After an eight week break we are back in the Gospel of John. In our last study of John we finished up our study of the Upper Room Discourse, which ended with the Lord's High Priestly Prayer in John 17.
Chapters 18-21 give us an historical record of the arrest, trial, self-sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ. The order of events in these chapters is somewhat different from the Synoptic Gospels. John does not often repeat the events covered in the other Gospels except to add new details. The differences between this Fourth Gospel and the Synoptics can be attributed to several things, first to the nature of the eyewitness accounts. Lazarus is an eye witness and he is telling his story. But secondly the author's theological purposes. John selected his material specifically so that we might understand who Yeshua really is and what He actually came to do:
but these are written so that you may believe that Yeshua is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:31 ESV
One of the things that distinguishes the account in the Fourth Gospel from the parallels in the Synoptics is, the complete sovereignty of Yeshua as He undergoes these events, His complete control of the situation, is repeatedly evident. Yeshua comes across not so much the willing victim, but as the One in control of the events.
When Yeshua had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. John 18:1 ESV
What day is this taking place? It was the evening of the 14th of Nissan. Mark tells us:
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Mark 14:26 ESV
Yeshua finished His prayer, they all sang a hymn, and then they left for the Mount of Olives. Remember it's the 14th of Nissian. The Psalms that were sung were the remainder of the Hallel Psalms 115-118. Let's look at the end of Psalm 118:
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalms 118:22-29 ESV
Peter quotes Psalm 118:22 in his trial before Sanhedrin, the same Jewish Law Court which condemned Yeshua.
This Yeshua is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:11-12 ESV
What is the purpose of laying the cornerstone? To build the New Temple upon. Peter's addition of the personal pronoun "you" tells us that the first century Jewish leaders were the ones spoken of in the Psalms and Isaiah. The New Temple was NOW being built and they were the ones who would be crushed by the stone.
The "cornerstone" or "foundation stone" that may become a "stone of stumbling" is a messianic theme in Scriptures of the Tanakh:
And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken." Isaiah 8:14-15 ESV
therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: 'Whoever believes will not be in haste.' Isaiah 28:16 ESV
Paul quotes these passages in:
Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." Romans 9:32-33 ESV
So Paul takes these two verses from Isaiah—both of them very familiar to the Jews—and combined them to show that Yeshua is both a stumbling stone and a cornerstone. To some He is a "stone that causes men to stumble;" to others He is a cornerstone of life. Those who stumble over Yeshua fall to their own destruction. Those who build their lives on Him "will never be disappointed."
Many Bible teachers today want to hold a distinction between Israel and the Church, but when you understand biblical types and their fulfillment you realize that the Church is the New Israel, and inherits all Israel's promises. These prophecies that we have seen about the corner stone were given to Israel, (Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16 and Psalm 118), but they were fulfilled in the Church-the true Israel.
So as Christ and the disciples are singing about the Cornerstone, the stumbling stone, they leave the upper room and head to Christ's arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Soon the leaders of Israel will stumble over the Cornerstone.
When Yeshua had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. John 18:1 ESV
"When Yeshua had spoken these words"—"these words" may refer to the prayer of chapter 17, but more probably it refers to all of chapters 13-17. Which may have all been spoken in the upper room.
"He went out with his disciples"—I see this as a reference to their leaving the Upper Room where the meal and discourse described in chapters 13-17 took place, but some see this as a reference to their leaving the city.
All day long Yeshua would be in the Temple teaching, but would spend the night in the open on the hill called the Mount of Olives:
And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. Luke 21:37 ESV
"Across the brook Kidron"—the Kidron is a deep ravine, a wadi, to the east of the city of Jerusalem that separates the city from the Mount of Olives. The valley begins north of the city and continues past the old city walls to the south where the ravine joins with the Hinnom Valley south of Jerusalem. The Kidron then goes southeast crossing into the Judean wilderness and empties into the Dead Sea.
The Dictionary of the Bible says this of the Kidron, "It is a dry ravine during most of the year except in the rainy season when it is full of swiftly flowing water in the winter and the very early spring during the time of the Passover sacrifices when the blood of the sacrificial animals that was poured out on the Temple sacrificial altar drained into the Kidron and made it a river of blood (Dictionary of the Bible,[ page 473]).
Some scholars believe that John had the story of David fleeing from Absalom in mind when he mentioned the Kidron Valley. The Kidron Valley was associated with the betrayal of King David. His own son had rebelled against him and he had to evacuate Jerusalem in a hurry, crossing the Kidron Valley. The parallels between Yeshua's experiences and David's, at this point, are interesting. Both men crossed the Kidron, having been rejected by their nation, and betrayed by someone very close to them:
And all the land wept aloud as all the people passed by, and the king crossed the brook Kidron, and all the people passed on toward the wilderness. 2 Samuel 15:23 ESV
But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered. And all the people who were with him covered their heads, and they went up, weeping as they went. And it was told David, "Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom." And David said, "O LORD, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness." 2 Samuel 15:30-31 ESV
Hangings followed both incidents of David and Yeshua. Ahithophel hanged himself and so did Judas.
"Where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered"—John is the only Gospel writer to mention "a garden." This garden is identified in Matthew 26:36 and Mark 14:32 as Gethsemane. The word "Gethsemane" means "oil press" or "oil valley." This garden must have been located somewhere on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives.
What, theologically, could John be trying to tell us by using the word "kepos" "garden"? Cyril of Jerusalem and Thomas Aquinas believed that John is drawing our attention to the parallel that exists in the struggle between Satan and Adam in the Garden of Eden, and now the struggle between Judas, the tool of Satan, and Yeshua the last Adam, in the garden of Gethsemane. The fall of man began in a garden with Adam's disobedience and now Yeshua, the last Adam, will begin His defeat of Satan in the garden where, in obedience, He yields Himself to the will of God the Father and accepts the cup that the Father has given Him.
John says that Yeshua and His disciples entered; and later he says that Yeshua went out (v. 13). The verbs that John used to describe Yeshua entering and leaving Gethsemane suggest that it may have been a walled garden. I believe that the garden of Eden was also a walled garden.
This garden was on the Mount of Olives and the Mishnah, the Jewish book of sacred oral tradition, identifies the Mount of Olives as the site of the ritual sacrifice and whole burnt offering of the Red Heifer (Mishnah,Parah 3.2-4;[ Numbers 19:1-10]). The ashes of this sacrifice when mixed with water became the "holy water" of ritual purification from the defilement of death (Numbers 19:11-12). Yeshua has become our "red heifer." It is only through Him that we are purified of our sins and born into the family of God.
Why did Yeshua go to the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives? All the Gospels imply that Yeshua intended to spend the night in Jerusalem rather than returning to Bethany where He had been staying. This reflects the fact that it was the night of the Passover. The Jews of Yeshua's time interpreted Deuteronomy 16:7 to mean that everyone coming to Jerusalem for the Passover had to spend the night in the city. There were so many pilgrims in the city that the old city proper could not house them all. The Rabbis extended the "city limits" for that night to the outlying areas, including the oil gardens on the west slope of the Mount of Olives, clear to Bethphage, but not to Bethany.
So He couldn't go to Bethany and stay with friends, but why go to the garden? He went there because He knew that place was where Judas would come looking for Him. On previous occasions, He avoided His enemies, passed out of their midst, got away from them because it was not His hour. But now He went there to be arrested. Now it was His hour, and the Good Shepherd is going to lay down His live for His sheep.
While Lazarus doesn't elaborate on what happened next, Mark and Luke do, so let's read what Mark has to say:
And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch." And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand." Mark 14:32-42 ESV
Just as human sin was conceived in a garden, so was it overcome in another garden. In this text we see Christ, the last Adam, obediently surrendering to the will of God, which is the Cross. Adam's sin brought our condemnation, and Christ's obedience brought our justification:
In the Garden of Eden, man's representative fell in sin bringing death to all men, in the Garden of Getthsemane, man's representative was victorious over sin, freeing God's elect from death.
Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Yeshua often met there with his disciples. John 18:2 ESV
This is a parenthetical note to the effect that Judas, the one who was about to betray Him, was familiar with the place. Yeshua was not trying to avoid arrest. Instead, He deliberately went to the place where Judas knew that He would go. Yeshua had gathered there many times with His disciples; Judas knew the place to look for Yeshua.
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. John 18:3 ESV
Commenting on "a band of soldiers"— D.A. Carson writes, "Only John specifies that, in addition to bringing the Jewish officials, Judas Iscariot also guided a detachment of soldiers. The Greek (tn speiran) makes it clear that these were not Jews, but 'the cohort (of Roman auxiliaries)'. A full auxiliary cohort had a paper strength of 1,000 men, i.e. 760 foot soldiers and 240 cavalry, and was led by a 'chiliarch' (lit. 'leader of a thousand', often translated 'tribune'; v. 12, 'commander'). In practice a cohort normally numbered 600 men; but in any case the noun speira can refer to a 'maniple' of only 200 men, and it is not necessary to assume that an entire maniple was present. Roman auxiliary troops were usually stationed at Caesarea, but during the feast days they were garrisoned in the fortress of Antonia to the north-west of the Temple complex.(Carson, D. A.. The Gospel according to John [pp. 571-59]. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.)
Some argue that these were not Romans, but a band of Jews. I think the other Gospel writers agree with John that the Romans were involved. Matthew and Mark's comments in Matthew 26:45 and Mark 14:41 that the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners may be a reference to the ritually unclean Gentile Roman soldiers.
Matthew and Mark also mention that those who came to arrest Yeshua carried both swords and clubs. Biblical historians point out that it was unlawful for Jews to carry swords on a feast day. This interpretation may indicate that both Matthew and Mark agree with John's account and that Jewish Temple guards carrying clubs and Romans carrying swords were present at Yeshua's arrest.
"Some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees"-it seems that soldiers from the Roman cohort were put at the disposal of the chief priests and were sent to accompany the Temple guards, maybe in case the Temple guards refused to do their duty. Remember it was the Temple Guards who refused to arrest Yeshua when sent by the chief priests in:
The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, "Why did you not bring him?" The officers answered, "No one ever spoke like this man!" The Pharisees answered them, "Have you also been deceived? John 7:45-47 ESV
This time the chief priests were not taking any chances. In a very literal sense the army of "the ruler of this world" has come to arrest Yeshua. So John presented both Gentiles and Jews as playing a part in Yeshua's arrest. The combination of Jewish and Roman authorities in this arrest indicts the whole world.
Some question why Pilate would have been willing to assist the Jewish authorities in Yeshua's arrest. Think about this, with a huge crowd of pilgrims in Jerusalem for the Passover, the Romans would have been especially nervous about an uprising of some sort. No doubt the chief priests and Pharisees had informed Pilate that this man Yeshua was claiming to be the Messiah, or in the terms Pilate would understand, King of Israel.
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. Matthew 26:47 ESV
They come armed to the teeth. Why would they arm themselves like that? I mean it's just Yeshua and His small band of disciples. Why this show of power? Maybe because they recognized Yeshua's power. Earlier in the week, He had run everyone out of the entire Temple ground, all by Himself, hundreds of thousands of people. They knew that He had raised Lazarus from the dead. They knew He was a miracle worker. They were very aware of His power.
"Went there with lanterns and torches and weapons"—John adds another detail, the soldiers and guards brought lanterns. It was the time of the Pascal full moon and the moon would have been bright that night, but under the spreading branches of the olive trees the garden would have had many dark places. This is another detail that indicates an eyewitness account of the events.
This also reminds us of the light/darkness motif of the Fourth Gospel. John is telling us that it is night; the darkness has come at last:
So Yeshua said to them, "The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. John 12:35 ESV
These are Yeshua's last words to the crowd, and this is the end of His public ministry. He ends His ministry to the Jews by using the light and dark metaphor that is prevalent in this Gospel.
Then Yeshua, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, "Whom do you seek?" John 18:4 ESV
Earlier in His ministry, Yeshua had withdrawn from conflict with officials because His hour had not yet come (10:40; 11:54), but now His hour had arrived (17:1). So Yeshua confronts this large military crowd by stepping forward and asking, "Whom do you seek?" He wants to hear them give the names on the warrant. Who do they have a right to arrest? Whose name is on the warrant?
They answered him, "Yeshua of Nazareth." Yeshua said to them, "I am he." Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Yeshua said to them, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. John 18:5-6 ESV
John again inserts a parenthetical note that Judas, identified as "the one who was betraying Him was standing with them."
Yeshua identified Himself as the person they sought, stressing His complete control of the situation. In the literal translation, Yeshua identified Himself saying "I AM" a significant three times in verses 5, 6, and 8. In the Greek text, only the words "ego ami" (I AM) are recorded. The pronoun "He" is added by the translators. Yeshua is the "I AM" who revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:13-14. He is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
Why did they all fall back at Yeshua identifying Himself as the "I AM"? Some of the answers to this question are laughable.
Some biblical scholars think that the Jews, upon hearing the Divine Name, prostrated themselves. But the Romans certainly would not have fallen to the ground in reverence to the Divine Name.
Some say, "They probably 'drew back and fell' because, being shocked, they could not believe that the man they had come out for, expecting to have to hunt for, was virtually surrendering to them." How many of you buy that? I sure don't.
L. Morris says that, "It is possible that those in front recoiled from Jesus' unexpected advance, so that they bumped those behind them, causing them to stumble and fall." Really? So it's just a natural result of them being clumsy?
Others say that, They drew back and fell because they were uncertain about how He would respond to them. Another view is that, Since it was customary for rabbis to kiss their disciples first—but here Judas kissed Jesus first—this insult to Jesus' person so shocked the soldiers that they fell back.
Other scholars suggest that, In another demonstration of His divinity, when Yeshua pronounced the Divine Name that a flash of His divine power was revealed that pushed those present back and knocked them to the ground. This makes much more sense to me.
The description of their reaction fits the descriptions in the Tanakh of people's reaction to theophanies—appearances of God. And I think that is precisely John's point.
A Jewish tradition, purportedly pre-Christian (attributed to the early Diaspora Jewish writer Artapanus), said that when Moses pronounced the name of His God, Pharaoh fell backward.
Alexander Maclaren says this, "There was for a moment a little rending of the veil of His flesh, and an emission of some flash of the brightness that always tabernacled within Him; and that, therefore, just as Isaiah, when he saw the King in His glory, said, 'Woe is me, for I am undone!' and just as Moses could not look upon the Face, but could only see the back parts, so here the one stray beam of manifest divinity that shot through the crevice, as it were, for an instant, was enough to prostrate with a strange awe even those rude and insensitive men'" (quoted by J.M. Boice, The Gospel of John, 1228).
Apparently, Yeshua's reply was accompanied by a momentary, miraculous flash of His glory, perhaps like the flash that knocked Paul to the ground on the Damascus Road. If this was a demonstration of Yeshua's divine power, this incident reveals once again that Yeshua is fully in charge of the events and that, although He had the power to resist His adversaries, He freely allowed them to take Him prisoner. This is what Yeshua told the disciples in John 10:
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father." John 10:17-18 ESV
The Psalmist put it like this:
When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Psalms 27:2 ESV
God's sovereignty permeates this account of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Yeshua. John conveys through his narrative that Yeshua was in complete control of His arrest and crucifixion.
In the Synoptic narratives, Judas came forward and identified Yeshua with a kiss, which was probably a kiss on the hand, the recognized greeting from a disciple to His Rabbi, and not the kiss on the cheek that has been depicted in Western art. John, as is his usual practice, does not repeat the detail of the treacherous kiss recorded in the Gospels, he expects his readers to be familiar with those accounts (Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-46; Luke 22:47-53).
So he asked them again, "Whom do you seek?" And they said, "Yeshua of Nazareth." Yeshua answered, "I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go." John 18:7-8 ESV
They have now repeated their orders twice, and they have declared that they have no right to lay their hands on the disciples. John presents Yeshua being in such control that in verse 8 He commands the arresting party to let the disciples go. According to the Synoptic Gospels the disciples ran away in fright when Yeshua was arrested. John wants us to know that even as He was being arrested Yeshua Himself took care of the safety of His disciples.
"So, if you seek me, let these men go"—"if" This is a first class conditional sentence; they were seeking Him. "Let these men go"—is an aorist active imperative. Yeshua is commanding the devil's army to let His disciples go.
This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: "Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one." John 18:9 ESV
This refers back to John 17:
While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. John 17:12 ESV
Although the preservation in John 18:9 refers to keeping them from arrest, it is symbolic of His keeping them spiritually. The disciples were not yet spiritually strong enough to endure persecution or martyrdom. So keeping them from physical arrest also kept them spiritually.
"Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one"—we have talked a lot about the "given" in this Gospel. The elect are a love gift from the Father to the Son. The implication here is that Judas the betrayer, who is lost, was not really given to Yeshua by the Father. Yeshua keeps all whom the Father has given Him (John 6:39, 40, 44; 10:28; 17:12).
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.) John 18:10 ESV
Picture this scene—a huge armed mob of trained solders and Peter draws firsts blood. Can you imagine what the normal reaction would have been, once Peter had his sword out and was lopping off the ear of the man nearest to him? This was like striking a match in a room filled with gas fumes. The sword (machaira) may have been not much more than a dagger. A personal servant of the high priest could wield much authority, including over the Temple police.
Peter's attempt was perhaps noble, but foolish. He was a fisherman, not a warrior. He was a disciple, but unfortunately one who had not caught on to what Yeshua had been telling him about His impending death and resurrection. He was still trying to keep Yeshua from the cross (Matt. 16:21-23). Although Yeshua had repeatedly told the disciples about His impending death, they just didn't get it.
All the Gospels record this incident, but John is the only one that names "Peter" and "Malchus." The mention of their names makes the story more concrete. John was an eyewitness of Yeshua's sufferings, so it is not unusual that he would mention these names. In response to Peter's action, Yeshua gave one of the clearest definitions of what He had come to do:
So Yeshua said to Peter, "Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?" John 18:11 ESV
So Yeshua said to Peter, "Put your sword into its sheath—a little later Yeshua will say:
Yeshua answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world." John 18:36 ESV
Believers, we don't fight. Christ's kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. He is dying voluntarily.
"Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me"—the grammatical form of Yeshua's questions expects a "yes" answer. Yeshua was referring to His cup of suffering that He drank on the cross according to the Father's plan, freeing mankind from God's wrath.
Only here in the Fourth Gospel is it specifically said that the cup is given to Yeshua to drink by the Father. Isaiah put it this way:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV
This is the cup which our Lord bore for us. It was filled to the brim with the eternal weight of God's wrath. And for those who have faith in Christ, He drank every drop! Not one drop of God's wrath is left. Yeshua paid it all!
This idea of substitution: of Christ being condemned and suffering and dying in our place, is fundamental to the Christian faith. Because, in contrast to every other form of religion, we hold to a Gospel of Grace; a Gospel of God's unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor. We are forgiven, but not because our so-called "good" deeds outweigh our bad ones. We have eternal life, but not because we do our best to live up to a moral code. On the contrary, we know that our good works are insufficient; that we constantly fail to meet Yahweh's perfect standard of holiness; and that we deserve, not acceptance and approval from Yahweh, but rather rejection and condemnation. No, our hope is not based on anything we have done, or could do, but entirely on the fact that Yeshua the Christ, the sinless Lamb of God, gave His life in exchange for ours; that by His blood, He paid the penalty for sin on our behalf.
What John communicates to us is that Yeshua is still in complete control. Even at the moment when our Lord was being taken into custody and His hands were being bound, His "hands were not tied" in the sense that He was powerless to act. Yeshua's words to Peter in Matthew 27 make this clear:
Then Yeshua said to him, "Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? Matthew 26:52-53 ESV
Yeshua is always in control, even in His arrest. He voluntarily gave His life for His elect.