In the quiet of night, as His disciples fell into weary sleep, Jesus went to His Father in prayer. Three times He asked that the burden would be removed. Could the Father take away this task? Could Jesus somehow avoid the coming torment? Did He have to drink the cup of God’s wrath? Was it truly the only way to bring salvation to man? Imagine the breathtaking love of the Father as He held the redemption of humankind before His Son and said, “You are the only way.” Imagine the wholehearted, absolute love and surrender of the Son as He accepted the punishment that all of us should bear.
When the chief priests and soldiers came to arrest Jesus, the battle had already been won. The Son of God had already humbled Himself and made Himself as nothing before God. He would serve the Father through the darkness, totally assured of the glory on the other side. God would exalt Him to the highest place, the very throne of Heaven. The name of Jesus would be above every name, and every knee in Heaven and on earth and under the earth would bow before Him, and every tongue would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. And the lavish honor bestowed upon the Son would give honor and glory to the Father of His Great Love (see Phil. 2).
As Jesus faced the cross, He knew that all of these things lay on the other side…and it gave Him power to scorn it’s shame (see Hebrews 12:1-3). The men in the Garden that came to arrest Him were entirely mistaken in their belief that they were asserting any kind of real power in the events that were about to unfold. Even as Jesus gave Himself over to their venomous attacks and the agonies of physical abuse, He remained Lord of all.
Simon Peter and the disciples were growing in their faith, but they did not have the vision to see beyond the events of the moment. As Simon Peter surged forward with his sword, he invited the horrors of violence into a moment that was meant for surrender. Jesus commanded an end to strife and healed the ear of the man that Peter attacked.
Then he turned to the men who had come to seize Him and said, “‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as if I were a robber? Every day I was with you in the Temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has happened that Scripture might be fulfilled. This hour and the power of darkness are yours.’”
When the disciples heard Jesus and realized that He was giving Himself up, they panicked and fled the scene. Imagine how the religious rulers sneered as the soldiers put shackles on Jesus’ hands and feet. As they led Him away, a young man came along behind. He had no clothes on except a sheet that was wrapped around him. When the soldiers realized he was a friend of Jesus, they tried to seize him, too, but he ran, leaving the sheet behind. Off he went, naked into the cold night, devastated by the seeming fate of his Lord.
The mob moved through the dark to the house of Annas, the former high priest over Israel. He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the current high priest. It was Caiaphas who declared that it was better for Christ to die in order to save the nation. He declared that if the Romans grew weary of all the excitement Jesus seemed to raise, they might clamp down on all of their freedoms.
This, of course, was ridiculous. The Romans had shown no concern over the travels of Christ or the message He preached. But it was a good excuse. Little did the high priest know that his venomous declaration was actually a prophecy from God (see John 11:45-53).
The true reason of Caiaphas’ malice toward Christ was more personal. He was jealous, greedy, and had a problem with a lust for power. He was from a family of longstanding prestige and influence. This family was used to wielding power and controlling the direction of the nation. This young preacher was a threat to their agenda, and He had to be eliminated. No longer would Jesus be allowed to sneak around the valleys and cracks of the nation, catering to the ignorant crowds. He was finally going to have to face the men whose leadership He had dared to defy on their terms. How viciously Caiaphas and his fellow rulers savored the anticipation of humiliating Him. Caiaphas was no innocent, spiritual man who was getting the story wrong. He was a calloused abuser of power who could care less about the things of God. God would use the sin of this man who lead His chosen nation to bring about His perfect purposes through His righteous Son.
As Jesus moved towards the House of Annas, Simon Peter had recovered from his initial panic. He followed the crowd, threading his way along to keep watch on the unfolding events. John had come along, too. He was known in the household of Annas, so as Jesus was led in for questioning, he was allowed onto the estate. Peter had to wait outside, but John went to the doorkeeper for him. While Peter waited for him, a little slave girl who worked at the door came up to him and said, “‘You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?’” In a split second reaction, Peter declared, “‘I am not.’” Before he even had time to think, he had denied his Lord the first time.
John was able to get Peter inside the door, so Peter walked into the courtyard and stood by a charcoal fire where slaves and soldiers were standing to warm themselves.
Meanwhile, Annas started to question Jesus, grilling Him about His disciples and the messages He taught. Jesus looked back at him and stated the facts, “‘I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in the synagogues, and in the Temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; behold, these know what I said.’”
At this, an officer struck Jesus and scowled, “‘Is this the way you answer the high priest?’”
Jesus boldly replied, “‘If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness of the wrong; bit if rightly, why do you strike Me?’” Jesus answered with a reminder of the Old Testament Law. In Exodus 22:28, God told the nation of Israel that it is righteous to speak in self-defense if it is the truth. Clearly, the officer was more concerned about protecting the former high priest than honoring righteous decrees of the Word of God.
Jesus stood before Annas with the superior power of moral authority. Annas had nothing to say. Perhaps he was a bit rattled. It was obvious he had no ability to intimidate Jesus. He dismissed Him and sent Him along to the home of his son-in-law where men from the Sanhedrin, Israel’s highest court, had already gathered.
This had all been plotted out ahead of time. In the deep, dark of night, they had come to preside over the questioning and condemnation of the One who preached such infuriating messages in the courts of their Temple.