John 18:1-13 – The Betrayal of Judas

Dear Friends,

Greetings in Christ.

When we left off in our last post, Jesus had just finished his high-priestly prayer, probably at or in the temple, which would have been left open for the Passover.

A few years prior to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, the Romans desired a census to be taken in Jerusalem at Passover. Since the Jews did not believe in census taking based on 2 Samuel 24, the sheep for the Passover were counted instead. According to Josephus, 256,500 lambs were killed in a single day in Jerusalem on Passover, circa 66-70 AD (The Wars of the Jews 6.9.3). Rewind to 32 AD; as Jesus was preparing to face his cross, I think it is safe to say that Jerusalem would have likewise been packed with people who came from far and wide to celebrate the feast. (1)

 Father, give us understanding as we read thy word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

John 18:1-13
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron [See´• dron], where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.

As Jesus crossed over the Cedron (or Kidron), He knew that soon it would be red with the blood of hundreds of thousands of lambs sacrificed for Passover. As the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, He knew his blood would soon be shed as well.

2 And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples.
3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.

They are not going to need those lanterns and torches. Being Passover, they have a full moon and Jesus is not going to hide from them. Nevertheless, with their lanterns and torches blazing, Jesus would have seen Judas and his mob — a great multitude with swords and staves (Mark 14:43) — afar off as they exited the East Gate and made their way down through the Cedron Valley. 

4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?
5 They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.
6 As soon then as he had said unto them I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.

Only John records this last I am statement from Jesus; only John records this curious display of the power in Jesus’ word causing the band of men and officers to fall down backward. From the beginning of our study, we have examined how John in particular emphasizes both Jesus’ deity and the power in Jesus’ word. Even though they carried out their orders, those who arrested Jesus no doubt understood that He was in charge.

This is not an instance of ‘slaying in the Spirit’ as some have claimed. They are not there to worship Jesus; they are there to arrest Him. Slaying in the Spirit is a harmful and dangerous practice that Christians should refuse and avoid.

7 Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth.
8 Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he:  if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way:
9 That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.

Jesus’ authoritative word was obeyed and all of the disciples escaped unharmed.

10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.
11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

Luke, the beloved physician, tells us that Jesus touched Malchus’ ear and healed him; Jesus practiced what He preached. (Matt 5:44; John 18:36) I am sure it made quite an impression on Malchus. I believe the reason John tells us Malchus’ name is that Malchus became a Christian after Jesus healed him. Incidentally, Jesus’ healing of Malchus also made it possible for Peter to escape the mob. If Malchus had not been healed there may have been four crosses on Calvary.

Earlier in the evening the disciples told Jesus they had two swords, which Jesus said was enough. (Luke 22:38) I believe a Christian has a responsibility to defend himself and others, but this was not the time. In Matthew’s account of the arrest, Jesus tells Peter all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. If one is going to use a lethal weapon, one needs to know how and when to use it justly. If someone breaks into your house and points a gun at you or someone else, you are justified in shooting. But if you catch him as he is fleeing with a television set, you are not justified in shooting. For most of us, the use of a lethal weapon is only called for in very rare instances, if at all. Self-defense may have been a bit more of an issue for those living in the Roman Empire during the first century, but Jesus said if you live by the sword you will die that way. In other words, lethal force should be a last resort. On one hand, though it rarely gets reported, guns often save lives. On the other hand, I recall a story told by F Kefa Sempangi in A Distant Grief  (GL Regal Books, 1979): During Idi Amin’s bloody persecution of Christians in 1973, a band of armed thugs entered Pastor Sempangi’s house. His first instinct was to get his gun, but he decided not to. Had he done so, in all likelihood he and his family would have been gunned down. Instead, the gunmen ended up leaving. In a similar instance, some thugs who were sent to kill him ended up getting saved. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Therefore, there are times when a sword (or a gun) is called for. Jesus said so. There are times a sword (or a gun) is not called for. Jesus said so.  

12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him,

Samson broke away when they tried to bind him, but Jesus goes with them of his own free will. This was his whole purpose in coming to earth. He was bound by his love for us.

13 And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year.
John 18:1-13

 

Although John does not mention it, all three of the Synoptic Gospels tell us that Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. That tells us something about where the most dangerous attacks come from; typically not from the world but from other ‘Christians’. Judas did not own a liquor store or a gambling casino. Judas was not a purveyor of pornography. Judas was not a Roman government official sent out to harass Christians. He was one of the twelve. Not only that, but he was conspiring with the professional clergy’. Anyone who has spent much time in ministry knows about the dangers posed by Christian ‘leaders’. J Vernon McGee, one of the most beloved Bible teachers the world over, once said that he never received any opposition from so-called ‘sinners’. All the opposition to his radio program came from other members of the clergy. Nevertheless, Judas had the other disciples fooled. They did not suspect Judas even after Jesus spelled it out for them. (John 13:21-30) As it was then, so is it now. An interesting book on this subject is New Evangelicalism: The New World Order, by Paul Smith, brother of Chuck Smith. This book was published in 2011 and it has proven to be truly prophetic in the age of COVID. It is not the people who met in Davos last week that bother me so much as the pastors who tried to convince their flocks to take the poison shots. Reportedly, 95% of the evangelical leaders in America said they were comfortable with the shots. Many helped dispense them. This is the falling away spoken of in Scripture, indicating that Jesus is coming soon. (2 Thess 2:3)

In closing, the 1904 annual report of the Theosophical Society stated:

I believe it is through the Churches and not through the Theosophical Society that Theosophy [the worship of Lucifer]… must and should come to large bodies of people in the West.” (2)

Were they not referring to the One World Religion of the Antichrist (Rev 13:4)? Do we not see it forming in these last days? The closer we get to the return of our Lord, the more dangerous it will become to be a Christian. Let us heed the words of our Lord, who said, Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. Some of those wolves Jesus is talking about are undoubtedly wolves in sheep’s clothing. (Matt 7:15) The Judas spirit is still alive and well. Be ware. Be very ware. If you feel God is trying to warn you about something or asking you to do something, trust Him and obey. He knows what He is doing.

Father, give us wisdom and discernment. When your servant Harriet Tubman was smuggling slaves to the Free North, You directed her path to avoid her pursuers. Do likewise for us, Father, that we may love and serve You until your Son returns to fetch us home. Help us to beware of the Judases. Please account us worth to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before your Son, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

(1) Speaking of Josephus, this first-century Jewish historian testified that Jesus was the Messiah. All of the oldest extant manuscripts bear the following passage:

“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.” (Antiquities 18.63-64)

(2) Transactions of the Theosophical Society, H. P. Blavatsky, Annie Besant, 1904, p. 377.