The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
43 Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ 45So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. 46Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. 47But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? 49Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’ 50All of them deserted him and fled.
51 A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.
The time had come – Jesus’ betrayer was at hand. The peaceful night of prayer is interrupted by flaring torch-light, and clamoring swords. While he was still speaking, Judas showed up with a crowd. This crowd came from the chief priests, scribes, and elders – the religious elite who sought to kill Jesus to preserve their own power. And this crowd came armed – their intent was not to listen to Jesus, or to argue with him; they came to take him away, to the Chief priest, and the Sanhedrin, or council. Judas came up to Jesus, and kissed him – this was the sign Judas had given the crowd that this was the one to arrest. Here is where the saying arose, “Betrayed with a kiss”. Jesus was betrayed, by one of his closest friends, by one who would quite naturally come up and give him a kiss on the cheek and call him, “Rabbi”, or Teacher.
And so they arrested Jesus – but one of his followers (Mark does not say that it was Peter) drew a sword and cut off the ear of one of the high priest’s servants. Jesus stopped the violence, asking those who came armed, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was in the temple with you teaching, but you did not arrest me.” They did not arrest him in public because they had feared the people’s reaction. Now they came in the dark of the night, to arrest him in secret. Still, Jesus said, “But the scriptures must be fulfilled.” This was what he had come to do – he could not withdraw now.
But his followers, just as he had predicted only hours earlier, deserted him and fled. They had said they would never desert him, that they would go with him to death. But now, when the night is torn with torches and clamor, their hearts are torn with fear, and they follow the fear rather than their best instincts, and they run away. One of them is in such a hurry to flee that he leaves behind his linen garment and runs away naked. (If this youth running away naked has some special significance, we are only guessing as to what it is.) There is a disconnect between what they want to do and what they do in a moment of panic. They will need something greater than themselves to give them the strength and resolve to be true followers of Christ. So do we all!