The Gethsemane encounter

Scripture references: John 18:1-11  Matthew 26:36-56  Mark 14:48-50  Luke 22:39-53

In this encounter I am writing from the perspective of a boy who was tagging along with the crowd who went to arrest Jesus. Try to see the scene through his eyes, and in this way learn something more of our wonderful Jesus.

I remember that night so well. I was sixteen at the time. I was lying on my sleeping mat in my loose outer robe, just drifting off when I heard them. A crowd has a voice all its own; deep and ugly sounding. I jumped up and went to the window. It was quite a big crowd and as they passed by my house I could pick out a number of soldiers and temple guards. There were several Pharisees leading the mob and they were heading off towards the city gate that was near the Kidron valley.

I was filled with curiosity and excitement. They had clubs and swords so maybe they were hunting down a dangerous criminal. I know I shouldn’t have but I slipped through the window and joined the crowd. We went out of the city and down through the Kidron valley until we got to a grove of olive trees. The crowd stopped and milled around so I worked my way forward until I was standing just behind the Pharisees.

A man came out of the grove and as he did so someone from the crowd went forward and greeted him with a kiss. They spoke quietly and then the man from the crowd left him and went off to the side. The moon was bright that night and in its light, and the flickering beams of the torches many in the crowd carried, I could see the man from the grove quite clearly. It was his face that caught my attention. It was solemn and composed and his eyes moved with intent from one face to another, first the Pharisees and then the soldiers and others near the front of the crowd. It might have been a trick of the silvery light but it seemed as though his face had an inner illumination and I had the fleeting thought that even if the night had been dark I would still be able to see his face. Then he spoke; “Who is it you want?” he asked. A Pharisee answered, “Jesus of Nazareth”. “I am he’, the man said.

As he spoke these words the strangest thing happened to me. It was as though some invisible force hit me. It wasn’t violent or painful but it was powerful. I staggered back a couple of steps and then the strength left my legs and I fell down in a heap. All around me the same thing was happening to everyone at the front of the crowd. A startled rumble escaped the mob and those with swords scrambled back to their feet thrusting them out in front of their bodies. One of them took a few menacing steps towards the man and as he did so a burly fellow rushed out of the grove brandishing a weapon. He swung it at the man who was advancing and the blade barely missed his head, neatly slicing an ear so that it hung by a thin piece of skin. The man howled in pain and shock, dropped his sword and clutched the side of his head. Jesus held up his hand in a gesture of authority. “No more of this!” he said, and then stepping forward he reached out that same hand, touched the wounded man’s ear and healed him. Yes, he healed him instantly. I saw it clearly. The blood stopped and the ear reattached to the skull – instantly.

I was confused but awestruck. What kind of man was this?! He had knocked us down with a word. With a simple command he averted what could have been a dangerous brawl where many could have been killed. With a touch he restored a bloody ear hanging by a shred of torn flesh and skin. Who was this man who had identified himself as Jesus of Nazareth?

Then the soldiers grabbed Jesus roughly, bound his arms behind his back and marched him off. The mob started looking for his followers in the olive grove and I saw his disciples running away into the night. I started to follow Jesus as he was being taken away but a Pharisee thought I was a disciple and shouted “Seize that fellow!” Strong hands grabbed at me but I twisted out of my robe, leaving it in their grasp, and ran off heading for home as fast as I could.

Dear reader. Who indeed is this Jesus of Nazareth? More to the point, who is He to you?

Other encounters in this series:
My memory doesn’t go back to before the accident because it happened when I was very small. A Roman officer was riding through our village when his horse was spooked by a snake that slithered out from under some baskets at the side of the road. … read more
A woman caught in adultery
I can’t deny it; I am not perfect and I admit that what I did was wrong. I was married off very young to a man much older than myself. I was more of a social asset for him than a life partner, and he showed me no affection whatsoever. …read more

A blind man encounters Jesus
I felt a bird once. My brother put it into my cupped hands. It struggled to escape and I felt the coarseness of its feathers, and its rough-leather legs… and then it broke free and was gone. …read more

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Christopher Peppler



6 thoughts on “The Gethsemane encounter”

  1. I was expecting to find a common and dangerous criminal, someone who deserved their fate. Instead, I find a man with power & authority, restoring peace out of chaos. He is no mere man, the opposite of what the world expects. After just a glimpse of Jesus and his power, my life will never be the same.

  2. Jesus is the arbiter of my life. I know that I am a sinner, and I know that as I choose to leave my life of sin, Jesus becomes my resurrection and and promise of new life

  3. The face of Jesus is shining. He knows who He is and where He is going. And He speaks with such authority that I’m bowled over just by the sound of His voice. Who is this Jesus of Nazareth because I want to know more! And then Jesus heals the ear of His “enemy”! He is being hounded to jail and yet He heals the very soldier come to take Him away! My heart is jumping in my chest because of Jesus. He is totally in control of the situation and He is not afraid. My heart is burning to know more and I know i will never be the same again.

  4. Sometimes its easy to see Jesus as a great MAN who walked the earth.However in a scene like this I see an authority and power in Jesus that no mere man could posess.He truely is GOD in human flesh.

  5. Hi. I have a few questions slightly off topic about Jacob and his wrestling with God (Jesus). To try and visual this encounter leaves me with some questions.

    It doesn’t give much detail but:
    1) Do you think the man attacked Jacob (like a thief) or do you think he approached and asked to wrestle?
    2) Do you think this is actual wrestling or a dream?
    3) Do you think it was violent wrestling or horse play type brotherly wrestling? If it is actual rough wrestling then how does it last an entire night?
    4) If God was play fighting with Jacob (and he showed he could hurt Jacob easily) then how did play fighting last an entire night?
    5) When did Jacob recognise that this was someone special that he was wrestling with? Did he initially fear for his life?
    6) What kind of blessing did God give Jacob because it looks like his life didn’t change much before or after the encounter? Was it a blessing of protection from his brother?

    Anyway – keep up the good work in this blog 🙂

  6. Hi Lance. Scholars are divided on whether this was a dream or a physical encounter. In GEN 18;2 it describes the three beings who approached Abraham as ‘men’ but the narrative later identifies two of them as angels and the third, by implication and context, a manifestation of God. On the other hand, the Gospels relate how an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. So Jacob’s experience could have been either. But the text does not indicate that it was a dream so its best to assume that it was a theophany, a material manifestation of God. Either way the ‘lesson’ is clear. Jacob, the trickster, was at the crisis moment of his life. Would he continue to rely on his own cunning and strength or would he learn to rely on God? The result of his encounter with God was that he became convinced that his strength was inadequate and that God must prevail in his life – his name change signifies this radical change of mind.
    Now regarding your points:
    1. The contest was invited and carefully structured. It was intended by God to change Jacob into Israel.
    2. I don’t see any reason not to accept that it was real ref GEN 18:2 etc.
    3. It was a real and very strenuous contest. It lasted the whole night because God wanted it to. He could have overpowered Jacob in a nanosecond but he wanted him to expend all of his strength and endurance so that he could realize that he just could not prevail against God.
    4. See 3 above.
    5. I think he was already fearing for his life because he thought his brother was going to kill him – no evidence of him fearing that God would kill him.
    6. He is blessed in that he is reconciled to his brother, he is cited as a man loved by God (MAL 1:2).

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.