Jesus Betrayed and Arrested
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Jesus Betrayed and Arrested

John 18:1–11  (ID: 3595)

On the night of His betrayal, Jesus entered the field of conflict with the Evil One in a familiar setting: a garden. But unlike the garden of Eden, which was tarnished by Adam’s disobedience, Gethsemane highlights the obedience and majesty of Christ, who did not cower before the trial He faced. In this Good Friday message, Alistair Begg reflects on the security Jesus provided to His followers that night, in spite of Peter’s futile attempt to intervene. He drank from the cup of wrath so that we can enjoy the cup of blessing.

Sermon Transcript: Print

We’re going to read from the Gospel of John, and if you wish to follow along, please do. I’m going to read from chapter 18 and the opening eleven verses of John chapter 18. Chapter 17 is the Priestly Prayer of Jesus, and having spoken these words, we pick it up at the first verse of 18:

“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. 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. [And] 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.’ 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?’”


Well, we’re going to share, this evening, in Communion. And before we break bread together, before we do what Jesus has bid us do, I want us to give our attention to the verses that I read a moment or two ago from John chapter 18. And what I would like to do is take a moment or two to set the context, the wider context of this, and to say something also about one of the key characters in this—namely, Judas—and then make three points by way of observation. And so, I know it sounds like quite a lot, but I hope that it will be helpful to us.

“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.” The garden was a familiar place. It was actually a favorite place for Jesus and his disciples. It had proved throughout the three years of his earthly ministry often to be the context of retreat, an opportunity for rest, an opportunity for reflection. But now, in this particular moment, we discover that it has become a place of betrayal and a place of arrest.

And the context in which this happens is, of course, that Jesus has been with his disciples in the upper room. Their conversation with one another has fallen along various lines, and Jesus has prayed, and now out they come, and they make their way to this garden, along the streets—it’s about, a journey from the upper room where it was set to where they ended up, about a mile or so—along the streets where the houses would still bear testimony to the celebration that had been taking place only a matter of a few days before, through the city gate, down the track that leads across the brook Kidron, and then up the Mount of Olives, and finally, as John tells us, they entered into the garden.

It perhaps goes without saying, but it is important, in case some don’t know this, that Jesus was not going with his disciples into this garden in the evening in order that he could hide. In fact, the reverse is the case. Jesus had operated in a fairly unobtrusive way, we might say, throughout his earthly ministry. But on this Palm Sunday, which we remembered a few days ago, he has now entered quite straightforwardly into the context of Jerusalem, into the minds and into the hearts of people.

And the backdrop to all of this, of course, is that Jesus is moving according to a divine calendar. If you want, for homework, to follow this line through, then you could simply take a good Bible concordance and track “the hour.” “The hour.” So you will immediately find yourself in the Gospel of John, at the first wedding, which took place in Cana of Galilee. And if you have any recollection of that at all, you know that it was a very embarrassing circumstance, because they ran out of wine. And Mary was the one who was given the responsibility to let Jesus know about their predicament. And when you go back and read it again, you will discover that Jesus says to his mother, in a way that is gracious and kind but very clear, essentially this: “What has this really got to do with me? Because my hour has not yet come.”[1] “My hour has not yet come.”

You see, Jesus knew that there was an hour that was going to come. He knew that the real predicament was not the absence of the wine. The greater need of those who were present at the wedding was a need that was only going to be able to be addressed when he trampled out the winepress, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah[2]—when he eventually shed his own blood so that the thirst of men and women might be satisfied.

And as you read through the Gospels, you discover that this is a recurring emphasis. I won’t do it in a way that is tedious, I hope, but for example, by the time you get to chapter 12, Jesus is now expressing himself; he says, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?” [No],” he says, “for this purpose I have come to this hour.”[3] And as you read on, he’s speaking about the fact that “now,” he says, “is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.”[4]

Jesus welcomes the striking of the hour—the hour in which he is going to deal with the great predicament, the great issue, when the Father will be glorified.

And what he is doing is he is moving inexorably into the forefront of battle. In his forthcoming passion, which we celebrate now, in looking back to all that took place in the crucifixion, Jesus is entering the field of final conflict with the Evil One. In fact, it is so wonderfully appropriate, isn’t it, that this is unfolding in a garden? Because again, the whole story of humanity begins in a garden. And the predicament of humanity is on account of the fact that in that garden, it was disobedience—it was disobedience—that led to the predicament of men and women: sin, turning our backs on God. And on account of Adam’s disobedience, we find ourselves where we are. And now, on account of Jesus’ obedience, he steps forward, in order that the prince of this world, the Evil One, might be deposed in his present ascendancy.

It is quite remarkable, and it is beyond our ability to fully unpick it all—and certainly when you realize that Judas is such a part of this: “Now Judas” in verse 2; “Judas,” in verse 3, “having procured a band of soldiers” and so on; “Judas,” in verse 5, “standing” on the wrong side of the divide.

What a picture this is! A disciple of Jesus leads a Roman cohort to arrest Israel’s Messiah. One of Jesus’ disciples brings this strange conglomeration—a mixture of personal treachery, religious animosity, and political cluelessness—in order to bring him down. You know, they say that truth is stranger than fiction, don’t they? And you’ll notice when you read it for yourself that they come with lanterns and torches and weapons. Is there an irony in this? That they come with lanterns and torches so that they can see he who is the Light of the World? That they come with weaponry to deal with an unarmed prophet? And they come at the behest of somebody who had spent three years of his life in an intimate relationship with Jesus. He was actually the treasurer, we’re told, of the little band’s operation.[5] Did the money put handcuffs on his soul? What happened to him?

During the supper, John tells us that the devil had already put into Judas’ heart the betrayal.[6] Furthermore, Satan actually indwells him.[7] Really? It’s akin to what happens in the garden of Eden: Satan inhabits the serpent. Now Satan inhabits Judas. Clearly, it was possible to live with Jesus without living for Jesus. There’s a warning in that.

Jesus, knowing all of this, in the context of the meal… Remember the conversation? “The person who puts his hand into the bowl with me, the person who takes a piece of bread next will be the one who betrays me.”[8] And when Judas had done that very thing, you remember what Jesus says to him? He says, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”[9] In other words, Jesus welcomes the striking of the hour—the hour in which he is going to deal with the great predicament, the great issue, when the Father will be glorified.

Now, all of that by way of background. And in the course of all of that, in this moment, you will notice what it says: “Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him…” It’s not that it takes him by surprise. “Knowing all that would happen to him”—the fury, the spittle, the fists, the spikes, the sword, the agony of being separated from his Father—“Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward.” He “came forward.” He takes the initiative. “Are you looking for somebody?” he says. “Who are you looking for?” And they answered him, “We are looking for Jesus of Nazareth.”

And you will notice again: and Judas there is “standing with them.” You see here the majesty of Jesus. He is majestic in every way: no cowering, no running, no hiding, striding forward, “a second Adam to the fight”:

O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.[10]

Judas “was standing” there “with them.” The Judas “who betrayed him” was “standing” there “with them.”

You remember, actually, that in the Gospel of Luke, we’re told that Judas was so concerned to make sure that they got him that he said, “The one that I kiss will be the one you need to arrest.”[11] John doesn’t include that here. John is actually making clear the initiative of Jesus, the majestic nature of Jesus. Surely Jesus would have looked at Judas and said to him, “With a kiss? In our favorite garden? You would do this here?”

And, of course, in answering the question, he gives them this great divine disclosure: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am he.’” “I am he,” ego eimi in Greek, which is in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. This is exactly what happens, remember, when Moses says to God, “Who will I say sends me when I go to speak to Pharaoh on your behalf?” and God says, “Tell him that I am who I am. Tell him that I am sends you.”[12]

Now, Jesus had occasion to do this before. In a big conversation with Jewish people, he had actually said to them—when they had this big discussion about “If our father is Abraham” and so on—and Jesus had said to him, “I am.” And they understood it to betoken his divine nature, and as a result of that, they tried to stone him.[13]

So, Jesus in this encounter is disclosing his identity to those who desire to kill him, actually in much the same way that God disclosed his identity to Moses in the burning bush—to Moses, who desired to know him. In Exodus, he took his sandals off. Here, in this garden, they “fell to the ground”: “When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and [they] fell to the ground.”

I read some of the commentators that can’t… They don’t want to give any credence at all to the majesty and the divinity of Jesus, and so they spend a paragraph explaining that what happened was that the first of them just tripped on his way back, and having tripped, he knocked everybody else back, and they all fell on the ground. Well, surely this person has got no idea about the numinous, no idea about the majesty of Jesus. No. And so he asked them again, “Who do you seek?” And they said, “Well, we’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth.” Now, the presence of God is so amazing, isn’t it? Augustine says, “If this is the effect Jesus has on his enemies when he came to submit to judgment, what effect will he have on his enemies when he comes to execute judgment?”[14]

So, Jesus displays not only his majesty, but in the expression of his heart, he secures his disciples—so, the majesty of Jesus, and then the security of the disciples. Look at this: “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” In other words, the Shepherd is about to lay down his life for the sheep.[15] “Take me, and let them go. Kill me, and let them live.” In other words, it is a depiction of the reality of what Jesus has come to do: the atonement, redemption. He’s come to die in the sinner’s place.

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned he stood,
Sealed my pardon with his blood.[16]

That’s what this is all about. And that’s what’s happening as he moves to that end.

In fact, it’s wonderful to realize that his love for them is so great. Because they’re all about to run away and leave him—and he knows that. Eventually, he’s going to be there by himself. John has already told us that “before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”[17] “He loved them to the end.”

And “this [is] to fulfill,” says John, “the word that he had spoken: ‘Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.’” Remember, Jesus—it’s recorded for us—he says, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”[18] What a promise! “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all … he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”[19] What a commitment! “I have guarded them, and not one … has been lost except the son of destruction”[20]—namely, Judas.

The majesty of Jesus. The security, then, of his disciples. And finally, the futility of Peter’s intervention: “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it.” It’s true to form, isn’t it, from all that we’ve seen of him? He’s impulsive, he’s brave, but he’s disobedient. Remember, when Jesus explained what was going to happen to him when he went up to Jerusalem, it was Simon Peter who volunteered, saying, “Well, Jesus, I don’t know about anybody else”—this is a paraphrase—“I don’t know about anybody else, but if I have anything to do with this, that will never happen to you.”[21] “That will never happen to you.” In other words, “I’m not going to let anybody do that to you, Jesus”—which, in the one sense, is so wonderful. It’s devotion. And yet it’s an indication of the fact that he doesn’t grasp what’s going on at all. And Jesus on that occasion actually said to him, “Get behind me, Satan!”[22] Satan! Yeah!

Once again, here we are. Peter seeks to come in between Jesus and the will of the Father. Peter wants to suggest that there is an alternative method; there is another way in which this can be handled. We can call him brave. We can certainly call him clumsy. And there is no indication that he was particularly useful with this little sword that he kept with him. Presumably, he’s making a stab at the fellow’s head and manages just to clip his ear.

Incidentally, Malchus learns by immediate experience the power of Jesus. Luke, the doctor, is the one who says, “And in this moment Jesus restored his ear to him.”[23] So he’s doing two things simultaneously: “Put the sword away, Peter. And Malchus, let me help you here.”

You ever think about Malchus? He’s the last person healed by Jesus before the cross. When the people afterwards would have said, “What do you think about him? Do you think he’s alive? Do you think he’s the Savior? Do you think he’s the Messiah?” he would have said, “Well, I don’t know what I think about all of that, but I’ll tell you this: I do know that when that guy Peter chopped my ear off, he put it right back on. And you can see that it’s in perfect condition. Not this one; this one!” You know, when you invent things like this, you don’t include little details like “Which ear was it?” It was his right ear. That is eyewitness material.

“Put your sword away. Put your sword away. I could call twelve legions of angels, and we would just deal with this thing in an instant or two.”[24] In a moment or two, he’s going to be in the company of Pilate, and he’s going to reinforce this, isn’t he? He’s going to say to him, “Listen, if my kingdom were of this world, then my followers would fight. But my followers don’t fight.”[25] Calvin, commenting on Peter’s action, he says, “It was exceedingly thoughtless in Peter [trying] to prove his faith [with his] sword, while he could not do so by his tongue.” Be careful, he says: “Learn that our zeal will turn out badly whenever we dare to undertake anything beyond God’s Word.”[26]

And a final word to Jesus: “Put your sword [in] its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” The cup: a symbol of the judgment of God. It is the cup of the wrath of God. It is the cup that the sinner deserves to drink. It is the cup that the Savior drinks in the place of the sinner. He drinks the cup of wrath in order that we, in him, might drink the cup of blessing.

You see, my friends, this is not an external exercise in simple remembrance. This is actually a laying hold of God via these simple elements according to his desire for us to do so that we might then realize, “Because of who you are, because of what you’ve done, because you are the majestic Lord of glory, come down into my mess in order to forgive me and make me new. I am secure in you, no matter what goes on around me. I don’t need to take the matters into my own hands. I don’t need to go and fight these battles, because my confidence is in you—that you have drunk that cup.”

We’re not going to sing this now, but we often do:

The mystery of the cross I cannot comprehend,
The agonies of Calvary;
You, the perfect Holy One, crushed your Son,
Who drank the bitter cup reserved for me.

Your blood has washed away my sin;
Jesus, thank you.
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied;
Jesus, thank you.
Once your enemy, now seated at your table;
Jesus, thank you.[27]

This is not something we do in order to endear ourselves to Christ. This is not something we do in order to try and put ourselves right with Christ. This is something that we do in obedience to Christ and in the awareness of the fact that he is the very one for us he came to be: Savior, Lord, and King.

[1] John 2:4 (paraphrased).

[2] See Isaiah 63:3.

[3] John 12:27 (ESV).

[4] John 12:31 (ESV).

[5] See John 12:6.

[6] See John 13:2.

[7] See Luke 22:3.

[8] Matthew 26:23; John 13:26 (paraphrased).

[9] John 13:27 (ESV).

[10] John Henry Newman, “Praise to the Holiest in the Height” (1865).

[11] Luke 22:48 (paraphrased). See also Matthew 26:48; Mark 14:44.

[12] Exodus 3:13–14 (paraphrased).

[13] See John 8:58–59.

[14] Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of John 112.3. Paraphrased.

[15] See John 10:11.

[16] Philip Paul Bliss, “‘Man of Sorrows,’ What a Name” (1875).

[17] John 13:1(ESV).

[18] John 6:37 (ESV).

[19] John 6:39 (ESV).

[20] John 17:12 (ESV).

[21] Matthew 16:22 (paraphrased).

[22] Matthew 16:23 (ESV).

[23] Luke 22:51 (paraphrased).

[24] Matthew 26:52–53 (paraphrased).

[25] John 18:36 (paraphrased).

[26] John Calvin, quoted in Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 745n17.

[27] Pat Sczebel, “Jesus, Thank You” (2003).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.