The Gospel Of John — Part 18
Jun 1, 2010 1417
Battles in the Garden
When Jesus had finished his high priestly prayer in the room where he instituted the Lord’s Supper (John 17) he led his disciples out of the city, across the Kedron to a garden called Gethsemane (‘oil press’) on the Mount of Olives. Ancient Olive trees still grow in this area.
Jesus had often taken his disciples to this ‘chapel in the wild woods’ (Luke 22:39), but this particular evening would be his last and most important tryst with the Father in his whole ministry. There he pled with the Father to help him make the right decision. If Jesus saved himself, humankind would be doomed forever; if he saved the world, it appeared to him that he would be doomed forever. No greater decision had ever been made in the history of the universe, and no greater decision would ever be made afterward. The destiny of the human race hinged on the choice that he would make.
So great was Christ’s battle with himself that he was ‘overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death’ (Matt. 26:38). Finally he—the Creator of four hundred billion galaxies and all life—chose to cross the event-horizon between life and death and plunge into the black hole of oblivion on a blood-encrusted cross to save unworthy people like you and me. That choice would have spiraled him into the void of nonexistence then and there, had not an angel come and strengthened him to see the battle through to the bitter end. ‘Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground’ (Luke 22:42-44).
There is a cup of God’s wrath against sin, filled with the undiluted wine of God’s fury (Rev. 14:10). Either Jesus drains that cup, or we do. God hates sin so much because of the damage it does to people and to the world that he created, that he has set a time to destroy both it and all who cling to it. In Gethsemane, Jesus chose to take our sin and be destroyed in our place so that we could go free, ‘for God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ [who] died for us’ (1 Thes. 5:9-10).
Judas, knowing that Jesus would go to the garden as usual, led some religious officials and a cohort of soldiers there to arrest him. They came carrying torches, lanterns and weapons (John 18:3).
On previous occasions when his enemies sought to take his life, Jesus had moved away to safety. Once he moved to the other side of the Jordan (John 10:39-40), and on another occasion he moved to a village on the edge of the Judean desert (John 11:53-54). This time, however, he elected to stay, because the time had come for him to give up his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. When he heard the company approaching he did not wait for them to flush him out but boldly stepped into the path of his enemies to confront them.
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied, squinting in the uncertain light of their flickering torches.
“I am (he).” Jesus said.
When Jesus said, “I am (he),” they drew back and fell to the ground’ (John 18:4-6).
Jesus identified himself to his enemies as ‘I AM’ (ego eimi), which is the name of Jehovah (Exod. 3:13-14). He wanted these people to know exactly who it was they were coming to arrest so they would be without excuse. And he gave them sufficient evidence for the truth of his words when the authority of his name drove his enemies back and to the ground.1
But as soon as the sensation passed they got back to their feet and Judas came forward. He had arranged a signal with the arresting party: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard,’ he told them. Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him (Mark 14:44-45). ‘Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”’ (Luke 22:48).
Peter, incensed at the impending arrest of Jesus drew his sword and raced forward slashing at the first person he came across, which happened to be the high priest’s servant. Malchus ducked to the left but wasn’t quick enough and lost his right ear to the flashing blade.
Jesus reached out quickly and touched Malchus’ ear, healing him (Luke 22:51). When Malchus returned home with congealed blood on his neck and clothing the high priest would have wanted to know what had happened to him. Through this witness Jesus gave the high priest additional evidence that he was the Son of God. If Caiaphas decided to go ahead and demand the crucifixion of Christ in spite of the evidence, he would not be able to claim that he did it in ignorance.
After healing Malchus’ ear Jesus turned to Peter: ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’ (John 18:11). ‘All who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’ (Matt. 26:52-54). The antitypical Passover Lamb must die so those who sought the protection of his blood could escape from bondage and become citizens of God’s kingdom.
David established his kingdom with swords, etc. The kingdom of ‘the son of David’ (Matt. 1:1), however, ‘is not of this world. If it were [Jesus’] servants would fight …’ (John 18:36). As the apostle Paul said, ‘The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world’ (2 Cor. 10:4). The Christian’s weapons are truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation and the word of God (Eph. 6:10-18). In fact, as Jesus said in Matthew 26:54, using the weapons of this world to defend the kingdom of heaven may be contrary to God’s will.
Christ’s kingdom is not extended by the force of arms and not one citizen is incorporated into it against his or her will. Everyone who joins Christ’s kingdom, does so because it is their own personal choice to have Jesus rule over them. Love, not coercion, is what motivates them to ally themselves with the Saviour.
1. On an earlier occasion, when he claimed this name as his own, his enemies wanted to stone him for blasphemy (John 8:58-59).