43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.
51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
(Mark 14:43-52 NIV)
After celebrating the Passover together with His disciples, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Jesus is in deep anguish over the events about to begin, yet lays His will down in obedience to His Father’s will. Jesus had instructed His three disciples to watch and pray; three times He came back and found them asleep.
In today’ passage, the mob, led by Judas Iscariot, suddenly appears to arrest Jesus. Judas, once a trusted disciple, now a cold-hearted traitor, had tracked Jesus down and identified Him to the officials. Judas likely knew the places where Jesus and His disciples hung out, having been part of the group for three years.
Judas’ sign for the officials also indicated his traitorous heart – he went up to Jesus and gave Jesus a kiss on the cheek. This was not just any kiss; the Greek word used means the affectionate kiss reserved for two best friends.
One of the disciples tried to use his sword to defend Jesus; only John, writing many decades later, would identify Peter as the sword-ravishing disciple (John 18:10). The other gospel accounts cite Jesus reprimanding the disciple for using his sword, and Doctor Luke records that Jesus healed and restored the servant’s ear (Luke 22:49-51). Was Mark being kind and protective of Peter by not calling out his name? No, there was a bigger issue at stake – the reputation of the disciples as lovers of people, not a warring mob. This was the impetuous action of one, not the identity of the group.
Notice that Jesus did not try to run or hide or otherwise elude His captors; instead, He faced them willingly. In fact, Jesus calls out the religious leaders’ hypocrisy, asking them why they didn’t arrest Him when He was with them in the Temple every day. This is an act of cowardice to arrest Jesus at night, away from the crowds.
At this point, the disciples fled, leaving Jesus all alone, just as Jesus said they would.
Verses 51-52 add one other bit of information to the story. This bit is only found in Mark’s gospel. Here we see another young man associated with Jesus but not named as a disciple elude arrest. Might this have been young John Mark, the very one recording Peter’s words? Without stating his name or drawing attention to himself, was this Mark’s way of saying “I was there!”? Wrapped in a sheet toga-style, the young man escapes by spinning out of the sheet and running away naked.
May we see the response of Jesus, who calmly faced His captors, knowing that the struggle of the wills in the garden was over, and He was in the Father’s hands.
In our struggles and fears, may we pray for God’s will to be done, not ours. May we sense the peace that only He can give in the midst of trials and tribulations when we surrender to Him and give the outcomes of those trials to Him.