Recent studies of the brain tell us that it operates best when we’re in a joyful state. That made me think of Jesus walking through the betrayal, arrest and crucifixion, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, . . .” (Heb 12:2). How did Jesus move through these events with any kind of joy?
Looking again at Jesus’ arrest, I noticed how he navigated those rough waters with dignity and self-giving love instead of the attitude of Just get through this. It will all be over soon (Matthew 26:47-56). He was others-centered while I would have been me-centered. I came up with several reasons he would have felt anxious and sorry for himself.
DISRUPTION Soldiers brandishing swords, clubs and torches broke into Jesus’ intimate, powerful and passionate conversation with his closest friends.
TREACHERY In the midst of all this commotion came the familiar greeting from a very good friend, Judas: a kiss of betrayal.
OPPRESSION Those arresting him were violent and confrontational. They “laid hands” on Jesus (v. 50) and “bound him” (John 18:12). He went from being an honored and revered celebrity to being dirt under people’s feet.
EMBARRASSMENT If you have ever seen someone you love, wearing handcuffs and standing accused, it’s an indignity you never forget. Also, in addition to the soldiers, “chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders,” the highest authorities in Judaism, descended upon them (Luke 22:52). Imagine the governor and mayor coming to your front door to arrest you.
ISOLATION One of Jesus’ best friends assaulted one of those arresting him. After three years of training, Peter still did not “get” Jesus. Did Jesus have anyone who understood him at all?
ABANDONMENT All the disciples fled (v. 56). Jesus was alone.
What do Jesus’ words and actions tell us about what he thought and felt?
CONCERN Instead of being alarmed by Judas’s actions no doubt hurt, Jesus was concerned about Judas himself, asking “My friend, what are you doing here?” (v. 20, NT Wright’s translation), as if to say, “Think about this. Are you sure about this?”
ASSURANCE As Peter was swinging a sword amidst the olive trees in dark Gethsemane, Jesus pointed Peter instead to reality: 12,000 unseen angels stood ready to help Jesus at any moment.
HEALING Jesus immediately reached out to heal the attacker whose ear Peter had cut off (Luke 22:50-51). Imagine helping someone who was arresting you. Folks who are practiced in physical healing say that it requires a right heart, a compassionate love. So this was Jesus’ inner condition.
CONFIDENCE Twice Jesus spoke of biblical prophecies being fulfilled (vv. 54, 56). Even as a human, Jesus was so immersed in the Trinitarian reality that the ideas penned by the Spirit in Scripture were Jesus’ ideas too. It’s as if he was saying, “I’m in on this. This was my idea! We’re a gang of three and operate as one!”
SUBMISSION Jesus did not try to escape, but stepped forward, asking, “Who is it you want?” When the soldiers fell backward (at Jesus’ presence?), he insisted he was the one to be arrested (John 18:4-8). He had avoid arrest earlier, but now he willingly surrendered (John 7:32, 45).
NEVER ALONE Just a few minutes before this scene, Jesus said, “you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (John 16:32). He understood and lived in the reality of the with-God life, relying on God for everything.
I love this scene! I confess I think first and mostly of myself, what affects me and what I want. My learning curve is to rely on God in every moment. The with-God life is reality. When we operate in a state of joyful trust, the oddly-radiant, majestic behavior of Jesus becomes possible.
(More about the arrest scene is referenced on pp. 112-113 of Invitation to the Jesus Life.)
If you had been one of the disciples, what would you have thought and felt?
If you had been one of the disciples, what would you have thought and felt about Jesus?
What do you most admire about Jesus in this scene? Or what do you find unbelievable about Jesus’ behavior?
Jan Johnson is the author of twenty books including Invitation to the Jesus Life and Abundant Simplicity and a thousand articles and Bible studies. She speaks at retreats and conferences, and teaches (adjunct) at Azusa Pacific University and Hope International University. Also a spiritual director, Jan holds a D. Min. in Ignatian Spirituality and Spiritual Direction. She lives with her husband in Simi Valley, California. You can visit her at JanJohnson.org.