John 18:1-12 (ESV)
1 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. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 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. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 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?” 12 So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him.
Not far from where I live is a wonderful place called Longwood Gardens founded by Pierre S. du Pont. It’s an incredible botanical garden covering more than 1,000 acres full of flowers, woodlands, and meadows. In the gardens, there are concert venues, restaurants, amazing greenhouses, and incredible fountain displays. Every season of the year the beauty there is breathtaking. If you’re ever out this way I would wholeheartedly encourage you to spend some time walking the gardens.
Our passage takes place in a garden and the events that unfold bring to mind what took place in the Garden of Eden back in Genesis 2 and 3 with the betrayal of Adam and Eve. That betrayal led to the condemnation of humanity.
Now, as Jesus stands betrayed by Judas in this garden, something different is unfolding. Through Jesus, God’s saving work is unfolding. Justification, righteousness, salvation, and grace are overflowing because of Jesus' faithfulness and obedience to the will of His Father.
Just as sin entered the world through Adam’s betrayal and rebellion in that Garden long ago, now life is entering into the world in this garden of betrayal through the Word become flesh.
Don’t miss the makeup of the group who is there in this garden. The whole of humanity is represented in the group of people who are present. The Gentile Romans in the band of soldiers, the Jewish people in the officers from the chief priests, and even the unsteady church and Christians in the presence of the disciples.
Who do they meet in this garden? I AM. Please don’t miss this. Three times during His arrest, Jesus identifies Himself as the royal I AM, the bread of life, the resurrection, the good shepherd, the way, the truth, the life, the door, the bread, and the light of the world.
Everyone in this garden is in the presence of God incarnate, the Word become flesh, and in Him we have all received grace upon grace, the very presence of the Lord.
And what happens when this heavily armed group hears the name “I AM”? They are brought to their knees as everyone has been throughout Scripture when they have come face to face with God.
Jesus is who He has always claimed to be throughout John’s Gospel, and now, in this garden betrayal, restoration, healing, and forgiveness are beginning to flourish where sin once held sway.
It’s a lot to take in, and it will be even more so as we read through this chapter and the next.
My encouragement to you as we press on into the Passion is just to let the Lord speak to your heart and allow His love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace to take root, flourish, and bloom within you.
God bless you and know that you are constantly in my prayers.