Luke 22: 47-53 – Arrest of Jesus

The ‘Passion of Jesus’ truly begins with the arrest of Jesus. The Lukan account of Jesus’ arrest has its parallels in the other three gospels (cf. Mk 14: 43-52; Mt 26: 47-56; Jn 18: 2-12). Probably the Lukan narrative of the arrest is based on that of Mark (Mk 14: 43-52). But Luke’s passion account of Jesus is shorter. Luke does not say that Judas actually kissed Jesus nor does he give the reason why Judas “drew near to Jesus to kiss him” (but see Mk 14: 44-45). The reason why Judas comes to Jesus to kiss him is clear from what Jesus says to him in Luke 22: 48. Unlike Mark, gospel of Luke reports the reaction of Jesus to the sword-attack on the servant of the high priest and the healing of the ear by Jesus. In the Lukan account there is no mention of the flight of the disciples or of the young man (cf. Mk 14: 50-52).

In the Lukan narrative of the arrest, Jesus is in full command of the situation. A similar picture if Jesus is also presented in John 18: 1-11. Jesus is not arrested immediately (but see Mk 14: 46; Mt 26: 50) and before the arrest takes place (Lk 22: 54), he questions Judas, react to the use of force by one of his followers (Lk 22: 51) and he even performs an act of healing. Jesus also questions his captors (Lk 22: 52-53) and relates the whole event to the predetermined plan of the Father (God). The hour in which the authorities arrest Jesus is the manifestation of the power of darkness. This is at the same time willed by God.

We have mentioned about that in the Lukan account Judas does not actually kiss Jesus. This is in keeping with the Lukan avoidance of shocking and highly offensive details of the passion narrative. Probably Luke found it rather difficult to state that the symbol of love and respect becomes a sign of betrayal, although this is what it turns out to be (cf. Lk 22: 48). In the action of Judas, namely, “betrayal (delivering) the Son of Man with a kiss” (Lk 22: 28) Jesus’ second prediction about his passion is fulfilled: “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men” (Lk 9: 44). Jesus not only rejects the use of force (“no more of this”) but positively repairs the harm done by the sword-attack. He manifests his compassion and generosity by an act of healing (Lk 22: 51). The Lukan Jesus, who had instructed his disciples to love their enemies to do good to them (Lk 6: 32-35), now teaches them by the example of his life. Jesus heals one of his enemies and that too when he is about to be arrested by them.

After healing the severed ear of the high priest’s servant Jesus turns to his captors and addresses them. The arresting party include the chief priests, temple officers and elders. It is rather difficult to think that the chief priests and elders came to arrest Jesus. Gospel of Mark (Mk 14: 43) may be more accurate when he says that the arresting party was despatched by the chief priests, the scribes and the elders. In Luke 22: 4, the evangelist had mentioned that Judas conferred with the chief priests and the officers of the temple. Now in Luke 22: 52 he mentions them again as coming to arrest Jesus. The words of Jesus addressed to them reveal the irony of the whole situation. They have come out with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus as if he were a robber whereas he was with them in the temple, day after day. Jesus’ Jerusalem ministry was a teaching ministry and he was teaching in the temple (Lk 21: 37). In other words, they could have arrested Jesus any day as he was available in the temple, but they did not. Although Jesus has nothing in common with a robber or a bandit, the Scripture which says “he was reckoned with transgressors” (cf. Lk 22: 37) finds its fulfilment in Jesus and in the manner of his arrest (Lk 22: 52-53).

In sum, the personality of Jesus is enhanced in the Lukan account of the arrest. Jesus questions Judas and his captors. He rejects all use of the force and disapproves the attempt by his followers to present his arrest. Jesus manifests his compassion and generosity by healing the wounded ear. Jesus is thus portrayed as an example for all his future disciples and martyrs.

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