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John 18:1-14, 19-24 Study Guide: The Arrest

Community Group Study Guide — The Arrest
John 18:1-14, 19-24

Study Information:
We’re entering a section of the gospel of John where God the Son gets put on trial by both Jewish and Roman systems and is condemned to death. Every gospel writer wants us to know clearly that Jesus was innocent of any wrong doing. It could be that you’ve watched courtroom dramas, Judge Judy or have been part of a jury yourself. We’re conditioned to expect evidence to be presented and for people who are making legal decisions to be unbiased. There are many times we’re reminded that our American judicial system is not perfect, but it has elements of design to eliminate bias against someone, as our system presumes innocence until the burden of proof is met. As you work through the narrative of Jesus’ arrest, trial and condemnation you can read how he was innocent and all the various ways that what occurred was against cultural norm for what was fair and just, like the Jewish trial taking place at night, or how Pilate declared his innocence but ordered his execution to appease the angry mob… we are meant to walk away from this section knowing Jesus was innocent and at the same time knowing that he was not a victim. Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane knowing what would happen and he went to disarm the power of sin, death and the devil.

Jesus was Lord Over His Own Arrest
John 18:1-11
In John 13, Jesus met with his disciples in an upper room of a Jerusalem home to celebrate the passover, wash his disciples feet and to teach them about what was about to happen to him in his arrest and crucifixion. After the meal was finished they left the upper room and began to walk outside of the city as Jesus continued to teach and this section ended with Jesus’ prayer for them and for us to be united to Christ by faith, one as a church and to know deeply the love that God has for us (John 14:31). This walk ended with his disciples crossing outside the city walls and into the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus met his betrayer and a band of soldiers looking to arrest him. Jesus knew this would happen and we see this at least 3 ways in our text of scripture. 

First, Judas knew where to find Jesus and the disciples (John 18:2). We last saw Judas in John 13 when he was identified to Jesus and just two of the disciples as the betrayer; the larger group of disciples assumed he left to get supplies or to give money to the poor which means that he thoroughly convinced them that he was one of them. Yet, he left to betray Jesus to the high priest and religious leaders. This garden spot was likely the place where Jesus would go each night with his disciples to debrief the teaching and ministry they did during this holy week time in Jerusalem. The religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus away from a crowd, which is why they sought out Judas to betray him. Jesus knew it would be where Judas would go and if he wanted to he could have hid from Judas. 

Second, Jesus went into the garden knowing all that would happen to him (John 18:4). Jesus, in his divine nature, knew the road that lay before him. The text tells us that Jesus saw the group sent to arrest him and he initiated the conversation by asking them “whom are you seeking?” This question gets posed to the group twice! When they finally said “Jesus of Nazareth,” Jesus stepped forward and got between his disciples and the danger so that he’d protect them from harm (John 18:9). 

Finally, Jesus had the power to defeat this group of soldiers. They came to arrest Jesus with a “band of soldiers” which was roughly 300-600 men and they came armed. When Jesus identified himself as “Jesus of Nazareth” these soldiers drew back and fell down (John 18:6). Though they came in overwhelming force they were intimidated by Jesus and we know from other texts of scripture that he had immeasurable power and could have prevented his arrest if he so chose.

If all these things are true, why did Jesus go into the Garden and why did he subject himself to be arrested like he did? Jesus’ true enemy was not the religious leaders or the Romans, he was arrested to defeat a different ruler so we could go free. 

Jesus Was Arrested so We Could Go Free
John 18:12-14, 19-24
Jesus’ true enemy was not the religious leader or the Romans but sin, death and the devil. Even though he taught about this throughout his ministry people still misunderstood the nature of his kingdom. 

Notice in the Garden that at least one of Jesus’ disciples thought that Jesus’ battle involved earthly weapons. Peter picked up a sword to defend Jesus, which showed tremendous courage in the face of 300-600 soldiers. Likely he thought Jesus would respond in power, which in a way he did, because he healed Malchus’ ear, he just did not respond with military power. 

We also see in this passage that the earthly rulers thought Jesus had an earthly army or agenda in mind. The band of soldiers delivered Jesus to Annas who used to be the high priest and apparently was still pulling the strings. The current high priest, Caiaphas, was a relative of Annas and so were the previous 4 high priests. Annas’ questions were around Jesus “teaching and his disciples” most commentaries on John read this as an inquiry into whether Jesus had some secret teaching or secret group stashed away ready to act (John 18:19). Jesus’ reply was that his teaching was public and anyone who was around would have known what he was all about. This angered some of the attendants and one of them struck Jesus on the face for his disrespect. They saw Jesus as a political and military threat that needed to be dealt with. 

Why did Jesus subject himself to all of this? Jesus was fighting a cosmic battle and was at work to defeat sin, death and the devil. Earlier in John Jesus’ taught that his true mission was to dethrone the “ruler of this world,” that is the devil (John 12:31). It is easier to think that our enemies are flesh and blood, like Peter, but if that was the case then Jesus would have commended Peter for his bravery and taking up the sword. Instead, Jesus rebuked Peter and went forward in his mission towards the cross where he would be our substitute. 

Laying Down His Life
John 18 shows us what Jesus had taught in John 10. Jesus was the Good Shepherd who would lay down his life for his sheep. This was not just some metaphor, but a practical reality that took place as Jesus went forward by his own power to take our place, and he did so in order to lose none of his disciples (John 18:9). The disciples had recently celebrated the passover meal which involved eating a lamb as they remembered how God commanded his people to paint their doorposts with the blood of the lamb so the angel of death passed over them. This act of faith led to the people of God being freed from slavery in Egypt. In John 18 we see the beginning of Jesus the Good Shepherd becoming the lamb of God who would take away our sins. Jesus used his power to lay down his life, he was arrested so that we could be free from the oppression of sin, death and the devil. The religious leaders didn’t get it, but they saw Jesus as a threat and moved to eliminate him. Jesus used his power and Lordship to take these evil acts and use them for our salvation and for our good. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 18:1-14, 19-24

How did Jesus express his power and Lordship over his own arrest?

What clues in the text do we have that the religious leaders and Romans thought Jesus was a threat to their political and military power?

How do you think the disciples felt during this event in the gospel?

One of the themes of the gospel of John is that faith is active and ongoing, how does knowing that Jesus could have avoided his arrest but went through it with for our good help you to trust God today?