Arrested Under the Cover of Night

Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled’ ” (vv. 48–49).

- Mark 14:43–49

Jesus cautioned Peter, James, and John to stay alert on the night of His betrayal, and the reason for this certainly was evident to them when Judas came to the garden of Gethsemane. Arriving with Judas was “a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders” gathered to arrest our Savior (Mark 14:43). This was a group including representatives of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling body on religious matters, and Roman soldiers, who were the law enforcement of the day. Christ’s words that He was to be betrayed into the hands of sinners were coming true (v. 41).

What made Judas’ betrayal of the Savior even worse than it would have been otherwise was that Judas was allegedly a friend of our Lord. It is bad enough to be betrayed by an acquaintance, but to be abandoned by a loved one is truly horrific. And Judas compounded his treason even further by betraying Jesus with a kiss, a sign of afection, and referring to Him as “Rabbi,” a title of honor (vv. 44–45). One commentator notes that these actions were the first acts of mockery that would take place during the trial and passion of our Savior. Judas’ actions show that he neither truly loved Jesus nor honored Him as He deserved.

Though a scuffle broke out in which one of the soldiers had his ear cut off, Jesus did not put up a fight when the evil men arrested Him (vv. 46–50). He went willingly and even showed love for His enemies in the process. Luke 22:50–51 reports that Jesus healed the soldier’s ear. John Calvin makes much of this in his commentary on the story recorded in today’s passage. The fact that Jesus healed the man and that the arrest nevertheless continued, Calvin says, shows the depths of human depravity. Wicked men were so intent on capturing Jesus that they would not pause when He showed His divine identity by healing the soldier.

Our Lord expressed amazement during His arrest, noting that He was being treated as a robber and being taken at night even though there had been opportunities to arrest Him during the day (Mark 14:52–53). The soldiers acted as if He were a criminal even though they had plainly seen in the daylight that He was not one, and their arrest of Him at night shows their awareness that He was guilty of no sin. They had to come at night, when no one was looking, lest they meet protests from the crowds that Jesus was an innocent man. They had to hide their unjust actions under cover of darkness.

Coram Deo

Isaiah 53:12 prophesies that the Messiah would be “numbered with the transgressors,” treated as if He were a sinner even though He would have no sin of His own. This numbering began when Jesus was arrested as if He were a common criminal, and it culminated on the cross when Jesus underwent the punishment our sins deserve. Have you praised God this day for our Savior’s great sacrifice on our behalf?

Passages for Further Study

Isaiah 24:16
John 18:1–11

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