One of the strangest scenes in Scripture occurs in the Easter story. My trusty NIV reads:
When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. John 18:1-3 NIV
The study notes don’t add much. Sounds like the Pharisees dragged along a handful of soldiers just to make the group look official.
However, the NASB says:
When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.
A cohort was a battalion of six hundred men. Six hundred! At Gethsemane! And the commanding officer (v. 12) referred to a chiliarch who commanded one thousand troops. But wait—it gets better. Here are verses 4-6:
So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”
They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.”
He said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
God’s power stretches way beyond the borders of my comprehension. The Red Sea parting, David’s defeat of Goliath, Daniel’s protection from the lions—all boggle my mind. But this? Jesus simply speaks. Three words. Knees buckle, weapons clatter to the ground, and six hundred Roman soldiers faceplant in the Judean dirt as the power of Almighty God ripped through Gethsemane like a tidal wave.
And then He submitted to them. For you and for me.
To the phony trials.
To Herod’s antics.
To Pilate’s politics.
To the scourging.
To the mockery of a thorny crown and a purple robe.
To the rejection of His people.
To the curse of sin.
He didn’t have to. He told Pilate as much. He chose to. For you and for me.
Celebrate His submission this Easter, and let’s practice some submission of our own. For in submission, we too are more than conquerors.