Matthew 26:47-56 (NIV) While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.”
Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.”
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for 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?”
At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets
The events in this passage all took place in the space of a couple of minutes, but to those experiencing it at the time, it seemed like an eternity. When they looked back on it, every sight, every sound, ever detail seemed etched on their minds.
No sooner had they been roused from their sleep, they could hear a large crowd approaching, and see the light from their torches and lanterns flickering through the trees (cf. John 18:3b). Judas needed a signal to identify Jesus because of the darkness that shrouded the whole garden at that late hour. But when he greeted Jesus and kissed Him, he didn’t expect the response that Jesus gave. There was no anger, no fear, just a quiet, “Go ahead, my friend. Do what you came to do.”
Then there was the sound of scuffling feet as several men rushed at Jesus, and grabbed Him roughly by the arms to keep Him from fleeing. But Jesus didn’t even try to get away; He just stood there.
Peter, always impulsive, had drawn a sword as soon as the men had started to move toward Jesus, and now he swung it recklessly at the nearest target, slicing off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Jesus’ sharp command to him to put his sword away caused everyone to stop right where they were. And into the silence that fell over them, they could all hear Him tell Peter that, if fighting was the right thing to do, He didn’t need Peter to fight for Him. At any moment He could cry out to the Father, and instantly have thousands of angels ready to attack. Luke notes that Jesus then reached out and touched the injured man’s ear, healing it on the spot (Luke 22:51).
Now it was Jesus’ turn to have His say. He did not defend Himself – He had nothing to defend. But He accused those who had come to arrest Him, as well as those who had sent them, of working in the dark because their work was illegitimate. If He had legitimately deserved to be arrested, there had been numerous opportunities during the past week as He taught in the temple courts, unarmed and defenseless. But the nefarious work in the dark. He also spoke a final word to them that none of them really caught at the time: By their underhanded dealings and their falsely arresting Him, all of them were unconsciously fulfilling the prophecies about how the Messiah would meet His end, as well as sowing the seeds of the foretold destruction of Jerusalem.
When it suddenly became obvious that Jesus wasn’t even going to struggle, but was going to allow Himself to be arrested like this, terror filled His followers. Would they be arrested too? It was suddenly every man for Himself, and as the men of the mob were binding Jesus’ hands, the disciples fled through the trees.
Father, these verses hold the very hinge of history. Jesus had submitted Himself to Your will, but this moment was when that submission became real. I am so grateful for His faith, courage, and steadfastness, because it was His going through with this that opened a door for me into Your kingdom. Amen.