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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Arrest

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ARREST (John 18:2-11 = Matthew 26:47-56 = Mark 14:43-52 = Luke 22:47-53).—When Judas, withdrawing from the Supper, betook himself to the high priests and informed them that he was ready to implement his agreement (see Betrayal), their simplest way would have been to accompany him back to the upper room and there arrest Jesus. It was, however, impossible for them to proceed thus summarily. They had indeed, the officers of the temple at their command (cf. John 7:32); but these were insufficient, since the Law forbade them to go armed on the Passover day,* [Note: Mishna, Shabb. vi. 4: ‘No one shall go out with sword or how, with shield or sling or lance. But if he go out, he shall be guilty of sin.’] and, though Jesus and the Eleven were defenceless, He was the popular hero, and, should an alarm be raised, the multitude would be aroused and would come to the rescue. Moreover, had they taken such a step on their own authority, they would have offended the procurator, Pontius Pilate, who was ever jealous for the maintenance of order, especially at the festal seasons; and it was of the utmost moment that they should secure his sympathy and co-operation. Accordingly, though doubtless impatient of the delay, they first of all appealed to him and obtained from him a detachment of soldiers from Fort Antonia, under the command of a tribune.

The Roman garrison at Jerusalem consisted of a single cohort (σπεῖρα), i.e. 500 men (cf. Schürer, HJP [Note: JP History of the Jewish People.] i. ii. p. 55). λαβὼν τὴν στεῖραν, (John 18:3) does not, of course, imply that the entire cohort was despatched on the errand. Cf. such phrases as ‘call out the military,’ ‘summon the police.’

Ere all was arranged several hours had elapsed. Jesus had quitted the upper room and the city, but the traitor knew whither He had gone, and led the way to the garden on Mount Olivet, where each night during the Passion-week the Master had bivouacked with the Twelve in the open (Luke 22:39). It was a motley band that followed Judas. The soldiers would march in order, but the temple-servants, armed with cudgels and carrying lamps and torches, gave it the appearance of a mere rabble (cf. Matthew 26:47 = Mark 14:43 = Luke 22:47). And with the rest, forgetting their dignity in their eagerness to witness the success of their machinations, went some of the high priests, the temple-captains, [Note: Luke 22:4; Luke 22:52στρατηγοὶ τοῦ ἱεροῦ, the סְנָנִים , officials next in dignity to the priests, charged with the preservation of order in the temple. Cf. Schürer, ii. i. p. 257 ff.] and the elders.

When he had guided the band to the garden, Judas doubtless would fain have kept in the background, but he was doomed to drink his cup of degradation to the dregs. It was the business of the soldiers to make the arrest, but they did not know Jesus, and, seeing not one man but twelve, they were at a loss which was He. It was necessary that Judas should come forward and resolve their perplexity. Casting shame to the winds, be gave them a sign: ‘The one whom I shall kiss is he. Take him.’ Then he advanced and, greeting Jesus with feigned reverence: ‘Hail, Rabbi!’ kissed Him effusively.* [Note: Matthew 26:48-49 = Mark 14:44-45φιλήσω, κατεφίλησεν. Cf. Luke 7:38; Luke 7:45.] It was the climax of his villainy, and Jesus repulsed him with a stinging sentence. ‘Comrade!’ He cried, in that one word summing up the traitor’s baseness; ‘to thine errand.’ [Note: Euth. Zig. το δὲ ἑφʼ, (Tisch., WH ἐφʼ ) τάρει οὐκ ἑρωτηματικῶς ἀναγνωστέον· ἑγίνωσκε γὰρ ἑφʼ ᾦ ταρεγένετο· ἀλλʼ ἀτοφαντικῶς.] Brushing the traitor aside, He stepped forward and demanded of the soldiers: ‘Whom are ye seeking?’ ‘Jesus the Nazarene,’ they faltered. ‘I am he,’ He answered, making perhaps to advance towards them and surrender Himself; and, overawed by His tone and bearing, they retreated and fell on the ground.

‘Unless,’ says St. Jerome, [Note: Ad Principiam Explan. Psalm. xliv.] ‘He had had even in His countenance something sidereal, the Apostles would never have followed Him at once, nor would those who had come to arrest Him have fallen to the ground.’ It is, however, unnecessary to assume a miracle. Cf. the consternation of the mercenary soldier who came, sword in hand, to kill C. Marius at Minturnae. ‘The chamber in which he happened to be lying having no very bright light but being gloomy, it is said that the eyes of Marius appeared to dart a great flame on the soldier, and a loud voice came from the old man: “Darest thou, fellow, to slay C. Marius?” So the barbarian immediately rushed out, crying: “I cannot kill C. Marius!” ’§ [Note: Plut. C. Mar. § 39.] It is related of John Bunyan that once, as he was preaching, a justice came with several constables to arrest him. ‘The justice commanded him to come down from his stand, but he mildly told he was about his Master’s business, and must rather obey His voice than that of man. Then a constable was ordered to fetch him down; who coming up, and taking hold of his coat, no sooner did Mr. Bunyan fix his eyes stedfastly upon him, having his Bible then open in his hand, but the man let go, looked pale and retired; upon which said he to his auditors, “See how this man trembleth at the word of God!” ’ And John Wesley was once assailed by a gang of ruffians. ‘Which is he? which is he?’ they cried, not recognizing him in the press. ‘I am he,’ said Wesley, confronting them fearlessly; and they fell back and let him go unmolested.

Jesus reiterated His question: ‘Whom are ye seeking?’ and, when they answered again: ‘Jesus the Nazarene,’ He once more gave Himself up to arrest, adding an intercession for the Eleven: ‘If ye are seeking me, let these men go their way.’ Recovering themselves, the soldiers seized Him, and, as they were proceeding to bind Him, the more roughly perhaps that they were ashamed of their weakness, the indignation of the disciples mastered their alarm, and Peter, with the courage of despair, drew a sword which he carried under his cloak|| [Note: | Cf. Luke 22:38. Chrysostom thinks that these μάχαιραι were the knives (μάχαιρα may mean either sword or knife) which Peter and John (cf. Luke 22:8) had used in slaying and dressing the Paschal lamb. It evinces their sense of impending peril that they carried the μαχαιραι despite the legal prohibition.] and, assailing a slave of the high priest named Malchus, cut off his right ear. An uproar ensued, and the disciples must have paid the penalty of the rash act had not Jesus intervened. Working His hands free from the cords and craving a brief release: ‘Let me go—just thus far,’ He touched the wounded ear and healed it. [Note: This miracle is recorded by Luke alone, but the immunity of Peter from instant vengeance is inexplicable without it.] The miracle occasioned a diversion; and, while his mates were crowding about Malchus, Jesus reasoned with His excited followers. ‘Put the sword into its sheath,’ He commanded Peter. ‘The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? Dost thou suppose that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will even now send to my support more than twelve legions of angels (i.e. one for Himself and one for each of the Eleven)? How then are the scriptures to be fulfilled that even thus it must come to pass?’ St. Chrysostom* [Note: In Matth. lxxxv.] finds here an allusion to the destruction of Sennacherib’s army (2 Kings 19:35): If a single angel smote that host of 185,000 armed men, what could this rabble do against 72,000 angels?

Anxious to avert attention still further from the Eleven, Jesus addressed Himself to the Jewish rulers who with their officers had accompanied the soldiers. ‘As though against a brigand,’ He said scornfully, ‘have ye come forth with swords and cudgels? Daily in the temple I was wont to sit teaching, and ye did not arrest me.’ What had kept them from arresting Him in the temple-court? It was fear of the multitude (cf. Matthew 26:3-5 = Mark 14:1-2 = Luke 22:1-2). And they were cowards still, coming forth with an armed band against a defenceless man. It was a stroke of biting sarcasm, and they felt the sting of it. Apparently it provoked them to violence. At all events the Eleven were at that moment stricken with sudden panic, and ‘all forsook him and fled.’

They made good their escape, but the infuriated rulers [Note: Mark 14:51οἱ νεανίσκοι om. Tisch., WH.] laid hands on one who, though not a follower of Jesus, was evidently a friend and sympathizer. St. Mark alone has recorded the incident. A solitary figure (εἷς τις) strangely attired had been hovering near during the rencontre—‘a young man arrayed in a linen sheet [Note: The σινδών was a bed-sheet. Cf. Eus. HE vi. 40: μενων ἑτὶ τῆς εὑνῆς, ἧς ἤμην γυμνός, ἐν τῷ λινῶ ἑσθήματι, where Heinichen, comparing our passage, comments: ‘ἐν τῷ λινῷ ἑσθήματι idem est quod alias vocatur σινδών.’] over his undress.’ When the Eleven took to flight the rulers laid hold on him; and, dropping his garment, he left it in their grasp and escaped undressed.§ [Note: γυμνος , not absolutely naked. Cf. John 21:7.]

Who was he? and why should the Evangelist have recorded an incident which seems merely to introduce an incongruous element of comedy into the tragic narrative? Of all the conjectures which have been offered,|| [Note: | John, who recovered from his panic and followed Jesus to the high priest’s palace (Gregory, Moral. xiv. 23). James, the Lord’s brother, who, according to Eus. HE ii. 23, always after his conversion wore linen garments (Epiphan., Theophyl.). See Petavel in Expositor, March 1891.] the most reasonable seems to be that he was St. Mark himself (Olshans., Godet). The conjecture is of recent date, but long ago it was alleged that he was from the house where Jesus had eaten the Passover (Euth. Zig., Theophyl.); and it may well have been, as Ewald suggests, the house of Mary, that widow lady who resided in Jerusalem with her son John Mark, and showed hospitality to the Apostles in after days (Acts 12:12). Probably Mark had gone to rest that evening after the celebration of the Passover by his household, and, with a foreboding of trouble, had lain awake. He had heard Jesus and the Eleven descend after midnight from the upper room and quit the house, and, hastily rising and wrapping his sheet about him, had anxiously followed after them and witnessed all that passed in Gethsemane. And it may be that the incident was less trivial than it appears. In early days St. Mark bore a singular epithet. He was styled ‘the stump-fingered,’ [Note: Hippol. Philosoph. vii. 30: οὓτε Παῦλος ὁ ἀτίστολο; οὓτε Μάρκος ὁ κολοβοδακιυλος.] and in the absence of any reasonable explanation of the epithet it may, perhaps, be conjectured that during the scuffle in Gethsemane his finger had been mutilated by the slash of a sword (see Expos. 1st ser. i. [1875] pp. 436–446).

David Smith.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Arrest'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/a/arrest.html. 1906-1918.

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