After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” 5They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. 7Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” 9This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” 10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. 11Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
Jesus and the disciples go down, across the Kidron valley, and back towards the Mount of Olives to a garden, which the other gospels name as Gethsemane. (photo of Gethsemane attached) It was a garden where Jesus often went to pray. But Judas also knew the place – and that is where he brought the soldiers and temple police, under the auspices of the Chief Priest, and some of the Pharisees. It is late; the night is dark – suddenly, there in the dark garden there is a din of noise, the clanking of armor, orders shouted; and the darkness is pierced by the harsh light of the torches they carry. In all the confusion and din, Jesus could quite possibly have gotten away – but instead, he took the initiative; he stepped forward and asked them, “Who are you looking for?” They replied, “Jesus of Nazareth”, and Jesus replied, “I am he.” (Note, once again, Jesus uses the “I AM” phrase, indicating his connection to Yahweh.) An interesting thing happens then – the soldiers and police step back and fall to the ground! Perhaps they are experiencing inner conflict; they know there is something more about this man – they have not come out in the dark night to arrest a common criminal! The author makes certain we know at this point that Judas, the betrayer, was with them!
Again, Jesus could have walked away – but he did not. John (the author) wants his reader to know that Jesus gave himself; he was never a victim – not of Judas, nor the Chief Priest, nor the Romans. All these had a part in his betrayal, but he gave himself up to them; he was never a passive participant, but actively stepped forward; he was not drug away kicking and screaming (as Mel Gibson portrays him in “The Passion of the Christ”). Jesus stepped forward again, asking again who it was they sought, and the answer was repeated, “Jesus of Nazareth”. And Jesus said “I told you that I am he.” And then he told them that if they were looking for him they should let the others go.
Simon Peter, however, draws a sword and struck the High Priest’s slave, Malchus, cutting off his ear. But Jesus told Peter to put his sword away. Jesus has come to drink the cup the Father has given him. That cup was Jesus’ suffering and death, which he accepts willingly. That is John’s point – Jesus gives himself, for the redemption of humankind.