7. Dark Gethsemane

“It’s over no, no after life,  No second chance in paradise.

Time runs out and then we die, No where to run, no where to hide.

A glimpse of hell is all that’s left, A crown of thorns upon my head.

Out of time and out of here, It’s my time to disappear.

Sell your dreams for water and bread, Turn out the light I’ll soon be dead.

To die far from Galilee, In this dark Gethsemane.

Its hard to face this end to come, Without a trace my life undone.

Afraid to sleep and loose control, Afraid to dream and lose my soul.”

This song is about the final moments of Jesus in the Garden he frequented so much. He obviously found peace here and at this point he was moments away from being arrested.

His contemplation of the end is documented in the lyrics and its sombre mood is reflected by the lighter tone of the music and vocal.

The last moments of freedom are focused upon by all four Gospels.  This was when Jesus was supposedly betrayed by Judas. A clandestine arrest that was instigated by the Jewish Sanhedrin [albeit in a cloak and dagger fashion] He was taken at dawn and tortured until his harrowing end upon that olive tree. His last moments were of contemplation of what was about to happen, of his pleading with his God to end his torment. But he was alone. Even his disciples who were supposedly keeping watch fell asleep. And when they came to arrest him, his friends fled.

The story of Jesus’ doubt and anguish at Gethsemane (literally “oil press,” a small garden outside the eastern wall of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives) has long been thought one of the more provocative passages in the gospels. This passage ignites the “passion” of Jesus: the period of his suffering up to and including the crucifixion. This is relevant whether he was mortal [as I believe] or the living Son of God.

Some can argue that its unlikely that the story could be historical because the disciples are consistently depicted as asleep (and hence unable to know what Jesus is doing). However, it’s also deeply rooted in the oldest Christian traditions. It is possible one of his followers was with him during these last hours, keeping the vigil, no one else could manage.

The Jesus being depicted here is far more human than the Jesus seen throughout most of the gospels. Typically Jesus is portrayed as confident and in command of affairs around him. He isn’t perturbed by challenges from his enemies and he demonstrates detailed knowledge about coming events — including his own death.

Now that the time of his arrest is nearly at hand, Jesus’ character changes dramatically. Jesus acts like almost any other human who knows that their life grows short: he experiences grief, sorrow, and a desire that the future not play out as he expects it will. We must remember Jesus is a devout and pious persona and his belief in his God is total. He would have stared into the twilight sky and wondered why his mission dad failed. The fact that God may or may not exist is relevant today as it was then, but that is not an issue here. What is an issue is that Jesus was petrifies as any man would be of the end that lay ahead. He had unsettled the authorities to a point that left them with no choice but to remove him discreetly from sight. It mattered not that he was a relatively unheard of preacher outside Galilees, but a little spark would and could ignite a wider disturbance that could instigate a full scale revolt. These were extremely unstable times and this instability would come to its destructive conclusion soon enough.

Here are the events leading up to and during this ordeal of the heart.

Jesus and his disciples travel to Gethsemane, a garden located at the edge of the Kidron Valley, and probably an Olive grove. He was arrested at around 4AM in the morning on the Friday before Passover

Jesus is apparently betrayed by Judas [for 30 pieces of silver at the Sanhedrin’s bequest]. He pointed out Jesus with a Kiss, but we must wonder why?  Jesus is a known fanatic; would not the arrest party know who he was?

Who are the people that arrive to arrest Jesus? Other gospel accounts describe the group in a way that makes them appear to be an official arresting party (Temple police in Luke 22:52, Roman soldiers in John 18:3). Here, they seem more like a disorganized mob. We must remember Jesus was available for arrest at the Temple on many occasions prior, and yet the authorities chose this dead of night hour to act.

All his disciples flee, leaving him to his fate. How lonely he would have felt at this moment. His ego would have been depleted, his faith severely tested.

At around 6AM he was bought before Ciaphas and the Sanhedrin. It was at this moment Peter denies him.

All four Gospel accounts state that Peter denied Jesus and then the rooster crowed. According to Mark 13:35 the cock crows before dawn (anyone who has ever raised roosters can confirm this).

The same word for “daybreak” is used in both of Luke’s passages. Notice that the trial begins at daybreak.. Therefore it didn’t take them long to falsely convict Christ–their Messiah. We can safely assume the trial ended shortly before 6 AM. Mark indicates Jesus was crucified at the third hour (9 AM), and both Matthew and Mark indicate he died at the ninth hour (3 PM) and that darkness covered the land from the sixth hour until the ninth (noon till 3 PM). John doesn’t mention a time for any of these events.

Who is the young man who flees naked from the scene? He’s the only one specifically identified among those who flee so he can’t be inconsequential. This has troubled scholars for centuries. Some argue that he was an early initiate still wearing baptismal clothing. Some have speculated that the young man was Mark himself, though the gospel text argues against his having been a Jew in Palestine. Maybe he was the one person who stayed close to Jesus and was able to attest to his last moments of freedom?

More recently, some have argued that this could point to a homosexual relationship, one possibly involving Jesus. It is curious that this person would appear in this scene with nothing else to do but run away in the nude — Mark’s narrative is carefully constructed to fulfill theological and political needs and there isn’t a lot of nonessential detail wasting space.As to whether Jesus was a homosexual is not in debate here, and it wouldn’t really matter if he was anyway. So we can be rightly confused at the clashes of opinion that litter the gospel narratives. The crucifixion in detail can be seen in the chapter relating to the, Genesis of death track.

Who Arrested Jesus

Matthew: While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people…

Mark: Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.

Luke: While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them….Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders…

John: So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons…Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus.

The Gospels are unanimous: The Jewish leadership was involved with the arrest of Jesus. But several other questions arise in this matter.

Why was Jesus Arrested

Was Jesus politically motivated or jus another religious fanatic? There is good evidence to suggest he was part of some troublesome faction. Here are some hints the gospels tell us,

1. Several of Jesus’ disciples were known Zealots, e.g., Simon the Zealot (Lk. 6:15); Simon Peter who was known as “Bar-jona” (Mt. 16:17) a derivation of of “baryona” Aramaic for “outlaw” which was a common name applied to Zealots; James and John shared the nickname “Boanerges” or in Hebrew “benei ra’ash” which is to say “sons of thunder” another common Zealot reference; and the most famous Zealot was Judas Iscariot, “Iscariot” a corruption of the Latin “sicarius” or “knife-man” which was a common Roman reference to Zealots.

2. The Zealot movement was a breakaway from the Pharisees who themselves sympathized with the nationalistic causes espoused by the Zealots and were awaiting a Messiah to seize the throne of Israel. Jesus himself is attributed with many sayings that are Pharasaic in origin, e.g., Mt. 7:12, Mk 2:27, Jn 7:22, B. Yoma 85b (Talmud), Mt. 7:15; and Jesus’ own affinity for the poor demonstrate Pharasaic philosophy. Jesus’ actions that are not depoliticized in the gospels (partially referenced here) indicate that Jesus sympathized with the Zealot cause.

3. The Zealot Judas, refers to Jesus as “Rabbi” a Pharasaic-title. (Mk 14:45) Many scholars subscribe to the “walks like a duck, must be a duck” philosophy and go as far as to say that Jesus himself was a Pharisee rabbi. The evidence does seem to support this conclusion, although Jesus seems to favor a more apocalyptic flavor of fringe Pharasaic thought. The “Jesus as Essene” theory still captivates many scholars as well–a theory that would also support his role of political Messiah as argued here.

4. Jesus equipped his followers with swords in anticipation of trouble. (Lk 22:36-38) and at least one of Jesus’ supporters scuffled with the Temple police to aid in resisting Jesus’ arrest. (Mk 14:47)

5. The manner in which Jesus entered Jerusalem was that of a Jewish king who claimed the throne. Convinced that he was King of the Jews and in deliberate fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on an ass’s colt. The people greet Jesus with strewn palms and cries of “Hosanna!” the ancient cry of Jewish independence. For Jesus to not have known the seditious actions that this implied, and the political impact that his act caused, would be incredulous to say the least. (This is in direct contrast with the Gospels which attempt to contradict Jesus’ action and claim that he was not seeking an earthly kingdom–clearly absurd given the circumstances.)

Jesus was said to have been arrested due to a charge of blasphemy. The evidence for this is highly suspect. We begin to immediately question the gospel-accounts regarding the preliminary investigation and it is likely the gospel writers knew nothing of Jewish law regarding such matters. Additionally, the gospel accounts may be trying to smooth over Jesus political mission since when they wrote they had the benefit of hindsight and knew the political outcome of Jesus’ actions did end in failure. The gospel’s attempt to depoliticize Jesus while at the same time supporting his brief stint as the King of the Jews by reporting events that they seemed to not understand the Jewish context for. Let’s look at the story as Luke relates it and then discuss the context problems.

In the Synoptic Gospels, when Jesus entered the Jerusalem Temple, he attacked the moneychangers and them that sold doves for the sacrifice (Mark 11:15). Without doves and other animals for sacrifice, the Temple could not operate; also Roman coinage was subject to inflation and was not considered acceptable for purchase in the Temple. This disruption to Temple life triggered the decision to arrest Jesus. At his trial, the priests asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews, but this was not something that had previously ever been claimed for Jesus, so we must assume that this claim was a scribal fabrication to strengthen the case against Jesus. In the Synoptic Gospels, the council arrested Jesus for attacking the moneychangers and those who sold doves.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus went to Jerusalem three times during his mission, and attacked the moneychangers on the very first occasion, two or three years before his arrest. Chapter 12 tells how the chief priests wanted to kill Jesus because he had raised Lazarus from the dead and thus people believed in Jesus, and the priests could not prevail. While the council took no action when Jesus attacked the money changers, they arrested him later, when his miracles began to pose a threat to them. At his trials, the accusers did not concern themselves about claims to be king of the Jews, but rather that he claimed to be God. This is emphasized at John 18:5, when Jesus said “I am he”: in Greek (the gospels were all written in Greek) this can be read as Jesus claiming to be God, the reason the priests all fell to the ground. Of course, this word play could not take place in Aramaic, and its meaning is lost in English. In John’s Gospel, the council arrested Jesus because his miracles posed a threat to their power.

Responsibility for the death of Jesus is placed upon, in order – a) the Jewish leadership; b) Jerusalemite Jews, in particular, the crowd before Pilate; c) Pilate and Herod. This is plausible, but that does not warrant eternal condemnation for a nation. These events were confined to Israel and the very notion that they would blast across the globe in later times would have been unthinkable. In any land governed by tyranny blame must rest on the highest shoulder and in this case that is Rome.