For the holy task of wooing is not changed. It still is wooing, but there’s a difference now. There’s a shifting. The wooing goes from closer to wider, from the disciples to the outer crowd, from the direct wooing of the national leaders by personal plea to the indirect by action, tremendously personal action.
It moves out into a yet wider sweep. It goes from the wooing of a nation to the wooing of a race, from Jew distinctively to Roman representatively, from Annas standing in God’s flood light rejected to Pilate in nature’s lesser light obscured, from God’s truant messenger nation to the world’s mighty ruling nation.
In the epochal event just at hand Jesus begins His great wooing of a race. And that wooing has gone on ever since, wherever He has been able to get through the human channels to the crowd. He was lifted up and at once men began coming a-running broken in heart by the sight. He is being lifted up, and men of all the race are coming as fast as the slow news gets to them.
But back now to John’s story. They pick their way over the stones of the little Kidron into the garden of the olives. There, quite alone in the deep shadows of the inner trees, Jesus has His great spirit-conflict, and great victory. The touch with sin so close, so real, now upon Him within a few hours, the sin of others upon His sinless soul,—this shakes Him terrifically beyond our understanding, who don’t know purity as He did. But the tremendous strength of yielding brings victory, as ever. And the battle of the morrow is fought in spirit, and won.
Now the trailers of hate come seeking with torch and lantern, soldiers and officers, chief priests and rulers, the ever present rabble, and in the lead the shameless traitor. They are pushing their quest now, seeking Jesus in the hiding whence He had gone days before led by the man who knew His accustomed haunts.
But there’s no need for seeking now. Jesus is full ready. He decides the action that follows. He is masterful even in His purposeful yielding. Quietly He walks out from the cover of the trees to meet them. And as their torches turn full upon His advancing figure again that marvellous power not only of restraint but decidedly more is felt by them. And the whole company, traitor, soldiers, rulers, rabble, overpowered in spirit, fall back and then drop to the ground utterly overawed and cowed by the lone man they are seeking.
Does Judas expect this? Will this power they are unable to resist not open the eyes of these rulers! But there’s no stupidity equal to that which goes with stubbornness. In a moment Jesus reveals His purpose in this, to shield His disciples. Now the power of restraint is withdrawn and He yields to their desires. They shall have fullest sway in using their freedom of action as they will. And Peter’s foolish attempts are quietly overruled.
They keep up the forms by taking Jesus to Annas the real Jewish ruler of the nation. But it is simply an opportunity for the coarseness of their hate to vent itself upon His person. They pretend an examination here in the night’s darkness suited to their deeds. He quietly reminds them of the frank openness of all His teachings.