St. John’s Gospel does not inspire pity or excessive sadness. The most distressing moments of Christ’s passion as narrated by St. John are peppered with subtle clues that Jesus is in no way being “caught,” or “dragged,” or “forced.” He is like a lamb led to the slaughter, it is true, but St. John lets us see that even those leading Him to His death received His help. Judas would have had a hard time handing him over if He hadn’t gone to the familiar Gethsemane. They couldn’t even recognize Him when they came to collect Him in the garden – they could have tried to pass off one of the other disciples for Jesus! Jesus passed through the midst of His persecutors so many times when they wanted to lay hands on Him. Now, when He says, “I am,” they are completely incapacitated and fall to the ground. What an illusion for them to think that they are taking Him against His will! Jesus heals the ear of the servant who came out as an enemy.
“How did Judas get to the garden, or from where did he get his information when he came? It is evident from this circumstance that Jesus generally passed the night out of doors. For if he had been in the habit of spending time at home, Judas would not have come to that lonely spot but to the house, expecting there to find him asleep. And, in case when you hear a “garden” you should think that Jesus hid himself, it adds that “Judas knew the place.” Not only did he know about it, but Jesus “often went there with his disciples.” For he often spent time with them alone, talking about important matters that it was not permitted for others to hear. And he did this especially in the mountains and gardens, seeking a place free from distraction so that their attention might be fixed on what he had to say.”1
“The crowd that accompanied the traitor when they made their attack on Christ carried lanterns and torches. They would seem to have guarded against stumbling in the dark and accidentally falling into holes, for such accidents often happen in the dark. But, how unfortunate for their blindness! The miserable men, in their extreme ignorance, did not perceive that they were stumbling on the stone concerning which God the Father says, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling block and a rock of offense.”19 They who happened to be afraid of falling into a small hole did not see that they were rushing into the depths of the abyss and the very bowels of the earth. And they who were cautious in the twilight of evening took no account of perpetual and endless night. For those who impiously plotted against the light of God, that is, Christ, were doomed to walk in darkness and the dead of night,20 as the prophet says. And not only this, but they were also doomed to vanish away into outer darkness, there to give an account of their impiety against Christ and to be consigned to bitter and endless punishment.”2
“Do you see his invincible power, how being in the midst of them he disabled their eyes? For that the darkness was not the cause of their not knowing him, the Evangelist has shown by saying that they also had torches. And even had there been no torches, they ought at least to have known him by his voice. Or if they did not know it, how could Judas be ignorant, who had been so continually with him? For he too stood with them and knew him no more than they, but with them he fell backward. Now Jesus did this to show that not only could they not seize him but that they could not even see him when he was in their midst, unless he himself permitted.”3
“We think it is an important matter to obtain penalties from those who have wronged us: an important matter, I say.… But it is far greater and more godlike to put up with injuries. For the former course of action curbs wickedness, but the latter makes people good, which is much better and more perfect than merely not being wicked. Let us consider that the great pursuit of mercifulness is set before us, and let us forgive the wrongs done to us that we also may obtain forgiveness, and let us by kindness lay up a store of kindness.”4
- Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John 83.1.
- Cyril of Alexandria, COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 11.12. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 267). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- Chrysostom, HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 83.1. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 268). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- Gregory of Nazianzus, LETTER 77. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 270). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.