An Easy Arrest – John 18:1-11

James “Whitey” Bulger was a Boston crime boss, whose story has been told in books, documentary form and at least one major film, Black Mass starring Johnny Depp. Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_F-lVhSfx8

One of the many crazy things about Bulgar’s story is his ability to avoid arrest. He cooperated with the FBI for a very long time and eventually ran from the law – some sixteen years as a fugitive, most of that while on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.

Some people will do almost anything to stay out of prison, even if they deserve it.

With Jesus, though he was by no means a criminal, it was very different. Here is the story as John presents it,

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 

All of these people come to get Jesus. The word used for “a band” of soldiers would usually number in the hundreds. So how does Jesus respond?

Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 

The reaction of the organized mob is fascinating and probably indicates something supernatural at work.

When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 

Jesus is still rather determined to make himself known.

So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 

And just in case future disciples would misunderstand, we get this detail.

10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Jesus went to the cross willingly. We might even say intentionally. It was part of God’s plan. There is, however, an example here for us. Should our faith ever get us into trouble, we need not avoid that trouble at all costs. We follow Jesus, not men like Whitey Bulger.

Such suffering or trials may be part of God’s plan for us. We are not criminals who need to run from justice. We may even need to face injustice with willing hearts and bodies ready to suffer harm. The history of martyrs for the faith is long and growing. It’s one way many have had to follow Jesus and there will be many more as we wait for Christ’s return.

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