A Full Moon, Lanterns, Torches, and Weapons!
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
Have you ever had an experience with someone who had a wrong perception of you? When you heard what that person thought of you, were you shocked to hear it? Did you wonder, How could anyone ever think something like that about me?
The more well-known you become, the more that people hear all kinds of rumors about you — most of which are completely untrue. You know how rumors work. When one person hears a rumor, he passes it along to another person, who then repeats it to someone else — and so it goes from one person to the next, growing more and more ridiculous with each telling. Finally, an entire story is being told that has no truth in it whatsoever; unfortunately, when people hear it, they believe it! This is one reason Christians need to be very careful not to participate in gossip.
I don’t know what stories were being repeated about Jesus, but they must have been pretty wild. After all, when the Roman soldiers and temple police came to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, they were armed to the maximum! They also brought enough search lamps and lights to light up the entire Mount of Olives. What had they heard that made them think they needed to be so heavily equipped in order to find Jesus and the three disciples who were praying with Him that night?
Judas had obviously prepared them for the worst. He had seen Jesus perform innumerable miracles, so he knew very well about the massive power that operated through Him. Judas had also been present many times when religious leaders tried unsuccessfully to catch Jesus as He seemed to vanish, supernaturally slipping through the crowd to safety. So many times Jesus’ enemies thought they had Him, but then suddenly — boom! He was gone!
When the troops arrived that night, they must have been operating on the basis of these stories. John 18:3 tells us, “Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.” Today I want to draw your attention to the words “lanterns,” “torches,” and “weapons.” When you see the impact of these words, you’ll understand that the soldiers who had come to arrest Jesus were acting on presumptions about Him that were totally inaccurate!
In the first place, Passover occurred at the time of a full moon, so the night was already very well lighted at this time of year. But Judas didn’t want to take a risk that Jesus and His disciples wouldn’t be found; therefore, Judas obviously instructed these armed forces to be equipped to search, hunt, and track them down with the aid of “lanterns” and “torches.”
The word “lantern” comes from the Greek word lampas. This word refers to a bright and shining light. It portrays something like a lampstand — a light that is intended to “light up” a room so you can see things better. A lampas was actually the equivalent of a first-century flashlight. Its light was so brilliant that it penetrated darkened areas and revealed things hidden in darkness.
In addition to these lamps, John 18:3 tells us that the soldiers also carried “torches.” The word “torch” is from the Greek word phanos, a word that describes a long-burning oil lamp. The “lamps” mentioned above were brilliant but short-lived. These “torches,” however, were oil-based, had a long wick, and could burn all night if necessary. The fact that these soldiers came with these torches strongly suggests that the soldiers and police were prepared to search all night. So when they came to the Garden of Gethsemane that night, they had enough bright shining lights (lampas) and long-burning oil lamps (phanos) to hunt for Jesus all night long.
Several hundred troops scoured the hillside, carrying brightly lighted lamps as they searched for Jesus. This was the scene that occurred that night. Were the soldiers apprehensive that Jesus and His disciples might hide from them?
A great number of caverns, holes, and caves were scattered all over the hill where the Garden of Gethsemane was located. The hillside was also a place of many graves with large tombstones, behind which a person could hide. Finally, the hill offered prime hiding spots in its many great olive trees with twisted branches. So why in the world would 300 to 600 soldiers, plus the temple police, need so many brilliantly lit lights to find Jesus unless they thought He would try to hide or escape from them?
John 18:3 also tells us that the soldiers and temple police brought “weapons” with them. The Greek word for “weapons” is hoplos, the very word that depicts the full weaponry of a Roman soldier referred to in Ephesians 6:13-18. This means the soldiers came attired in full weaponry — belt, breastplate, greaves, spikes, shoes, oblong shield, a brass helmet, a sword, and a lance. These 300 to 600 troops were ready for a huge skirmish and confrontation!
But there’s still more to this story! In addition to the weapons the Roman soldiers bore that night, the temple police also came ready to put up a fight. Mark 14:43 says, “And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.”
I want you to notice those words “swords” and “staves.” The word “sword” is the Greek word machaira. It refers to the most deadly type of sword, one that was more often than not used for stabbing someone at close range. Does this mean the temple police were ready to stab and draw blood that night?
The word “stave” is from the Greek word zhulos. The word zhulos describes a thick, heavy stick made of wood. You might say it was a heavy-duty, dangerous, hard-hitting club intended to beat someone. When you look at the combined list of weapons brought to the Garden of Gethsemane that night, you will readily understand that these Roman soldiers and temple police were prepared to be militarily engaged!
As noted earlier, the stories being repeated about Jesus must have been pretty wild! What makes this even wilder is the likely prospect that Judas Iscariot was the one who fanned the flames of these rumors! He was right alongside the soldiers with all their lanterns, torches, and weapons.
Is it possible that after Judas had walked with Jesus for three years, he himself had never really come to know the real Jesus? Did Judas himself have a false perception of how Jesus would respond in such an event? It makes one wonder what kind of relationship Judas had with Jesus to perceive Him so inaccurately. The next two Sparkling Gems will sufficiently answer this question regarding the kind of relationship Judas really had with Jesus.
As you know, Jesus willfully went with the soldiers that night. He and His disciples did not hide or put up a fight. After being supernaturally empowered by the angel God sent to help Him, Jesus rose up and went out to greet Judas and the troops. However, I’m personally convinced that when Jesus saw Judas surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of soldiers and temple officers with lanterns, torches, and weapons, it must have stunned Him! I think Jesus was surprised to learn just how erroneously Judas perceived Him.
The next time you hear that someone has a wrong perception about you, don’t let it ruffle your feathers too much. Remember all the times you’ve had a wrong perception about someone else! You were just so sure that your opinion about that person was right, but then you discovered you were so wrong! If you’ve perceived others incorrectly at times, why should it surprise you when the same thing occasionally happens to you?
If you ever find yourself in this position, consider it an opportunity to show people who you really are! Notice that Jesus didn’t say to those who came for Him in the Garden, “How dare you think so badly about Me!” Instead of arguing or trying to prove a point, He simply surrendered, went with the soldiers, and gave His life for the very men who arrested Him. The response Jesus made with His life was the greatest comeback He could have demonstrated to them!
So when people misunderstand you, back off and take some time to think and pray about the matter before you proceed. Don’t let the devil get you all upset because you were misunderstood. This may be the greatest chance you’ll ever have to show people the truth about who you really are!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, help me learn how to avoid misjudging and misperceiving other people. I know that when I misjudge someone, it affects my opinion of that person in a way that can open a door to the devil in our relationship with each other. I don’t want to give the devil an inch in any of my relationships, so I need You to help me think cautiously, to take time to get to know people, and to give them the benefit of the doubt when I don’t understand something they say or do. Help me give people the same mercy I would expect them to give me. And help me get started on this path today!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that it doesn’t ruffle my feathers or upset me when I hear that someone has a wrong perception about me. I know I’ve made this same mistake about others in the past, so I am filled with mercy for those who misjudge or have misconceptions about who I am. I choose to be thankful for this situation and to see it as my opportunity to show people who I really am. I also take this opportunity to see what needs to be changed in my life and then to make the necessary adjustments so people never misperceive me in this way again!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Can you think of any times when you had misconceptions about someone else but later discovered that you were wrong about that person?
2. In light of that experience, do you believe you are now more cautious about what you think and say about others?
3. Since you know from personal experience how easy it is to have a false perception of someone, in what way does this help you when you discover someone has a wrong perception of you?