New Testament Survey: Gospels - Lesson 29


The night before his crucifixion, Jesus went to Gethsemane with his disciples to pray. Judas betrays Jesus there and Jesus allows himself to be arrested.

Robert Stein
New Testament Survey: Gospels
Lesson 29
Watching Now

The Life of Jesus

Part 8

I.  Gethsemane and the Arrest

A.  Jesus Faces Death

1.  Physical Death?

2.  Premature Death?

3.  The Death - Dying for the Sins of the World

B.  The Betrayal of Judas

1.  Why?

a.  Disillusioned?

b.  For Money?

c.  Help Jesus?

d.  Jesus' Own Words

2.  What?

a.  Messianic secret?

b.  How Jesus could be arrested

C.  The Arrest

1.  A Great Crowd Present

2.  Kiss of Judas

D.  Jesus the Zealot?

  • The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke record some of the same stories and even use the same wording in sections. They also each have material that is unique, and the chronology is different in some places. Both the purpose of each gospel and the role of oral and written tradition play a role in understanding the similarities and differences.

  • The Gospel of Mark is shorter than the other Gospels and some of the grammar and theology is unique. There are also significant portions of Mark that are contained in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

  • Discussion of the extensive similarities between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. It's possible that Mark was already written and they used that as a source. It's aslo likely that they had in common other oral and written sources of what Jesus did and taught. 

  • Some time passed between the ascension of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels because there was no need for a written account while the eyewitnesses were still alive. In that culture, oral tradition was the primary method of preserving history. Form critics also note that it is likely that it is likely that many of the narratives and sayings of Jesus circulated independently.

  • Form criticism is the method of classifying literature by literary pattern to determine its original form and historical context in order to interpret its meaning accurately. The Gospels were not written to be objective biographies. They omit large portions of the life of Jesus, they include accounts of miraculous events and they have a purpose to demonstrate that Jesus is both God and human.

  • Redaction criticism focuses on evaluating how a writer has seemingly shaped and molded a narrative to express his theological goals. Examining how Matthew and Luke used passages from Mark can give you insight into their theology and their purpose for writing their Gospel.  

  • Studying the background and theological emphases of the Gospel of Mark helps us to understand the central message of his Gospel. The central point of the Gospel of Mark is the death of Jesus when he was crucified. This event happened because it was a divine necessity in God's plan to redeem humanity. It's likely that the Gospel of Mark is a written record of the apostle Peter's account. 

  • The Gospel of Matthew emphasizes how Jesus' life, death and resurrection fulfilled prophecies that were made in the Old Testament. Matthew also shows concern for the church and has a strong eschatological emphasis. 

  • Luke emphasizes the great loving concern of God for the oppressed, such as tax collectors, physically impaired, women and Samaritans. He warns of the dangers of riches and emphasizes the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 

  • John's Gospel focuses on Christology and emphasizes dualism and eschatology.  John has long pericopes, clear statements about the identity of Jesus and a number of stories not found in the synoptic Gospels. 

  • By studying the background and comparing the text of the synoptic gospels, we can be confident of their authenticity. Many of the accounts in the Gospels appear in multiple Gospels and are confirmed by separate witnesses. Details in the narratives and parables are consistent with the culture and common practices of the time in that region.  

  • In order to understand Jesus' teaching, it is important to understand how he uses exaggeration and determine when he is using exaggeration to make a point. An exaggeration is something that is literally impossible and sometimes conflicts with teachings of the Old Testament or other teachings of Jesus. They often use idiomatic language that had a specific meaning to the original hearers. 

  • The Gospels record how Jesus used different literary forms to communicate his teachings. He communicated effectively with everyone including children, common people, religious leaders and foreigners. He used a variety of literary devices to communicate in a way that was effective and memorable. (This class was taught by a teaching assistant of Dr. Stein's but his name was not provided.) 

  • It's important to know how to interpret parables to accurately understand what Jesus was trying to teach. At different times in history, people have used different paradigms to interpret parables. Each parable has one main point. To interpret the parable, seek to understand what Jesus meant, what the evangelist meant and what God wants to teach you today.

  • Dr. Stein uses the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of how to apply the four rules of interpreting parables. He also applies the four rules to interpret the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl, the ten virgins, the unjust steward and the laborers in the vineyard. 

  • Jesus used different literary forms to communicate with people. It's important to know how to interpret these literary forms, including parables, to accurately understand what Jesus was trying to teach. The rule of end stress is one factor in determining the main teaching of a parable. Dr. Stein describes two parts of a parable as the, "picture part" and the "reality part." 

  • The kingdom of God is God's kingdom invading the earthly kingdom. In the Gospels, there are both "realized" passages and "future" passages. There is a tension between the "now" and "not yet" and it is important to emphasize each aspect equally.

  • Jesus' teaching about the fatherhood of God reveals for us a tension between reverence and intimacy. Jesus shows his reverence for God by not using the name of God even when referring to God. When he refers to God as Father, it is an indication of a personal relationship. 

  • Jesus does not provide an organized ethical system, but his ethical teachings are scattered throughout the Gospels. Sometimes they seem to be contradictory, until you look at them more closely. He emphasized the need for a new heart and the importance of loving God and our "neighbor." Jesus upheld the validity of the Law but was opposed to the oral traditions. 

  • Implicit Christology is what Jesus reveals of himself and his understanding of himself by his actions words and deeds. Jesus demonstrates his authority over the three sacred aspects of Israel which are the temple, the Law and the Sabbath. 

  • Explicit Christology deals with what he reveals concerning his understanding of himself by the use of various titles. Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word, Messiah. The titles, Son of God and Son of Man refer both to his human nature and divine nature. 

  • The Chronology of Jesus' life in the Gospels begins with his birth and ends with his resurrection. How you explain the miracles of Jesus depends on your presuppositions. He performed miracles to heal sicknesses and also miracles showing his authority over nature. 

  • The birth of Christ is an historical event. The virgin birth of Jesus is a fundamental aspect of his nature and ministry. The details of the birth narrative in Luke are consistent with historical events. 

  • Except for the accounts of a couple of events in Jesus' childhood, the Gospels are mostly silent about the years before Jesus began his public ministry. Luke records the story of 12 year old Jesus in the temple to show that already, you can see something different about Jesus. Jesus' public ministry began when John the Baptist baptized Jesus publicly in the Jordan River.

  • The three temptations that Satan put to Jesus were significant to him and instructive to us. Jesus had a specific purpose in mind in the way he called his disciples and the fact that he chose 12.

  • After Simon Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ, Jesus begins teaching about his death and focuses his efforts on teaching the twelve. The Transfiguration was a significant event because the pre-existent glory of Jesus broke through and it was also a preview of future glory.

  • The events surrounding Jesus' "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem were the beginning of the week leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection. When Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem, he was rejecting the sacrificial system, reforming temple worship and performing an act of judgment.

  • At the Last Supper, Jesus celebrated with his disciples by eating the Passover meal. He reinterpreted it to show how it pointed to him as being the perfect Lamb of God, the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all people. When we celebrate the Lord's supper, there is a focus of looking back at the significance of what Jesus did and how the Passover pointed toward him and of looking forward to the future. 

  • The night before his crucifixion, Jesus went to Gethsemane with his disciples to pray. Judas betrays Jesus there and Jesus allows himself to be arrested.

  • The trial of Jesus involved a hearing in the Jewish court conducted by the high priest and the Sanhedrin, and a hearing in the Roman court conducted by Pilate. The Jewish leaders brought in false witnesses against Jesus and violated numerous rules from the Mishnah in the way they conducted the trial. 

  • Jesus died by crucifixion. The Romans used it as a deterrent because it was public and a horrible way to die. The account of the crucifixion is brief, likely because the readers knew what was involved and it was painful to retell. Jesus was buried by friends.

  • The historical evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus is compelling. Jesus appeared physically to people, many of whom were still alive when the books in the New Testament were written. Rising from the dead confirmed that Jesus has power over death and gives hope of eternal life to people who put their trust in him. 

  • The Gospels are eyewitness accounts that clearly show that Jesus claimed to be fully human and fully God, and what he did to back up this claim. Some people try to reinterpret the Gospels to make Jesus out to be a moral teacher with good intentions, but not God in the flesh.

This is the first part of an introductory course to the New Testament, covering the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The synopsis Dr. Stein refers to is the Synopsis of the Four Gospels, English Edition, published by the American Bible Society. You can click here to order it from American Bible Society or click here to order it from Amazon

The lecture notes you can download (to the right) are for both NT Survey I and II. In some of the lectures, Dr. Stein does not cover all the points in his outline, but we include the additional outline points for your benefit. 

Thank you to Charles Campbell and Fellowship Bible Church for writing out the lecture notes for both sections of Stein's NT Survey class (to the right). Note that they do not cover every lecture.

Recommended Books

New Testament Survey: The Gospels - Student Guide

New Testament Survey: The Gospels - Student Guide

This participant’s guide is intended to be used with the BiblicalTraining.org class, New Testament Survey - The Gospels with Dr. Robert Stein. This is the first part of an...

New Testament Survey: The Gospels - Student Guide

We want to look at a number of events in the life of Jesus as it comes down to the end of the story, least as far as the world thought, and the surprising ending and beginning in the Resurrection.


But we want to talk about the events surrounding Gethsemane and the arrest. We talked about the Last Supper, which was part of a Passover meal. And due to the fact that they had celebrated the Passover, they had to remain in greater Jerusalem as we pointed out.

In Deuteronomy 16:5 and 6, it says, "You are not permitted to offer the Passover sacrifice within any of your towns that the Lord, your God, has given you but at the place that the Lord, your God, will choose as a dwelling for his name. Only there shall you offer the Passover sacrifice in the evening, at sunset, the time of day when ye departed from Egypt."

And so they are not able to return to Bethany. But in the enlargement of Jerusalem to include the surrounding hills facing the city, the garden of Gethsemane on the western slopes of the Mount of Olives was a legal place to spend the night. We pointed out that the fact that they did not go back to Bethany but remained in greater Jerusalem was an indication that this had to be a Passover meal.

Also, as the law says here, it had to be eaten at night, and the Lord's Supper takes place as a Passover meal that was at night. On the night that Jesus was betrayed, he took bread. So whatever the difficulties of trying to reconcile the Johannes and Synoptic gospel dating of this Passover meal, the fact is that it is a meal that is a Passover eaten in Jerusalem and remaining in greater Jerusalem.

Now as they enter the Kidron Valley and begin the walking up the slope at the Mount of Olives at the very bottom towards the Kidron Valley is the garden of Gethsemane, a very lovely place. You ever been there you'll see that it's still filled with olive trees, some of which date back to the time of Jesus, and there's a kind of sense that you get there- you can vision Jesus spending the night at that time.

A.  Jesus Faces Death

As he enters there, page 297 in your synopsis, look at the experience of Jesus beginning at verse 34 line 19. As he comes through the garden, he proceeds with Peter Andrew-Peter, James and John I should say, in advance from the other disciples, and then he leaves them at a certain point and proceeds ahead. But as he's about to do that he said in line 18, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch". It is a time of great torment and struggle for Jesus, and he seeks the comfort of his friends, his disciples, as they pray for him.

As he wrestles with this, he asks God, "Aba father, all things are possible to you. Remove this cup from me but not what I will but what you will." But you wilt not — King James language.

The honesty of the accounts I think is very commendable. Ah, there is no romanticizing of the great courage of Jesus here. He is not excited about the prospect. He is not a masochist. He does not want to die in this way, and he experiences this great agony and anxiety over his death.

I think as Christians we should take a great deal of comfort and understanding that the savior we believe in is able to understand u-us when we go through times like this. When we face the valley of the shadow, when we find out we have terminal cancer.

I don't think there's anything in the bible that somehow says that we should all sudden jump up and sing the benediction and say "Oh isn't it wonderful I'm gonna to die of cancer". I think the natural inclination that we have is that death is an evil. It's part of the curse, and we don't want to go this way.

Uh the faith of Jesus is not that he wants to suffer but that despite whatever he desires he adds not but my will going to be done. And I think that's- that's what real faith is.

We have romanticized some of the early missionaries that went out and tried to point that they had no flaws. I remember a book by Eden Hiram Judson uh had to be rewritten because there was a chapter in it which had talked about his almost losing his faith after his wife and children died in a hospital all alone.

My question is why you want to hide that? The fact is that he- God saw him through that, and it helps me to realize that if I go through that God can help me come through it as well. We're not uh have uh paper heroes that uh are just not realistic. Jesus, himself is asking God that if there's another way possible he doesn't want to die this way.

Now the question has come up what exactly is it that he's so uh in agony about? It was a man by the name of Oscar Colman who argued that what Jesus feared was physical death. He knew, as no one had ever known before, that death is a curse. It was not intended for uh God's creation. It's part of a fall, and he recognized that and what he actually fears is physical death itself.

I doubt that that is really an adequate explanation uh. It as one of my teachers once said, "It would be a strange paradox that saints should be able to draw from Christ the inspiration and strength to die bravely un- uncomplainingly for his sake, yet he himself be found quailing before the experience of death". I mean uh there are examples of saints that have endured great pain and so forth, and their example if you're- if all he was fearing was the same kind of death is- is inferior to theirs.

But that's not what he's afraid of. He's not fearing physical death. Others have said well ah somehow he- what he was afraid of was dying prematurely before his ministry had taken place in its fullness. Ah very hard to think of the one who says that the very hairs of our head are numbered, not a sparrow falls to the ground that uh without God's permission and will. That somehow he thought that God was not in control of what was going on. I think he had confidence that God would preserve him until his hour had come. And so I don't think it's somehow a fear of premature death.

Some have argued that what he feared was the additional guilt that would come upon uh Judas, the leaders of the nation, Pontius Pilate, and others. Again num the fact that he comes into the world as the messiah knows that he will divide the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares.

Now I think what- what he fears is the death, of dying for the sins of the world. He had just at the Last Supper said this is the blood of the covenant poured out for many for the remission of sins. Paul says, "He who knew no sin became sin for us that we may become the righteousness of God in him". Paul quotes the Old Testament law when he refers to Jesus as, "Cursed is the one who hangs on the tree".

And I think what we have to see here is not that he is facing death in any of the senses that we are but that's an unusual death that none of us will ever be called to do; to somehow bear the sins of the world and bear the, ah, wrath of a Holy God upon himself in this way. And so that whereas you and I when we go through the valley of the shadow of death we have examples of many many saints who said they never felt closer to God at the time. They've never felt closer as they were dying.

And I- I think God will be very near to us, but he does not have that privilege as the sin-bearer of the world. So what he fears, I think, is the death of dying for the sins of the world not just physical death in our normal sense.

B.  The Betrayal of Judas

Now, we talk at this point of the betrayal of Judas, and there's been a lot of speculation as to why Judas betrayed Jesus and there's been romanticizing this and some say, "Well his view of what the messiah was supposed to do was be a political deliverer. Uh, the very kind of messiah that Jesus rejected, and somehow he kept on thinking that Jesus would come around and accept his responsibility as the messiah to drive out the Romans to bring independence to Israel once again, and he would have a ground seat in the new kingdom. When Jesus, now at the Last Supper, talks about his death and keep on warning his disciples he's about to die, he becomes totally disillusioned and therefore betrays him as a result".

No evidence for anything like this. Uh, some have suggested that it was for money. Remember he receives 30 pieces of silver. But that's not a big sum of money. I mean that...you don't do a betrayal of this importance for so [silence] such a paltry sum. It doesn't- it doesn't seem therefore that you can simply explain say, "Well it was all because he- he was a greedy man, he wanted money and so forth and so on". I- It doesn't seem to be quite possible.

One of the most interesting and romantic idea is that um what he did it really to help Jesus out. Is a work by Kazantzakis 'The Last Temptation of Christ' in which, as Jesus is preparing for his death, Judas is the only one who loves Jesus and is committed to him enough that he will die [stuttering noises] help Jesus die the death that he plans. And so he betrays Jesus in order to help Jesus fulfill his ambition and goal. Very romantic to say the least um but, once again, I don't think the majority of Christians ever been convinced of this because none of us seem to be wanting to name our children Judas.

When you come, however, to what Jesus himself says at the Last Supper, it seems to be impossible to- to romanticize it. One page 283, when Jesus foretells his betrayal at the Last Supper, on 283 if you look at line 34, Jesus says, "The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would have been better for that man if he had not been born".

So if you want to romanticize Judas' role, you have to eliminate this verse. You have to say something like that uh, "It's not really true. This is just the disciples trying to find a scapegoat," or something like that, "That Judas is really a hero," and so forth. And it becomes impossible to do that in light of the text.

So why did he betray Jesus? I think we're going to have to simply say we don't know for sure. We don't know what was going through his mind. We don't have access to what Judas was thinking. When we talk about the impossibility of knowing the mental acts of a biblical author as they wrote, how much less is it possible to have access to the mental acts of a character, a real historical person to be sure, but that is being referred to and there is no comments coming from that person as to what he was thinking or the like. I think we simply say we don't know.

C.  The Arrest

Now another question, though, that we have more access to is what is it that he betrayed? What is it that Judas betrayed? And here was Albert Schweitzer who said that what Judas betrayed was the messianic secret. He betrayed to the leadership that Jesus was, in fact, claiming to be the messiah. And therefore now they mobilized and arrested him and saw his death.

The problem with this is two-fold. First of all, we're not sure exactly whether claiming to be a messiah was a criminal act. In 135, there is a re-revolt that's against the Romans by a- led by a man name bar Kokhba, and bar Kokhba claimed he was the messiah. And some of the Rabbis actually thought he was. And so if it is an evil thing to claim he's the messiah, ah how in the world does he get along and have the vast number of the majority of the people, probably at the time, support him in this?

Nothing we know of that say simply claiming you're the Messiah is, therefore, something that is wrong and if you once revealed to the cur- to the leadership Jesus is claiming he was the messiah, they would have immediately thought he had to be arrested and punished in some way.

I think the biggest argument against this, however, is if this what Judas betrays is the claim that Jesus is the messiah, which somehow is now a serious offense, then why is he not present at the trial where he can bring those charges to those who are judging the situation? The fact that he's not present at the trial indicates they don't need him.

They don't and if what he's betraying is the claim that he's the messiah, then you have to have him there. In fact, they're desperately trying at the trial to find something to accuse him of. And nothing is brought up about having entered Jerusalem as the Messiah on Palm Sunday. Nothing is brought up in the cleansing of the temple. Nothing is brought up by Judas here claiming that he is the messiah. Those don't seem to be clear messianic acts, and Judas apparently uh is not witnessing to that.

What Judas will do in betraying Jesus is to reveal to the leaders how Jesus can be arrested quietly. How they can get their hands on Jesus apart from the crowds. Here we need to read Mark 14 one and two, and that'd be page 276. Here you have an editorial comment by Mark goes this way, "It was now two days before the Passover and the Feasts of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth secretly and kill him for they said, 'Not during the feasts lest there be a tumult of the people'".

"We're not going to try and arrest him in the middle of the feast when everybody's around, there'll be a riot. We can't do that." And when Jesus is finally arrested in 48, 49, we have the following comments of Jesus at his arrest; that'd be page 300. As they come to arrest Jesus he says to them in lines 56 and 57 and Jesus said to them, "Have you come out as against a robber with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day, I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the scripture be fulfilled. And they all forsook him and fled."

So what Jesus is saying, "Why didn't you arrest me when the people were around?  Why in the darkness? Ah, is it be- you know, is it because evil people are of darkness rather than light?" But what Judas is able to say, "I can tell you where he will be apart from the people and how you can arrest him." And providing that information, they are able to arrest Jesus quietly.

Now when Jesus is arrested, Mathew in 26:47 says, "A great crowd is present at the time".  Let's look at Matthew 26:47 page 299, "While Jesus was still speaking Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs from the chief priests and elders of the people".

So a great crowd is described, and if we break it down in the various ways there are representatives of the chief priests, scribes, and elders. There are temple soldiers, essentially temple police in charge of the temple area. There servants of the chief priests, servants of the Pharisees. And John 18:12 has an unusual reference here, "And it looks like what we have is the cohort of soldiers present as well," 301. So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him.

Now the word "captain" is the word "tribune". In the simplest way of looking at that is that we have here a Roman Officer, one who's in charge of Centurions who are leaders of a 100. Tribune is the next officer. If you have Centurions essentially being lieutenants, here you have a captain, a tribune.

And you have reference to the cohort being referred to uh. Now a cohort is really a large group, a band of soldiers, a cohort of soldiers. A cohort normally was 600 men. And you had that chief officer, the tribune in charge of them. So it could be that, or sometimes a subgroup of a cohort was also referred to as the cohort and uh usually we have here about 200 men. The word used there is maniple.

So what we have here is a substantial group of people. You say, "Well why all the people?" Well, remember how many disciples Jesus has. He has 12 disciples. You have 13 men and what you- what you are going to do if they resist? You have to have sufficient force to put it down. And uh the Romans were smart enough to know that if you're going to put down something make sure it's enough ah force there to put it down easily. Don't encourage it in some way. You don't send 12 plus one.

So you have a large group to take care of that, and you're not going to have to worry about that. Again, some people would say that seems excessive, seems a reasonably good politics from a Roman point of view.

Now when they come across the Kidron Valley and come into the garden of Gethsemane. You have to envision here that we're not in Las Vegas at two a.m. in the morning so that it looks as bright as day. This is night. There are no electric billboards, no electric lights. The only thing you have is the moon, and you have trees around. How do you know who Jesus is?

The last thing you want to do is to send people there and go from group to group on the southern part of the Mount of Olives saying, "We're looking for Jesus. Can you tell us where he is? Are you one of him?" And the way you're going to do this is to arrest him quietly as quickly as possible. And the person that can do that is a disciple who knows where Jesus is going to be. And so he comes to Jesus, singles him out by way of a traditional kiss and reveals to the guard present that, "This is him," and then Jesus is arrested as such.

There is, for instance, in the verse on page 299, when he comes on line 19 he says, "Master," and he kissed him and then he moved right away and then they laid their hands on him and seized him. So what Judas betrays in the dark is where Jesus is and who Jesus is and he is arrested after this traditional greeting of a teacher.

D.  Jesus the Zealot?

There has been an attempt by some, if you go to Luke 22:36 now, to make Jesus into a zealot sympathizer or zealot in some way. The bottom of 289, an account in only what you have in Luke but no textual problems with it, Jesus says after his- he says somebody is going to deny me. He says uh I sent you out originally in the missionary journey during my ministry without a purse, bag, or sandals and you didn't lack anything right? Okay. Now that I won't take a purse, take also a bag and so forth, now things are going to be different. "And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one. For I tell you that the scripture must be fulfilled in me".

He was reckoning with the transgressors then. "And what is written about me has its fulfillment." And some have argued that "See Jesus' disciples were armed," and therefore Jesus really was not a pacifist in our sense of the word, but he was one who was willing to fight and defend.

But look at verse 38, "And they said to him, 'Look Lord here are two swords'. And he said to them, 'It is enough'," which really means 'enough with the silly nonsense. But is two swords are really enough, I don't think you're planning to take on the Roman Empire.

I think what he's doing here is an acting out a parable about being prepared and that we're ready to do battle with the evil one, not physical battle in any sense of this way I'm this SGF Brandon's 'Jesus and the Zealots' had tried to emphasize this. But to do that, think of all the verses in the bible that you have to cast aside if you want to defend Jesus as being a zealot or zealot sympathizer.

What do you do with, "Blessed are the peacemakers for theirs is the kingdom of God"? What do you do with, "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" That doesn't sound like a Zealot. That sounds very unlike a zealot would say, "If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, cut his head off".

Zealots are warriors who are seething at the bit. If they force you to go one mile, which means if the soldier impresses upon you the responsibility of carrying his equipment for one mile, which was legal under the Roman rule, volunteer to go another one. Zealots don't talk that way.

So it's kinda silliness has gone on there and the missing of the point to be made.