John 18:1-11 Easter at Christmas: Betrayal

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he”, they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Easter at Christmas: Betrayal

The Holly and the Ivy is a favourite Christmas song of mine.  Evergreen plants have always been used to decorate the houses of Europeans in the winter.  Decking the halls with boughs of holly provides the hope that although the world seems dead and silent, maybe even shrouded with snow, there is still life and there will be a rebirth in the Spring.  The lyrics of The Holly and the Ivy are:

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Saviour
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn.
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any gall;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The holly and the ivy
Now both are full well grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

The song makes a strong connection between Christmas and Easter.  The contrast between Mary bringing Jesus into the world and the destiny that Jesus has to redeem the world through death and resurrection is strong.  It is good at Christmas to remember the joy of God’s peace coming to the earth.  However, it is also good to remember the cost of redemption.  Jesus is born with the cloud of our sin hanging over him.  He grows to understand his fate on the cross.  He walks with purpose into the last day of his life and that is where we are picking up the story in John.


Jesus is betrayed by one of his closest followers, one of the twelve.  He is arrested by a mob even though his power is not diminished.  In this passage Jesus lays down his rights without a struggle.  We know from other gospels that there is an internal struggle, but Jesus does not resist arrest and he walks resolutely into a series of events that will kill him.

Jesus’ example to us here is strong.  We may need to walk into the darkness and lay down our own desires for others.  We may need to walk by faith on the path that God has laid out.  It can be both bitter and sweet at the same time.  It can be Christmas and Easter.  There is the joy of new birth and the pain of a death in the future.  This is living.  But let’s remember the prayers and the teaching that John has just given us.  We are never alone in this struggle.  We are in Christ and Christ is in the Father.  We can have courage like him because one day he will bring us home.


Thank you Jesus for enduring such darkness.  Thank you for laying down your rights.  Thank you for embracing a course of action that would lead to your death and our redemption.  Help us to walk in ways that copy you.


  1. How does Jesus walk toward his death?
  2. Why does the Bible tell us this place was a familiar one?
  3. What is Peter’s role?  Why are we told it?
  4. How does Jesus’ walking into the garden scene affect you?
  5. How are Easter and Christmas connected?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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22 Responses to John 18:1-11 Easter at Christmas: Betrayal

  1. Lacy says:

    1. Jesus walks toward his death in complete submission to God’s will on behalf of those he loves.
    2. Well, the significance of the place being familiar, I think, is that Judas knew where to find Jesus. It’s also tragic to think of Christ being betrayed by one of his closest friends in a place where they had spent so much time together.
    3. Peter acted out of love for Jesus, but without understanding or submission to God’s will. I believe that God gives us this scene to remind us that, even if we think we’re doing a noble thing, it can be wrong and even harmful if we are acting outside of God’s will.
    4. It gives me courage to walk into difficult situations, having Christ’s example, and knowing that he has already faced the most difficult situation so that I never have to.
    5. Easter and Christmas are two scenes of the same great story. You couldn’t have one without the other.

  2. Dylan says:

    1. Jesus walks toward his death with confidence. The Father’s desires are his as well.
    2. This provides evidence for how Judas found Jesus, thus showing Jesus had no intentions of hiding.
    3. Peter tries to defend Jesus. However, Jesus could defend himself if he wanted. He instead wishes to drink from the cup the father has given him. We must be careful not to defend God but instead act in obedience and love always. Once we have proclaimed the gospel this is all we should do. This is not a bash against apologetics but more so a warning to those who try to force God’s motives on others.
    4. At the moment, this scene reminds me of how big God is and how amazing his ways are. Judas wanted Jesus arrested for money. The Pharisees wanted him dead so they could regain religious power. However, all the while God predestined all of the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Christ for the good of humanity and to save the elect from Hell. How could this be? I do not question God’s motives for allowing some bad things to happen for a greater good but really, how is this possible? Well, if God really is who he says he is and I believe he is; nothing can overtake his plan. Everything that seemingly stands in his way he has already planned to use for good and his glory.
    5. Jesus came into this world to not only die but to conquer death. On Christmas we remember the birth of our savior and his destiny to pay such a great price with his life. But we don’t stop there. If we did, what hope would we have? Jesus is risen! Because of this, all other events of his life can be celebrated. With this hope in mind we can know his word is true and begin to work it out in ourselves while God is also working it out in us.

  3. Nicole says:

    1. I always imagined Jesus being so completely composed at this time. He was understanding of what was to happen and was sure of what he had to do.
    2. Jesus knew what was about to happen, and chose not hide but instead go to a place that was well known to him. It would be like being able to find me in my favorite coffee shop or something.
    3. There is something about Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ arrest that I can easily relate to. Someone he loves is being unjustly treated and he wants to defend them. It reminds me that even though my intentions might be motivated by love, if they aren’t checked by God’s will I can be wrong.
    4. It leaves me with the desire to put more confidence in God. Jesus so serenely walks to one of the hardest things to do and I want to have that peace when I am faced with hard times.
    5. Without one, the other is pointless.

  4. Nick says:

    Jesus walks towards his death willingly, without a fight. He knows his Father’s plan for him, and does not resist, even turning himself over to the mob. Judas knew that Jesus had gone there before, so he had a good idea of where to find Jesus. Peter reacts out of devotion to Jesus, cutting of the servants ear with his sword. However, he did not know God’s plan for Jesus and he did not understand that Jesus was in submission, because it was his time. It is crazy for me to think about Jesus walking willingly into the garden, knowing that Judas had betrayed him, and that he was essentially walking into his death. However, his whole life he had been walking into his death. He knew the plan that God had for him, knowing that he would be sacrificed for us. That’s why Christmas and Easter are connected. This story is a small example of Jesus’ entire life where he was knowingly submitting and walking towards his death at the cross.

  5. Kathleen says:

    Jesus being in a familiar place shows that he was not trying to run away from his death. He knew that his hour had come. This is how Christmas and Easter are connected. Jesus came to this earth with a purpose: to save us from our sins by being a sacrifice for us. Jesus walks towards his death knowing that he is doing the Father’s will. This allows him to walk with courage.

  6. sjcavitt says:

    1) Jesus walked toward His death by being a humble and willing sacrifice.
    2) Scripture refers to this place as a familiar one because it was a common place where Jesus met with His disciples.
    3) Peter is shown defending Jesus by cutting off a man’s ear. Although Peter probably had good intentions, Jesus told Him to put away his sword. Jesus was not resisting what was to come, because He was fully submitting Himself.
    4) Jesus’ walk in the garden is a beautiful example of His submission. Rather than hiding from those who were going to take Him, Jesus was out in the open in a place he commonly visited.
    5) Christmas and Easter are connected in that Jesus became man on earth for a plan and a purpose so that He could conquer and redeem the sins’ of man by being crucified and resurrected.

  7. Mary says:

    What is beauty?

    A physical manifestation of God’s character? His glory, power, and majesty on display? What is glory anyway? I am still trying to figure that out…Maybe a topic for another day. Yesterday in one of my classes, when a group that presented on truth and our concept of beauty showed two pictures of Jesus and asked which was beautiful, my heart sunk when I saw the picture of Jesus beaten and bloody on the cross (juxtaposed to the smiling Jesus next to it) implying that it was beautiful. I understand that the point they were trying to make is that Jesus’ selfless and heroic act of dying for us (and his entire life leading up to it as well) was beautiful, but placing it next to the other more aesthetic version does not make us say, “oh yeah, this is beauty.” But most of all, my heart sunk because I cannot stand to look at pictures or movies displaying the excruciating pain and suffering of the One I love. Can you imagine watching your child being beaten to an unrecognizable bloody pulp, striped naked, mocked, and humiliated, publicly shamed for all to see, right in front of you and not looking away? Even if it were for a good cause, like sacrificing themselves for the entire world, would you be able to look? And then would you look at pictures of it again later and say, “Now, this is beauty”? My stomach churns. My head hurts. And I want to cry. I can’t look.

    I am reminded of when Dr. Clark tells us how some have said after a loved one has died, “I hope you can someday find peace with this.” And then he opposes, “Why should we ever find peace with death?” Death is not a natural part of life. It is not how God created us to be, but is a result of sin. Sin in ugly! Death is ugly! Jesus’ murder was ugly! Life is beautiful, and the resurrection is beautiful. Wasn’t his death a means to a greater end? It was the necessary means by which we are reconciled to God, for only a perfect sin offering could pay the price for what we have done and it is only in participating in his death that we are released from our bondage to sin so that we might have life, which is to know Him. But it is his life before and after that, which make it even possible.

    Jesus, help me understand what beauty is. Why must I wrestle with such basic things? When I see pictures of you on the cross, I see man’s sin and hatred poured out on you. I see ugliness. Spiteful, vengeful, merciless savages who literally tore your body to shreds without a care in the world. I know my sin also put you there, and that there is redemption and life, which was brought forth by your death, but I cannot ignore the ugliness of the brutal murder that took place. Sometimes I feel like a kindergartener; when I try to understand who you are, I think I haven’t gotten a clue. Redeem my thinking.

  8. Janice says:

    1. Jesus walks to His death resolutely and submissively, knowing that He is accomplishing the Father’s will.
    2. The place must have bittersweet memories. It is the place where Jesus had met with His disciples in the past, perhaps explaining the parables they did not understand, and it is the place where Jesus was betrayed by Judas.
    3. Peter’s role is to defend Jesus by cutting off Malchus’s ear. Jesus’ response shows that He is willingly being arrested to accomplish His saving work on the cross.
    4. Jesus’ walking into the garden scene fills me with sorrow at the suffering He bore for us but also fills me with gratitude at His love, grace, and mercy.
    5. Christmas celebrates Jesus’ birth, and Easter celebrates Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” says Jesus was born to give us second birth. God became flesh in the Incarnation. Jesus was born to live a perfect life and then to die for us so that we might have life in Him. Hallelujah that Jesus did not stay dead but conquered death so that we might live forever with Him.

  9. karas says:

    It so saddens me to see that Judas leads the soldiers to Jesus. We are capable of such great, horrific sin. I then find it amazing that Jesus shows such great power by knocking the soldiers over with just a declaration of who He is, and yet they still arrest Him. This reminds me of how stubbornly blind and resistant to God’s will and truth we can be. May God soften our hearts and open our eyes, that we might believe.

  10. Jenna says:

    1. Jesus has been in agony praying to His Father, but when the mob arrives He calmly walks to His fate.
    2. Jesus wasn’t hiding; he was in a place that he regularly visited.
    3. Peter cuts off the high priest’s servants ear, seemingly in a fit of anger and in trying to protect Jesus and stop His arrest. We are shown how the disciples didn’t understand what was happening.
    4. I’m amazed at Jesus’ power, that all He has to say is “I Am” (the “he” is implied, but not actually there in the Greek), and at the power of GOD the entire mob falls to the ground. If Jesus had wanted to escape, He could have done so right there, but instead He patiently waits for them to get back up and arrest Him!
    5. Christmas doesn’t really mean much without Easter; Jesus’ whole reason for coming was to die for our sins and to rise again. If that hadn’t happened, Christmas wouldn’t have any significance!

  11. zacbodine says:

    1) He walks with confidence responding boldly
    2) It was a place where the disciples met with Jesus on a regular basis.
    3) He went nuts and chopped off a dude’s ear! It is to show his crazy devotion and to make a point about violence and to make it known that Jesus goes willfully. That is why there is a rebuke.
    4) My God is not a coward. Nor is he macho-man wanting to kill and hurt people. He is peaceful and powerful.
    5. It is the holly and ivy the birth and the death. It both express how God won. God overcame the poverty and stigma attached to a pregnancy and beat death that was decreed by the king and then that death catches up to him at Calvary, but then he beat it by rising from the dead.

  12. Amy McCashen says:

    1. Jesus walks toward His death as a humble, willing sacrifice.
    2. I think it was to show that Jesus wasn’t hiding or afraid. He wasn’t trying to escape his death.
    3. Peter cuts off the ear of the man, obviously intending more harm than he actually caused. He was trying to kill the man, defend Jesus, save the day. This was shown to display Jesus’ willing spirit of submission to death because he rebuked Peter for striking out.
    4. I am saddened. Jesus knows what is about to happen, but his closest friends do not know.
    5. They are connected because they work together to fulfill God’s purpose. From human life to human death, Jesus fully takes on our humanity and redeems it.

  13. How are Easter and Christmas connected?
    “In a sense, they each celebrate life: Christmas celebrates the incarnation (Jesus being born), while Easter celebrates the resurrection (Jesus was raised from the dead). To redeem the whole of humanity, Jesus has to be born, die, and then raised. So Easter is the completion of the mission to redeem humanity Jesus began at His earthly birth through Mary.”

  14. Beth Coale says:

    I’ve also been hearing how some Christmas songs were written thinking of the second coming so there are so many aspects of the plan of salvation being considered especially this time of year as we listen to these carols.

    1-2. Jesus wasn’t hiding, maybe the familiarity of it even provided Him some last comfort as He had a human nature.
    3. Likely to show that Jesus was in no way stopping it. Jesus does even more, He heals the man who is His “enemy.” It also shows that the disciples still did not understand (which
    4. the betrayals I have felt have been felt so painful but they don’t compare to this, I can’t imagine the pain He felt
    5. because the reason He came to earth (also the way He did) was all about redemption.

    • Beth Coale says:

      * to 3. …(which supports the evidence for the resurrection not being a hoax, because they did not even expect Him to die or to raise)

  15. Ed says:

    Jesus fulfills Gods word, I think all of you make a good point of why the garden but many things will unfold when I go to heaven. Peters reaction to defend Jesus is human with much passion but God’s will is not being done by violence. We must not react quickly until we here from the Spirit. Jesus knows that on that day what will happen and even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil comes to mind, Jesus also knows he is doing Gods will. Christmas being the birth and Easter being the resurrection, a begining and an end of the fulfillment.

  16. ashleypdye says:

    1. Jesus walks towards death with faith and humility, in submission to the Father.
    2. Judas finding Jesus at a familiar place shows the extent of his betrayal. He knew that this was a place of Jesus’ because of their intimacy and yet he still chose betray Jesus.
    I have always loved that song, too. It has such a beautiful melody. I did not consider it a song with lyrics that praise Jesus, though, so I am thankful that I was able to read the words this morning! The song captures the beauty of the atmosphere of Christmas, but it also shows that everything in life, such as the running of the deer and the rising of the sun, points to Jesus.

  17. Bethany says:

    1) In my head Jesus walks towards his death very seriously and not hiding his physical pain and anguish, but also not afraid. He kept himself very composed, without hiding any of the pain and grief of the situation.
    4) It makes me feel guilty for walking into hard situations or even just hard conversations with so much fear in my heart. None of my situations come close to what Jesus faced, so who am I to have fear over such small things when I know that I can trust in God completely?
    5) They complement each other perfectly. Christmas shows Jesus as full human, and Easter shows Jesus as full God.

  18. Jessica says:

    How does Jesus walk toward his death?
    He confidently approaches the soldiers that have come to take him.

    Why does the Bible tell us this place was a familiar one?
    Jesus wasn’t hiding in the hour he knew they would come to find him. He went to the place where he had most like had some very intimate moments with the Father. He wanted to go there before his trial began.

    What is Peter’s role? Why are we told it?
    Peter was angry and cut off the soldier’s ear. Jesus rebuked Peter. Jesus had warn his disciples that this was coming. Jesus was submissive to it and wasn’t aiming to hurt his enemies.

    How does Jesus’ walking into the garden scene affect you?
    It breaks my heart. Jesus went through the fiercest pain to save us.

    How are Easter and Christmas connected?
    Jesus had to enter the world as a human being and feel our pain in order to redeem and save the world.

  19. Rachel says:

    In this passage, Jesus walks toward his death with a surety of spirit. He is torn, anguished, but resolute. The scene is haunting; familiar friends in a familiar garden, betrayal. Peter strikes out; he wants to fight! He does not understand. When I was reading this passage, intense war soundtrack music was playing. I can imagine that this was the scene in Jesus’ mind at the time as well. Only He understood what a great battle was taking place in his soul. Victory. Easter. The empty tomb. Do these things lesson the pain of his suffering? No, Easter stands as the final victory, the hope of glory.

  20. Sarah Deurbrouck says:

    1. How does Jesus walk toward his death?
    He goes to the garden, where the soldiers would meet him. He steps forward, and even tells Peter to not put up a fight.
    2. Why does the Bible tell us this place was a familiar one?
    I am. Not sure, but I noticed that in the passage. Maybe because it shows that Jesus knew what he was walking toward, not some remote secret location, but where the soldiers would be able to be led by Judas to.
    3. What is Peter’s role? Why are we told it?
    He is trying to defend and protect Jesus, but we see that Jesus must go towards his death to glorify the Father.
    4. How does Jesus’ walking into the garden scene affect you?
    It makes me thankful that we serve a faithful Savior, who went to his death for us.
    5. How are Easter and Christmas connected?
    The purpose of Chrsitmas is fulfilled in Easter. Jesus’ coming is fulfilled in his death and resurrection.

  21. nataliaria says:

    Jesus walks towards His death with a calm assertion that indicates to the attuned observer that He is aware of what is going on, and, not only that, but He is in control, and uses His influence in the lives of those around Him to calm them (Peter) and direct their responses (when the people fall over, when He demands from them a reason for their arrival).

    I believe John includes the detail that this was a familiar place to indicate that Jesus did not have any intentions of withdrawing beyond the reach of God’s will; He knew that this was where Judas would encounter Him, and He demonstrates that He is in control every step of the way by voluntarily choosing to show up there, and to surrender Himself.

    In this encounter, Peter takes it upon himself to defend Jesus by cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant Malchus. I am unsure why this little vignette is included in the gospel accounts, but it could be used to demonstrate Peter’s impetuous nature, but also the depth of His devotion to Christ, or at least, at this moment, who he believed Christ to be.

    The truths about Jesus that become apparent when He walked into the garden are the same truths that affect me. He is aware of the detailed unwinding of the world- and my own heart. He is in control of the forces and challenges that seem to confront His purposes on earth, and He chooses to involve Himself deeply and fully into life on earth, including my own.

    I love the connection between Christmas and Easter, and I believe that emphasizing such a connection helps a bit in regaining and maintaining an understanding of the depth and repdemptive value of Christmas. Had Christ never come as an incarnate infant, there would be no death and resurrection to celebrate, and therefore no salvation. This is a very sobering thought indeed.

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