We have here the seizing of our Lord Jesus by the officers of the chief priests. This was what his enemies had long aimed at, they had often sent to take him; but he had escaped out of their hands, because his hour was not come, nor could they now have taken him, had he not freely surrendered himself. He began first to suffer in his soul, but afterward suffered in his body, that he might satisfy for sin, which begins in the heart, but afterwards makes the members of the body instruments of unrighteousness.
I. Here is a band of rude miscreants employed to take our Lord Jesus and make him a prisoner; a great multitude with swords and staves. There is no wickedness so black, no villany so horrid, but there may be found among the children of men fit tools to be made use of, that will not scruple to be employed; so miserably depraved and vitiated is mankind. At the head of this rabble is Judas, one of the twelve, one of those that had been many years intimately conversant with our Lord Jesus, had prophesied in his name, and in his name cast out devils, and yet betrayed him. It is no new thing for a very fair and plausible profession to end in a shameful and fatal apostasy. How art thou fallen, O Lucifer!
II. Men of no less figure than the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, sent them, and set them on work, who pretended to expect the Messiah, and to be ready to welcome him; and yet, when he is come, and has given undeniable proofs that it is he that should come, because he doth not make court to them, nor countenance and support their pomp and grandeur, because he appears not as a temporal prince, but sets up a spiritual kingdom, and preaches repentance, reformation, and a holy life, and directs men’s thoughts, and affections, and aims, to another world, they set themselves against him, and, without giving the credentials he produces an impartial examination, resolve to run him down.
III. Judas betrayed him with a kiss; abusing the freedom Christ used to allow his disciples of kissing his cheek at their return when they had been any time absent. He called him, Master, Master, and kissed him; he said, Rabbi, Rabbi, as if he had been now more respectful to him than ever. It is enough to put one for ever out of conceit with being called of men Rabbi, Rabbi (Matt. 23:7), since it was with this compliment that Christ was betrayed. He bid them take him, and lead him away safely. Some think that he spoke this ironically, knowing that they could not secure him unless he pleased, that this Samson could break their bonds asunder as threads of tow, and make is escape, and then he should get the money, and Christ the honour, and no harm done; and I should think so too, but that Satan was entered into him, so that the worst and most malicious intention of this action is not too black to be supposed. Nay, he had often heard his Master say, that, being betrayed, he should be crucified, and had no reason to think otherwise.
IV. They arrested him, and made him their prisoner (Mark 14:46); They laid their hands on him, rude and violent hands, and took him into custody; triumphing, it is likely, that they had done that which has been often before attempted in vain.
V. Peter laid about him in defence of his Master, and wounded one of the assailants, being for the present mindful of his promise, to venture his life with his Master. He was one of them that stood by, of them that were with him (so the word signifies), of those three disciples that were with him in the garden; he drew a sword, and aimed, it is likely, to cut off the head, but missed his blow, and only cut off the ear, of a servant of the high priest, Mark 14:47. It is easier to fight for Christ, than to die for him; but Christ’s good soldiers overcome, not by taking other people’s lives, but by laying down their own, Rev. 12:11.
VI. Christ argues with them that had seized him, and shows them the absurdity of their proceedings against him. 1. That they came out against him, as against a thief, whereas he was innocent of any crime; he taught daily in the temple, and if he had any wicked design, there it would some time or other have been discovered; nay, these officers of the chief priests, being retainers to the temple, may be supposed to have heard his sermons there (I was with you in the temple); and had he not taught them excellent doctrine, even his enemies themselves being judges? Were not all the words of his mouth in righteousness? Was there any thing froward or perverse in them? Prov. 8:8. By his fruits he was known to be a good tree; why then did they come out against him as a thief? 2. That they came to take him thus privately, whereas he was neither ashamed nor afraid to appear publicly in the temple. He was none of those evil-doers that hate the light, neither come to the light, John 3:20. If their masters had any thing to say to him, they might meet him any day in the temple, where he was ready to answer all challenges, all charges; and there they might do as they pleased with him, for the priests had the custody of the temple, and the command of the guards about it: but to come upon him thus at midnight, and in the place of his retirement, was base and cowardly. This was to do as David’s enemy, that sat in the lurking places of the villages, to murder the innocent, Ps. 10:8. But this was not all. 3. They came with swords and staves, as if he had been in arms against the government, and must have the posse comitatus raised to reduce him. There was no occasion for those weapons; but they made this ado, (1.) To secure themselves from the rage of some; they came armed, because they feared the people; but thus were they in great fear, where no fear was, Ps. 53:5. (2.) To expose him to the rage of others. By coming with swords and staves to take him, they represented him to the people (who are apt to take impressions this way) as a dangerous turbulent man, and so endeavored to incense them against him, and make them cry out, Crucify him, crucify him, having no other way to gain their point.
VII. He reconciled himself to all this injurious, ignominious treatment, by referring himself to the Old-Testament predictions of the Messiah. I am hardly used, but I submit, for the scriptures must be fulfilled, Mark 14:49. 1. See here what a regard Christ had to the scriptures; he would bear any thing rather than that the least jot or tittle of the word of God should fall to the ground; and as he had an eye to them in his sufferings, so he has in his glory; for what is Christ doing in the government of the world, but fulfilling the scriptures? 2. See what use we are to make of the Old Testament; we must search for Christ, the true treasure hid in that field: as the history of the New Testament expounds the prophecies of Old, so the prophecies of the Old Testament illustrate the history of the New.
VIII. All Christ’s disciples, hereupon, deserted him (Mark 14:50); They all forsook him, and fled. They were very confident that they should adhere to him; but even good men know not what they will do, till they are tried. If it was such a comfort to him as he had lately intimated, that they had hitherto continued with him in his lesser trials (Luke 22:28), we may well imagine what a grief it was to him, that they deserted him now in the greatest, when they might have done him some service—when he was abused, to protect him, and when accused, to witness for him. Let not those that suffer for Christ, think it strange, if they be thus deserted, and if all the herd shun the wounded deer; they are not better than their Master, nor can expect to be better used either by their enemies or by their friends. When St. Paul was in peril, none stood by him, but all men forsook him, 2 Tim. 4:16.
IX. The noise disturbed the neighbourhood, and some of the neighbours were brought into danger by the riot, Mark 14:51, 52. This passage of story we have not in any other of the evangelists. Here is an account of a certain young man, who, as it should seem, was no disciple of Christ, nor, as some have imagined, a servant of the house wherein Christ had eaten the passover, who followed him to see what would become of him (as the sons of the prophets, when they understood that Elijah was to be taken up, went to view afar off, 2 Kgs. 2:7), but some young man that lived near the garden, perhaps in the house to which the garden belonged. Now observe concerning him,
1. How he was frightened out of his bed, to be a spectator of Christ’s sufferings. Such a multitude, so armed, and coming with so much fury, and in the dead of night, and in a quiet village, could not but produce a great stir; this alarmed our young man, who perhaps thought they was some tumult or rising in the city, some uproar among the people, and had the curiosity to go, and see what the matter was, and was in such haste to inform himself, that he could not stay to dress himself, but threw a sheet about him, as if he would appear like a walking ghost, in grave clothes, to frighten those who had frightened him, and ran among the thickest of them with this question, What is to do here? Being told, he had a mind to see the issue, having, no doubt, heard much of the fame of this Jesus; and therefore, when all his disciples had quitted him, he continued to follow him, desirous to hear what he would say, and see what he would do. Some think that his having no other garment than this linen cloth upon his naked body, intimates that he was one of those Jews who made a great profession of piety that their neighbours, in token of which, among other instances of austerity and mortification of the body, they used no clothes but one linen garment, which, though contrived to be modest enough, was thin and cold. But I rather think that this was not his constant wear.
2. See how he was frightened into his bed again, when he was in danger of being made a sharer in Christ’s sufferings. His own disciples had run away from him; but this young man, having no concern for him, thought he might securely attend him, especially being so far from being armed, that he was not so much as clothed; but the young men, the Roman soldiers, who were called to assist, laid hold of him, for all was fish that came to their net. Perhaps they were now vexed at themselves, that they had suffered the disciples to run away, and they being got out of their reach they resolved to seize the first they could lay their hands on; though this young man was perhaps one of the strictest sect of the Jewish church, yet the Roman soldiers made no conscience of abusing him upon this occasion. Finding himself in danger, he left the linen cloth by which they had caught hold of him, and fled away naked. This passage is recorded to show what a barbarous crew this was, that was sent to seize Christ, and what a narrow escape the disciples had of falling into their hands, out of which nothing could have kept them but their Master’s care of them; If ye seek me, let these go their way, John 18:8. It also intimates that there is no hold of those who are led by curiosity only, and not by faith and conscience, to follow Christ.