peter, emboldened by Christ’s awesome display of divine power, impulsively charged to the Lord’s defense. Having a short sword, he used it against the high priest’s slave, Malchus. Obviously, Peter was a fisherman, not a swordsman. Fortunately, he only cut off Malchus’ ear, not his head. Peter’s reckless act threatened to start a battle that could have gotten the disciples killed or arrested, the very thing Jesus was trying to prevent. Peter should have known Jesus would be arrested and turned over to the Romans; Jesus had been telling the disciples that repeatedly. We may admire Peter’s courage and loyalty, but it was a demonstration of zeal without knowledge. He was resisting the will of God and hindering the work Jesus came to accomplish! Jesus tells him to put his sword away. He didn’t need His followers to protect him. Jesus could have called for a host of angels more powerful than any earthly army. Jesus healed Malchus’ ear, the second display of divine power in just a few minutes. Seeing Jesus create a new ear or reattach Malchus’s old ear should have caused the crowd of aggressors to worship the Lord, but they were blinded and hardened by their sin. This act of grace was the last miracle Jesus did before going to the cross.

Jesus stated, “Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given Me?” He spoke of the cup of divine judgment (Psalm 11:6; Isaiah 51:17, 22; Jeremiah 25:15). Jesus drained this cup completely on the cross when God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (II Corinthians 5:21).

In conclusion, we see on full display more of Christ’s amazing attributes: His courage in the face of death, His sovereign control over every detail, His power over His enemies and His faithful love for His disciples, and finally His complete obedience to His Father’s will and compassion towards those who seek to oppose Him. Have you experienced Christ’s love and forgiveness?