************ Sermon on John 18:12-27 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 25, 2007
"Two Disciples, Two Reactions"
As mentioned in the bulletin, ten people appeared before the elders this past week to profess their faith in Christ. Ten people said they wanted to follow Jesus. These ten – and every person here – needs to hear the words of Jesus:
(Mk 8:34) "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
What does it mean to deny yourself? What does it mean to take up your cross? We discover the meaning this morning as we look at four different people. I want to look at Jesus, Peter, John, and Christian.
A The first person we want to look at is Jesus.
If anyone denied Himself and took up His cross it is Jesus. Review with me, for a moment, what we have seen Jesus go through during that last week of His life on the way to the cross.
In an earlier chapter we see Jesus and His disciples at the Last Supper. Jesus announces that one of the disciples is going to betray Him. Then giving Judas a piece of bread, Jesus said, "What you are about to do, do quickly." Jesus is talking about the betrayal. He is telling Judas to get going. So as soon as Judas takes the bread, he goes out (John 13:27,30). This is the first step Jesus takes on the way to denying Himself and taking up His cross.
B Upon leaving the Last Supper in the Upper Room Jesus and His disciples go directly to an olive grove, what is known in the other Gospels as the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus goes there to meet His betrayer. Jesus goes there to begin the process of His suffering and death. Jesus goes there to deny Himself and take up His cross (John 18:1).
C Take a look at what happens next. The crowd of soldiers come to arrest Jesus. Before they get there, Jesus goes to meets them. He asks them, "Who is it you want?'" (John 18:4). They say, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus says, "I am he" (John 18:6). When Jesus says this, the arresting party is forced backward and falls to the ground – all 600+ of them. But Jesus does not hide. He does not flee. He does not fight. Again, Jesus denies Himself and takes up His cross.
D Peter then takes out his sword and cut offs the ear of the high priest's servant. Jesus commands Peter, "Put your sword away!" (John 18:11). The disciples could have put up some armed resistance. And, in the confusion of battle, Jesus perhaps could have escaped. But Jesus' kingdom is not of this world. And His kingdom is not established by the ways of this world either. Jesus' kingdom is established by the cross and the grave, by the blood and the Spirit, by the crucifixion and the resurrection. "Put you sword away!" Jesus denies Himself and takes up His cross.
E Jesus, the Mighty One, the Innocent One, is bound and led away like a common criminal (John 18:11). His civil rights are taken away from Him. He is questioned and slapped (John 18:19,22). The high priest accuses Him of being a heretic, a false teacher, an infidel. But Jesus does not resist. He willingly chooses to die for the people (John 18:14; cf John 11:50). He denies Himself and takes up His cross.
A The second person we want to look at is Peter.
We start off with Peter's boast, "Lord ... I will lay down my life for you" (John 13:38).
Later that night, in the olive grove, Peter remembers that boast as the soldiers and Jewish officials come to arrest Jesus. He doesn't care that he is outnumbered – badly outnumbered by 600+ to 1. Without thinking of his own personal safety, he attacks the official closest to Jesus, the one who poses the greatest danger to the Lord. He draws out his sword and cuts off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. Peter is willing to die for Jesus (John 18:10). Peter is willing to deny himself and take up his cross and follow Jesus – even if it means torture, persecution, suffering, and death.
B What happens to Peter once Jesus is arrested and bound and brought to the house of the high priest? John tells us that Peter is "following Jesus." Or, as Matthew puts it, "Peter followed him at a distance" (Mt 26:58). Peter is still following Jesus. Unlike Judas he has not betrayed the Lord. Unlike 9 of the disciples he has not fled for his life.
But we do notice a bit of a change. When the arresting party comes for Jesus, Peter is right there beside the Lord, with eyes flashing and sword slashing. But once Jesus is arrested and bound Peter is no longer right there beside the Lord. Rather, he is merely following from a distance. Is Peter starting to waver a little bit? Is he perhaps having second thoughts? Is he maybe considering the cost? It appears that Peter is not quite so eager anymore to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow the Lord.
C John is setting the stage, of course, for what happens next. Peter tries to enter the courtyard of the high priest. He is confronted by a girl. It is her job to control who does or does not get in. "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" the girl asked Peter (John 18:17).
Now we need to realize that Peter is scared and that he has every reason to be scared. After all, he has cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. And he is trying to get in to the courtyard of the same high priest. He knows that friends and relatives of the injured servant are there (John 18:26). He knows that the high priest, who is questioning Jesus about His disciples, is there (John 18:19). Peter knows he is entering into a mine field. He knows he is entering the gate of the enemy, so to speak. So he is scared.
"You are not one of his disciples, are you?" Peter replies, "I am not." In fact, that is his reply two different times (John 18:17,25). Peter no longer wants to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow the Lord.
D Do you remember what Jesus says when Peter first makes his boast about laying down his life for the Lord? Jesus says,
(Jn 13:38) Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!Jesus says Peter will "disown" Him. John tells us that Peter "denied" being one of Christ's disciples (John 18:25). And, John tells us that Peter "denied" being with Jesus in the olive grove (John 18:27). Peter disowned Jesus. Peter denied Jesus. They are the same verb in the original Greek.
"Disown." "Deny." What does this word mean? It means you claim there is no personal involvement or relationship with someone. Peter is saying he is not involved with the Lord. Peter is saying he is not a disciple of the Lord. In fact, in Matthew's Gospel Peter goes so far as to say, "I don't know the man!" (Mt 26:72).
Don't forget, Jesus had called Peter to follow Him. Jesus had called Peter to be one of His twelve chosen disciples. Jesus had called Peter to be with Him. But now Peter denies the facts. Now Peter rejects his relationship with Christ. Now Peter no longer wants to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow the Lord.
E Compare Peter to Jesus. The arresting party announce they have come for "Jesus of Nazareth." "I am he," says Jesus. "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" "I am not," says Peter. "I am he." "I am not." Jesus and Peter are opposites now. Jesus wants to deny Himself and take up His cross. Peter no longer wants to deny himself and take up his cross and follow Jesus.
A The third person we want to look at is John.
John is in our Scripture passage though his name is never once mentioned.
John shows up many time in the events leading up to Jesus' arrest, crucifixion, and death. We first see him at the Last Supper. He is the "disciple whom Jesus loved" and "was reclining next to him" (John 13:23). Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me" (John 13:21). It was John who asked Him, "Lord, who is it?" (John 13:25).
The next time we see him is after the arrest of Jesus. We see that he is with Jesus every single step of the way. He, with Peter, is "following Jesus" (John 18:15). And, he follows Jesus right into the courtyard of the high priest.
The last time we see him in the stories of Christ's sufferings is at the foot of the cross. He is there with Mary; in fact, he is the only male disciple that we see at the cross (John 19:25-27).
B John is presented as a disciple who is never deflected from following after Jesus. He is close to Jesus at the Last Supper, he stays with Jesus when Jesus is arrested, and he is still with Jesus when Jesus is put to death.
We are to see a contrast between John and Peter. We are to see John and Peter as opposites. Unlike Peter, John never denies the Lord. He never fails the Lord. He never abandons the Lord.
John is a disciple, a true disciple, of Jesus. He is more than willing to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow the Lord.
A The fourth person I want to look at is Christian. Like John, this person also is not named. In fact, this person is not even mentioned. But John has this person firmly in mind. This person is Christian; this person is you and me.
In his Gospel John has a question. A question for every Christian here. A question he wants all of us to ask and to answer. This is the question: Am I like John or am I like Peter? Do I deny or disown the Lord like Peter? Or, do I walk with Jesus every step of the way like John? Am I like John or am I like Peter? Am I a true disciple of Jesus? Do I deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him?
John, of course, is held before us as an ideal to measure up to. And Peter is held before us as a warning to avoid. So am I like John or am I like Peter?
B Are you like John or are you like Peter? Before you answer, I want you to realize it is not easy to be a disciple of Jesus. It is not easy to deny oneself, take up a cross, and follow Him. At the time of Jesus this meant persecution, pain, suffering, and death. One historian says this about the treatment received by the early believers:
The penalties which early Christians had to suffer were terrible beyond description. All the world knows of the Christians who were flung to the lions or burned at the stake; but these were kindly deaths. Nero wrapped the Christians in pitch and set them alight, and used them as living torches to light his gardens. He sewed them in the skins of wild animals and set his hunting dogs upon them to tear them to death. They were tortured on the rack; they were scraped with pincers; molten lead was poured hissing upon them; red hot brass plates were affixed to the tenderest parts of their bodies; eyes were torn out; parts of their bodies were cut off and roasted before their eyes; their hands and feet were burned while cold water was poured over them to strengthen the agony. These things are not pleasant to think about, but these are the things a man had to be prepared for, if he took his stand with Christ.Denial and cross-bearing are very real. This is what happens when people believe in and identify with Jesus.
Self-denial and a cross. To our self-indulgent culture this sounds odd, something that happens overseas or in a third-world country. It doesn't happen to us here in America, does it?! John's point is that it does. Everyone who has a relationship with Jesus – the disciples, the first century believers, you, me – can expect and should expect this. I think of what Paul writes to Timothy:
(2 Tim 3:12) In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted ...I think also of the words of Jesus to His disciples:
(Jn 15:18-19) "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. (19) If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
I ask again, are you like John or are you like Peter. If you are like John, then yours will be self-denial and cross-bearing.
C Are you like John or are you like Peter? Before you answer, I want you to realize one more thing. There are dire and dreadful consequences to being like Peter. Jesus warns us in more than one place about the results of denying Him before others.
(Mt 10:33) But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.Do you know what Jesus says to those who disown or deny Him. "I don't know you," says Jesus. "She is not mine," says Jesus. "I did not die for him," says Jesus. "Away from me," says Jesus.
(Lk 12:9) But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.
That is scary!
Christian, are you like John or are you like Peter? Do you follow after the crucified Lord or do you deny Him?
Christian, you have a choice. You can choose to be like John. But then yours, like Christ, is self-denial and a cross. Or, you can choose to be like Peter. But then yours is denial by the Lord Himself.
Are you like John or are you like Peter?
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