Jesus was taken to the cross, but more than this, He willingly walked there. He could not have been taken otherwise. Jesus was falsely tried, but more than this, He willingly bore judgment in the stead of sinners. He could not have been tried otherwise. Jesus was wickedly murdered, but more than this, He willingly laid His life down. He could not have been crucified otherwise. In the arrest of Jesus, we do see the sinfulness of man, but we also see a sovereign Savior. Do not do the Scriptures the injustice of reading them and being more struck with man’s rebellious sin than the Savor’s obedient suffering.
Jesus went out to the garden. Jesus went out intentionally. He He went out willingly. He went out obediently. He went out knowing. He went out according to plan. He went out with work to do. He went out with purpose. He went out on a mission. Matthew Henry comments, “Our Lord Jesus, like a bold champion, takes the field first.” The German preacher F.W. Krummacher wrote, “The voice which resounded through the Garden of Eden cried, ‘Adam, where are you?’ But Adam hid himself trembling, behind the trees of the garden. The same voice, and with a similar intention, is heard in the Garden of Gethsemane. The second Adam, however, does not withdraw from it, but proceeds to meet the High and Lofty One, who summons him before him, resolutely exclaiming, ‘Here am I!’”
In the garden, not only did the Second Adam say “Here am I” to God the Father, He said “Here is the I AM” to these sons of Adam. At this, they draw back and fall down. Jesus says two words, He says His name, the name of the Triune God, and they are laid flat. They are on holy ground. Who is in control? Who is in authority?
When Jesus then tells them to take Him and let the disciples go free, I doubt it had the air of a suggestion. It came with the force of a command. There is not a hint of debate, dissension, or disagreement. Even once Peter draws his sword and draws blood, these armed men do not pounce. Why? Because Jesus is in control and Jesus will not lose one of those given to Him by His Father. He willingly offers Himself so that the disciples may go free, fulfilling His own word as the word of God. All this recalls the answer the officers gave to the chief priests when they last failed to arrest Jesus. “No one ever spoke like this man!”
And so it is that they bind Him. This is not tragic. It is comedic. He has spoken and laid them flat and they bind His hands! Even on a superstitious level, it would have made more sense to gag Him. But there was no need to bind or gag. It is only because of Jesus’ restraint that they are allowed to restrain Him. Jesus was not taken by force. He offered Himself up in obedience to His Father and He did so to drink the cup of wrath mixed for sinners who would attempt deicide if given the opportunity. Listen to Matthew Henry again, “When the people would have forced him to a crown, and offered to make him a king in Galilee… he withdrew, and hid himself (ch. 6:15); but, when they came to force him to a cross, he offered himself; for he came to this world to suffer and went to the other world to reign.”
Perhaps few uninspired teachers have explained what is communicated here as wondrously at the 19th century Scotch minister ‘Rabbi’ John Duncan. His biographer, Alexander Moody Stuart, records the following testimony of one of his students.
“In the winter of 1864, Dr. Duncan was reading part of Isaiah with his senior class. The particular passage I cannot remember, nor does it matter, for it only served as a suggestion of the cry in ver. 1 of the 22d Psalm, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ By the time Dr. Duncan had reached that point he had left his desk and, bent nearly double, was pacing up and down in front of the students’ benches, his snuff-box and pocket-handkerchief in one hand, a huge pinch of snuff occupying the fingers of the other, but utterly forgotten in the absorbing interest of his subject, our Lord’s sufferings for sinners, which he was turning over and looking at, now on this side, now on that, but all with a loving reverence, and as one who spoke in a hall sleeping vision, when suddenly a flash went through him as if heaven had opened. He straightened himself up, his face kindled into a rapture, his hand went up and the snuff scattered itself from the unconscious fingers as he turned to the class, more as it seemed for sympathy than to teach—‘Ay, ay, d’ye know what it was dying on the cross, forsaken by His Father—d’ye know what it was? What? What?’ (as if somebody had given him a half answer which stimulated him, but which he had to clear out of his way, a very usual exclamation of his when wrapped in thought.) ‘What? What? It was damnation—and damnation taken lovingly.’ And he subsided into his chair, leaning a little to one side, his head very straight and stiff, his arms hanging down on either side beyond the arms of his chair, with the light beaming from his face and the tears trickling down his cheeks he repeated in a low intense voice that broke into a half sob, half laugh in the middle, ‘It was damnation—and he took it lovingly.’ No saying of the many I have heard from him, nothing in all his manner and expression, ever struck me like this.”