Prayer for Relief (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1)
As Jesus and his disciples approached Gethsemane, Jesus asked most of the disciples to wait while he proceeded further into the garden with Peter, James, and John. The name Gethsemane means “oil press.” Seeing that it was located on the Mount of Olives, this area was probably once used for the growing and processing of olives. Luke mentions that Jesus commonly came here (Luke 21:37; John 18:2).
Once alone with his closest disciples, Jesus revealed the anguish he was feeling. The wording is that he sorrowed to point of nearly being overwhelmed with grief. It crushed him nearly to death (Psalm 116:3). He asked the three to watch over him while he prayed and told them to pray in the meantime that they would not be tempted. Going a bit further, about a stones throw, he fell on his face and prayed that this tribulation might be taken away, but knowing it could not, he submitted himself to God’s will. It is a prayer that Jesus mentioned before (John 12:27; Hebrews 5:6-8). Jesus knew that God could accomplish anything, including removing the need for his death. His reference to this “cup” is alluding to cup of God’s wrath (Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17). He is answered by God and an angel was sent to strengthen him. His trial was not removed, but he was given the encouragement necessary to face the trial that was upon him.
Though the prayer recorded is short, when Jesus returned to the disciples, he scolded them, Peter in particular, for not being able to watch for one hour. Luke mentions that their sorrow had worn them out and made them sleepy. Waking them, Jesus told them to watch and pray that they aren’t led into temptation. He understands they want to be obedient, but their bodies are not as strong as their will. Peter was probably the focus for this rebuke because of his earlier claim that he would never forsake the Lord (Mark 14:29). The warning is that if he could not resist the temptation to sleep now, how will he stand in the time of real trial.
Jesus returns to pray in greater earnestness. Luke mentions he began to sweat and drops fell like blood to the ground. And when he returned, he found the disciples asleep again, for Matthew mentions they were unable to keep their eyes open. Again he awakens them and they had no excuse to offer for their laxness.
For a third time, Jesus returns to pray. On his third return he awakens them again with a warning. While they were sleeping, the enemy had not. The time for betrayal had come and it was time to meet the betrayer.
Jesus Arrested (Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-12)
Even as he warned them, Judas came up to them leading a mob composed of Roman soldiers, temple guards, chief priests, and elders carrying swords and clubs. Judas had told them that whomever he kissed would be the one they should grab. Remember this is in the dark of the night, well after midnight, likely close to 3 am, so Jesus would not be easily recognized even with the torches and lanterns they were carrying.
Judas knew where to find Jesus at this hour because Jesus was in the habit of spending the night in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 21:37; 22:39).
Approaching Jesus, Judas called out, “Hail Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus scolds him for using a kiss, a greeting of love, as a means of betraying him, but then tells him to do what he came to do.
Turning to the mob with Judas besides him, Jesus asked who they were seeking. When they answered, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Jesus responded, “I am.” Most translations change this to “I am he,” but the word “he” is not in the original text. “I am” is the name of God and it explains the crowds strange response. When Jesus stated he is “I am” they all fell before him. Literally, every knee bowed at the name of Jesus (Philippians 2:10). The power Jesus displayed over even his enemies proved who was actually in charge of this situation.
Jesus again asked who they were seeking and they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Again he stated that he was “I am.” He then told the mob to let the disciples go. This was to keep the prophecy that no disciple given to him would be lost.
The three disciples asked Jesus if they should strike in defense. Peter, however, didn’t wait for an answer but took the sword that he had – one of the two mentioned earlier – and managed to cut off the right ear of the High Priest’s slave, Malchus. Jesus scolded him and told him to put away his sword. Peter’s attack was imprudent. He was just one man against an armed mob. Trying to solve this problem with violence would only lead to his death. Besides, Jesus reminded him, that if Jesus wasn’t willing to be arrested he could call upon a greater defense. He could ask the Father and receive more than twelve legions of angels. In the Roman world, a legion consisted of 6,000 men. Jesus is stating that at a moments notice he could have more than 72,000 angels available to defend him. The number alone would overwhelm the number who came to arrest him. That they were angels and not mere men just emphasized the point. Power was on Jesus’ side, but he is choosing not to use it. He already had proven this when the mere mention of his name caused all to fall before him. If he did prevent the arrest, how could the prophecies be fulfilled? This is what the Father wanted done.
Addressing his captures, Jesus asked them to release him for a moment. He then touched Malchus’ ear and restored it.
Jesus then turned to the mob and asked why they came with weapons to arrest him as if he was a brigand or robber. He was in the temple every day teaching and they didn’t bother arresting him then. There was no need for this dramatics. But it was their moment and Satan’s moment, so he was permitting it.
Seeing their Lord arrested, all the disciples fled for safety. Mark alone mentions that a young man, probably awakened from sleep by the mob, had thrown a linen sheet around him and attempted to follow, but the Roman soldiers grabbed him. They are called young men here because it was young men who made up the Roman army. In order to escape he had to leave the sheet behind and fled naked from the crowd. Since only Mark mentions this detail and knowing that Mark’s mother lived in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12, 25), many suppose that the young man was John Mark, but he doesn’t name himself as is typical in the Gospels. However, this is completely speculation on everyone’s account. The purpose of mentioning it, though, emphasizes why the disciples fled. The mob wasn’t just after Jesus. They were trying to bring anyone associated with him along as well.