************ Sermon on John 18:1-11 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 18, 2007
"Gethsemane - the Way to Calvary"
In our Scripture reading, Jesus is the one arrested. Yet, it is clear that Jesus is fully in charge. Jesus is in charge of His destiny. His majesty and authority and power are seen throughout the passage. Take note: the person being arrested is in charge! This is unusual, to say the least. This arrest is like no other arrest you have ever heard about.
Someone told me this past week how they slowed down and even stopped their car to watch the police arrest a criminal. This man was running through a field. The police came at him from all 4 directions. They got him down, cuffed him, and arrested him. It was obvious that the officers, not the criminal, were the ones in charge.But in our Scripture reading, Jesus is the one in charge.
The mob that arrests Jesus thinks they are in charge. The soldiers think they are in charge. The officials from the chief priests and Pharisees think they are in charge. Malchus, as the servant of the high priest, thinks he is 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. He is the One in charge.
Jesus is not the victim of an angry mob in our Bible reading. There is no hint of self-pity. There is no "woe is me" mentality. Nothing happens in our Scripture reading against the sovereign purpose and plan of God though every person in the mob is responsible for what they are doing against the Lord of glory. Remember what Peter said on the day of Pentecost?
(Acts 2:22-23) 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. (23) 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.It is wickedness that we see at work. But we also see that this happens according to "God's set purpose and foreknowledge."
Let's work our way through this passage and see Jesus' control of the situation from beginning to end.
I Jesus Goes to Gethsemane (vs 1-2)
A Immediately after His prayer in John 17 Jesus leads His disciples across the Kidron into the Garden of Gethsemane. The Kidron is a valley and streambed below the southeast wall of Jerusalem. It is no big deal to cross the streambed since water flows in it only in the rainy season.
"Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley" (Jn 18:1). A drain runs from the temple altar down to the Kidron ravine to take away the blood of sacrifice. Since it is the Passover, more than 200,000 lambs will be sacrificed the next day. When Jesus and His band cross the Kidron, it is red with the blood of the lambs prepared for sacrifice. Here is a clear statement that the way chosen by Jesus involves blood and sacrifice.
B "On the other side [of the valley] was an olive grove, and [Jesus] and his disciples went into it" (Jn 18:1). What makes this significant is this is where Judas expects to find Jesus. Jesus goes there knowing that Judas will find Him there. Jesus goes there knowing He will be betrayed and arrested.
(John 18:2) Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.Jesus often met there with His disciples.
(Luke 21:37) Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives,Jesus knows that His hour has come. So Jesus is actually setting Himself up to be arrested by crossing the Kidron and going to the olive grove.
(Luke 22:39) Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.
(John 8:1) But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
Why does Jesus go to the olive grove? In John's Gospel, Jesus does not go there to pray. In John's Gospel, Jesus does not go there to struggle with the Father's will. Rather, Jesus goes there to meet His betrayer. Rather, Jesus goes there to begin the process of His suffering and death. Rather, Jesus goes there knowing His blood is soon to be mingled with the blood of the Passover lambs. For Jesus, Gethsemane is the way to Calvary. That is the important thing to remember in this season of Lent.
C John's Gospel does not name the olive grove but we know from the other gospel writers it is called "Gethsemane." Do you know what a "gethsemane" is? A gethsemane is a huge stone weight placed on olives in order to squeeze out the precious oil. The olive press provides an image of why Jesus goes to the Garden. Jesus Himself will be pressed by the weight of the whole world's sin. Jesus Himself will be pressed and crushed by the agony of the trial and crucifixion. And, instead of olive oil it is blood that will be squeezed from Him.
D Do you know what is the first reference to the Kidron Valley in the Bible? The first reference is in the time when Absalom led a rebellion against his father, King David. David and his officials and supporters crossed the Kidron Valley. This was a strategic move that would give them a way of escape if Absalom's forces decided to surround and attack Jerusalem. We are told that the people and the king wept bitterly during this move (2 Sam 15:30) because it meant they abandoned Zion without a fight. Now we see Jesus also crossing the Kidron and the circumstances are so similar. He too has been betrayed. A kingdom is again at stake. There is also one big difference: for Jesus it is not a way of escape. Rather, it is destiny; it is God's will; it is His betrayer that He is going to meet.
Jesus is in charge. He deliberately goes to Gethsemane knowing that Gethsemane is the way to Calvary.
II Jesus Meets the Crowd (vs 3-4)
A Jesus is in Gethsemane. John tells us what happens next. The clear picture is that Jesus is in charge:
(John 18:3-4) So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. (4) Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, "Who is it you want?"Jesus is not a nervous, scared criminal who is finally caught. He is not the helpless victim of a lynch mob. He is the Lord of lords and King of kings even in the Garden.
The soldiers and officials expects the usual human reaction of fight or flight. They have prepared for either response. They come with swords in case there is a fight. Pilate sends a "detachment of soldiers" with the Pharisees and temple police. The word translated as "detachment" is a military word used for a Roman cohort, which is about 600 men. Sometimes the word can also refer to a smaller number. We know Pilate did not want a riot during the Passover Feast so we can be sure he sent an overwhelming force.
The Passover Feast is always held when there is a full moon and therefore lots of light at night. But the crowd that comes to arrest Jesus has lanterns and torches in case Jesus tries to hide among the olive trees or in the dark ravine. They approach Jesus assuming He will be hiding in some hole like Saddam Hussein was when he was captured. Instead, Jesus goes out to meet them.
B I mentioned earlier that John says nothing about Jesus and prayer while in the Garden. Jesus prepares Himself to face the angry and bloodthirsty crowd through prayer. Even the Son of God feels the need to prepare Himself through prayer. He does not neglect His source of strength. Therefore, He is ready for the test when it comes.
And, what a test it is. There is the intimidating presence of Pilate's soldiers and the Temple police. And, we need to remember that Satan has entered into Judas and Judas is leading the crowd. So, facing Jesus is a demon-inspired crowd. Not an easy thing to face. But Jesus has already won the spiritual victory in prayer. Here is one lesson we must take to heart – like Jesus, we are ready to face the enemy only when we prepare ourselves through prayer.
C Jesus, we are told, knows "all that was going to happen to him," when He goes out to meet the crowd. No fight. No flight. He does not wait to be taken. Instead, He goes out to meet them knowing He is going to be arrested. Knowing He is going to be declared guilty. Knowing He is going to be whipped. Knowing He is going to be crucified. Knowing He is going to die. Knowing criminals will be hung on either side of Him. Knowing that the disciples will desert Him and that Peter will deny Him. Knowing that His own people will yell for His blood, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"
He knows all this, yet He goes out anyway.
Jesus is in charge. He deliberately goes out to meet the Gethsemane crowd knowing this is the way to Calvary.
III Jesus Demonstrates His Power (vs 5-6)
A Completely contrary to the crowd's expectations, Jesus walks up to them with complete calm and control and asks, "Who is it you want?" (Jn 18:4). "Jesus of Nazareth," they reply (Jn 18:5). "Jesus of Nazareth." This is not a title of honor. This is not a title that acknowledges Him as the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, the Son of God. Instead, this is their way of saying He is an ordinary man from the little town of Nazareth. They approach Him as they would any other man. But He is more than a man. He is Lord and King – as He immediately demonstrates.
B Look at what happens next. Jesus says, "I am he" (Jn 18:5). "I am Jesus of Nazareth."
(John 18:6) When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground.Do you realize what is happening here? The crowd is knocked down by the power of Christ's Spirit. God, in Christ, asserts His dominion and overwhelms people with His presence. Clearly this is a demonstration of Jesus' control over the situation.
"I am he." Do you hear the echo of what God said to Moses from the burning bush? "I am he." "I am who I am." No wonder the crowd draws back and falls to the ground. They are in the presence of the Lord God Almighty. They are in the presence of the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. They are in the presence of the Creator of heaven and earth. They are in the presence of the God Who made an eternal covenant of grace with His people. "I am he."
Jesus has the authority and power to knock the mob to the ground. Therefore, He does not have to surrender to them. John wants us to have no doubt that Jesus is in control. No man takes Jesus' life. Instead, Jesus willingly lays it down as a sacrifice for you and me. Remember what Jesus said?
(John 10:18) "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."
Jesus is in charge. Though He has the power to destroy the mob, He deliberately goes out to meet them knowing this is the way to Calvary.
IV Jesus' Concern for His Disciples (vs 7-9)
A Listen to the full exchange between Jesus and the angry mob come to arrest Him:
(John 18:4-8) ... "Who is it you want?" (5) "Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "I am he," Jesus said ... (6) When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. (7) Again he asked them, "Who is it you want?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." (8) "I told you that I am he," Jesus answered. "If you are looking for me, then let these men go."
What would you and I say in this situation? There are all sorts of questions we would ask: "why do you want me, what have I done, how come you aren't going after the real criminals?" There are all sorts of arguments we would raise in our defense: "I am innocent, I did nothing wrong, false charges have been laid against me, it is a conspiracy out to get me."
Jesus does not defend Himself. Though He could have. Like a lamb led to the slaughter or like sheep before her shearers, Jesus is silent (Is 53:7). Jesus does not defend Himself. But He does defend His disciples. "If you are looking for me, then let these men go" (Jn 18:8).
Here in His darkest hour Jesus is making sure His disciples are kept safe. Jesus is in the most extreme circumstances. But he continues to love and care for His own. This is most remarkable when you consider His disciples' behavior in the rest of the story. Jesus knows Peter will deny Him and that the rest will desert Him, yet He looks after His followers anyway.
What Jesus does for the disciples, He always does for you and me too. He is always looking out for us. Earlier, when Jesus knocks down the mob, we see His power. We realize we can trust Him in any situation because He is so powerful. He is always in control and therefore in a position to help. Here we see that we can always trust Him because He is always looking out for our best interest. He is the Good Shepherd and puts our welfare above His own.
B John adds a comment to this in verse 9, "This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: 'I have lost none of those you gave me'." This is a reference to what Jesus prayed in His high priestly prayer: "None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled" (Jn 17:12).
"Let these men go." A simple statement. A quiet statement. A statement that shows Jesus is in control. Jesus submits to the crowd's arrest, He follows the way to Calvary, only after He gains freedom for His disciples.
V Jesus Stops the Swords (vs 10-11)
Our passage ends with one last dramatic proof of Christ's power and control. There is Jesus face to face with the mob, including Malchus. Malchus is not just a servant of the high priest but he is "the" servant of the high priest. With Judas and the senior officer, he is one of the leaders of the crowd.
Peter recognizes Malchus as one of the leaders. Peter swings his blade toward Malchus, misses his head, but cuts off his right ear. No one aims at an ear in that kind of situation. You want to make the first blow count. Peter is no swordsman and cuts off an ear rather than cuts off a head (Jn 18:10).
At this point I can imagine the disciples, the soldiers, and the temple police all reaching for their swords. It looks like a fight to the death for Jesus and His companions and probably for a few of those who have come to arrest Him. What does Jesus do?
(John 18:11) Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"
Jesus is in control. He is not going to fight and during the fight somehow make His escape. He is not going to establish His kingdom by sword and spear. His kingdom is going to be established by going with the Gethsemane crowd. His kingdom is going to be established by going the way of Calvary.
John makes one thing abundantly clear throughout our Bible reading. Jesus is not taken against His will. Jesus willingly offers Himself as the sacrifice for sin. He is not the victim of an angry mob. He is totally in control. Jesus goes to Gethsemane knowing this is the way to Calvary.
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