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John 18:1-6

1. When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples over the brook Kedron, where was a garden, into which he entered, and his disciples. 2. And Judas also, who betrayed him, knew the place; for Jesus often resorted thither with his disciples. 3. Then Judas, having received a band of soldiers, and officers from the chief pricsts and Pharisees, came thither with lanterns, and torches, and weapons. 4. Now Jesus, knowing all the things which were coming upon him, went forward and said to them, Whom seek ye? 5. They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith to them, It is I. And Judas also, who betrayed him, stood with them. 6. As soon therefore as he said to them, It is I, they went backward, and fell to the ground.

 

1. When Jesus bad spoken these words. In this narrative John passes by many things which the other three Evangelists relate, and he does so on purposej as his intention was to collect many things worthy of being recorded, about which they say nothing; and, therefore, let the reader go to the other Evangelists to find what is wanting here.

Over the brook Kedron. In the Greek original there is an article prefixed to Kedron, which would seem to intimate that the brook takes its name from the cedars; 130130     Is Κέδρων, a proper name, or an appellative? Calvin does not mean that the presence of the article settles this question, but that it depends on the preference which shall be given to one or another of the various readings. If we read τῶν Κέδρων, it will be difficult to resist the conclusion that Κέδρων is the genitive plural of Κέδρος, a cedar; but if we read τοῦ Κέδρων, or rather, τοῦ Κεδρὼν, we must treat Κεδρὼν, as an indeclinable Hebrew word, though Josephus chooses sometimes to decline it, as in the phrase, χείμαρρον Κεδρῶνος, the brook of Kedron, (Ant. 8:1.) “Instead of the common reading, τῶν Κέδρων,” says Bloomfield, “four of the most ancient MSS. and six ancient Versions, with some Fathers, have,τοῦ Κεδρὼν, which was preferred by Beza, Casaubon, Campbell, Castalio, Drusius, Lightfoot, Bols, Bynmus, Reland, and others of the best Commentators down to Middleton, Kuinoel, and Tittmann, and has been received by Bengel, Griesbach, Knapp, Vater, and Scholz. The common reading, however, is strenuously, but not satisfactorily, defended by Lampe and Matthsei.” Our Author proceeds no further than to propose, τοῦ instead of τῶν, as a conjectural emendation; but Bloomfield has given a prodigious list of authorities on the same side. — Ed. but this is probably an error which has crept into the text; for the valley or brook Kedron is often mentioned in Scripture. The place was so called from its being dark or gloomy, because, being a hollow valley, it was shady, 131131     The Hebrew name קדרון (Kidron) is derived from קדר, (Kadar,) it was black, and signifies the black brook.Ed. on that point, however, I do not dispute: I only state what is more probable.

The chief thing to be considered is, the intention of the Evangelist in pointing out the place; for his object was, to show that Christ went to death willingly. He came into a place which, he knew, was well known to Judas. Why did he do this but to present himself, of his own accord, to the traitor and to the enemies? Nor was he led astray by inadvertency, for he knew beforehand all that was to happen. John afterwards mentions also that he went forward to meet them. He therefore suffered death, not by constraint, but willingly, that he might be a voluntary sacrifice; for without obedience atonement would not have been obtained for us. Besides, he entered into the garden, not for the purpose of seeking a place of concealment, but that he might have a better opportunity, and greater leisure, for prayer. That he prayed three times to be delivered from death, (Matthew 26:44,) is not inconsistent with that voluntary obedience of which we have spoken; 132132     On this point the reader will do well to consult our Author’s elaborate exposition and argument, Harmony of the Evangelists, vol. 3, pp. 226-234. for it was necessary that he should contend with difficulties, that he might be victorious. Now, having subdued the dread of death, he advances to death freely and willingly.

3. Judas, therefore, having received a band of soldiers. That Judas came accompanied by soldiers and by so large a retinue, is a sign of a bad conscience, which always trembles without any cause. It is certain that the band of soldiers was borrowed from the governor, who also sent a captain at the head of a thousand soldiers; for, on account of sudden mutinies, a garrison was stationed in the city, and the governor himself kept a body-guard, wherever he was. The rest were officers sent by the priests; but John makes separate mention of the Pharisee, because they were more enraged than all the rest, as if they had cared more about religion.

4. Jesus therefore, hnowing. The Evangelist states more clearly with what readiness Christ went forward to death, but, at the same time, describes the great power which he exercised by a single word, in order to inform us that wicked men had no power over him, except so far as he gave permission.

5. It is I. He replies mildly that he is the person whom they seek, and yet, as if they had been struck down by a violent tempest, or rather by a thunderbolt, he lays them prostrate on the ground. There was no want of power in him, therefore, to restrain their hands, if he had thought proper; but he wished to obey his Father, by whose decree he knew that he was called to die.

We may infer from this how dreadful and alarming to the wicked the voicc of Christ will be, when he shall ascend his throne to judge the world. At that time he stood as a lamb ready to be sacrificed; his majesty, so far as outward appearance was concerned, was utterly gone; and yet when he utters but a single word, his armed and courageous enemies fall down. And what was the word? He thunders no fearful excommunication against them, but only replies, It is I What then will be the result, when he shall come, not to be judged by a man, but to be the Judge of the living and the dead; not in that mean and despicable appearance but shining in heavenly glory, and accompanied by his angels? He intended, at that time, to give a proof of that efficacy which Isaiah ascribes to his voice. Among other glorious attributes of Christ, the Prophet relates that

he will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and will slay the wicked by the breath of his lips,
(Isaiah 11:4.)

True, the fulfillment of this prophecy is declared by Paul to be delayed till the end of the world, (2 Thessalonians 2:8.) Yet we daily see the wicked, with all their rage and pride, struck down by the voice of Christ; and, when those men fell down who had come to bind Christ, there was exhibited a visible token of that alarm which wicked men feel within themselves, whether they will or not, when Christ speaks by his ministers. Besides, as this was in some measure accidental to the voice of Christ, to whom it peculiarly belongs to raise up men who were lying in a state of death, he will undoubtedly display toward us such power as to raise us even to heaven.


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