John 18.1-11 — Judas’s Betrayal

Remember that John’s purpose in writing his gospel is to give evidence that Jesus is who he claimed to be: the Son of God, deity in the flesh. We’ll look at the betrayal story from that angle.

At least two hours have passed since Jesus dismissed Judas from the upper room, where he had predicted that Judas would betray him, and Judas didn’t deny it, but left in a hurry. Jesus easily could have left Jerusalem in that time and been well on the road of escape. Obviously, Jesus has no intention of escape but plans to follow through on the purpose for which he has come: to die for the sins of the world. He doesn’t act with anxiety or fear, but with purpose and even courage. With patience, calmness and resolve, he moves to an olive grove that he and the disciples have frequented before to pray, wait, and let the events unfold. He knows Judas will look for him there.

Sure enough, it’s only a brief time and Judas arrives, accompanied by a representation of Jesus’ enemies, both Jews and Gentiles, religious and secular. It is symbolic that “the world” will crucify him; it is the world that has turned against him.

John is sure to tell us that Jesus knew all that was going to happen to him. He was not caught off guard, or taken by surprise. His surrender here is voluntary, and his emphasis is on three things: what is happening, why it is happening, and to whom it is happening. His first question, “Who is it you want?” When they reply, “Jesus of Nazareth,” he answers identifying himself with the name of God: “I AM HE.” Remember in Exodus 3.14, at the burning bush scene, Moses asked God his name (Who are you?), and God answered, “I AM HE.” Morris comments, “The soldiers probably thought they were coming to arrest a fleeing peasant; instead they find themselves confronted by a commanding figure who speaks to them in the language of deity.”

Then a most fascinating thing happens. When Jesus speaks the divine Name and identifies himself with it, the mere power of his words results in their falling back and falling to the ground. I try to picture this scene in my mind, and it leaves me with nothing but sheer awe at the authority and power of Jesus.

He then, as an act of shepherding care, requests that they let his disciples go. Peter, however, is begging for a fight, draws his small sword and hacks off the ear of one of the arresting men. The time for action has come! He is not about to just stand around and do nothing at such a time as this. Once again, Jesus rebukes him for not seeking the purposes of God. Peter must be so confused. Jesus isn’t the slightest bit confused. It is for this that he has come.

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