‘Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley.’
It sounds like a ‘throwaway line’ but the mention of the Kidron Valley is loaded with significance. It’s the small stream, dry for most of the year, which carried the waste from the Temple. Many commentators have suggested that when Jesus crossed it would have been stained red with the blood of animals being sacrificed for Passover. It was a place of judgement (1 Kings 2:37). It was the place where people wept when David fled humiliated in the Absalom rebellion (2 Samuel 15:23) after being betrayed by his trusted adviser Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:12); one of only two people in Scripture to commit suicide by hanging (2 Samuel 17:23). It was a small stream but it couldn’t have been easy for Jesus to cross.
‘Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place,’
From Matthew 26:36 and Mark 14:32, we know that the place was Garden of Gethsemane, a small olive grove on the Mount of Olives. From Luke 21:37, we learn that Jesus and the disciples were spending their nights on the Mount of Olives. Judas, having left the upper room earlier to betray Jesus to the Jewish authorities (13:30), perhaps first returned there with soldiers and officials but finding it empty, he knew where Jesus would be. Judas knew a lot about Jesus but he clearly didn’t really know him. It’s the same today, it’s one thing to know about Jesus but what counts is actually knowing him. It’s a relationship. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (17:3)
“If you are looking for me, then let these men go.”
I find the words of Jesus here intensely moving. The quiet of the garden was shattered by a detachment of soldiers carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus knew all that was about to happen and rather than try to save his own life he was thinking of the safety of the disciples. Twice he asked “Who is it you want?” and when they replied “Jesus of Nazareth”, then twice answered “I am he.” He followed that with “then let these men go”. He chose to suffer so that they might go free. It’s an illustration of the big picture; Jesus put himself forward to take the judgement that should have been mine. As if in answer to a call from heaven; ‘is there anyone to take the place of this fallen sinner Phil Lewis?’ Jesus replies; ‘I am the one, let him go.’
“Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
John does not record the anguish of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden; as we have said throughout the Gospel, he is looking from a slightly different angle but there is a harmony in the four accounts. Peter’s last stand is recorded in them all but only John tells us that it was Peter and the servant’s name (Malchus). Perhaps the others wanted to spare Peter’s blushes but Luke tells us that they were all prepared for a fight (Luke 22:49), they were not cowards. Luke also tells us that it was here that Jesus performed the last healing miracle of his life in healing the servant’s ear. It’s from John that we get Jesus’ words; “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” the statement referring to the prayerful struggle recorded in the other accounts. The cup was God’s judgement and although John did not cover the struggle he recorded the resolve that followed. Jesus will take upon himself the judgement that should have fallen on me and you. What a Saviour!
‘Amazing love, O what sacrifice
The Son of God given for me
My debt he pays, and my death he dies
That I might live, that I might live!’ (Graham Kendrick)