Artist: Ilya Repin
Medium: Oil on canvas.
John 18:1-14 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” They replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.” (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) “I am he,” Jesus said. When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” They replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me. “Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.
The group that came to arrest Jesus was composed of Roman soldiers, Jewish servants and an apostate apostle. John will make it clear that both Jew and Gentile are guilty of the death of the Son of God. Jesus is about to die for the life of the world, and the whole world needs it. The Jewish forces that were sent were not a police force as such but court servants at the disposal of the Sanhedrin when necessary for police purposes. The detachment of soldiers (speira) refers to a cohort, a group of 600 soldiers under a military tribune. The entire cohort would not have been deployed on this mission, but there would have been a significant force. The festivals in Jerusalem were always politically volatile, and after the welcome Jesus had received there was good reason to expect trouble--or so it would have seemed to the Roman and Jewish authorities who understood Jesus so poorly. They bring torches and lanterns to search for the Light of the World; they bring weapons against the Prince of Peace.
Ilya Yefimovich Repin (August 1844 – September, 1930) was a leading Russian painter and sculptor of the Peredvizhniki artistic school. In 1866, after apprenticeship with a local icon painter named Bunakov and preliminary study of portrait painting, he went to Saint Petersburg and was shortly admitted to the Imperial Academy of Arts as a student. From 1873 to 1876 on the Academy's allowance, Repin sojourned in Italy and lived in Paris, where he was exposed to French Impressionist painting, which had a lasting effect upon his use of light and color. His realistic works often expressed great psychological depth and exposed the tensions within the existing social order. Beginning in the late 1920s, detailed works on him were published in the Soviet Union, where a Repin cult developed about a decade later, and where he was held up as a model "progressive" and "realist" to be imitated by "Socialist Realist" artists in the USSR.