A dimly lit image capturing Jesus' arrest, showing anguish on his face, surrounded by Roman soldiers, while his disciples stand helplessly in the background.

When Was Jesus Arrested: A Detailed Look At The Events Leading Up To His Crucifixion

The arrest of Jesus Christ was a pivotal moment that set in motion the events that led to his crucifixion. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Jesus was arrested by temple guards in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly after the Last Supper on what we now call Holy Thursday night.

In this comprehensive article, we will examine the days and events leading up to the fateful night that Jesus was taken into custody by religious authorities.

We will look at Jesus’s activities and teachings during his final week in Jerusalem, analyze the motives of the Jewish leaders who wanted him arrested, and reconstruct a timeline of his arrest based on scriptural accounts.

Jesus’s Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem

Arrival on a Donkey as Prophesied

When Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem during the final week before his crucifixion, Jesus sent two of them ahead to fetch a donkey colt (Matthew 21:1-7).

This act fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

By choosing this humble mode of transportation, Jesus was signaling that he came in peace, not as a warlike king.

Though Jesus was the rightful King of Israel, he did not come to establish an earthly kingdom by force or overthrow Roman oppression.

Crowds Welcome Him as the Messiah

As Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem, crowds gathered and laid their cloaks and palm branches on the road, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:8-11). By laying their cloaks on the road, the people were symbolically treating Jesus like royalty.

The term “Hosanna” was originally a plea for salvation, but had become an exclamation of joy and praise.

The crowd’s Messianic acclamation showed that many people recognized Jesus as the long-awaited descendant of King David who would redeem Israel.

However, the enthusiastic welcome disturbed the religious leaders in Jerusalem, who saw Jesus as a dangerous threat to their power and authority over the people (John 12:19).

The hopeful fervor surrounding Jesus’ arrival likely raised their fears that he would spark a revolt against Roman oppression.

They began plotting ways to arrest and kill him.

Tensions with Religious Leaders Begin

After entering Jerusalem, Jesus went to the Temple and angrily drove out merchants and money changers who were exploiting the people, overturning their tables (Matthew 21:12-13).

This confrontation set the stage for increasing tensions with the Temple authorities in the days that followed before his arrest and crucifixion.

When Jesus taught in the Temple during Passion Week, he engaged in heated debates with the religious elites, who questioned his authority and tried to trap him into making statements they could use against him (Matthew 21:23–23:39).

However, Jesus evaded their traps and pronounced woes upon them for their hypocrisy.

These escalating conflicts with the chief priests, scribes, elders and Temple officials convinced them Jesus was too dangerous and his influence over people too strong.

They began urgently conspiring about how to arrest him stealthily and kill him, while avoiding backlash from his supporters (Matthew 26:3-5).

Their scheming led to Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ midnight arrest just days later.

Jesus’s Teachings and Activities During Passion Week

Cleansing of the Temple

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, one of the first things he did was to go to the temple and drive out the money changers and those selling animals for sacrifice (Matthew 21:12-13).

He overturned the tables and strongly rebuked those who had turned the house of prayer into a den of thieves through the commercialization of the sacrificial system.

This act was a prophetic condemnation of the corruption and wickedness of the religious leaders.

Debates with Pharisees and Sadducees

During Passion Week, Jesus was frequently confronted by the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious elites of the day (Matthew 21:23–23:36). They tried to trap him with questions about paying taxes, the resurrection, and the greatest commandment.

Jesus skillfully responded to their questions and exposed their hypocrisy, arrogance, and self-righteousness. He warned his disciples against following the example of the Pharisees.

Anointed at Bethany

Six days before Passover, Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the Leper. While he was reclining at the table, a woman poured an expensive jar of perfume over his head to anoint him (Matthew 26:6-13).

Jesus said this was to prepare him for his burial.

His disciples were indignant at the waste, but Jesus rebuked them and said the woman’s act would be remembered wherever the gospel would be preached.

The Last Supper

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, Jesus shared a final supper with his disciples (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 13). During this meal:

  • Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, modeling servant leadership for them.
  • He predicted his betrayal by Judas Iscariot.
  • He instituted the Lord’s Supper, commanding them to remember his sacrifice.
  • He foretold Peter’s denial.

After singing a hymn, they went to the Mount of Olives where Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest. Despite Jesus’ teaching and preparation, the disciples were not prepared for the events that would soon unfold.

The Plot to Arrest Jesus

Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin See Jesus as a Threat

Caiaphas, the high priest of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling council), saw Jesus and his growing following as a major threat to his own power and authority.

According to the Gospel of John, Caiaphas explicitly stated that “it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11:50).

In other words, Caiaphas believed that the elimination of Jesus would preserve the stability of the nation and prevent potential rebellion or unrest.

The majority of the Sanhedrin likely agreed with Caiaphas’ cynical political calculation. They were disturbed by Jesus’ controversial teachings that challenged the religious establishment.

The crowds gathering around Jesus made the Sanhedrin nervous as they feared his popularity could destabilize society.

The Sanhedrin determined that Jesus must be stopped before the situation grew out of control.

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ own disciples, made a fateful decision that set the arrest in motion.

Disillusioned for reasons not fully clear, but perhaps relating to Jesus’ refusal to lead an uprising against Roman rule, Judas went to the chief priests and agreed to hand Jesus over in exchange for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16).

The willing cooperation of an insider gave the Sanhedrin the break they needed. Judas provided them vital information about Jesus’ patterns of activity, enabling them to prepare an operation to seize him quietly at night to avoid public unrest.

Preparations for a Nighttime Arrest

Equipped with the intelligence from Judas, the Temple guard took the lead role in organizing Jesus’ capture. As elite Levitical police units tasked with keeping order around the Temple, the guards were experienced in covert nighttime arrests.

They likely scoped out and secured the isolated Gethsemane garden in advance, deeming its privacy and location across the Kidron Valley ideal for their clandestine purpose (Gill’s Exposition).

The Sanhedrin authorized the use of force to seize Jesus, likely equipping the contingent of Temple guards with clubs and swords. They kept the arrest plans confidential, waiting until Jesus was isolated at night to make their move (Luke 22:52-53).

While Scripture does not specify exact numbers, a sizable posse of armed men was assembled, implying precision coordination befitting an unstable target of supreme high priority.

 A mesmerizing black and white photograph captures Jesus and his twelve disciples seated around a table, their expressions shrouded in mystery, evoking the historical moment of the Last Supper.

The Arrest in Gethsemane

Jesus Prays While Disciples Sleep

After the Last Supper, Jesus went with his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Despite Jesus’ request for his disciples to stay awake and keep watch, they fell asleep multiple times.

Jesus was deeply troubled and sorrowful, knowing the suffering he was about to endure.

Judas Leads Detachment of Soldiers

While Jesus was praying in the garden, Judas Iscariot led a detachment of Roman soldiers and officials from the chief priests and Pharisees to arrest him (John 18:1-11). Judas used his insider knowledge to identify Jesus, greeting him with a kiss.

This act of betrayal sealed Judas’ reputation as one of the most infamous traitors in history.

The armed soldiers demonstrated the threat Jesus posed to the Jewish leaders, who felt the need to arrest him under the cover of night with a small militia.

Jesus Taken Captive

When the soldiers stated they were seeking Jesus of Nazareth, he replied “I am he.” After this bold declaration of identity, the soldiers fell to the ground. Jesus demonstrated his power, then willingly allowed himself to be taken captive.

His arrest was not due to being overpowered, but rather his choice to surrender, knowing these events were the fulfillment of prophecy (see Matthew 26:47-56).

Jesus was resolute in his commitment to complete his mission of sacrifice on the cross.

Brief Scuffle as Peter Draws Sword

When the soldiers moved to arrest Jesus, Peter drew a sword and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. Jesus immediately rebuked Peter’s violent reaction, healed the servant’s ear, and peacefully surrendered himself to be taken away (Luke 22:47-53).

This brief scuffle highlights Peter’s dedication to defending Jesus, albeit in a misguided way. It also displays Christ’s commitment to nonviolence – bringing healing in the midst of the violence against him.

His reprimand of Peter served as a powerful example of living out his teachings of loving one’s enemies.

Jesus Before the Sanhedrin then Pontius Pilate

Sanhedrin Holds Night Trial

After Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was brought before the Sanhedrin for an informal night trial. The Sanhedrin was the Jewish high court, composed of chief priests, elders and teachers of the law.

They questioned Jesus, looking for evidence to charge him with blasphemy, a crime punishable by death.

However, their questioning did not produce any solid evidence. Ultimately they charged Jesus based on his statement that he was the Son of God (Luke 22:70).

This trial was held quickly and at night, in violation of Jewish laws – indicating the religious leaders’ determination to eliminate Jesus.

Peter’s Denials While Jesus Before Priests

While Jesus faced questioning from the high priest Caiaphas, the disciple Peter was in the courtyard outside. Three different people accused Peter of being one of Jesus’ followers, but Peter denied it each time out of fear for his own safety.

After the third denial, the rooster crowed and Jesus looked at Peter from across the courtyard. Peter then remembered that Jesus had said Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed.

He went away and wept bitterly over his failure (Mark 14:66-72).

This shows that despite Peter’s good intentions previously to never abandon Jesus, human weakness took over amidst the danger of the situation.

Morning Trial Before Pilate

Very early in the morning, the Sanhedrin brought Jesus to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate to seek an official sentence of death. They accused Jesus of subverting the nation, opposing payment of taxes, and claiming to be Christ, a king (Luke 23:1-2).

Pilate questioned Jesus, but could find no basis for their charges and no guilt deserving of death. However, the religious leaders kept insisting Jesus had to be crucified.

Pilate tried offering to release Jesus as a customary Passover pardon, but the crowd asked for the criminal Barabbas instead (Mark 15:6-15).

This displayed Pilate’s struggle between his assessment of Jesus’ innocence and pressure from the Jewish leaders and crowd.

Sent to Herod then Returned to Pilate

Pilate discovered that Jesus was from Galilee, under Herod Antipas’ jurisdiction, so he sent him to Herod who happened to be in Jerusalem then (Luke 23:6-7). Herod questioned Jesus extensively but Jesus did not answer.

Herod and his soldiers mocked and ridiculed Jesus, then sent him back to Pilate without any charges (Luke 23:11).

This was a notable episode where two rulers who were normally enemies cooperated to pass responsibility for Jesus’ case between themselves.

Ultimately, Pilate had Jesus flogged severely but the bloodthirsty crowd kept shouting for him to be crucified (John 19:1-16).


The arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane marked the beginning of his passion and set into motion the trial and crucifixion that followed.

As we have seen, Jesus arrived triumphantly in Jerusalem among cheering crowds at the start of Passion Week, then increasingly came into conflict with the religious leaders.

Fearing the unrest he created, the high priest Caiaphas and Sanhedrin plotted to quietly arrest him at night. Judas enabled them to find Jesus in an isolated spot.

Though impulsive Peter tried to defend Jesus, he allowed himself to be taken into custody, knowing events were unfolding according to divine prophecy.

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