The betrayal and arrest of Jesus

TEXT: MATTHEW 26:47-56

After Jesus finished praying in the Gethsemane garden, Judas Iscariot re-enters the narrative. Behind him is a "multitude" of people stirred up by the Jewish chief priests and elders.

Just how many people came to take Jesus is up for debate. Matthew, Mark and Luke say a "multitude," and John says a "band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees" (REFERENCE: John 15:3). So what size of a multitude are we talking about?

THE MULTITUDE

Historically, the size of a "band" of Roman soldiers figured out to one-tenth of a Roman legion, and not all legions were the same size - they ranged from 4,000 to 6,000 soldiers. So, this band that came out to arrest Jesus numbered between 400 and 600 men.

If you throw in "men and officers" from the Temple, you would have a fairly large group of people.

And add to all of this the fact that Matthew and the other disciples were likely scared, and it is night, a large group of soldiers and others headed their way would tend to make the "multitude" turn into "multitudes" in their minds.

As a side note, Matthew is the only disciple to say that Jesus used the word, "Friend" when Judas first appeared in Gethsemane ahead of the crowd - not some other word like "betrayer," or "evildoer" or any other term (Matthew 26:50).

Could Matthew be thinking that was because Jesus was addressing Judas Iscariot, the man, and not Judas Iscariot, the demon-possessed monster representing the Evil One? It's only speculation, of course, and Jesus' use of the word "friend" is not corroborated by Mark, Luke and John. Still, Matthew's observation is part of the Bible, and we should give at least a passing look at it, rather than ignoring it.

JUDAS ISCARIOT, BETRAYER

Matthew notes that Judas told his Jewish leaders that he would kiss Jesus to identify Him from the disciples in Gethsemane. Then, Matthew said, Judas told the leaders that they are to "hold him fast."

But in his book, Mark says that what Judas said was, "lead him away safely." The books of Luke and John don't have any account of Judas saying to either "hold" or "lead" Jesus.

Once again, the real character of Judas Iscariot appears cloudy - the only thing we know for sure about this incident, that is consistent in all of the Gospels, is that Judas led the crowd and soldiers to Jesus in Gethsemane, betraying Him there.

PRAYER AND TESTING

And we also learn from this passage that, after we hear from Heaven in prayer, there may be times we might then be tested shortly thereafter.

Satan, or a person or circumstance that represents him, often shows up after we exit our garden of prayer, sometimes asking "Hath God said?" (REFERENCE: Genesis 3:1), so we shouldn't be surprised if we face resistance soon after we leave God's presence.

PETER

Peter has a sword.

Why does he have a sword? Did fishermen of his day normally carry them around on their boats? Did he get the sword before - or after - he began to follow Jesus? Did he buy it just in case there was trouble? Was he ready to take the kingdom Jesus was talking about at the point of a sword?

Sorry, we can't help you with answers to any of those questions; you'll just have to ask him yourself when you get to Heaven. What we do know, comparing the four Gospels, is that Peter likely believed that he was protecting Jesus with that sword, and is apparently the only one of the 11 disciples who had one.

And Peter was going to fight between 400 and 600 Roman soldiers, and anyone else in the multitude, with that one sword. Well, you have to hand it to Peter - he was certainly brash and dedicated to his Master. And he was also acting childish (Luke 18:16-17 ... see ALSO this study).

We also know Peter used his sword cut off the ear of a servant of the Jewish high priest (note that it was not a Roman soldier who was targeted). That servant's name was Malchus (only the apostle John told us his name in John 18:10). We also know that Peter's act is recorded in all four Gospels.

THE SWORD AND THE WORD

There is a bit iof Peter in all of us. We tend to think that those things that come against us are in the physical world, when they aren't (see Ephesians 6:12). We take out our own sword and aim for the ears of our circumstances that face us and taken on the fight ourselves.

Notice that, in this passage, Jesus tells Peter to put up the sword that Peter used to slice off the high priest servant's ear. He also point out to Peter that he doesn't need protection (Matthew 16:53). In so doing, Jesus is also telling Peter that it is useless to fight spiritual warfare with carnal weapons.

Not only that, but Jesus is also saying that what is happening in that moment as the multitude is taking Him hostage is the the fulfillment of scripture (see Matthew 26:54 and Matthew 26:56).

SEEING INTO THE SPIRITUAL WORLD

Like Elisha (REFERENCE II Kings 6:15-17), Jesus is, by faith, seeing into the spiritual world - something Peter is not yet capable of, since the Holy Spirit has not yet been given to believers.

Note that Elisha prayed that the Lord would let his servant spiritually see what Elisha had seen by faith and the Holy Spirit. After He ascended, Jesus asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit to baptize the disciples, which would enable them to see into the spiritual world by faith, just as their Master had done.

SWORDS AND SPEARS

Jesus made a valid point when He asked the soldiers and religious officials why they needed to use swords and spears to take Him into custody. "After all," He said, "I was teaching in the Temple every day, and you didn't lay a hand on me." (Matthew 26:55)

That is the truth of the matter. But likely the major reason they used soldiers, swords and spears was that they were afraid of the people (REFERENCE: Matthew 26:5). Likely, the religious leaders and/or Judas Iscariot decided that time to capture was a time when Jesus was not present with the usual multitudes of people - just Jesus and His disciples.

Those religious leaders didn't really have to use any show of force - what they were really doing was displaying their testosterone "power" and "bravery" when no one but Jesus and the disciples were around ... minus the multitude of people normally following Jesus. Notice that they didn't even say why they were taking Him into custody.