Easter. The Passion of Jesus XI. The Arrest and more on Judas.

Part 12, here.
Part 10, here.

You can read the whole series here.

The Arrest of Jesus. More on Judas.

The story of the Passion of Christ has its share of pathos, and certainly a portion of that is provided by the betrayal of one of the Twelve, Judas. Mark 14:43 (ESV): “And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.”[12] Mark has already told of Judas contracting with the scribes and priests to deliver Jesus at a moment when he’s isolated so there won’t be a riot. Riots were not unknown in Judea but they could have fearful consequences since the Romans didn’t like them at all.

Moreover, the Roman governor, Pilate is present in the city because of the feast day (Passover–this is part of the strategy for an arrest now). It was a way to discourage high emotion from translating to civil disturbance, and they had experience with that as entailed in the incident with Barabbas and Pilate.

Mark and Matthew are not very precise about who is coming with Judas, it’s a crowd, but who is there? Are Roman’s involved in some way? The temple guard (police)? John has Roman soldiers.

The chief priests, scribes, and elders are the people who normally make up the Sanhedrin, the ruling body, the council. In the Synoptics, Jesus has no contact with the Jerusalem council, he never comes to Jerusalem (in John he is there all the time it seems). He does have negative interaction with Pharisees, but Pharisees are not involved in the Passion story. Mark has a line that does not appear in the other Gospels: “seize him, and lead him away safely” this is Judas. This line has been the source of much speculation about Judas that has developed into dramatic plays, fiction, and psychoanalysis of Judas and what was doing. One even has Judas and Jesus in some kind of collusion that gets out of hand. Another was that Judas was trying to force Jesus’ hand, to reveal his power as the Messiah. Mark and Matthew don’t really say anything about Judas’ reasoning. The later Gospels, Luke and John, supply a rationale: Satan possesses Judas and he becomes his agent, and in later literature Judas becomes the son of Perdition, he’s the child of the Devil (Jn 17:12). John tries to fill in the story further, saying that Judas was a thief. He was bad from the start.[13]

Judas comes with the crowd and calls Jesus rabbi, and kisses him. Mark has Jesus remain silent, but the other Gospel writers plug something in here. Mark writes that one of the disciples has a sword, he doesn’t say which one, or even if it’s an apostle, and the disciple uses the sword to cut off the ear of a slave of the high priest. Jesus does not respond to this.

But the other Gospels don’t like this (Matthew and Luke are using Mark here–at least that is the widely held opinion) and we get various additions. Mark leaves many implicit questions all over the place, and Matthew likes to answer these—and he is a little more elaborate on other things, he has Jesus call Judas, Friend. Matthew: Jesus heals the ear, and John has Peter using the sword, and he even gives the servant a name, Malchus (the name means king).[14] Luke and John have Peter cut off the right ear for some reason, and people argue that this means Peter was left-handed! Jesus says, in Matthew, “put away the sword, because those who live by the sword, will die by the sword.” It’s an extension of turn the other cheek (apologies), and Paul has this in the early letter, 1 Thess. 5:15. Don’t render evil for evil, and there’s Genesis 9:6. Luke leaves out a lot of Judas’s acts. It’s his way to not speak badly of the Twelve or Jesus, and he has Jesus working externally as Savior all the way through to the end of the Passion. He even heals a rift between Pilate and Herod (Luke involves a Herod in the Roman trial).

If we put Peter in the role of sword wielder, it fits in a way with his declaration that he’s willing to die for Jesus. He’s standing with Jesus. It adds to John’s picture of Peter as the impulsive one. Jesus begins to face his fate now, for John, and John has Jesus ask Peter, would you have me not drink the cup? (Jn 18:11)

Running Naked. A little creepy.

Running Naked. A little creepy. And the cloth is not white.

Mark has another interesting reference to a young man, perhaps a disciple, evidently not one of the twelve, who tries to escape the melee. He’s wearing only a white cloth and someone grabs him, he pulls away, leaving the cloth but running away naked. There is a surprisingly large literature about this incident that I won’t go into.[15] Perhaps there is a more mundane meaning: it shows the complete desertion of Jesus (this is Brown’s take), everybody leaves, no matter how embarrassing–nakedness—a powerful symbol in Judaism. The disciples left everything to follow Jesus, now they lose everything in leaving him. (Again, Luke makes no mention of the apostles running away. It’s too insulting for his dynamic.)


[12] Some scholars have argued that the Passion narratives are separate traditions from the rest of the Gospel texts and this is the reason that Mark reintroduces Judas as one of the Twelve, rather than just mentioning his name.

[13] His name appears as Judas Iscariot. John seems to call Judas’s father “the Iscariot.” (John 6:71, 13:26). Iscariot has been interpreted to mean, from Kerioth, a small town in Judea, then that has been used to “explain” Judas: he’s the only one who is not a Galilean. Some scholars have speculated that “one of the twelve” actually means that Judas was the most important of the Twelve. He’s certainly important, next to Peter he is the best known disciple.

[14] Maybe this is a reference to the nature of the kingdom. It’s not worldly or something. The Book of Abraham has an interesting textual history with the feminine form. And there is a weirdly similar relevance.

[15] Google “Secret Gospel of Mark” and Morton Smith, if you like. It’s a fascinating episode.

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