Mark silently followed Jesus and his apostles at a distance through the narrow, almost deserted streets of Jerusalem and out the south gate. They traveled along the same roads from which they had come and headed toward the Mount of Olives.
After crossing the brook Kedron, the group turned into a beautiful garden called Gethsemane near the base of Mount Olivets slope. When Mark came inside, he hid in the bushes behind a great olive tree. None of the disciples knew he was there. This garden may have been owned by Marks father, or Martha, or another loving disciple in Jerusalem. Jesus often used this quiet resting place for prayer, sleep, and as a gathering place where the Twelve and others met.
Meanwhile, back in the city when the Lord had been initiating Holy Communion and giving his discourses in the upper room, Judas had been betraying his Master up the street in Caiaphas house. Two hours later, the betrayer had received his armed band of Roman Soldiers and Temple guards, then proceeded to search for Jesus. Their first move was to search the home where the supper had been celebrated. Finding that Christ had already left with his disciples an hour before, Judas next directed the mob to Gethsemane, where he knew he would be. It was a perfect location to arrest him privately.
Jesus knew they were on their way to the garden and that he didnt have much time. He told eight of his men, Sit here while I go on ahead to pray. They were the same ones who were not allowed on the mount of transfiguration.
Then he took Peter, John, and James (his inner circle) with him farther into the grove. In this last contest, his human soul craved for the presence of those who stood nearest him and loved him best. Now, all of a sudden the anguish of the coming battle broke over him, and he cried out, My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.
Christ went on still farther. Increasingly, with every step forward he became full of sorrow and desolate. He entered a solitary spot where the only witnesses were silent olive trees, and he put down his staff. Totally alone, as in his first temptation by the Evil One in the wilderness, the Redeemer entered this last confrontation.
With agony of soul he pleaded with the Father to save him from it, My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine. He, who had no experience of death, would soon face it; but also be separated from the Father and take upon him the sin of the whole world, emptying that last cup which was his alone to drink.
In full view was the deepest mystery of our faith: the two natures in one person. Both natures spoke: one with, if it be possible to take this cup of suffering away from me; and the other with his extreme obedience, not my will, but yours will be done. An angel appeared, as in the wilderness temptation, to strengthen and support his body and soul.
He returned to the three disciples and found them asleep. They had only seen the first attitude of the wrestling Savior and heard only his first words in that hour of agony. Irresistible sleep had crept over them in the deepest emotions of their souls, as had been the case on Mt. Hermon. Jesus leaned over Peter and roused him, Could you not stay awake and watch with me even one hour? Keep alert and pray, otherwise temptation will overpower you. Although the spirit is willing, the body is weak.
For the second time he left them and prayed, My Father, if this cup cannot be taken away until I drink it, your will be done. He returned to them again and found them sleeping, for they just couldnt keep their eyes open.
He went back to pray a third time. At the close of that hour, with the marks of bloody sweat on his brow, he was victorious. After three assaults, the Tempter left him alone in the wilderness; after threefold conflict in the garden, Satan was vanquished. Christ came forth triumphant! He had this last chance to walk away from it allbut he didnt. The real war for our souls was fought and won here! In this other Eden the Second Adam, the Lord from heaven, bore the penalty of the first; and in obeying gained life!
Jesus again returned to Peter, John, and James and found them asleep, exhausted from grief. No longer did he ask his apostles to watchit was too late. This time he awakened them to face their worst fears, The hour has come. I, the Son of Man, am betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is here!
When they rejoined the other eight disciples who had been left at the gardens entrance, all of them could see a battalion of Roman soldiers and Temple guards at the bottom of the slope. Their torches made a stream of light along the path as they marched across the bridge spanning the brook. A short time later they were up the hill near the garden entrance, close enough for their torches to reveal Judas Iscariot in the lead, followed by the chief priests and others who had come to seize him.
After the armed mob reached Christ, the betrayer stepped forward and saluted him loudly so the rest could hear, Hail Rabbi! Then he gave Jesus the Eastern kiss of greeting which was the prearranged identifying signal.
The Savior submitted to this indignity and reacted with a question, How can you betray me, the Son of Man, with a kiss?
Peter instinctively put his hand on the sword under his robe. He was wide awake now. In his mind, the Master would not be taken prisoner and executed without a fight. He would be at his side when the Messiah used his divine power to strike down those who sought to destroy him.
But Christ made no move to resist. Leaving the traitor and ignoring the signal to arrest him, he advanced to the leaders and asked, Whom are you looking for?
Jesus of Nazareth, they replied contemptuously.
He replied with calmness and majesty, I am he. The immediate effect of these words was divine. They had been prepared for resistance; but the appearance of the Savior, with heaven in his look and peace in his voice, was too overwhelming in its effects on the heathen soldiers. They fell backward to the ground.
When the leaders of the guard regained consciousness, once more the Lord asked them, Whom are you searching for?
Again they replied, Jesus of Nazareth.
I told you that I am he, Christ insisted. And since I am the one you want, let these others go. He did this to fulfill his own prayer in the garden, I guarded them so that not one of them was lost.
In desperation, Peter did the only thing he knew that might force the Master at last to resist. Drawing the sword he was hiding in his robe, Peter slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priests servant. He turned to Christ for confirmation, but saw only reproach and disappointment in his eyes.
Put your sword back into its sheath, Jesus ordered before the guards could react. Those who use the sword will be killed by the sword. Do you not realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now? Do not resist anymore.
To prove his power he went over to Malchus, who was bent over in pain, and touched the place where his ear had been, instantly healing him. The high priests servant stood up and put his hand over his restored ear, amazed at his healing by the one he had come to arrest.
Then Jesus spoke to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard and the other leaders who headed the mob, Am I some dangerous criminal that you have come armed with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why did you not arrest me in the Temple? I was there every day. But this is your moment, the time when the power of darkness reigns. The Redeemers hour had come.
Prompted by Peters reaction, the soldiers and Temple guards arrested the Savior and tied him up. Peter was embarrassed by Jesus reproach and felt helpless to stop the arrest. Suddenly he was overcome by great fear for his own safety. Throwing away the sword with a cry of anguish, he plunged into the darkness, seeking protection behind anything that would hide him. When the other disciples saw Peter desert the Master, they all ran away to escape the same fate as Jesusall except one onlooker in the shadows.
Too frightened to move, Mark remained in his hiding place, watching Christ as he was led away by the soldiers. When the last of the mob was leaving the garden, he slowly backed away, but tripped over a fallen limb and was soon discovered.
One of the guards turned around and saw him attempting to run away. The boy must be one of them. Arrest him too! he shouted.
From the bushes, another guard came up behind him and seized his tunic. In terror, the young man twisted himself free, leaving his undergarment behind.
The bushes tore at Marks body as he stumbled through the grove, driven by a fear greater than he had ever known. When assured he was not being pursued, he slowed to a walk, trying to think clearly. He was not far from the wall surrounding the garden, and climbed on the rocks until he could see Jesus being led away into the city. There was nothing Mark could do but watch and he began to shiver in the night air.
When the procession disappeared, the boy climbed down from the wall and crouched among the rocks for warmth, not knowing what to do next. He could not think about himself; his only concern was for his Lord.
From his hiding place further up the mount, Peter heard the sounds of marching men fade away into silence. All was quiet now and he thought he was safe. Standing up and not seeing anyone, he wondered if he had enough courage to follow Jesus.
Suddenly there was a rustling of bushes not far away, and he crouched down in case one of the guards was searching the area. His heart raced as the sound came closer. He had thrown his sword away, and hoped he would not have to fight unarmed. The man came closer and he clenched his fists.
From out of a dense thicket appeared John. He was as startled as the tall fisherman. Thank God, its you! exclaimed Peter. Do you know where the others went?
No, I havent been able to find them, but you sure gave me a scare, John replied.
What should we do?
I know where they are taking our Master. He is the one they want, and they will be concerned only with their plot to put him to death. If we follow him now and remain in the shadows, we should be safe enough to find out what is happening.
Lets go, then. You lead the way.
The two made their way through the garden along the wall that led to the gate. When they were near the entrance, they found Mark shivering among the rocks.
Peter felt compassion toward the young man and wrapped his cloak around him. Did you see where they took Jesus, he asked.
They went into the city the same way we did, so no one would see them. replied Mark, almost totally covered by the huge coat.
Come with us and well make sure you return home safely, said Peter, sounding like a big brother.
When they reached Marks house, his worried parents were too relieved to scold him. Mary told the disciples about the search and what they had just seen, The soldiers and guards passed by not long agowith Jesus under arrest! They were heading up the street, and we are afraid for him!
Peter and I are going to follow the Lord and find out what they are going to do with him. Then well get word back to you, John promised.
I will pray for your safety, Mark said wearily as he returned the tall fishermans cloak. You will need this. It had been a night of danger and he knew it wasnt over.