Each of the four gospels all lead to the same dramatic conclusion: the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed without this climax any so called ‘gospel’ would in truth not be a gospel at all!But while all four have this grand climactic moment we should remember that each gospel was written by a different person for a unique purpose. Matthew and Mark present the cross of Christ as horrific suffering while Luke presents the cross of Christ as the majestic martyrdom of the innocent Son of God. John has similarities with the other gospels but by and large John does something different when it comes to the culminating moment of the cross. While each of the other gospels deals with the suffering, the innocence, and the tragedy of the moment, John’s gospel is triumphant.How so? From beginning to end Jesus is in control, He is sovereign, and He exercises a complete mastery over all the details of His death.Taking the unique purposes of all four gospels together we can see a wonderful harmony of the whole event, but when we’re in each gospel we should ask why each author describes things the way he does. So, why does John focus on the triumph and glory of the cross so heavily? Because to John, while the cross is truly the hour of Christ’s deepest humiliation it is also the hour of His greatest glorification (John 17:1-5).
We’ll see this very thing again and again as we, over the next few months, walk through John’s account of the cross and resurrection. John doesn’t include Jesus’ prayer from Gethsemane in his account, no, he includes the High Priestly Prayer. He does this because the High Priestly Prayer is Jesus’ preparation for this hour of glory. We saw this in the prayer as we got a brief glimpse of glory we’re not usually allowed to see as we witness the Son crying out to the Father, sanctifying Himself for what is to come. But now the prayer is over we enter into a narrative section of text where both the road to and the arrival of His death begin unfolding.
Introductory Details (v1-3)
“When Jesus 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. Now Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with His disciples. 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.”
In these verses the stage for the betrayal is set and we’re introduced to the cast of characters. As Jesus concluded praying He and His disciples left where there were and began walking through the brook Kidron to a garden where He would be betrayed. This brook, though dry in summer, was a wide river in the winter. Jesus is not the only King to walk through this dry river bed. Many years before David walked through the brook Kidron as his handsome son Absalom betrayed him stealing the hearts of the people and the throne. Comparing that moment with this one is telling. Then David was fleeing the city after being betrayed; here Jesus is coming into the city knowing He’ll be betrayed. David’s exit was a sad departure, an admission of weakness. Jesus’ entrance is a strong arrival, a show of courage and resolution. We continue to see this as we see them come to a certain garden, John doesn’t call this Gethsemane, but that’s what it is. It’s a garden they’ve frequented many times before, a garden Judas knew well, a garden far removed from the crowds of people who could easily become mobs if stirred, a garden that is then a perfect place for a betrayal and arrest.That Jesus goes here intentionally, knowing Judas would’ve knew the place well and knew what time Jesus usually went to it doesn’t show an error on Jesus part, or that He accidentally walked into a trap, no. It shows Jesus’ mastery over the situation because Jesus goes to the one place Judas could count on finding Him.
v3 concludes the cast of characters for this scene. Judas enters not alone but with two groups of people with him. First, a cohort of Roman soldiers. A Roman band, or cohort, usually consisted of anywhere between 200-600 soldiers (sometimes even numbering up to 1,000). While this is normally a large unit, I don’t think should interpret this band as the whole cohort here. They likely didn’t want to cause a big scene in the city as they were walking out of the city to arrest Jesus. But you can bet that it wasn’t a small group either. Jesus was a massively influential figure and in case they met with resistance they needed to be prepared for and equipped to meet it.Because of this most believe 200 soldiers were present with Judas. Second, with Judas and these Roman soldiers also came many Jewish leaders, both priests and Pharisees. They were the ones who so often questioned Him, rebuked Him, and tried to arrest Him before, so that some of them are present here is no surprise to us.
That both Romans and Jews are present here, eager and willing to follow Judas’ lead and arrest Jesus, reminds us that those who are normally foes find and form strange friendships when they have a common enemy.This unlikely combination clarifies that the whole world is indicted in the murder of Jesus. It wasn’t merely the Jews or the Romans, or any group, that killed Jesus, no one group can be blamed or labeled as the ‘God-killers.’ God so loved the world that He sent His Son into it…knowing full well that the same world would turn on His Son, and so prove to be His instrument in bringing about the gospel of His glorious grace.
With the stage set and the cast of characters introduced, we now see…
Judas’ Dreadful Deed & Jesus’ Deity (v4-9)
“Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed Him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So He asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek Me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that He had spoken: “Of those whom you gave Me I have lost not one.”
This must have been a startling turn of events for Judas and his band. They came out at night ready with weapons and torches to arrest Jesus. But when they came they weren’t the ones initiating the arrest, Jesus was. We read in v4 that Jesus, no surprise to us, knew all that would occur. So as they approach the garden it is Jesus who comes forward taking the lead, allowing them to arrest Him. Perhaps they expected a fight, perhaps they expected Jesus to be hiding, whatever they expected they certainly didn’t expect this, the very One they’re looking for, to come out offering Himself freely and speaking in a bold declarative manner about who He is.
Jesus begins the dialogue, “Whom do you seek?” “Jesus of Nazareth” they respond. Unlike the ESV and most other translations, in Greek Jesus literally responds with two words only. “Ego eimi” or “I AM.” This name ‘I AM’, of course, goes all the way back to Exodus 3 where God met with Moses on the mountain revealing His divine name to Him saying “I AM who I AM.” As the fullness of time came and God sent His very Son into the world, this divine name is also the name Jesus gave for Himself many times. On one particular occasion Jesus used it to show His divine nature in contrast to Abraham in John 8:58, which caused the Jewish leaders to launch into a craze of such hatred and anger they tried to stone Him. Here, even in the midst of His arrest and betrayal Jesus uses the divine name again, still proclaiming the truth of who He is. That He, the One Judas is betraying – the One they’re seeking to arrest, is none other than God Himself. And as it caused a substantial reaction back in John 8, His use of the divine name here in the garden does the same as Judas with his soldiers and Jewish leaders drew back and fell to the ground as they hear Jesus declare His name and nature to them using the name of God Almighty. To fall down to the ground would’ve meant certain death for a soldier in battle, they were trained and highly skilled to avoid such mistakes, but as the voice of God comes ringing out of the Son of God they cannot help but be overcome.He stilled the wind and stopped the waves and raised Lazarus with His very words before, here this band may have come to arrest Him, but upon hearing Jesus step forward and proclaim His name and nature to them it was they who were arrested in the garden.
Having drawn back and fallen to the ground the impression we get as that the band remains silent as they regroup and collect themselves. It is Jesus who breaks the silence once again in v7 again asking, “Whom do you seek?” “Jesus of Nazareth” is the reply once again. To which Jesus responds, “I told you that I AM. So, if you seek Me, let these men go.” Jesus has now caused the band come to arrest Him to audibly state who they came for and who they didn’t. Twice they have said they’ve come for Him, and so after using the divine name once again He ensures the safety of His disciples, reminding His confronters that their business is with Him alone. This is indeed the Good Shepherd at work, taking thought for His flock in the very hour He allows Himself to be captured.Truly, as He said, He won’t lose one of His own. We see both the divinity of Jesus as He isn’t taken by surprise but remains in complete control of this moment, and we see the depravity of man in that even after being arrested with the glory and grandeur of the Son of God they still arrest Him.
Before seeing Peter’s reaction to these events John adds a small detail in v9, “This was to fulfill the word that He had spoken: “Of those whom you gave Me I have lost not one.” We are used to hearing the biblical authors say ‘This occurred that the Scripturemight be fulfilled’, we’ve heard that many times, even here in John’s gospel. But v9 doesn’t say that does it? v9 says this happened so that Jesus’wordwould be fulfilled. Lesson? Jesus’ words are put into the same category of Scripture, because His Words are the very words of God. It is inconceivable that any of His words would ever fail to come to pass.
The contrast before us in v4-9 is as clear as crystal…the dreadful deed of Judas and the depravity of man contrasted with the declaration of Christ’s deity and divinity. Having seen this first contrast we now move onto the second contrast in our text…
Peter’s Rageful Reaction & Jesus’ Reply (v10-11)
“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.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given Me?”
This incident is reported in Matthew, Mark, and Luke but only John names Peter and Malchus. Peter’s courage in the face of their enemies was surely great, but his ability to aim and his lack of understanding seem to be greater. Because John doesn’t tell us why Peter did this it is hard to know his motive. On the surface it does appear to very foolish to attack a band of Roman soldiers when there’s only one of you and a few hundred of them. But maybe Peter thought the others would join in as well in some kind of heroic last stand? Or maybe he thought Jesus would at that very moment call down the heavenly host to wipe out all of God’s enemies and restore the kingdom to Israel? Whatever he thought, Peter was sure convinced of it and took abrupt action. Thankfully, Jesus put an immediate stop to it, and as far as we know the rest of the soldiers would’ve been drawing their own swords and beginning their charge. But again, the words of Jesus have power. Power to stop the rageful reaction of Peter, power to stop any response the soldiers were thinking of doing, power that in reality probably saved Peter’s life in this moment.
This is yet another of those instances where Peter behaves rashly, another instance where it is too easy to look down on or even laugh at Peter. But, don’t be too quick to do so, we’re much more like Peter than we think. Don’t we also, at times without much thought, find ourselves acting quickly and rashly? I’d say it is very common for us to zealously defend our beliefs or our behavior without much thought if God approves of it or not.Peter’s example reminds us of the benefits of zeal but it also reminds us to keep our zeal caged by the clear commands of God in His Word so we don’t run over one another in our fervor for personal passions and preferences.
“Put the sword into its sheath…” Jesus says, “…shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given Me?” The cup of the Father is why Peter must sheath his sword. In the Old Testament the imagery of ‘the cup’ is often used to portray suffering or the wrath of God. Isaiah 51 calls it the ‘cup of staggering’ and the ‘bowl of wrath.’ Ezekiel 23 describes it as the ‘cup of horror and desolation.’ Revelation 14 and 16 say it is the ‘cup of God’s anger’ and the ‘cup of the fury of God’s wrath.’ Psalm 75:8 sums it up well when it says, “For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and He pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.” Earlier in a moment of disputing greatness Jesus had asked His disciples, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” (Matthew 20:22). A bit earlier in the same garden Jesus cried out “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39) He asked Peter, “…shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given Me?” The answer is yes, He must drink it. Church, if you’ve ever wondered what Jesus did on the cross, if you’ve ever been confused as to what actually occurred as Jesus hung there dying for sinners, and if you require clarity as to why Jesus died…see before us in v11 the wrathful reality of the cursed cup. The full force of hell and the full weight of our sin, Jesus lifted the cup of the Father’s fury, and as Charles Spurgeon said, “…in one tremendous draught of love, Jesus drank damnation dry.” Or as one old hymn puts it, “Death and the curse were in that cup, Oh Christ, twas full for Thee; but Thou hast drained the last dark dregs, tis empty now for me.”
As we see our Savior enter a garden perhaps you remember another garden where it all began. Adam began life in a garden, Christ came at the end of his life to a garden. Adam faithlessly sinned in a garden, Christ faithfully began drinking His Father’s cup in a garden. Adam hid himself in garden, Christ did not shrink back but presented Himself in a garden. In Eden the sword was drawn barring the way back, in Gethsemane the sword was sheathed paving the way the long awaited redemption. The symbolism between the first Adam and the Second Adam is not accidental or incidental here. In Adam all were lost, Christ could say, “Of those whom you gave Me, none are lost.”
We’ve seen the contrast of Judas’ depravity and Jesus’ divinity, and seen the contrast of Peter’s rage and Jesus’ righteousness.
What should our response to this be today?
Every person who ever lives will one day drink from one of two cups. If you’re an unbeliever here today we’re truly glad you’re here so that you can hear this message. If you continue to reject this Christ and remain in unbelief, see in these soldiers what you’ll one day do before this very same Christ. Fall down to the ground in humility before the King of kings and Lord of lords. The result of rejecting Christ is to drink the cup of the Father’s fury for all eternity. Flee your sin, turn to Christ, and be saved! For those who have empty handed come to Christ in faith and found so great a salvation you also will drink a cup for all eternity. A cup of blessing described in Psalm 23:5, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
That Jesus would give Himself for us in this way, encourages us to give ourselves to Him in return.May you do so, again and again.
D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – PNTC (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1991) page 571.
Grant Osborne, John – Verse by Verse (Bellingham, Washington: Lexham Press, 2018) page 409-410.
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1971) page 739-740.
Carson, page 576-577.
Ibid., page 577.
Morris, page 742.
Carson, page 577.
Osborne, page 412.
Morris, page 744.
Osborne, page 413.
John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries – John (accessed via Accordance Bible Software) 2.8.19.
R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe – Preaching the Word Commentary (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 1999) page 422.
Richard D. Phillips, John 11-21 – Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R, 2014) page 491.
Ibid., page 498.