How Many Soldiers Does It Take To Arrest One Man?
Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.
— John 18:3
Jesus has the greatest power in the whole universe! When He walked the earth, He healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, walked on water, changed water into wine, and multiplied loaves and fishes. In fact, Jesus performed so many miracles that the apostle John said, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written…” (John 21:25).
Satan was terrified of Jesus. That’s why the enemy inspired Herod the Great to try to kill the infant Messiah by slaughtering all the babies in Bethlehem and the surrounding region (Matthew 2:16). When that failed, the devil tried to wipe out Jesus by attempting to seduce Him with temptations in the wilderness. And when that failed, the devil tried to kill Jesus on numerous occasions using angry religious people!
Do you recall the many times religious leaders tried and failed to catch Jesus? The Gospels are filled with examples when He supernaturally slipped out of the hands of His aggressors. (See Luke 4:30, John 7:30, John 8:59, and John 10:39.)
Now it was time for Satan’s next attempt using Judas Iscariot — and it seems that the devil was worried he wouldn’t succeed again! Thus, the enemy inspired Judas to lead a massive group of Roman soldiers and temple police to arrest Jesus. There were far too many soldiers in this group to capture just one individual — unless that individual was the Son of God!
The religious leaders the devil was using were also filled with hate toward Jesus. Considering how many times Jesus had previously slipped out of their hands, they must have worried that He might slip away this time too.
After serving Communion to His disciples, Jesus retreated to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. John 18:2 tells us that it was Jesus’ custom to go there to pray with His disciples. Therefore, Judas knew precisely where to find Jesus that night when it was time to lead the soldiers and temple police to arrest Him.
John 18:3 says, “Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.” This verse says Judas received “…a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees.…” I want you to understand exactly who this “band of men” and these “officers from the chief priests” were so you can see the full picture of what happened that night on the Mount of Olives. I believe you will be flabbergasted when you realize the gigantic numbers of armed men who came looking for Jesus that night!
The soldiers Judas brought with him to the Garden of Gethsemane were soldiers who served at the Tower of Antonia — a tower that had been built by the Hasmonean rulers. Later it was renamed the “Tower of Antonia” by King Herod in honor of one of his greatest patrons, Marc Antony (yes, the same Marc Antony who fell in love with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra!).
The Tower of Antonia was a massive edifice that was built on a rock and rose seventy-five feet into the air. Its sides had been completely smoothed flat to make it difficult for enemies to scale its walls. Although it had many towers, the highest one was located on the southeast corner, giving the watchman an uninhibited view of the temple area as well as much of Jerusalem.
Inside this massive complex was a large inner courtyard for exercising the Roman cohort — comprised of 300 to 600 specially trained soldiers — that was stationed there. These troops were poised to act defensively in the event of an insurgency or riot. In fact, a staircase led from the tower into the temple, enabling the troops to enter the temple in a matter of minutes should a disturbance develop there. One writer has noted that there was even a secret passageway from the tower to the inner court of the priests, making it possible for troops to reach even that holy, off-limits location.
John 18:3 records that there was “a band of men” in the Garden that night. The Greek word for “a band of men” is spira. This is the word that describes a military cohort — the group of 300 to 600 soldiers mentioned above. These extremely well-trained soldiers were equipped with the finest weaponry of the day.
John 18:3 also tells us that on the night Jesus was arrested, this band of soldiers was accompanied by “…officers from the chief priests and Pharisees….” The word “officers” is from the Greek word huperetas. The word huperetas has several meanings in New Testament times, but in this case, it described the “police officers” who worked on the temple grounds. Once a judgment was given from the religious court of law, it was the responsibility of the temple police to execute these judgments. This fearsome armed force worked daily with the cohort stationed at the Tower of Antonia and reported to the chief priests, the Pharisees, and the Sanhedrin. These were the “officers” who accompanied the Roman soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane.
We can therefore conclude that when the Roman soldiers and temple police arrived to arrest Jesus, the hillside where the Garden was located was literally covered with Roman soldiers and highly trained militia from the Temple Mount. I want you to really see what a huge crowd of armed men came that night, so let’s look at what the other Gospels tell us about this same incident.
Matthew 26:47 says it was “a great multitude” of soldiers, using the Greek words ochlos polus to indicate that it was a huge multitude of armed men. Mark 14:43 calls it “a great multitude,” using the Greek word ochlos, indicating that it was a massive crowd. Luke 22:47 also uses the word ochlos to indicate the band of soldiers that came that night was enormous.
It makes one wonder what Judas had told the chief priests about Jesus that made them think they needed a small army to arrest Him! Did Judas forewarn them that Jesus and His disciples might put up a fight? Or is it possible that the chief priests were nervous that Jesus might use His supernatural power to resist them?
Certainly Jesus was known for His power! After all, He had ministered for three years — healing the sick, cleansing lepers, casting out demons, raising the dead, walking on water, changing water into wine, and multiplying loaves and fishes. The stories of Jesus’ power must have already been legendary even during His lifetime here on earth!
Even Herod heard of Jesus’ powers and longed to be an eyewitness himself of the miracles He performed (see Luke 23:8). We saw what the apostle John said about this in John 21:25: The world itself couldn’t contain all the books it would take to record every one of Jesus’ miracles. So it’s not too hard to imagine that the majority of people in Jesus’ day had heard stories of the extraordinary power that flowed through Him.
It thrills my heart to think of the power of Jesus Christ! Even more thrilling is the knowledge that the same power that flowed through Him when He walked on this earth now flows through you and me. The same Holy Spirit who anointed Jesus to fulfill His ministry has been sent to empower you and me to do the same works He did! In fact, Jesus prophesied that we would do even greater works (John 14:12). This is the kind of power that operates in you and me!
Anytime the devil tries to insinuate that you’re not a serious threat to be feared, you need to rise up and remind him of Who lives inside you! Tell the devil (and remind yourself at the same time) that the Greater One lives inside you (1 John 4:4) and that you are a world overcomer (1 John 5:4). Remind yourself every day that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead now lives inside you and is at your disposal 24 hours a day. And the next time you’re faced with a situation that requires power, open your heart and let it flow — because the anointing that was on Jesus now rests on you!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I am so thankful You possess the greatest power in the whole universe! I’m not serving a dead god; I’m serving a living Lord who is interceding for me at the right hand of the Father at this very moment. Jesus, I come to You as my Great High Priest, and I ask You today to fill me with Your power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I don’t want to just intellectually know about You; I want to truly know You. I want to experience Your power and walk in Your ways!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I declare by faith that the Greater One lives inside me. I am a world overcomer! The same power that raised Jesus from the dead now lives inside me and is at my disposal 24 hours a day. When I’m faced with a situation that requires power, I open my heart and release the immense power of Jesus Christ that is stored up deep inside me. This power is continuously resident in my heart and is more than enough to face and overcome any obstacle the devil ever tries to throw in my way!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Do you live with a constant awareness of God’s power living inside you?
2. What are some scriptures you can confess about the power of God that is available to you? It would be good for you to write them down and put them in a visible place so you can be reminded of them every day.
3. Can you think of some times in your life when the anointing of God was upon you so strongly that you were consciously aware of that mighty power flowing through you to others? If someone asked you what it felt like when the anointing was flowing through you, how would you describe it to them?