Jesus, knowing by now everything that was coming down on him, went out and met them. – John 18
It’s my father’s birthday today. As you can see from some of the photos above, it is birthdays and celebrations that people think about when you say the word surprise. But in our story today; Seized in the Garden at Night, we learn that not all surprises come wrapped in cute packages with big bows. This is the portion of John where it’s going to get real with Jesus. This is where the true pain and agony of what he had to endure as a human really starts. This is where we need to take moments each day to sit in God’s word. Remember what Jesus really did for us. To be grateful for his sacrifice and try to live our lives as if we never forget that.
In this story, Jesus was well aware of what was happening to him. However it would’ve come as a huge surprise to his disciples. As we all are aware – each of us handles stress and fear in different ways.
Jesus, having prayed this prayer, left with his disciples and crossed over the brook Kidron at a place where there was a garden. He and his disciples entered it.
Judas, his betrayer, knew the place because Jesus and his disciples went there often. So Judas led the way to the garden, and the Roman soldiers and police sent by the high priests and Pharisees followed. They arrived there with lanterns and torches and swords. Jesus, knowing by now everything that was coming down on him, went out out and met them. He said, “Who are you after?”
They answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.”
He said, “That’s me.” The soldiers recoiled, totally taken aback. Judas, his betrayer, stood out like a sore thumb.
Jesus asked again, “Who are you after?”
They answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.”
“I told you,” said Jesus, “that’s me. I’m the one. So if it’s me you’re after, let these others go.” (This validated the words in his prayer, “I didn’t lose one of those you gave.”)
The disciples; in their surprise, probably were filled with fear and anger. They would have wanted to fight for Jesus their teacher, mentor, and friend. They would have acted under the pressure with little time to think first.
I’m sure all of us at one time or another have acted irrationally as a reaction to a surprise we weren’t prepared for. I was just watching the last episode of the season of one of my favorite shows. At the very end, one of the characters is unexpectedly hit by a car. Usually I can anticipate what is going to happen in a tv show or movie. However this one caught me off guard. It was such a complete surprise to me that I screamed and lost my breath. I reacted irrationally to a television show. However my body didn’t realize it wasn’t real. I actually couldn’t catch my breath. My chest hurt and I felt sick to my stomach. My husband turned to me after a few minutes and asked me if I was really okay. It was like my body was reacting to the surprise and my logical brain couldn’t shut the reaction off after the fact. I can imagine that is what happened to Jesus disciples that scary night.
Just then Simon Peter, who was carrying a sword, pulled it from its sheath and struck the Chief Priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. Maltese was the servant’s name.
Jesus ordered Peter, “Put back your sword. Do you think for a minute I’m not going to drink this cup the Father gave me?”
Then the Roman soldiers under their commander, joined by the Jewish police, seized Jesus and tied him up. They took him first to Annas, father-in-law of Caiaphas. Caiaphas was the Chief Priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it was to their advantage that one man die for the people.
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. That other disciple was known to the Chief Priest, and so he went in with Jesus to the Chief Priest’s courtyard. Peter had to stay outside. Then the other disciple went out, spoke to the doorkeeper, and got Peter in.
The young woman who was the doorkeeper said to Peter, “Aren’t you one of this man’s disciples?”
He said, “No, I’m not.”
The servants and police had made a fire because of the cold and were huddled there warming themselves. Peter stood with them, trying to get warm.
Sometimes we get lost in the moment of our surprise. At a birthday party we are lost in the happiness and joy of the moment. But often a surprise is terrible news or a tragic event. These surprises are completely out of our control and we can make illogical choices because of that. Jesus understands this. He knows all of your reactions before you do. We are loved through all moments of our lives. Even those when we are lost and afraid like Peter. Don’t forget that Jesus will never lose us in those moments of surprise.