Reflections on the Orthodox faith and life in this crazy 21st century world by an Orthodox priest and a few of his friends.
Monday, November 17, 2008
To The Garden (John 18:1-3)
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. 2 And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples. 3 Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.
Jesus and the disciples now leave the place where they had been meeting (either the “Upper Room” where they had eaten the Passover meal, or a second undisclosed location, depending on how you interpret 14:31). If we assume along with Fr. Farley that they had stayed in the same place throughout Jesus’ final discourse, then they were most likely in the southwestern part of the city. They then headed northeast, passing the Temple district, and crossing the Kidron Brook, which was on the eastern side of town and was normally dry in summer. They ended their walk in the garden, which Matthew and Mark identify as Gethsemane.
Jesus needed a quiet place where he could spend a few hours in the evening prior to his passion in uninterrupted prayer. We know from the other Gospel writers of the struggle that Jesus endured as he prayed that evening (see, for instance, Luke 22:39-46). John, as he often does, omits these details, assuming that his reader is familiar with them. As Fr. Farley states, “John is more concerned to show that Christ’s arrest and death were voluntary, and that He was never at the mercy of circumstances. Narrating his inner struggle at this point would contribute nothing to this purpose…” (298).
The Garden of Gethsemane was a place where the disciples had gathered many times before. It may have belonged to a wealthy supporter of Jesus who offered it to him and the disciples as a place of retreat. In any case, Judas knew that this was the place where Jesus and the disciples were to go after the supper. The Jewish authorities certainly did not need Judas to lead them to Jesus. They could have arrested him at any time that he was in Jerusalem. But, to do so publicly would backfire because it would cause a riot. So, they needed Judas to help them find Jesus in a private place and arrest him there. Here’s how Fr. Farley summarizes the situation:
“[The Garden] was the perfect location for [Judas’] evil purpose, for it was private, and Jesus could be arrested with a minimum of outside attention or interference. Avoiding the attention of the Passover crowd was a big part of the total plan, for all Jesus’ foes feared that the festal crowd would riot if they tried to arrest Him publicly (see Mark 14:2). The garden’s enclosing walls would not only make it difficult for Him and his disciples to escape (for they were cornered in the enclosed space), but the walls would keep out the prying eyes of his supporters” (298).
Judas lead and guided the arresting party. The party included both Roman solders as well as Temple guards and some of their attendants. Obviously expecting armed resistance, they came well-armed with lanterns, torches and weapons. Fr. Farley thinks that they may have been expecting even more: “It was not just armed resistance from the disciples they feared (the disciples, after all, were fishermen, not trained soldiers), but the more intangible threat of confronting One who was known for His miraculous power” (299).
In other words, this was no ordinary person they were going after, and they knew it!