“The Prayerless One”
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 18:2 (Holman) Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with His disciples.
Our writer made it very clear Jesus did not leave Jerusalem to escape His adversaries. He instead went directly to the place He knew Judas would soon bring soldiers. Jesus went as calmly and resolutely as if He had an appointment to meet a friend there and did not want to be late.
The betrayer, Judas, knew this garden well. He had been there often. He knew the place of prayer, but didn’t know the prayer of the place. He had never taken advantage of prayer. It was outside his realm of experience. Many still come to a house of prayer and discuss the importance of prayer, but never pray.
The man agonizing in prayer would be betrayed by a prayerless one; appropriately, in a garden. Satan, in the form of a serpent, ruined our race in a garden. Satan, in the form of Judas, began Jesus’ suffering in another garden.
In a garden God pronounced a curse for sin, and promised a Redeemer. In another garden the promised Redeemer began His ultimate conflict against the curse of sin. When His suffering ended, He was laid in another garden, where He won the ultimate triumph over sin and death.
John 18:3 So Judas took a company of soldiers and some temple police from the chief priests and the Pharisees and came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.
Judas came leading two different law enforcement groups: “Company” refers to a cohort, which consisted of 600 Roman soldiers. “Temple police” refers to Levites who served as the Temple’s keepers of the peace.
Judas brought more than 600 men with him. As always, Jesus’ friends were few, His enemies many. Why such a large group? Probably for fear the disciples might incite a riot to rescue the popular hero.
I wonder how Judas felt, leading such a large group. Being over Roman soldiers and Temple police was something Jesus never accomplished. I wonder if Judas felt proud, having left the contemptible Twelve for a glorious 600.
John provided the touch of an eyewitness. Something about the spectacle of this evening he could never forget. The soldiers came with lanterns and torches. They lit candles to find the One who created the sun.
They brought lanterns and torches thinking they would have to search for their victim among the trees. They assumed he would try to hide. They were in for a surprise.
John 18:4 Then Jesus, knowing everything that was about to happen to Him, went out and said to them, “Who is it you’re looking for?”
Jesus took the initiative. He went forth to meet them. He neither hid in the garden, as Adam did, nor fled as Jonah did. He openly offered Himself as ready to do or bear whatever was necessary for the world’s ransom. He entered the fray as a hero.
In the Spanish Civil War, a heavily besieged city was about to fall. With the cause obviously lost, some wanted to surrender, but one brave heart said, “It is better to die on our feet than to live on our knees.”
This is the kind of valor our Master displayed here. At least three things combined to make Him so courageous. One, prayer. Moments earlier Jesus had been in terrible mental agitation. He had agonized, trembled, faltered. But now that the very thing He dreaded has actually come upon Him, see how calm He is.
Everything has changed. There is not even the slightest hint of fear, weakness, or agitation. Oh the power of prayer! After talking with His Father, Jesus went forth resolutely to meet the enemy.
The strength available to us through prayer is astonishing. After prayer, people have often endured difficulties which beforehand had caused trembling to think about.
God does not always spare us sorrow, but does make available power to bear it, and grace to benefit by it. Herein is a chief use of prayer. Not so much to alter God’s purposes as to reconcile us to His purposes.
Two, there was prior consistency. Jesus could face this upcoming dilemma resolutely because He had been preparing for it for a lifetime. He could take up Calvary’s cross because He had been taking up smaller crosses daily.
Doing our duty every day is what prepares us for the day of special trial. People do not suddenly spring into spiritual victory. What Jesus did here in the garden was merely a continuation of what He had done for a lifetime.
At age 12 He was already committed to the work of God. At age 30 He chose to be identified with John the Baptist rather than the Pharisees. Whatever the cost, He opposed the hypocritical religious leaders, and refused to fear them. Despite the danger, He came to Jerusalem for the Passover.
Instead of fleeing, Jesus crossed Kidron. He had been making correct yet difficult choices for a lifetime. His key to success was to live out His faith daily in every situation, regardless of how unimportant certain situations looked.
Serve God everywhere, all the time, every day. Otherwise, we’ll fail in the day of special trial.
Prior consistency is essential to success. John Knox faced conflict after conflict in the Scottish Reformation. If the opposition were not a King or a Queen, it would be an ecclesiastical body of some kind.
Knox remained undaunted in the face of them all. Test after test failed to break him. Nothing shook him. This life-long everyday fearlessness in behalf of truth gained for him this eulogy from one of his bitterest opponents: “There lies one who never feared the face of man.”
Three, there was pity. Jesus had to go forth and meet the soldiers in order to protect the disciples. Jesus twice asked the arresters whom they were seeking. Twice He made them acknowledge their business was solely with Him. He forced them to admit they had no claim against the disciples.
His love for the Apostles pictures on a small scale His love for us. This scene was enacted on our behalf. He pitied not only the disciples, but also us.