Sunday, March 29, 2009

Jesus is Still in Control

This morning I want to talk about the story of Jesus’ arrest.

We see him fully in control of his destiny. We see him full of majesty and authority even while being arrested as a common criminal.
When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples. Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”
They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Then He asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?”
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,” that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.”
Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.
So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” John 18:1-11
John does not want us to get the wrong idea about Jesus’ arrest. This arrest was like no other arrest you have ever heard about. In this situation the person being arrested is in charge.

The mob that arrests Jesus think they are in charge but John lets us know in no uncertain terms that Jesus, as the Lamb of God, is voluntarily laying down his life in our behalf.

Do you remember John’s objective in writing this gospel?
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31
Christ was not the victim of an angry mob even though every person in that mob stands morally accountable for his choices, just as we will be held accountable for our choices. Every person in the mob was exercising free will and exercising their wills against the Lord of Glory. God gives people the will to choose. But none of that thwarted the sovereign purpose and plan of God.

Remember how Peter addressed the people of Jerusalem about 50 days later on the day of Pentecost?
"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." Acts 2:22-23
Wicked, accountable hands were at work on the night of our text.

But we will see that “This man,” our Lord and Savior, is being arrested “by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge.”

I want to share with you six demonstrations of Jesus’ lordship in our text that assure us beyond any doubt that he was in control of the situation, that he gave his life for us voluntarily so that we might have life.

1. His decision to go into Gethsemane.

Immediately after his prayer in John 17 Jesus led his disciples across the Kidron valley into the Garden of Gethsemane. This is particularly significant because this was where Judas would expect to find him. Jesus knew that his hour had come. He was positioning himself to be arrested.
Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. John 1:2
Judas knew the place and Jesus knew that Judas knew the place. When Judas was leading the mob to arrest Jesus he probably went first to the upper room. Not finding Jesus there he led them to the Garden.

From the another gospel we know that Jesus prayed in great agony there in the garden. In fact, the emotional and spiritual pressure was so great that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. There he was in a deep spiritual struggle dealing with the ordeal that lay ahead. He had asked Peter, James, and John to pray with him. They tried but failed. They would start to pray but then fall asleep.

Jesus had gone a little space from them and prayed “Father, if You are willing take this cup from me; yet not by will but Yours be done.” Three times when he would come back to them they would be asleep. Luke, the physician, makes an interesting observation about their sleep. He says that they were “sleeping from sorrow”

The emotional strain of everything that was going on had exhausted them and caused them to seek escape through sleep. I have never experienced what they experienced that night. But I have been in some situations where I found myself sleeping for sorrow—just trying to escape from it all by sleeping and hoping everything would be different when I woke up.

Sleep is not the answer. Escape is not the answer. But prayer is the answer.

When Jesus came to them the third time the crowd arrived in the Garden. The lights from the lanterns and torches could be seen in the distance. Perhaps the rumble of their footsteps and the clanging of their swords could be heard as well.

Jesus was not caught off guard, not surprised by Judas’ deception, fully knowledgeable of what was happening and submitting himself fully to the Father’s will.

He was in this place where he knew they could find him. And when the crowd arrives he went out to meet them.

2. His demeanor in the face of this hostile crowd was full of majesty.
He was not a nervous, scared criminal who had finally gotten caught. He was not a helpless victim of a lynch mob. Rather He was still the Lord of Glory and King of Kings even in this most humbling of circumstances. He saw and knew they were coming and he didn’t run away!

The mob expected the usual human reaction of fight or flight. They had prepared for either response. They came with swords in case there is a fight. Pilate sent a detachment of soldiers with the Pharisees and temple police.

The word translated “detachment” in John 18:3 is a military word used for a Roman cohort, which was one tenth of a legion or 600 men.

Pilate did not want a riot on his hands during this feast and you can be sure he sent what he considered to be overwhelming force. This was a huge mob and they were out for blood.
During the Passover feast there was a full moon and lots of light at night. But the crowd had come with lanterns and torches in case Jesus tried to hide himself in the trees and bushes. They approached Jesus with certain assumptions that prove totally false. When they encountered Jesus he was not hiding in some hole the way Saddam Hussein was captured. He boldly went out to meet them.

Had we been there I think we would have recognized something very intimidating about that demon-inspired mob. Satan had entered into Judas and Judas was leading the crowd. There was the normal intimidation of Pilate’s soldiers and the temple police; but beyond that was the spiritual darkness at work.

The mob was energized by demonic activity. What a horrible thing to have to face. But Jesus had already won the spiritual victory in prayer.

Now the manifestation of that victory is a foregone conclusion. Here is one lesson we must not overlook.

Even Jesus, the Son of God, prepared himself through prayer. He did not neglect his source of strength. Therefore, he was ready for the test when it came. Contrary to the crowd's expectations, Jesus walked up to them with composure and calm and asked them the question, “Who is it you want?”

Their reply was very specific, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

They did not recognize him as the Messiah or the Christ but only as a common peasant from the little town of Nazareth.

They were approaching him as they would any other man. But they were about to discover that he was more than a man. He is Lord. And his Lordship was demonstrated powerfully by what happened next.

3. His demonstration of power.
When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. John 18:6
There is no question in my mind as to what happened in that verse. When Jesus spoke the words, “I am he,” the crowd was knocked down by the power of the Spirit. The original language clearly indicates they fell to the ground.

If Jesus had that kind of authority and power—the ability to speak the word and knock them to the ground, he clearly did not have to surrender to them.

John tells us about this so that we will know beyond any doubt that Jesus was in control. No man took his life. He willingly laid it down as a sacrifice in your behalf and in my behalf.

4. His desire for the disciples' release.

Look at His focus during this exchange in verses 4 thru 8. Think about all the questions Jesus might have asked. Think about all the arguments He might have brought in His own defense. He does not defend Himself. But He does defend His disciples.

What was the design of His question to the mob? “Who do you want?” Wasn’t it obvious that they wanted Jesus? But Jesus was getting at something that was in His mind at the time. He was forcing them to focus on Him rather than His disciples. He was leading the conversation to this conclusion in verse 8, “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.”

That is a revelation of His heart toward you and me. He is always looking out for us. There in His darkest hour He was making sure his disciples were okay. There was Jesus in the most extreme circumstances. If ever there were a time to justify a little selfishness it would be right there. But He continued to love His own to the end even though they were failing Him in many ways.

We saw earlier that we can trust Him in any situation because he is powerful. He is always in control and therefore in a position to help.

But here we see that we can always trust Him because He is always looking out for our best interest. As the Good Shepherd He even puts our welfare above His own and takes the blow in our behalf.

John adds this comment in verse 9, “This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: ‘I have lost none of those you gave me’.”

Usually when we read that kind of terminology we expect to find the quote somewhere in the Old Testament.

But that is not the case here. Jesus is referring to Jesus’ words in John 17:9 where Jesus prayed, “None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.”

Let's take a second and look at Judas.

Judas stands in cold contrast to Jesus in our text. There he was with the enemy. Not long ago he was in this garden praying with Jesus. Not long ago he sat next to Jesus at the communion table. He had lived so close to the Lord of Life. He had worked miracles in the name of Jesus. He had so seemed to be part of the twelve that no one but Jesus suspected him as a traitor.

Charles Spurgeon said,“Judas proves the futility of knowledge apart from sincerity and that familiarity with the sacred can still produce a traitor.”

Judas never surrendered his heart to Christ though he followed him along with the other eleven.
Here is an amazing thing in our story. Judas and the entire mob that came with him did not alter their intentions even when confronted with the majesty of Christ. They had to be surprised at His noble demeanor.

5. His glory was demonstrated when they are knocked down by the power of God.

Surely when they saw the miracle of Jesus’ healing Malchus’ ear—surely then they would have repented and abandoned their mission. No, they continue headstrong in their iniquity.

If God would just show His power surely people would repent and turn to Him. Some will respond that way, but the demonstration of power does not guarantee repentance. Repentance is a choice made in the heart of an individual.

Don’t say, “I would serve God if He would show Himself real.” He has done that a thousand times over. Accept the facts that are already before you. Turn to Him and serve Him.

John shows us this same thing in the book of Revelation. There God deals directly with sinners but they still refuse to repent.
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done. Revelation 16:8-11
Their response to the judgments of God was to gnaw their tongues in agony and curse God. With amazement John adds, “but they refused to repent…”

In our text this headstrong crowd refused to repent. They had no doubt come with intentions to deal with this problem once and for all. They intended to take Jesus and everyone who stood with Him. But Jesus submitted Himself to their arrest only after He gained the freedom of His followers. This is even more remarkable considering Peter’s behavior in the rest of this story.

6. His dramatic of healing to Malchus.

Have you ever tried to help Jesus in the wrong way? Peter was trying to help Jesus, but he was not moving in the spirit but in the flesh. And even though his intentions were right, he was actually doing more harm than good. He was going about a good thing in the wrong way and the result is that some sinner’s ear gets cut off.

Have you ever cut a sinner’s ear off? Have you ever approached him in some way that actually made it harder for him to hear the gospel than before he encountered you?

I have known Christians who mean well but because they got ahead of God they caused damage to another person.

Here He healed the man’s ear and tells Peter to put up his sword. As if to say, "I am still in charge, Peter!"

Why did Peter make such a mistake?
  1. Lack of spiritual preparation. He was sleeping when he should have been praying. Had not Jesus said to him and the others, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” We must put on our spiritual armor before the evil day is upon us. Sometimes we’re like the five foolish virgins who think they can take care of everything last minute. But Peter failed to prepare himself for the challenges he would face.
  2. He relied on carnal weapon to win a spiritual battle. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 10, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” Are you trying to solve your problem through carnal means? Maybe a more spiritual approach would yield better results.
  3. Peter was looking at secondary causes rather than seeing the situation as Jesus saw it. Look at the contrast between Peter’s perspective and that of Jesus. Peter saw this mob as the problem so he just attacked it. But Jesus looked beyond secondary causes and linked up with the Father’s will.
“Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” John 18:11
If we’re not careful we will be expending all our energy dealing with secondary causes rather than discovering the Father’s will and cooperating with it. It’s a tiresome thing to deal with secondary causes because the problem seldom gets solved that way.

Have you tried to solve your problems by attacking them the way Peter does here? Are you vigorously hacking away at something and getting unsatisfactory results? If what you are doing is not working, then pray as Jesus prayed until you can see what God is doing and how He wants you to respond.

The healing of Malchus’ ear is actually recorded in Luke 22:51 where we are told that Jesus touched his ear and healed him. This is Jesus’ last miracle before his crucifixion. It is another demonstration of Jesus’ power and authority at the time of his arrest.

John makes some things abundantly clear in this story:

Jesus was not taken against his will. He willingly offered himself as the sacrifice for sin.

He was not a victim of an angry mob. He was totally in control of the whole situation. And if he was in control during those darkest hours—the time when the powers of darkness were most at work, you can know that he is in control of whatever may be happening in your life.

Circumstances may seem like they are out of control. On the surface the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus looked like an unfortunate miscarriage of justice. But in reality the sovereign plan of God was being marvelously fulfilled. In this story we are assured of Jesus’ control over the events and circumstances of our lives. Here we find courage to trust Him even when we don’t understand all that is happening.

How many of you know that Jesus is still in control?

1 comment:

Rebecca said...