Jesus’s arrest, and his abuse begins.

by K.W. Leslie, 29 March 2021

Mark 14.45-52, Matthew 26.50-56, Luke 22.49-54, John 18.4-12.

The second station, in John Paul’s list of stations of the cross, is where Judas betrayed Jesus and Jesus was arrested. Same station for both. But different forms of suffering: Judas was about when your friends or confidants turn on you, and the rest was about the pain and dread people feel when their enemies have ’em right where they want ’em.

Let’s go to the gospels.

Mark 14.45-52 KWL
45 Immediately going to Jesus,
Judas tells him, “Rabbi!” and kisses him hello.
46 So the mob grabs and arrests him.
47 One of the bystanders, pulling out a machete,
strikes the head priest’s slave, and cuts his ear off.
48 In reply, Jesus tells them, “You come out with machetes and sticks
to snatch me away, like I’m an insurgent.
49 Daytime, I was with you in the temple, teaching.
You didn’t arrest me then.
But this—it’ll fulfill the scriptures.”
50 Abandoning Jesus, everyone flees.
51 There was some teenager following him who was naked, wearing a toga.
They seize him,
52 but he abandons his toga and flees naked.
Matthew 26.50-56 KWL
50 Jesus tells Judas, “Brother, why have you come?”
Then the approaching mob throws their hands on Jesus
and seizes him.
51 Look, one of those with Jesus stretches out his hand,
draws his machete,
and striking the head priest’s slave,
cuts off his ear.
52 Then Jesus tells him, “Put your machete back in its place!
For everyone who chooses arms
will be destroyed by arms.
53 Or do you think I can’t call out to my Father,
and he will give me, right now,
more than 12 legions of angels?
54 But then how might the scriptures be fulfilled?
So this has to happen.”
55 At this time, Jesus tells the crowd, “You come out
with machetes and sticks to snatch me away,
like I’m an insurgent.
Daytime, I was sitting in the temple, teaching.
You didn’t arrest me then.
56 This is all happening so the prophets’ writings can be fulfilled.”
Then all the students abandon him and run.
Luke 22.49-54 KWL
49 Seeing what those round them intend to do,
the students say, “Master, should we strike with a machete?”
50 One hit a certain one of them—the head priest’s slave—
and cuts his right ear off.
51 In response Jesus says, “That’s enough!”
and touching the ear, Jesus cures him.
52 Jesus tells those who come for him—head priests, temple guards, and elders—
“You come out with machetes and sticks like I’m an insurgent.
53 Daytime, I was with you in the temple. You didn’t grab me then.
But this is your hour—the power of darkness.”
54 They arrest him, lead him away, and bring him to the head priest’s house.
Simon Peter is following at a distance.
John 18.4-12 KWL
4 So Jesus, who already knew everything coming upon him,
comes forth and tells them, “Whom are you looking for?”
5 They answer him, “Jesus the Nazarene.”
Jesus tells them, “I’m him.”
Judas his betrayer had been standing with them.
6 So when Jesus tells them, “I’m him,”
they move backward and fall to the ground.
7 So again Jesus asks them, “Whom are you looking for?”
They say, “Jesus the Nazarene.”
8 Jesus answers, “I tell you I’m him,
so if it’s me you look for,
leave these others alone to go away,”
9 so he might fulfill the word which he says, namely this:
“I’ve not lost anyone whom you’ve given me.” Jn 17.12
10 Simon Peter, having a machete, draws it
and strikes the head priest’s slave; he slices off his right ear.
The slave’s name was Malchus.
11 So Jesus tells Peter, “Sheath your machete.
This is the cup the Father gave me. Shouldn’t I drink it?”
12 So the 200 men, the general, and the Judean servants
arrest Jesus and tie him up.

Jesus, still in command.

John shows it a little better than the other gospels: Jesus was always in control. Always in command. Always had the final decision as to whether he’d be taken by the posse sent to get him.

When the crowd announced they’d come for Jesus the Nazarene (KJV “Jesus of Nazareth”) and Jesus responded, “I’m him,” all 200 of them fell over. Certain translations render Jesus’s response as “I AM he”—not because Jesus stressed the word am (really the Greek word εἰμι/eími), but because the translators wanna remind us God told Moses his name is אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה/Ehyéh Ashér Ehyéh, “I AM WHO I AM.” Ex 3.14 For short, יהוה/YHWH, the LORD. When Moses asked God’s name, Ex 3.13 God deliberately gave himself a name which they couldn’t put limits on: He is who he determines he is. He’s unlimited. And various commentators figure Jesus, throughout John, continued doing the same thing: Defining himself. Hence they translate his various metaphors thus: “I AM the living bread. I AM the vine and you the branches. I AM the resurrection and the life. I AM the good shepherd. I AM the way, truth, and life.” These, they figure, are declarations of divinity.

Me, I have my doubts. A copula is a word every language uses to link subjects with adjectives. “He is sticky,” or “She is sleepy,” or “No [Luke], I am your father,” and so forth. Every time Jesus used eími in the gospels, he wasn’t evoking God’s name. But he is defining himself.

Whereas here, he was simply declaring he’s the guy they sought. And maybe he did it in such a way as to evoke the LORD. It did knock ’em down, after all.

Anywho, that’s John. In the other gospels, Jesus comes across as more nervous and panicky—at least till his prayer in Gethsemane helped him get his emotions under control. His students are another story: Despite his instructions, they hadn’t prayed lest they fall into temptation and run amok with fear. Hence they totally ran on emotion. Violently so, ’cause one of them cut an ear off—and I’ll get to that part of the story another time. But Jesus pointed out the Father had given him authority to stop everything right now, if he saw fit—and he didn’t.

Let that idea sink in. At any time Jesus could call down “more than 12 legions of angels.” Mt 26.53 A legion is a Roman unit consisting of 60 centuries, and a century was meant to be 100 troops; of course sometimes there’d be more or less, depending on recruits and casualties. But let’s assume there were no angelic casualties: Twelve legions meant 36,000 angels. One angel could flatten a nation, as the death-angel had done to Egypt. Twelve legions could easily conquer the world. As they will, at the second coming.

But to turn the first coming into the second coming would make Jesus exactly the sort of Messiah the Pharisees and the devil wanted. That’s why Jesus didn’t wanna call ’em down. It would be no sin for him to put his passion on pause, and try again another time. But “then how will the scriptures be fulfilled?” Jesus pointed out. Mt 26.54 He had to fulfill them sometime. May as well be now.

Jesus’s rebuke to the mob.

The synoptic gospels include Jesus’s statement to the mob, which starts much the same way: “You come out with machetes and sticks like I’m an insurgent.” Lk 22.52 It’s to point out their cowardice: What had Jesus ever done to merit a posse of 200 armed men? (Well, other than knock over a few tables in temple.) They could’ve arrested him at any time in temple. Why in the middle of the night?

Simple: Most of the people (correctly) thought Jesus is Messiah. So had anyone tried to arrest him in public, there’d have been a riot. Followed by Pilate sending in his riot-busting goons, followed by crucifixions until everyone who disturbed the peace were dead. Romans didn’t care who started it; they just wanted peace. That’s why Jesus being Messiah startled the Judean leadership: If his followers started a revolution, either the Romans would win, and kill them indiscriminately (as, it turns out, they did indeed do 37 years later), or the insurgents would win, and kill them as Roman stooges. Heads they lose, tails they lose. So they figured the lesser of two evils was to be rid of Jesus.

So while the public was asleep, where there were few witnesses to see it, they nabbed him. As Luke describes Jesus saying, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Lk 22.53 But Mark and Matthew have him notice how their act helped fulfill the scriptures. His interpretation of the Prophets, not theirs, was correct, and they unwittingly helped him prove it.

Jesus’s physical suffering begins in earnest.

In the United States, when white people are arrested, they’re meant to be treated as innocent till proven guilty at their trial. Obviously it doesn’t always work this way in real life. The police are usually sure they’ve got the right guy. While the laws remind the cops to be civil to those they have in custody, sometimes they’re simply not. Often they’re just discourteous and ungracious. Sometimes they’re rough and abusive. Sometimes they’re quick with the taser or pepper spray, or they panic and open fire. Too many suspects get killed, including innocent ones.

In other nations and cultures, suspects are guilty till proven innocent, and treated as convicts till proven otherwise. That’s precisely the culture Jesus was in. The mob figured they captured a dangerous heretic, someone God would want dead. They were quite happy to make it awful for Jesus all the way to his death. They were rough on him. Ropes too tight, punching and hitting and jabbing and whipping to keep him marching the direction they wanted, spitting and slapping and poking and insults all the way. Isaiah prophesied they’d yank at his beard, Is 50.6 and though the gospels never say this was fulfilled, I wouldn’t be surprised if they ripped out chunks.

The rest of Jesus’s life was spent in pain.