In today’s passage, we will see John’s account of the betrayal, arrest, and preliminary interrogation of Jesus.
We’ll explore three lenses:
- The Sequence of the Storm: This is the quick overview of the narrative leading up to the crucifixion.
- Betrayal and Arrest (Mt 26:47-56; Mk 14:43-52; Lk 22:47-53; Jn 18:2-12): All 4 gospels report on this event.
- Interrogation of Annas (Jn 18:19-23): John alone preserves this interrogation for us.
- Sanhedrin Trial (Mt 26:57-68; Mk 14:53-65; Lk 22:54-71): The Sanhedrin was the ruling body in charge of Jewish internal affairs.
- Pilate’s Questioning (Mt 27:11-14; Mk 15:2-5; Lk 23:2-5; Jn 18:28-38a): Pilate doesn’t want to condemn an innocent man, but if he lets Jesus go free, he’ll upset the Jewish leaders and possibly disturb the peace during a major holiday.
- Interrogation by Herod (Lk 23:6-12): Only Luke reports this interrogation by Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great. Pilate attempted to toss this political hot potato into Herod’s lap, but Herod tosses it right back.
- Pilate’s Verdict (Mt 27:15-31; Mk 15:15-19; Lk 23:24-25; Jn 18:38b-19:16): All four gospels record Pilate’s various attempts to avoid sentencing Jesus, but how, in the end, he caves to the political pressure and authorizes Jesus’ crucifixion.
- The Betrayal in the Night: So that’s the sequence of events leading up to the betrayal of Jesus and the interrogation. Continuing the narrative, Jesus and his disciples leave the upper room, make their way through the city, and arrive at the garden of Gethsemane. Because Jesus frequented this spot, Judas anticipates they would head there after supper. Judas shows up with a band of soldiers looking for Jesus, and when they find Jesus, He responds “I am He.” In shocked panic the soldiers wheel around, reel back, bump into each other, trip over themselves, and fall to the ground. In Greek, it’s “ego eimi”. In most cases, it is translated “I am he.” But it can also be translated simply as “I AM.” It’s possible that the reason the soldiers stumble and fall here is because Jesus is flexing – just a little. He’s showing just a hint of his true nature. He’s revealing just an ounce of His true power. He’s giving just a glimpse of his true glory. Jesus is exercising just enough strength to show us that he’s in full command of the situation, but not so much strength as to overpower His opponents, because He voluntarily surrenders. And as Jesus gives Himself up, He ensures the disciples’ safety. The soldiers then take Jesus to Annas, the former high priest. And during that interrogation, Peter denies Jesus three times.
- The Hero in the Shadows: In many ways, Peter attempted to be the hero of this story. But Peter’s confidence was misplaced. He trusted in himself, in his own strength, and in his own commitment. Peter thought salvation would come as he stood side-by-side in battle alongside Jesus. But he didn’t yet understand the Way of Jesus, that salvation would come not through conquest but through surrender; that glory would come through shame, and that life would come through death. And in doing so, Peter joined the long line of those who know what it means to have great intentions only to fall flat on our faces. Peter’s professed intensions fall terribly flat. We all have a gap. Some of us see it, others don’t, but it’s there. On this night, Peter came face-to-face with the gap. He couldn’t run, hide, or deny. And the other gospels tell us, he went out into the night and wept bitterly. Peter thought he would be the hero of this story, that he would be the one to stand up for Jesus, but then he discovered the gap. As it turns out, Peter needed a Hero to rescue him, Peter needed someone to stand up for him. Jesus is the Hero of this story. Throughout it all, he exhibits unimaginable courage, doesn’t he? Jesus’ understated courage heroically prevails. Don’t you see? Jesus offers himself up for them. He is arrested, that they might be let go. He is bound, that they might be free. He is condemned, that they might be pardoned. He is crucified, that they might live. Don’t you see? This is a picture of the Gospel. “Take me. Let them go!”
Takeaways: Jesus faced the darkness alone, that we might go free.
When Jesus gave himself up to protect his disciples that night, it was a beautiful picture of what the cross is all about: Jesus died in our place for our sake to bear all our sin and shame. He stood in the gap, to cover our gaps. He drank the cup of judgement to the dregs for us and rose again on the third day in order that we might go free.
This is the Gospel: “Take me. Let them go!”