John 18:1, NIV
1 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and
crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive
grove, and he and his disciples went into it.


February 3, 2012
A time of prayer completed, the small band of "brothers" staying close
to each other, crossed a valley and entered a familiar olive tree garden.
That's the setting. The beginning of the end of John's gospel. According
to John, Jesus knew what was about to happen. The disciples didn't
know but must have been feeling the tension in the air. Jesus had
already told them he was about to leave them for awhile. It was a
vague reference, carrying with it a sense of doom. Judas was
no longer among them; they didn't know why. 


                                               John 18:2-3, NIV
2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus
had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas came to the
grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from
the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches,
lanterns and weapons.

February 4, 2012
When you know someone well enough, you know their habits. Judas 
correctly determined Jesus would head for this particular olive grove
after the Passover meal. So that's where he brought those who
wanted to arrest Jesus. On this night Judas was outside the little
band of disciples. He had often been with them, on the inside
looking out.

Judas, who was accustomed to following, must have felt very important
at this moment. He was leading a detachment of soldiers and other
officials. It was dark, well into the night. Torches and lanterns cast
eerie shadows. Weapons made those with Judas feel strong. They
were a source of fear for the disciples.

Roman soldiers on a single mission with religious officials from the
chief priest and the Pharisees--that was a strange mix but we see
them acting together throughout the next chapters. They did not
often join forces in a united cause. The events of this night will be
very unique.


                                               John 18:4-6, NIV
4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out
and asked them, "Who is it you want?" 5 "Jesus of Nazareth,"
they replied. "I am he," Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was
standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, "I am he," they
drew back and fell to the ground.

February 5, 2012
Jesus stepped forward to meet them. He was showing his strength.
On the offensive. John wants us to be sure to notice that no one forced
Jesus to do anything. No earthly person had authority over Jesus.

John also points out that Jesus had a very powerful effect on these
Roman soldiers, rather than the other way around as they had intended
it. Oddly, the one with no weapon caused the ones with weapons to
fall to the ground!

Why were these soldiers so shocked by the words of Jesus. Were
they expecting a fight? Had they never encountered a suspect who
did not resist or try to run away? Or did the commanding presence
of Jesus frighten them? For these veterans, this was going to be a
mission like no other.


                                               John 18:7-9, NIV
7 Again he asked them, "Who is it you want?" And they said,
"Jesus of Nazareth." 8 "I told you that I am he," Jesus answered.
"If you are looking for me, then let these men go." 9 This
happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled:
"I have not lost one of those you gave me."

February 6, 2012

Jesus' concern was not for himself but for his disciples. What he aimed
to accomplish in the next 24 hours was to complete the work God sent
him to do, and he must do it alone.

For these soldiers, the element of surprise has been lost. They meant
to make quick work of their task. Grab their prisoner and deliver him to
headquarters. But Jesus turned the tables on them. Jesus wasn't
surprised. He seemed to be expecting them. It was the soldiers who
were surprised. They were not the ones giving the orders. Jesus was.
Apparently they obeyed him and allowed the disciples to go their way.


                                             John 18:10-11, NIV
10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the
high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear."  Put your sword
away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"

February 7, 2012
Peter was not content to just let things play out. He decided to defend
his Master. Brave Peter. He had a sword with him! And decided to start
swinging. Malchus was lucky he didn't lose his head.

Why Peter happened to be carrying a sword that night is not clear.
I don't think any of the disciples normally carried any weapons. At least
it is never recorded that they did until this night. Luke 22:35-38 might
give a clue, if taken literally. Which raises the issue of whether Jesus
would ever have used a sword? Why would he tell his disciples to do
something he would not do himself?

Jesus accomplished much more by dying on the cross than he would
have accomplished by using a sword. Had he struck out in his own
defense, chances are we never would have heard about him.

"Drinking the cup" given to him by the One who sent him. That's a
phrase used in the other Gospels also, as in the prayer Jesus prayed
in the Garden of Gethsemane. "Father, let this cup pass from me . . . .
Nevertheless not my will, but yours be done." The image of "the cup" in
Scripture is used in reference to suffering. The cup is something you
undergo, endure, experience. Not just a teaspoon, but a whole cup.

The gospel writer, Luke, records that Jesus restored the ear to the
soldier whom Peter attacked. That may have been the last miracle
performed by Jesus. At least the last recorded one. If these soldiers
were thinking about what they were doing, they might have wondered
about the wisdom and integrity of wanting to arrest a miracle worker.
If they had never seen Jesus perform a miracle before, they saw
one this night.

The time for sweetness is over; now comes the bitter cup.

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