I COME TO THE GARDEN NOT ALONE...
That is correct, you read the title correctly. Yes, John has a garden scene in his gospel, but there is something different about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in John's Gospel than in the synoptic accounts. If you recall, in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) Jesus wrestles with what awaits him. He prays in each account for the Father to let "this cup" pass from him. In other words; "Let's find another way please." Not in John. No, regardless of what takes place in the other accounts, Jesus is not wrestling with anything in John's account. In fact, He is in full control of the entire situation.
"Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came into the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons." (John 18:2-3)
Now, remember, from the very beginning John has placed an emphasis on several key themes. One prominent theme has been darkness/light. John makes a point to have Judas and the soldiers come to Jesus carrying "torches, lanterns, and weapons." Why? Well, yes it does bring about frightening imagery, but it is also meant to highlight the theme of light/darkness. Jesus then asks who it is they are looking for. Now, John makes a point to say that Jesus knew all that was going to happen to him. (verse 4) Keep in mind that John has shown Jesus to be God from the very beginning. Only John does this. Well, they tell him that they are looking for "Jesus of Nazareth." (John 18:5) They are still stigmatizing Jesus with being from that city from which nothing good ever comes. The interesting thing here is: Judas is standing with them at this time. What does this say about what Judas thinks about Jesus? Does Judas only see Jesus as being from that city "Nazareth?" Did Judas ever think anything more of Jesus, or has he had a change of heart? John makes a point of identifying Judas as the betrayer. Some have speculated that Judas did all this in order to play Jesus' hand. He thought that if Jesus faced the threat of arrest then he would wield the sword and finally do what everyone thought he had come to do in the first place. This theory is only a theory and can not be proven.
Jesus answered: "I am he." (John 18:5) But then, just as he said this "they drew back and fell to the ground." (John 18:5b) This does not happen in the other gospels. Before I say more about this, Jesus asks them a second time who it is they are looking for, and again they give the same answer: they are looking for Jesus of Nazareth. Why did they fall to the ground when Jesus answered "I am he?" Well, yes, he is saying that he is "Jesus of Nazareth," but is he saying more? Certainly, there would be nothing about the name Jesus of Nazareth that would cause them to fall over. Ahh...no there wasn't anything about that name, but I don't think that by saying "I am he" that Jesus was saying "I am Jesus of Nazareth. No, how has Jesus often identified himself in John's gospel? By claiming to be..."I Am." Remember all the "I Am" sayings? Yes, by saying "I am he": Jesus is identifying himself as "I Am" which is the name that God used way back in Exodus, chapter three. These men fall over because they are in the presence of the divine.
"I told you that I am he," Jesus answered. 'If you are looking for me, then let these men go.' This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: 'I have not lost one of those you gave me.'" (John 18:8-9) Wow! Here is something that I have never considered before. by betraying Jesus, Judas was also betraying the disciples. He put their lives in danger as well.
John does not separate the disciples in this scene like the other three. In the synoptic accounts Jesus takes with him Peter, James and John. That is not the case here, as John implies they are all there. Therefore, in keeping with the fulfilling of Jesus' words (in his prayer form chapter seventeen), not only were none lost, but they were all together in this threatening situation. Then, Peter does something that is very interesting: "Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear." (John 18:10) Why would Peter do this? I think there is a simple answer. Peter still held out hope that Jesus was leading a rebellion and by wielding the sword he would force Jesus' hand.
Let me say more about Peter cutting of the ear of this poor fellow. The question that is on my mind right now is: Why didn't Peter kill this man? Wouldn't that have been more likely to have caused the rebellion to begin? Well, perhaps Peter meant to, but was a bad aim. I don't think so. I think Peter aimed for the ear. But why? Years ago I had the privilege to serve as the pastor of the Dugginsville Community Church. The church sat on (and I do stress on) the Arkansas/Missouri line. (this was before I joined the United Methodist Church) This particular story is long, therefore I will omit much detail. I had a member who was in the midst of a lengthy feud with a neighbor. The feud got ugly and reached its climax one cold spring day. The law was called and a deputy sheriff arrived at the home of the neighbor who attempted to burn the church member's house down. The man was waiting behind a wood pile for the deputy. When the deputy exited his cruiser the neighbor shot him with a deer rifle. But, he only shot him in the leg. he then went into the woods. A special unit from the Missouri Highway Patrol was called out. They went into the woods in search of the suspect. The gunfire was recorded by the local news crew and played on air that evening. An autopsy revealed that the neighbor, Truman Parks, was shot eight times. But, he also had cancer. Neighbors who knew Truman parks all agreed that he could shoot the eye out of a squirrel if the squirrel was in a dead run. By him only shooting the deputy in the leg, he was only playing the law's hand. he wanted them to act by taking his life for him. I believe Peter intentionally took the ear, to get Jesus to act. If Jesus was going to lead the rebellion than he needed to deliver the first fatal blow. But, he didn't.
"Jesus commanded Peter, 'Put your sword away!" (John 18:11) Imagine what went through the mind of Peter at that moment. Peter must have been thinking; "There is not going to be a rebellion." Can you imagine Peter wondering there and then; "Who is this guy? Really! Who is he?" Jesus is making it known that his kingdom is not ruled by violence. He then says: "Shall I not drink this cup the Father has given me?" (John 18:11) Again, Jesus never wrestled with having to drink from the cup as he did in the other gospels. Here, He has accepted the cup from the very beginning and has never questioned God. As for Peter, the next time we see him he is denying that he ever knew who Jesus was.
Tomorrow, we will look at Pilate being on trial...I mean Jesus being on trial. Or do I? You will not want to miss a day of the remainder of this study. Have a great day. -Pastor Rick