When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” Jesus of Nazareth,” they said. Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.
After Jesus had served His disciples communion, He walked to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. John 18:2 tells us that it was common for Jesus and His disciples to pray there, so Judas knew exactly where to find Him. Verse 3 records that there was a “detachment of soldiers” in the Garden to arrest Jesus. The Greek word for “detachment” is “spĕira”. This is the word that describes a Roman military cohort, mass of men or band of men, equaling a group of around 300-600 well-trained soldiers. There were also highly trained temple guards who worked for the chief priests and Pharisees alongside the Roman military to capture Jesus.
Can you picture this hillside garden where Jesus was praying literally covered with soldiers, officers and guards to arrest the Son of God? Why did they send so many armed men to arrest one? Were they fearful that He might use His extraordinary powers to do something? Notice that the men were carrying lanterns and torches. The word “lantern” comes from the Greek word “lampas”. The word refers to a bright, shining light that was bright enough to light up a room. The torches were oil-based with a long wick that could burn all night. They were ready for a night of hunting Jesus down. The soldiers were also equipped with weaponry. The Greek word here is “hoplos.” This depicts the full soldier attire from helmet to breastplate and swords. Verse 4 reads, “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him…”
Jesus knew in painstaking detail the events that were to follow soon after His arrest and after He was betrayed by one of His very own. He knew He was about to undergo several trials where all of the witnesses against Him would lie. He knew that many who had been waving palm branches and praising Him as the king of Israel and the one who saves, only days earlier (John 12:12-13), would now be screaming for His crucifixion. He knew He would be flogged with metal spikes to His flesh. He knew the prophetic words of Isaiah, spoken seven centuries earlier, that He would be beaten so badly that He would be “disfigured beyond that of any man” and “beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14). He knew He would go through the most excruciating death possible, that of crucifixion. How do you think He was feeling knowing all of this?
In Luke’s gospel, he describes Jesus’ time of praying just prior to His arrest in Luke 22:44, “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” This phenomenon of sweating blood is known as hematohidrosis. It is a rare, but very real, medical condition in which capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture, causing them to exude blood, occurring under conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress. Certainly, Jesus knowing what was to come factored into His great emotional anguish and sorrow causing Him to sweat drops of blood. Pause for a moment and reflect on what Jesus was going through during this night of terror. Jesus could have done anything. He could have sent an army of angels to wipe out the men that were about to arrest Him or with a single command make them fall to their death. Jesus kept about His mission to instead go to the cross because of His tremendous love for us. He knew that the only way for us to be in a right relationship with His Heavenly Father was to die for our sins. He went willingly with the band of men. He stayed calm. When they said they were looking for Jesus. He replied, “I Am he.” When Jesus utters the divine name (“I AM,” v. 5), the band of men fall prostrate because of the power of His name.
He knew He would go through the most excruciating death possible, that of crucifixion. How do you think He was feeling knowing all of this?
Spend time being silent. Embrace Jesus’ night of terror. The moments when Jesus was filled with anguish while praying and sweating blood and then the band of armed men hunting Him down, surrounding Him and arresting Him. Imagine how Jesus felt knowing what was next, and His disciples struck with fear not understanding. Thank Jesus for going through this step towards the cross for you. Throughout your day, say breath prayers to help you focus on Jesus. These simple, easily repeated prayers can slowly empty out the crowded interior of our lives and create the quiet space where we can be in touch with God. Maybe you can write some down on your device or sticky notes to meditate on through the day. Here are some breath prayer examples: “Thank you, Jesus.” “Lord, have mercy on me.” “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” “Not my will, but yours.” “My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” “Here I am, Jesus.” “When I am afraid, I will trust you.” “I love you, Jesus.” “You died, so I can live.”