Jesus Is Arrested
Topic: English Passage: John 18:1-14
When I first started working at Marie Callender’s, I was a cashier. And as a cashier, my job was dependent on my knowledge of the menu, my ability to use the computer, my integrity with the money, and my interactions with the customers.
But there was one part of my training that didn’t have anything to do with that. I, along with every other cashier, had to be trained in what to do if we were robbed.
I remember being told: do whatever they say. Don’t worry about the money. That can be replaced. Your life cannot.
Even if you don’t see a weapon, if they say they have one, and they’re asking for the money, just do what they say.
And along those lines, we were all told: “Don’t be a hero.” Don’t be a hero. It doesn’t matter how many Westerns you’ve seen, or how many episodes of MacGyver, don’t be the hero. Just do what they say.
As far as I can remember, I was never involved in a robbery, but one young girl was robbed during on of the days I was off.
And it was very traumatic. She didn’t come back to work for a while. I’m not sure if there’s any way to be completely prepared for the first time someone threatens you with a gun.
I’m not going to ask you to raise your hands, but with this many people in the room, I’m sure we’ve got at least a handful of you who’ve had a gun pointed at you, whether it was some kind of robber, or maybe even a police officer.
I know one man in our church who was in a different country at the time, and the authorities had him lie down on the ground while they pointed a machine gun at his head.
And whether you’re the good guy or the bad guy in the story, whether that kind of action is warranted, there’s really no way to prepare for that kind of thing.
I remember being put against a wall and patted down by an officer. That’s an adrenaline rush. And I know for a fact that I am not the only person in this church who has had an incident like that with an officer, whether it was warranted or not.
I say all this to set the scene for the passage of Scripture that we’re going to be looking at today. We are going to be in John chapter 18, and this is the account of Jesus’ arrest. Go ahead and turn there with me. And besides just reading about what happened, I want you to think about the emotions of that night in everyone involved.
I would imagine that typically, if someone gets arrested, particularly someone the authorities are already looking for, nobody is indifferent. There are plenty of emotions on both sides. We can certainly say that’s the case in Jesus’ arrest.
Let’s read it first, and then we’ll look at it a little more close. John 18:1-14
On the night Jesus was arrested, He spent an extended time with His disciples in an upper room. They were observing the Passover, and Jesus used that time to institute the Lord’s Supper. That was also the night Jesus washed their feet.
Then, Jesus gave His disciples an extended teaching, preparing them for the next phase of their life. You can read about that in chapters 14-16. And in chapter 17, Jesus prays for them out loud. And when that prayer is over, Jesus and the disciples move along, and they leave Jerusalem.
Verse 1 tells us where they went—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.
Jerusalem is situated on a hill, and if you head out of Jerusalem to the east, down the side of the hill, you enter into what’s called the Kidron Valley. That’s basically the eastern edge of the city, and during some times of the year there would be a stream flowing.
On the other side of the Kidron Valley you have another hill which is known as the Mount of Olives, which was filled with olive orchards. So, Jesus leads His disciples down one hill and up another, and they enter into a garden.
The Bible says they entered the garden, so it’s possible that this particular garden was enclosed with a wall. And Matthew and Mark tell us that the garden was called Gethsemane, which means “oil press.” This is a place the disciples had been to before.
And while they’re there, Jesus emphasizes to His disciples that He would be put to death. More famously, He spends time praying in agony because of what’s about to happen.
John, though, doesn’t mention any of that. He fast forwards to the part when Judas shows up. This is what he want us to focus on.
Remember, Jesus’ enemies don’t want to arrest Him publicly, because the crowd is enamored with Him. And until this point, they haven’t been able to do anything. But now, they have someone on the inside. They have Judas.
Verse 2—Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples.
So here comes Judas. And I want you to try to picture this scene. Verse 3—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.
This is an incredible scene. Judas, because he’s the snitch, has been given authority over a band of soldiers. The word here could be used informally for a group of soldiers, but it could also be talking about a cohort, which could be anywhere from 200 to 1,000 soldiers.
Maybe that sounds like a lot of soldiers, but it would have been very possible because the Romans were serious about keeping the peace, and they had a high number of soldiers present during the Passover festival, because the city was packed with people from all over the empire.
So Judas comes in with a troop of Roman soldiers, and he’s also got with him the Jewish authorities who protected the Temple.
And keep in mind, it’s dark already, and there are no street lights. That’s why the people have lanterns and torches. They want to make sure they can find Jesus.
But they’ve also got weapons—like swords, daggers, and clubs. This is a very intimidating scene. It’s a mob, looking for Jesus.
And Matthew and Mark tell us that Judas identifies Jesus with a kiss.
So the band of soldiers is there. They’re equipped with lights. They’re armed. And they know who Jesus is. There’s no escaping this time.
How do you think the disciples are feeling right now? They were completely blindsided by all this. Every time Jesus talked about Him being captured and put to death, they didn’t get it. And every time the Jews tried to detain Jesus, he escaped them. But this time, things don’t look good.
From their perspective, this is the darkest night of their lives. At first, maybe it was some kind of confusion. “What’s going on? What’s happening?” Remember, they were sleepy.
But very quickly you get panic, and you get a rush of adrenaline. The authorities are here, and they’re here for us. That’s a terrible feeling.
But set against whatever the disciples might be feeling, we have our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not simply the story of a man being detained and arrested. This is the outworking of God’s eternal and perfect plan.
And despite the fear and the tragedy of this evening, John wants to reminds us that something bigger is happening. This is not some ordinary guy. This is Jesus, the Son of God.
How is Jesus going to respond to what’s happening? How does this night give us a better glimpse into the character of Jesus?
I want to draw our attention to three qualities of Jesus that this story highlights for us. And even in the darkest times of life, these three qualities are a reminder to trust and rest in Jesus Christ. I’ll give you the qualities and upfront, and then we’ll look at them in the story.
Even in the most distressing times of your life, you can find peace by remembering Jesus’ perfect knowledge, Jesus’ heavenly power, and Jesus’ faithful protection. Those are the qualities: His perfect knowledge, His heavenly power, and His faithful protection.
Let’s look at the first one—Jesus’ perfect knowledge. And we see it in the opening of verse 4—Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward
This is not some guy with no clue what’s going on. Jesus knows exactly what’s happening, not just circumstantially, but into the hearts of every single person there. And beyond that, He knows exactly what’s happening in God’s eternal plan. He what’s coming, both the suffering and the glory.
Whenever you think or talk about Jesus’ crucifixion, you have to remember this: Jesus was not a victim. Jesus was not an unwilling participant.
The gospel of John repeatedly emphasizes that Jesus was sent by the Father. But we’re also told that He came by His own will, because His will and the Father’s will are perfectly aligned. They are one. That’s why Jesus could say: “I have come to do the will of Him who sent me… Not my will, but Yours be done.”
Back in chapter 10, Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep… 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 is Jesus’ approach to all this. It’s not happening to Him. He has already orchestrated that it would all happen. The innocent One is going to take the judgment of God for sinners.
And know He’s seeing it through to the end, for the glory of the Father, and the salvation of His sheep. He is the bridegroom laying down His life for the bride.
So, when the hour comes for His arrest, and eventually His death, He is not surprised… He’s not surprised. He knows what it’s going to cost Him, and He knows the reward that awaits Him. For the joy set before Him, He will endure the cross and all that comes with it.
So, being fully aware of what was happening, John 18:4 tells us, “He came forward.” He steps out from among His group.
And though, this this is a very somber moment, John reminds us that it’s not a moment marked by weakness. It’s a moment characterized by power, which brings us to the second attribute for today, quality number 2. John pointed out for us Jesus’ perfect knowledge, and now we’re going to see Jesus’ heavenly power.
Jesus approaches this entire time with the authority of heaven. Let’s look at the end of verse 4—[Jesus] came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”
He obviously knows what the answer is, but He’s taking command of the situation. “Whom do you seek? Tell me why you’re here?”
Verse 5—They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Keep in mind, Jesus was not an uncommon name. And there were no last names. So He’s known as Jesus of Nazareth. That’s where He grew up.
And this is Jesus’ response, end of verse 5—Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.
Judas picked his side. We can see that. And he’s chosen to stand against Jesus.
The response of Jesus is so significant from John’s standpoint. The word “he” has to be added so that it makes more sense in English. But the literal translation is just “I am.” And John’s Jewish audience would immediately be struck by that statement.
John has given us repeated statements in his gospel using that phrase “I am.” “I am the bread of life… I am the light of the world... I am the door of the sheep... I am the Good Shepherd... I am the resurrection and the life... I am the way, the truth, and the life... I am the true vine.”
And apart from just being used for those metaphors that express Jesus’ role in the world, the expression “I am” is used to point to His deity, because that was the name God used back in Exodus when Moses asks for His name. “I am who I am.” I am Jehovah, or I am Yahweh. I am. That points to God’s self-existence and holiness and eternal nature and faithfulness. He has always been who He is.
This phrase is what enraged the Jewish authorities against Jesus. Back in chapter 8, they asked Him, “Are you greater than Abraham and the prophets?” And what did Jesus say? “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” And the took up stones to kill Him.
John is reminding us once again, this is not just some rabbi being arrested. This is Almighty God in human flesh.
Typically, when someone is unarmed and the authorities show up with weapons, they’re scared. But not Jesus. He’s in charge here. He the one with the authority. And verse 6 drives it home even more—When he said to them, “I am,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
This is one of those details that none of the other gospels record, but I’m sure John was eager to put it in, because it demonstrates the glory of His Lord.
This is Jesus—the One before whom demons shudder, the One before who every knee will bow.
And so Jesus, rather than hiding in the shadows or recoiling in fear, steps forward with power and authority, and He says, “I am.”
This may have been some kind of divine pulse that sent the Roman soldiers to the ground. Or, as some have suggested it could have been the fact that He stepped forward from the group so authoritatively. When a known fugitive comes forward so forcefully, they’re caught off guard, and they fall over as they try to take some steps backward. And that ends up knocking over the guys behind them too.
Whatever it is that happened, John uses it to point us again to the heavenly power of Jesus. The power and authority of Jesus humiliates these soldiers.
And as they’re making their way back to their feet, you can imagine, these soldiers, if they’re not terrified, they’re infuriated.
Verse 7—So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Why is He asking them that question? It’s because He wants to make sure the soldiers recognize that they are only there for one man. They’re only there for Jesus. Nobody else.
And this brings us to the third attribute, which is Jesus’ faithful protection. This is attribute number 3—Jesus’ faithful protection. Jesus wants to make sure no one else gets taken, except for Him. He’s making sure His disciples stay protected.
Look at verse 8—Jesus answered, “I told you that I am [he]. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” And John adds verse 9—This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.”
Jesus is the faithful protector. In keeping with His promises, and in keeping with the will of the Father, He guards His own.
Now, in the immediate sense, Jesus is protecting His disciples from being arrested or detained, and possibly even killed. So it’s a physical protection. But Jesus’ protection extends further than that.
John explains that Jesus’ protection is a fulfillment of something the Lord had said earlier. And that goes back to His prayer in chapter 17, specifically verse 12. That’s what John is quoting.
Jesus, in fulfilling God’s plan, protected the disciples. “He loved them to the end” is the way chapter 13 puts it. The protection of Jesus was not just a physical protection, but a spiritual one.
Back in chapter 10, Jesus said: “No one will snatch them out of my hand… No one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
In chapter 6, He said: “This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”
Those who truly belong to Jesus Christ cannot be taken. They cannot lose the salvation He has given them.
And I think the best way to understand what’s happening here is that Jesus is protecting the disciples both physically and spiritually. They weren’t ready for this kind of trial. Their faith was so weak and undeveloped. And we’re going to see that next week with Peter’s denial.
If they were to be arrested with Jesus, they may have failed catastrophically. These young men may have been debilitated by their failure and their subsequent guilt.
They’re going to face the pain and the shame of abandoning Jesus, their Master. We know that will happen. But Jesus will not allow them to enter into some kind of test they’re not ready for.
Isn’t that exactly what the Bible tells us. A lot of you know the verse. First Corinthians 10:13—“He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability.”
Jesus uses His authority and His power to protect those who belong to Him.
What would you and I be worried about if we were being arrested unjustly? Maybe you’d be asking what the charges are. Maybe you’d We’d be interested in what your rights are. That’s what we’d care about.
But here’s what Jesus cares about—taking care of His disciples. He ensures they are protected. Again, He never stops caring about those around Him, particularly those whom the Father has given Him. This is the heart of Jesus.
And as sad as this evening was for the disciples, John looks back on it and he recounts the loving, faithful protection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And before we move on in the story, I want us to pause here for a moment. Because as we focus on who Jesus is, and as we see His response to the crisis of that night, there’s a lesson here for us, in whatever crisis we might be facing.
Maybe it’s a physical crisis—some kind of illness, some kind of emergency or accident. Maybe it’s a financial crisis or a relational crisis, whatever will happen to us in this fallen world, we need to be intentional about where our mind goes the moment we enter into it.
We are to stop and look to Jesus. Not in some kind of ambiguous “look to Jesus” way. But in a concrete, substantive way. We need clear biblical truths to hold us up and to help us cling to Christ.
We need to turn our attention to the perfect knowledge of Jesus, the heavenly power of Jesus, and the faithful protection of Jesus. Maybe that sounds too simplistic, but when go really bad really quickly, you need something simple.
When you’re suffering, whenever you’re in even the worst of circumstances, remember Jesus has perfect knowledge of everything. He knows what’s going on. He knows your thoughts and your fears. And He knows where it’s all headed. This wasn’t a surprise to Him.
Secondly, remember Jesus’ heavenly power. Jesus Christ has the power to do whatever He wants. That’s one of the passages the kids will be studying this week: Psalm 115—Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
On the night He was arrested, Jesus said he could have called for twelve legions of angels if he wanted to. He has all power available to him.
So if Christ knows you’re suffering, and if He has the power to fix it, why doesn’t He do it? That’s the major question, isn’t it? Why won’t Jesus remove my suffering?
Well, we know in a broad sense that suffering is part of God’s plan, right? Suffering is what saved us from our sin, isn’t it? That’s why Jesus went to the cross.
Suffering is also what advances Christ’s gospel. Paul says that to the Colossians at the end of chapter 1. In his sufferings, he was filling up what was lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
That means Paul’s suffering allowed the Colossians to have a first-hand example of Christ suffering for them. It actually strengthened Paul’s ministry. It made him more effective as a messenger. And that’s what he wanted.
Suffering also kept Paul humble. He says that in 2 Corinthians 12. The thorn in the flesh kept him from becoming conceited. In other words, it helped conform him more and more to the image of Christ.
Those are the kinds of things that suffering can accomplish. And though suffering is never enjoyable, if we rest in the wisdom and power of God, we can also rejoice that He’s using it for His purposes and our good.
The trials produce steadfastness. The trials mature us. At least, they can if we approach them with the right attitude. If you approach a trial with the wrong attitude, it’ll lead to bitterness and resentment. But with the right heart, it will draw you close to the heart of Jesus Christ. It will show you better what God is like.
That’s exactly what Job said at the end of his ordeal. Job 42:5—Now my eye sees you. Now my eye sees you.
And approach a crisis with the right spirit means resting in God’s promise to protect us. Jesus is faithful to protect us. Does that mean nothing bad will ever happen to us? Of course not.
It means, number one that nothing can happen to you outside of the sovereignty of Jesus. And it means that nothing can ever happen to you that you are not prepared for. He will protect your soul.
Maybe you’ve had thoughts about some perceived future crisis. That’s not always helpful. It can lead to worry. But maybe you’ve had this thought: “Am I going to be able to make it? Will my faith make it through? What if I get a terminal disease? What if my wife dies, or one of my kids? What if my husband walks away from the faith? What if my life is threatened because of my faith? Will I make it through?”
The proper answer is not: “Of course, I will. My faith is strong.” The right answer is: “God is faithful. God will protect me. And even in the worst of circumstances, He will uphold my faith. He can empower me to remain faithful to Christ.”
You see, our confidence is not in ourselves, it’s not in some kind of statistic, it’s in the faithful protection of Jesus Christ, who will preserve us to the end.
The suffering in this life is not worthy to be compared to the glory of the life to come. We need that eternal perspective. Jesus has guaranteed our reward.
So, in His perfect knowledge, and in His heavenly power, He watches over us, physically and spiritually. He faithfully protects us.
And when we forget that, what happens? We start going through things in our own strength, rather than relying on the wisdom and the power of God.
And we get an immediate example of that in verse 10—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.)
Peter is not a soldier. And cutting of someone’s ear is a pretty precise cut to make. So he was probably going for the head. Peter was going to start fighting his way out of there. He was ready to fight.
And isn’t that exactly what you and I do sometimes in a crisis. We ignore the teachings of Jesus and we fight in our own strength.
You start to have some kind of medical symptoms, so what do you do? You call the doctor. You make an appointment. Or even worse, you start Googling all your symptoms. None of that is bad. We need to be good stewards of our bodies. But our first reaction should be to go to Jesus.
“Lord, you know exactly what’s happening, and You have the power to fix this. Help me to trust in You, no matter what happens. I pray you heal this, if it’s your will. I pray you give the doctor’s wisdom. I pray you give me the discipline to do what I need to do. But if in Your will, I am going to suffer with this for some time, I pray you will uphold me with a hear that is gentle and loving and confident in Your goodness. Help me to combat bitterness and resentment.”
Pray something like that, and then call the doctor. Or if it’s a relational issue or a financial issue, same idea. Look to Jesus. Don’t run into this thing in your own strength.
If you’re facing a crisis right now, whatever it is, ask the Lord: “Are you telling me the same thing you told Peter?”
Verse 11—Peter, put your sword back in the sheath. Peter, stop fighting in your own power.
Jesus asks Peter a question: “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
That’s talking about the cup of wrath, the cup of divine judgment. It’s an Old Testament metaphor.
Jesus is reminded him, “Peter, what I’m about suffer is part of God’s plan. I’m not responding to the Romans. I’m not responding to the Jews. I’m not suffering at their hands. This is a cup the Father has given me. How am I going to walk away from that?”
And the other gospels tell us that Jesus healed the man’s ear, and He reminded the disciples one more time that all of this was part of what God had already revealed would take place. This is God’s plan.
So, verse 12 says He was arrested and bound. And they took him to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of the High Priest. He was a former High Priest, and still had a lot of authority.
But again, John reminds us one more time: This is all part of God’s plan. That’s verse 14. One man is going to die for the people. That’s where this is going. That’s where this has to go, for the glory of God, and the salvation of His people.