Parallel passages: Matthew 26:47-52, Luke 22:47-53, and John 18:3-12.
As a quick review, there were many things happening during this particular Passover week:
- Monday – Jesus entered the city in triumph; the crowds loved Him.
- Tuesday – Jesus denounced the corruption of the money changers at the Temple.
- Wednesday – Jesus was teaching at the Temple against the religious leaders. The leaders’ fear and hatred of Jesus had culminated and they planned in private how to get rid of Him. Judas agreed to identify Jesus for them.
- Thursday – The traditional Passover meal becomes the Lords’ Supper, during which Jesus unmasked Judas as the one who would betray Him.
- Thursday night – Around midnight Jesus and the remaining 11 disciples left for the Mount of Olives (Garden of Gethsemane). He told them to stay awake (which they didn’t) and pray while He also prayed, and now the time had come….
Mark 14:43-52. Judas and the many factions of religious leaders approached the Garden. Their beliefs may have varied, but they were joined together in their common hatred of Jesus. Being wary of a revolution they brought with them hundreds of Roman soldiers armed with swords, and the Jewish police with their clubs. Judas was necessary to identify Jesus since the disciples were all similar in appearance, and although His actions were well-known, it would have been difficult to know for sure they got the right guy. Judas identified Him with a kiss on the cheek, which, ironically was a sign of respect, honor, and close personal relationship. Jesus was then arrested, and bound. He did not resist or fight, and in fact when the disciples asked if they should fight, He told them, no. However, impetuous Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of a slave to the High Priest. Jesus stopped Peter and healed the man’s ear.
There are 3 reasons Jesus didn’t want his followers to fight:
- Matthew 26:52. If Peter had killed the man it would have been murder, not self defense, and it would have been an unlawful death.
- Matthew 26:53. It wasn’t necessary. Jesus could have called on angels if He had wanted help.
- Matthew 26:54. Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion needed to happen. If Peter fought, he would have been fighting against the Word of God.
Jesus could have been arrested anytime. He had been preaching daily in the Temple and easily accessible. But the religious leaders were cowards, acting in the dead of night. Verses 50-52 tell us all His followers ran away, fearing for their lives. They couldn’t understand why Jesus had given up so easily. The authorities tried to grab a young follower who was wearing only a linen sheet, but the sheet slipped off and he ran away naked. This bit of information recorded only in Mark is not in the parallel versions, so there is some speculation that this young man might have been Mark himself.
With all His followers gone and hiding, Jesus was now alone with the trial and crucifixion to follow.