The moment finally came for Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. Luke 22:47, 48 says,
47 While He was still speaking, behold, a multitude came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. 48 But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
Matt. 26:47 says that Judas came “accompanied by a great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people.” Mark 14:43 agrees. John says that the soldiers were part of a “cohort,” which, in Rome’s army was a tenth of a legion when up to full strength. A legion in full strength was 6,000 men, so a cohort in full strength was 600 men.
Who Arrested Jesus?
The NASB assumes that these were Roman soldiers, probably because John used the Roman term, cohort. John 18:3 (NASB) says,
3 Judas, then, having received the Roman cohort, and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and weapons.
Adding the word “Roman” reflects the translators’ belief—not what John actually wrote, for John did not identify them as Roman. I believe they were the temple guard, the same soldiers that had been sent to arrest Jesus earlier at the feast of Tabernacles in John 7:32,
32 The Pharisees heard the multitude muttering these things about Him; and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him.
On that occasion, the officers returned empty-handed. John 7:44-46 says,
44 And some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him. 45 The officers therefore came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, “Why did you not bring Him?” 46 The officers answered, “Never did a man speak the way that this man speaks.”
When Jesus was actually arrested in John 18, the cohort is mentioned additionally, so it is possible that Roman soldiers had been called to back up the temple guard. Their purpose would have been to keep order in case Jesus’ followers might fight the arrest warrant. Yet it is plain that the chief priests and their temple guard took the lead, for they were the ones who had given the order to arrest Jesus.
This is implied when Peter tried to defend Jesus against Malchus, the high priest’s servant who was apparently the one who personally was called to carry out the arrest warrant.
The Kiss of Death
Luke 22:48 says that Jesus was betrayed with a kiss. Matthew 26:48-50 says further,
48 Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” 49 And immediately he went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 50 And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.
Recall that Judas was from Hebron, which means “fellowship, association, joining.” It can also suggest friendship. Hence, when Jesus called Judas “friend,” He identified Judas at the same time that Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss of friendship.
Judas was “a guide to those who arrested Jesus” (Acts 1:16), so it is certain that he led the way. His kiss was the first act which prepared the way for the rest of the story.
The Presence of the Lamb
John tells us more of the exchange that was spoken at that time. John 18:4-9 says,
4 Jesus therefore, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also who was betraying Him, was standing with them. 6 When therefore He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back, and fell to the ground. 7 Again therefore He asked them, “Who do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus the Nazarene.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He; if therefore you seek Me, let these go their way,” 9 that the word might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom Thou hast given Me I lost not one.”
Jesus was being identified (twice for confirmation) as the Lamb of God. He literally identified Himself as “I am,” because the “He” is only implied in the passage.
The soldiers fell to the ground backward, but their necks were not broken, because the Lamb was present. The law said in Exodus 34:20,
20 And you shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the first-born of your sons….
The soldiers and officers were children of the flesh—symbolized in the law as spiritual “donkeys” in need of redemption. Their necks were not broken, because the Lamb was present to redeem them.
Compare this story with that of Eli, the high priest, whose neck was broken in 1 Sam. 4:18. Though he was high priest, he was a spiritual donkey who refused to remove his unworthy sons from the priesthood. His neck was broken when he learned that the ark of God had been captured by the Philistines. Hence, the glory (presence) had departed, as we read in 1 Sam. 4:22, and the “I am” was not present to redeem, so Eli’s neck was broken.
Fortunately for the arresting soldiers, the presence of God was in the Lamb, preventing their necks from being broken. Jesus was the “I am” in fleshly form. He had all the defense needed to defend Himself from those who were arresting Him. But He had submitted to the will of His Father and therefore did not use the power at His disposal to resist arrest.
Judas, having done his part, stood by and watched (John 18:5), no doubt believing that Jesus would use His messianic power to defend himself. When Jesus refused to do so, he began to realize that the unthinkable might happen. By the next day, when Jesus went to the cross as lamb to the slaughter, a remorseful Judas returned the money to the chief priests and then went out and hanged himself.
Luke 22:49-51 says,
49 And when those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And a certain one of them [Simon Peter, John 18:10] struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him.
John 18:10 says, “and the slave’s name was Malchus.” His name means “king or kingdom,” coming from the Hebrew root word, melek. If Jesus had allowed Peter’s act to stand, it would have prophesied that the king and the kingdom could no longer hear the revelation of mercy (the right ear). In fact, during the Pentecostal Age, the Church came to be hearing impaired, and its condition degenerated over time until they were torturing people and burning them at the stake without mercy.
To say that Peter was the cause of this would overstate the case, of course, but it is certain that his actions prophesied of what was to come.
There is also little doubt that if Jesus had not healed Malchus’ ear, the chief priests would have arrested Peter and may have cut off his ear according to the law (Exodus 21:23-25). As a prophetic type of the carnal Church (represented by King Saul), Peter’s hearing would have been impaired, especially in the word of mercy.
If Jesus had not healed him, Malchus would have had lawful cause against Peter. In such a case, the only way to avoid the judgment of the law would be if Malchus forgave Peter.
The Law of Victims Rights always upholds the right of a victim to forgive. That is, in fact, the principle of mercy and forgiveness embedded in the law. When men do not understand this principle, they lose hearing in their right ears and soon assume that the law is devoid of love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
This inability to hear or understand the principle of grace, in fact, was the spiritual condition, not only in Judaism (and other religions) but also in the Christianity practiced in the Pentecostal Age in the carnal kingdom of “Saul.” Even today the law of God is maligned continually by those missing their right ears, who think the divine law is an evil system of justice that is devoid of grace and mercy.
While Peter’s carnal actions established the pattern for the reign of the Saul Church, Jesus’ act of healing prophesied an end to the hearing problem in the Age that would follow.
Jesus Led Away
Luke 22:52, 53 says,
52 And Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as against a robber? 53 While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.”
Here Luke tells us specifically that Jesus talked to the chief priests and elders. In other words, they were there to arrest Jesus personally. Luke also speaks of “the officers of the temple,” which distinguishes them from any Roman officers. One may still argue that Roman soldiers were present—though unmentioned here—but such a case is thin, and even if Romans were present, they would have remained in the background. Jesus addressed those chief priests and elders of the temple, because they were the ones who were in charge of the arrest.
The Naked Disciple
In John 18:8 Jesus asked that the soldiers let the others go. Apparently, the disciples did not wait for an answer. Matt. 26:56 says, “Then all the disciples left Him and fled.” One of them fled in his underwear, as Mark 14:51, 52 tells us,
51 And a certain young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. 52 But he left the linen sheet behind, and escaped naked.
Only Mark records this seemingly insignificant detail, causing many to speculate that the young man was Mark himself. Whoever it was, he had been sleeping along with the others and apparently had undressed. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary says,
Naked. The word gymnos does not necessarily mean naked; it was also used to describe a person clothed only in an undergarment.
Mark probably meant to convey to us that the young man was a type of all the disciples who fled at that time. To be naked in the prophetic sense meant to be unprepared or that their guilt was exposed, as in the Garden of Eden. Rev. 16:15 says,
15 Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his shame.
The disciples were supposed to be watching and praying before Jesus’ arrest. They failed as watchmen in the temple, for they slept. It was well known in those days that if temple watchmen slept, their clothes could be burned. John Lightfoot tells us,
The ruler of the mountain of the Temple takes his walks through every watch with torches lighted before him; and if he found any upon the watch that might not be standing on his feet, he said, “Peace be with thee!” But if he found him sleeping, he struck him with a stick; and it was warrantable for him to burn the garments of such a one. And when it was said by others, “What is that noise in the court?” the answer was made, “It is the noise of a Levite under correction, and whose garments are burning, for that he slept upon the watch.” [Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Vol. III, pp. 200, 201]
The incident of the naked disciple was included in order to support the idea that the Garden of Gethsemane had become as a three-part open-air temple. The disciples, especially the eight in the “outer court,” were to act as watchmen on the walls during the night while the three were to intercede as priests in the Holy Place. The naked disciple represented all who slept, for in a spiritual sense, all of the disciples lost their garments that night as the penalty for sleeping.
Mark himself was a Levite, so it might be fitting that he was chosen to represent the others in losing his garments. The broader lesson, of course, is found in Rev. 16:15 and is for us today. The verse is placed between the sixth and seventh bowls of wine being poured out upon Mystery Babylon. Hence, it is specifically applicable to us today as we watch for signs of the overthrow of Babylon.