It was the time of the Passover and Jesus was praying in the garden. A detachment of Roman soldiers, along with a few Temple guards provided by the chief priests and Pharisees, all carrying lamps, weapons and torches and led by none other than Jesus’ own disciple, Judas Iscariot, came upon Him (See John 18:1-11).
We see something interesting happened at that moment. John tells us that after Jesus told them that He was who they sought (John 18:5), “…they drew back and fell to the ground..” (vs 6 NIV).
The wording of John 18:6 is interesting. The Greek literally translates this as they, “drew towards the back and fell to the ground.” It says they drew away from Him and fell to the ground.
We aren’t told why; however, we know that something happened, and that something was of God.
Okay, Jesus. Now’s the time to run! They are all face down, hiding their eyes! Let’s go!
But Jesus didn’t do that. Instead, the Bible records: “Again he asked them, ‘Who is it you want?'” (vs 7 NIV). And this time, when they answered Him, Jesus said, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” (vs 8 NIV)
It was at this time that Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, the High Priest’s servant, for which he received from Jesus, not a commendation as he would have anticipated, but rather a scolding: “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (vs 11 NIV), and Luke 22:51 tells us Jesus healed the man’s ear at that time. No longer do we see the guards and soldiers drawing backwards and falling to the ground. Rather, John 18:12 tells us that it was at this point the soldiers arrested Jesus and tied Him up.
Wait. Why would God do something that would cause them to draw away and fall to the ground, only for Jesus to allow Himself to be arrested immediately afterwards?
Interestingly, though all four gospels record the facts surrounding Jesus’ arrest, only John documents this scene. Let’s remember that the four gospels are like four windows looking onto the same scene. They were written to four different audiences, and the gospel of John was written to the Christian church. Could it be that John was reminding Christ’s followers of something vitally important? Could it be he was giving them a hidden message? A message that says Jesus didn’t have to be arrested? Jesus was arrested because He allowed it to happen?
So many times prior to this Jesus had simply gotten away from the angry crowds (see Luke 4:30, John 10:39), and John 18:6 tells us that this was no different. He could have gotten away, but He didn’t. He chose to be arrested. He chose the cross.
At the same time, Jesus wants us to remember something else of vital importance: The devil could not defeat Jesus. Even in His arrest, He was still all powerful, and the only power the devil had over Him at all was the power He allowed him to have.
What legion of Roman soldiers are you up against today? Whatever it is, don’t forget that Jesus has already defeated the devil. He is all powerful and holds utmost authority over the enemy, and the only power the devil can possibly have over us is the power we allow him to have (See 1 John 5:18).
This doesn’t mean we will be able to walk out of all our trials, for Jesus told us many times we would have to go through troubles: “In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33 NIV) We are even told clearly in the prophecies of the Old Testament that we will have trouble: “When you pass through the waters…when you pass through the rivers…When you walk through the fire…” (Isaiah 43:2 NIV)
The Bible records that Jesus felt abandoned by His Father: “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).” (Matt 27:46 NIV). We may also, in the midst of our trouble, feel abandoned by God; yet we are told in both the Old Testament and the New that because of what Jesus has done in for us at the cross and because of His spirit that He has given to us, we are never alone, we are never abandoned. In the same passage in Isaiah 43 where we are told we will pass through the waters and through the fire, we see God reassuring us: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.“ (Is 43:2 NIV) (See also Deut 31:6, Heb 13:5,6).
Let that be your message this year, friends. Yes, we will go through trials, but God has already defeated the enemy, he cannot prevail over us. Even if we must walk those stony paths and those deep, dark valleys, God is always there, and in the end, He is the victor!
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.