3 Then Judas taking the cohort and also officers of the Chief Priests and Pharisees came there with torches and lamps and weapons.
There is an expression that most will be aware of, and it is: ‘using a pick axe to crack a nut’. It’s an expression to say that excessive force is being used to break something. A pick axe is not needed to break open a nut. Using a pick axe for this task is likely to shatter the kernel as well as the shell of the nut, making it inedible.
When Judas arrived in the garden of Gethsemane he arrived with a force of men which appears to be totally inappropriate for arresting an unarmed preacher from Galilee, although we know that at least Peter did have a sword.
W Barclay gives us an insight as to the number of men who may have been in the arresting party. Verse 3 tells us that Judas arrived with a cohort, plus officers of the chief priests and Pharisees.
A cohort is the translation of the Greek word speira. W Barclay tells us that this word has three meaning:
1 A Roman cohort had 600 men;
2 A cohort of auxiliary soldiers had 1,000 men, 240 cavalry, and 760 infantry;
3 Less used it meant a band of men called maniple, which was 200 men.
If cohort refers to the third meaning it still means that an extraordinary force of men would have been used to make the arrest of Jesus.
These soldiers were stationed in the Tower of Antonia, at the North-East corner of the temple.
Added to this would have been the officers of the chief priests and Pharisees.
Such a band of men carrying lanterns and torches would have been quite a alarming sight for the disciples to see. We may wonder what they were thinking.
Did they think that many people were coming out to see Jesus, wanting to hear His teaching, expecting to see the sick healed? Or did they consider that the approaching torches and lanterns were soldiers and officers?
As the band approached their apprehension may have increased.
Why was such a large number sent to arrest Jesus? The authorities knew His power, they knew His authority. Therefore, they sought to overpower Him with what they thought was a greater power and authority.
Today, worldly powers still come against Christians in disproportionate numbers, because the world knows there is power in the Name of Jesus.