John 18 - The Corruption of a Sacred Place
The betrayal and arrest of Jesus in the intimate setting of the Garden of Gethsemane is a painful scene. This is the garden where Jesus frequently discipled the disciples – they had long talks, cookouts over open fires, and likely frequent discussions about the Old Testament. So an intimate, safe place becomes the place of betrayal and denial. How twisted. Sin does that. It perverts the good, intimate and safe into evil, fearful and dangerous. Thankfully Jesus followed through in his plan to conquer sin, death and darkness.
The Jews still think of the coming Messiah as a military general who will conquer Rome and reinstate Israel’s political autonomy. Jesus has been telling them he is the Messiah, that his Father has given him a different agenda than their expected Shock and Awe campaign.
So when the soldiers and the Chief Priests and the Pharisees come to the garden to arrest Jesus – it’s quite clear they are expecting resistance. When they show up, he simply asks “Whom do you seek?” (18:4). They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth” and Jesus responds, “I am he.” They fall back in amazement that all this trouble, all these armed men, all this fear is over this one nonthreatening guy in the garden. He repeats “I am he”, after they recover from the shock that this very dangerous man who threatened the entire religious system in Jerusalem and Israel so simply said, “Yup, that’s me. Here I am.” No fight, no battle from his followers. Just, “I am he.” This voluntary yielding fits with what Jesus has been teaching his disciples about the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
It also fits Isaiah 53:7,
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
Then they arrested Jesus and bound him and hauled him off to an illegal, night trial.
Peter then matches Jesus twofold statement of his identity with a triple denial:
Servant girl at the door - “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you? He said, I am not” (18:17).
People by the fire - “You also are not one of his disciples are you? He denied it and said, I am not” (18:25).
The relative of Malchus, the soldier whose ear Peter had lopped off, “Did I not see you in the garden with him? Peter again denied it” (18:27).
Jesus, when questioned by Pilate, said “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth” (18:37).
Jesus came into the world as a baby. He grew up in Nazareth and spent a lot of time in Jerusalem and in the garden of Gethsemane with his disciples.
That intimate garden has now become a monument of betrayal.
The fire by which Peter warmed himself has become a sensory icon, a reminder, of his own failures.
How will Jesus redeem his disciples? That’s coming up in a few chapters.
Enjoy Walking with the Savior Today,