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Boice on John 18:3-11: Arrest
送交者: 古道 2017年11月08日17:15:55 于 [彩虹之约] 发送悄悄话

The Arrest!

John 18:3–11

So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”

And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

“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.”

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

I do not know how you might have described the arrest of Jesus of Nazareth in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his crucifixion had you been there to observe it, for I do not know the perspective you might have had. If you were Caiaphas, you would doubtless have reported it as a triumph: “At last we have seized him!” If you were the captain of the band of soldiers who actually effected the arrest, you might have reported it quite factually: “Fourteenth of Nisan, eleven thirty p.m., arrested, one prisoner, Jesus of Nazareth.” I do know, however, that if you had been John the evangelist and if you had been led in your writing by the Holy Spirit, as he was, you would have reported that, from beginning to end Jesus, and not his captors, was in complete charge of the situation. It was he who delayed in the Garden while the arresting party was coming. It was he who went forth to meet them, thereby surrendering himself voluntarily. Moreover, even at the very moment of the arrest, he showed his control over circumstances, for he demonstrated power toward the soldiers, grace toward his own disciples, and mercy to those who were (perhaps unwittingly in this case) his enemies.

It is a ludicrous situation, men with weapons coming forward to arrest the Son of God, and John does not allow us to miss the irony. We remember, for example, that it is John who has stressed more than any other Gospel writer that Jesus is the light of this world. He has done that in the opening chapter, where the word “light” in reference to Jesus occurs six times in just nine verses. Later he twice quotes Christ’s own claim to be “the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5). Now those of the darkness come in the darkness with “lanterns and torches” to seek him out.

Moreover, they come with weapons. From his enemies’ point of view, these were no doubt thought to be necessary. His enemies were afraid of Christ and were worried about what might happen if he should choose to resist them. They were right to be worried. If he chose to resist them, no weapons would have been sufficient. Jesus was arrested, so John clearly indicates, because he willingly chose to give himself up to die to save us.

Today also those who are the enemies of Christ depend on equally foolish lights and weapons. It is not literal lamps upon which our contemporaries rely, of course. It is rather the light of “progress” or the light of “reason.” But however valuable these lights may be in purely human terms, they are clearly foolish when arrayed against him who is himself the Light. His light cannot be extinguished by our lights, for ours owe their existence to him. He is the source of all light and reason. Thus, our thinking runs to foolishness when we fail to acknowledge him, as Paul indicates in Romans when he says that having refused to glorify God as God, men and women became vain in their imaginations, “and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like motal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (1:21–23). Similarly, human weapons, which the enemies of Christ frequently resort to when reason fails, are also useless.

God’s Power

John is not especially interested in the weakness of men, however. What he is really interested in is the power of Jesus, which he conveys by a rather remarkable incident. It is an incident that none of the other Gospels relates. John writes that Jesus, having seen the approaching soldiers and knowing all that was in store for him, went forth to them and initiated the arrest by a question: “Who is it you want?”

It must have been dark in the Garden in spite of the full moon of Passover (or else a supernatural blindness had been placed upon Christ’s enemies), for they did not fully recognize him. If they had, they would have replied, “You! We seek you.” Instead they answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

At this point, according to John, Jesus answered by saying “I am” (“he” is not in the Greek text), and immediately, so we are told, the arresting party “drew back and fell to the ground,” where they remained until Jesus apparently released them by asking his question once again.

What produced this strange reaction? It may be, as some commentators have argued, that it is really not a miracle. There have been cases where the hand of an evil person has been stayed momentarily by the innocence or overbearing presence of the one to be victimized. Kings have sometimes had this effect on mere soldiers of the enemy. Executioners have sometimes been unable to strike an innocent person. Alexander Maclaren, who explores this line of thought in his commentary, writes, “There must have been many in that band who had heard him, though, in the uncertain light of quivering moonbeams and smoking torches, they failed to recognize him till he spoke. There must have been many more who had heard of him, and many who suspected that they were about to lay hands on a holy man, perhaps on a prophet. There must have been reluctant tools among the inferiors, and no doubt among the leaders whose consciences needed but a touch to be roused to action. To all, his calmness and dignity would appeal, and the manifest freedom from fear or desire to flee would tend to deepen the strange thoughts which began to stir in their hearts.” Thoughts like these may well have caused Christ’s captors to fall back in dismay or consternation.

But this does not seem to be the whole of the picture, as Maclaren also recognizes, for John does not merely say that the officers and soldiers paused for a moment in their efforts to arrest Jesus. He says that they actually stepped backward and fell to the ground. Moreover, and this is of great importance, they did so in response not merely to Christ’s presence but rather to the majestic words he uttered: “I am” or (as most of our translations have it) “I am he.”

Is this significant? It is if we remember that the meaning of the great name of God, Jehovah, revealed to Moses at the burning bush at the time of God’s commissioning him to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, is “I am that I am.” It is a form of the verb “to be.” Thus, when Jesus replied to his enemies by saying, “I am,” it may well have been that he used his own great name, Jehovah, the name above every name (Phil. 2:9–11), and that hearing this name uttered by the God-man threw the arresting party into utter confusion and rendered them helpless even to stand before him.

Maclaren says, “I am inclined to think that here, as there [he is thinking of the transfiguration], though under such widely different circumstances and to such various issues, there was for a moment a little rending of the veil of his flesh, and an emission of some flash of the brightness that always tabernacled within him; and that, therefore, just as Isaiah, when he saw the King in his glory, said, ‘Woe is me, for I am undone!’ and just as Moses could not look upon the Face, but could only see the back parts, so here the one stray beam of manifest divinity that shot through the crevice, as it were, for an instant, was enough to prostrate with a strange awe even those rude and insensitive men. When he said, ‘I am He,’ there was something that made them feel, ‘This is One before whom violence cowers abashed, and in whose presence impurity has to hide its face.’ ”

It is a great contrast, this revelation of the glory and power of Jesus at the very moment of his arrest in Gethsemane, but it is only one more example of the paradox of the incarnation found throughout the pages of the Word of God. We look to his birth and see a picture of human weakness, a baby lying in a manger. But we turn to the fields of Bethlehem and find that birth announced by angels. He is born poor, but a star leads eastern kings to present their gold, frankincense, and myrrh. At his baptism he identified himself with those who repent of their sins; but he had no sin, and a voice from heaven is heard declaring, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). He is so exhausted that he falls asleep in the back of a boat that soon is pitching wildly in a storm on Galilee. The disciples, seasoned fishermen, are frightened. They wake him, and he immediately calms the waves. At the grave of Lazarus, Jesus weeps, but then he speaks the word in power and the dead man comes forth in resurrection. In the Garden he prays in agony that if it might be possible this cup should pass from him. But moments later he goes forth to confront his enemies and overpower them with the sheer force of his presence.

This strange blending of opposites is a clue to the first reason why Jesus did what he did on this occasion. It was to show at this important moment that he was more than man. Man? Yes, but also God manifest in flesh. He would have it known that it was as God as well as man that he was about to die for our salvation. He must be a man to die. But he must also be God if that death was to be adequate as a ransom price for our sin. This he declares at the moment of his capture.

Second, the incident of his display of power over his enemies shows that his death is voluntary and not coerced. If he had been unwilling to die, no amount of troops or weapons could ever have forced him. He could have walked away as he did on numerous former occasions.

Finally, Jesus acted as he did to make it clear that those who were arresting him and those who stood behind their action by commanding it were without excuse. Some in the arresting party may never have seen Christ before. But they will never be able to plead that they were without any indication as to who he was. They were not ignorant of his divine glory. Thus, if they continued on their way after he had released them from their bondage to his power, it was because they did not want to recognize or heed the truth and not because it was unknown to them. So also will it be in the day of Christ’s second appearing. In that day too his deity will be made manifest and the guilt and sinful intransigence of man will be exposed. That will be a day of judgment and not of grace. Today is the time to turn from sin and acknowledge him both as Savior and Lord.

Grace for Christ’s Disciples

There is also a second feature of the arrest of Christ that the other Gospel writers overlook. He commands the officers and soldiers that since it is he they had come to take, his disciples should be allowed to go their way (v. 8). This is a statement of grace toward his disciples—effective grace. Those whom he had protected were allowed to go their own way so that, as John says, “The words he had spoken would be fulfilled: ‘I have not lost one of these you gave me’ ” (v. 9). The reference is to the statements of John 6:39 and 17:12.

When John calls attention to the statements of Christ given earlier he is, of course, broadening the protecting grace of Christ from this one incident in which only the eleven disciples were protected to that general exercise of God’s grace in which all Christ’s people are saved. It is true that Jesus did protect the eleven, for without a doubt these soldiers and officers had intended to arrest the disciples too. We know this because Mark tells us of their attempt to seize a certain young man who was wrapped in a linen cloth but who left it in their hands and fled away naked when they laid hands upon him (Mark 14:51–52). Nevertheless, as John quotes Jesus on this occasion he is also aware that this is but one small example of a greater protection by which Jesus constantly preserves those of all ages whom the Father has given him.

How does Jesus exercise this persevering grace toward those who had believed in him? Here are a number of verses that tell us what God is able to do and therefore will do for his people. Hebrews 7:25—“Therefore he is completely able to save those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.凡靠着他进到神面前的人,他都能拯救到底。因为他是长远活着,替他们祈求。” Second Timothy 1:12—“He is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. 因为知道我所信的是谁,也深信他能保全我所交付他的,(或作他所交托我的)直到那日。” Hebrews 2:18—“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Philippians 3:20–21—“The Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. 我们却是天上的国民。并且等候救主,就是主耶稣基督,从天上降临。他要按着那能叫万有归服自己的大能,将我们这卑贱的身体改变形状,和他自己荣耀的身体相似。” Jude 24–25—“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. 那能保守你们不失脚,叫你们无瑕无疵,欢欢喜喜站在他荣耀之前的,我们的救主独一的神。愿荣耀,威严,能力,权柄,因我们的主耶稣基督,归与他,从万古以前,并现今,直到永永远远。阿们。

When we put these verses together they tell us that Jesus shows his effective, persevering grace with us by lifting us from the darkness of this world into his own marvelous light, by interceding for us in heaven, by guarding our spiritual deposits, by seeing us through temptation, by saving even our bodies at the time of the last resurrection, and by bringing us at last and without blemish into the presence of his own and the Father’s glory. He does this by placing himself between us and our enemies.

Mercy to All

There is one final incident in John’s account of Christ’s arrest that is, unlike the first two incidents, narrated by each of the other Gospel writers also. It concerns Peter who, when he saw that Jesus was about to be arrested, quickly drew the sword he was wearing and swung at the young man leading the column. No doubt Peter intended to strike off his head. But the young man ducked—his name was Malchus, a servant of the high priest, Caiaphas—and so lost only his ear. Luke tells us, in reporting the full account, that Jesus then touched his ear and healed him (Luke 22:51). John adds that he also rebuked Peter, saying, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father gives me?” (18:11).

As we look at this incident we see many truths in it. One lesson is the folly of that fleshly activity that, insensitive to God’s plan and purposes, seeks to strike out in God’s defense. Peter’s zeal for Christ was not conditioned by knowledge, which was the inevitable outcome of his failure in the preceding hours to observe Christ’s command to him to “watch and pray” (Matt. 26:41). He was courageous but ignorant. Later he would not even be courageous, for he would deny Christ before a servant. Peter failed. And so shall we if our zeal is not nurtured upon the knowledge that Christ gives and is not strengthened by him.

This and other lessons aside, surely the greatest truth of this incident is that Jesus was here showing mercy even to his enemies, and this even at the time they came to thrust him toward his execution.

In this last verse Jesus speaks of “the cup the Father gives me.” It is one of two cups spoken of often in Scripture. One is the cup of salvation. It is mentioned in Psalm 116:13 (“I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord”). The other cup is the cup of God’s wrath or tribulation, which is referred to here. Earlier Jesus had prayed that this cup might pass from him (Matt. 26:39). Two cups: the cup of salvation and the cup of God’s wrath! Every person who has ever lived shall drink from one of them. But those who drink of the cup of salvation by God’s grace will drink of it only because Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath in their place.


 Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 1377–1382). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.


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