As Jesus was saying the words of 26:46, the party sent to arrest Him is entering the scene with Judas in the lead. In the events that follow, there are few actions that have an almost comical quality to them, even though this is serious business. Judas had a sign for the arresting party: Grab the one I kiss. So old Judas walks up to Jesus as though everything was completely normal and says, “Greetings Rabbi,” and kisses Him. Now to be quite sure, this was a normal sort of greeting back in the day, but I almost want to laugh at the comic nature of it. Judas came onto the scene at the head of an armed mob, and pretends nothing is amiss, even though Judas Knew that Jesus knew what he was up to; incredible.
Jesus was placed under arrest, and then lo and behold, who should produce a sword and start swinging it? Our pal, Peter! Peter’s action should get high marks for courage, low marks for intelligence, and failing marks for understanding. Yes, it was courageous, maybe even heroic, but if a battle were to follow, Jesus and the Eleven are dead right then and there. But then Jesus, from Peter’s point of view, is a sort of “wild card”; what would He do in the situation?
Jesus stepped in instantly, and put a stop to the whole business of violence, heals the man that Peter had struck, and tells Peter to stand down. Perhaps reading Peter’s mind, Jesus said:
Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way? (26:53-54)
If you wonder about such things, 12 legions of angels would produce about 75,000 very unhappy angels, but the cavalry would not be coming to the rescue on that night, for God’s will went in a different direction. Then Jesus addressed the mob that had come to arrest Him:
Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled. (26:55-56a)
Actually, that He was leading a rebellion was most likely exactly what everyone thought, for they saw Him as the son of David come to reclaim the throne; the Messiah come to conquer and restore Israel to greatness, the King of the Jews. Jesus rubbed their noses in their error by pointing out that they could have grabbed Him at any time, but they had waited until now, under cover of darkness, and with that, Jesus would address the crowds no more; He went away quietly and meekly to do his Father’s will and accomplish the real mission of the Messiah.
That was also when His disciples finally comprehended that His mission was not conquest and the reinstatement of the Nation of Israel among the Pantheon of Nations. Of course, that is not to suggest that they yet comprehended what His mission really was; that would come later. Many scholars have written that they believe this also included Judas, who might well have been shocked that those legions of angels did not come. These scholars believe that Judas betrayed Jesus to force the issue and get Jesus’ messianic mission completed more quickly, a sort of helping push in the right direction.
For me, that’s a bit of a stretch too far, but it is an interesting theory. Whatever motivated Judas, there was no going back now and old Judas was in a very bad state, and the whole Creation held its breath…