By Peter Amsterdam
February 1, 2022
Each of the four Gospels gives an account of Jesus’ arrest. The Gospel of Matthew will be the main focus in this post, and segments from the other Gospel accounts will also be included.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked His Father to let this cup, His crucifixion and death, pass from Him. However, He added that He wanted to do His Father’s will rather than His own.1 Three times while in the garden He asked the disciples who accompanied Him to watch and pray with Him, but they were weary and fell asleep each time. Sometime later, after Jesus had finished praying, He spoke to His disciples.
“Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.2
All four Gospels tell of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. The Gospel of John states that Judas knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples.3 The Gospel of Mark adds that people sent by the scribes accompanied those sent by the chief priests and elders.4
The crowd Judas brought was armed with swords and clubs. The Gospel of John states, So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.5
These were not Roman soldiers, but temple guards and others who were likely official representatives of the Sanhedrin.
Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.”6
In the Gospel of Mark, Judas says, Seize him and lead him away under guard.7 The plan was to arrest only Jesus, not His disciples. As it would be dark in Gethsemane, and the disciples would be there with Him, those who were coming with Judas needed some sort of sign to know which one was Jesus. Judas said that the one he would kiss was the one to arrest. Since a kiss is a common form of greeting, this would not seem out of the ordinary. However, it was Judas’ way of identifying the one he was betraying.
And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him.8
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said: “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”9
Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.10
Judas had kissed Jesus, as one would greet a friend; however, Judas’ kiss was one of betrayal, not of friendship. The soldiers and officers of the chief priests took hold of Jesus and arrested Him.
One of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.11
Each of the Gospel accounts tell of one of the disciples pulling out his sword and cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant. The Gospel of John gives more specific information.
Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)12
The Gospel of Luke describes Jesus saying, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.13
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”14
Jesus quickly intervened, which may have kept Peter from being arrested—especially since, according to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus healed the man’s ear.
“Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”15
Peter had acted impetuously, without giving much thought to his actions. Jesus said the Father could send legions of angels to assist Him if it was needed. A legion consisted of 5,000 foot soldiers, plus horsemen. So He was saying that the Father could send a legion for Jesus and one for each of the eleven apostles, which would have been abundantly more than needed. He made it clear that if force were required, there were other means to provide it rather than resorting to cutting off a slave’s ear.
However, there were other matters which needed to be taken into consideration. Jesus pointed to the importance of Scripture being fulfilled. If the Father were to send a massive force of angels in order to defeat Judas and those who opposed Jesus, then Scripture would not have been fulfilled. God’s purpose was spoken of in His prophetic word, and it would come to pass. Jesus said that it must be so.
At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.16
Jesus now addressed the crowds along with the disciples. People knew what Jesus did and taught, because His healings, miracles, and much of His teaching were done in public. However, those who had come to arrest Him were acting as if He was a thief who needed to be apprehended and who might react violently to being arrested, so they carried swords and clubs.
Jesus made the point that the swords and clubs were not needed, since He was regularly teaching in the temple and He could have simply been arrested there, in public. However, they had not done so, because the authorities feared the people. Those who arrested Him came with weapons and took Him at night when He was away from the crowds. They weren’t interested in justice; rather, they wanted to be rid of Him. Jesus told His captors and the crowds with them that this was happening to Him just as the Old Testament prophets had foretold it would.
(To be continued.)
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Bailey, Kenneth E. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008.
Biven, David. New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus. Holland: En-Gedi Resource Center, 2007.
Bock, Darrell L. Jesus According to Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.
Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 1: 1:1–9:50. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1994.
Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 2: 9:51–24:53. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996.
Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah. New York: Doubleday, 1993.
Brown, Raymond E. The Death of the Messiah. 2 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1994.
Carson, D. A. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987.
Charlesworth, James H., ed. Jesus’ Jewishness, Exploring the Place of Jesus Within Early Judaism. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997.
Chilton, Bruce, and Craig A. Evans, eds. Authenticating the Activities of Jesus. Boston: Brill Academic, 1999.
Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993.
Elwell, Walter A., ed. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.
Elwell, Walter A., and Robert W. Yarbrough. Encountering the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.
Evans, Craig A. World Biblical Commentary: Mark 8:27–16:20. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000.
Evans, Craig A., and N. T. Wright. Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.
Flusser, David. Jesus. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1998.
Flusser, David, and R. Steven Notely. The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.
France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.
Gnilka, Joachim. Jesus of Nazareth: Message and History. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997.
Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.
Green, Joel B., and Scot McKnight, eds. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
Guelich, Robert A. World Biblical Commentary: Mark 1–8:26. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1989.
Jeremias, Joachim. The Eucharistic Words of Jesus. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990.
Jeremias, Joachim. Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1996.
Jeremias, Joachim. Jesus and the Message of the New Testament. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.
Jeremias, Joachim. New Testament Theology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971.
Jeremias, Joachim. The Prayers of Jesus. Norwich: SCM Press, 1977.
Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 1. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.
Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.
Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009.
Lewis, Gordon R., and Bruce A. Demarest. Integrative Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.
Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976.
Manson, T. W. The Sayings of Jesus. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957.
Manson, T. W. The Teaching of Jesus. Cambridge: University Press, 1967.
McKnight, Scot. Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.
Michaels, J. Ramsey. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.
Milne, Bruce. The Message of John. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992.
Morris, Leon. Luke. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988.
Ott, Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Rockford: Tan Books and Publishers, 1960.
Pentecost, J. Dwight. The Words & Works of Jesus Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.
Sanders, E. P. Jesus and Judaism. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.
Sheen, Fulton J. Life of Christ. New York: Doubleday, 1958.
Spangler, Ann, and Lois Tverberg. Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.
Stassen, Glen H., and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2003.
Stein, Robert H. Jesus the Messiah. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.
Stein, Robert H. Mark. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.
Stein, Robert H. The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994.
Stein, Robert H. The New American Commentary: Luke. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1992.
Stott, John R. W. The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1978.
Talbert, Charles H. Reading the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004.
Williams, J. Rodman. Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.
Witherington, Ben, III. The Christology of Jesus. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990.
Witherington, Ben, III. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001.
Wood, D. R. W., I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, and D. J. Wiseman, eds. New Bible Dictionary. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.
Wright, N. T. After You Believe. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010.
Wright, N. T. Jesus and the Victory of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996.
Wright, N. T. Matthew for Everyone, Part 1. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.
Wright, N. T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.
Yancey, Philip. The Jesus I Never Knew. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995.
Young, Brad H. Jesus the Jewish Theologian. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1995.
1 Matthew 26:39.
2 Matthew 26:46–47.
3 John 18:2.
4 Mark 14:43.
5 John 18:3.
6 Matthew 26:48.
7 Mark 14:44.
8 Matthew 26:49.
9 Luke 22:48.
10 Matthew 26:50.
11 Matthew 26:51.
12 John 18:10.
13 Luke 22:51.
14 Matthew 26:52.
15 Matthew 26:53–54.
16 Matthew 26:55–56.