Today we’re turning the page and beginning our study of John 18. In the past we’ve always taken two Sundays before Easter to focus on Palm Sunday and the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. This year we’ve begun our Holy Week observance many months before Resurrection Sunday. The Psalm Sunday passage when Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem is found in John 12:12-19, which we covered many months ago. Every study we’ve covered on Sunday morning since then has been a study of the events from the last week of Jesus’ life. This morning we’ll see Jesus and His disciples cross the Kidron Valley and make their way to the Garden of Gethsemane.
I’ve got to stop at this point and confess to a mistake I’ve been making. We spent four or five weeks on John 17, Jesus’ prayer to the Father. Each week I referred to Jesus’ prayer as having taken place in the Garden of Gethsemane, but this week I learned that’s not the case. I was made aware of this mistake when I read John 18:1. Take a look at it with me.
1 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. (John 18:1 NIVO)
There it is, plain as day. Jesus and His disciples crossed the Kidron Valley and went to an olive grove, which no doubt is the Garden of Gethsemane. Now, let me show you how I made the mistake of referring to Jesus’ prayer as having taken place in the Garden of Gethsemane when in actuality it took place in Jerusalem.
Jesus and His disciples shared the Last Supper, the Passover Meal, in the Upper Room, in John 13. In John 14 Jesus taught His disciples about His soon coming departure and He reassured them that He would send the Holy Spirit to be with them. At the end of John 14 Jesus said,
30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. “Come now; let us leave.” (John 14:30-31 NIVO)
“Come now; let us leave.” Evidently Jesus and His disciples left the Upper Room, but they didn’t go straight to the Garden of Gethsemane, they must have stayed somewhere in Jerusalem until the end of Jesus’ prayer which concludes at the end of John 17. I’ve taken the time to enter the confessional and walk you through the progression of John 12-17 so we might learn an important lesson. The lesson is this: Don’t make assumptions about the Word of God. Let me explain what I mean by that statement. In Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22, following the Passover meal, Jesus and His disciples go directly to the Garden of Gethsemane. There is a reason why these are called the Synoptic Gospels, they tell the story of Jesus from a very similar point of view. John’s Gospel tells the story from John’s vantage point. There are stories in John that are not found in the other Gospels and John 17, Jesus’ prayer, is one of those stories.
The mistake I made was jumping to conclusions because of what I was familiar with in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. When I turned the page and began reading John 18 I recognized I had made a big mistake so I had to go back through all of the studies I had written over John 17 and delete all of the references to the Garden of Gethsemane. Lesson learned, I will never make that mistake again. With that said let’s read our Scripture for this morning in John 18:1-11.
1 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 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?” 5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 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.” 9 This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” 10 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.) 11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:1-11 NIVO)
John tells us in verse 1 that Jesus and His disciples crossed the Kidron Valley which is a ravine east of the temple that runs all the way down to the Dead Sea, a little more than 20 miles. The valley runs about two hundred feet below the temple mount. When they crossed the Kidron Valley they made their way into what the NIV says was an olive grove, but the Greek word translated “olive grove” is “κῆπος” (kepos), and in every other place where the word appears in the Bible it is translated, “garden.” The ESV, KJV, and NAS versions of the Bible all translate the Greek as “garden.”
I read a sermon by Pastor Arthur Pink this week that drew an interesting comparison between the first Adam and his beginning in a garden, the Garden of Eden, and the last Adam, and His experience in a garden, the Garden of Gethsemane. Listen to this.
The entrance of Christ into the Garden at once reminds us of Eden. The contrasts between them are indeed most striking. In Eden, all was delightful; in Gethsemane, all was terrible. In Eden, Adam and Eve parlayed with Satan; in Gethsemane, the last Adam sought the face of His Father. In Eden, Adam sinned; in Gethsemane, the Savior suffered. In Eden, Adam fell; in Gethsemane, the Redeemer conquered. The conflict in Eden took place by day; the conflict in Gethsemane was waged at night. In the one Adam fell before Satan; in the other, the soldiers fell before Christ. In Eden, the (human) race was lost; in Gethsemane Christ announced, “Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none” (John 18:9). In Eden, Adam took the fruit from Eve’s hand; in Gethsemane, Christ received the cup from His Father’s hand. In Eden, Adam hid himself; in Gethsemane, Christ boldly showed Himself. In Eden, God sought Adam; in Gethsemane, the last Adam sought God! From Eden, Adam was “driven;” from Gethsemane Christ was “led.” In Eden, the “sword” was drawn (Genesis 3:24); in Gethsemane, the “sword” was sheathed (John 18:11). (Pink, Arthur. Christ In The Garden.)
I wish we had the time to go through each verse of our study for this morning, but time will not allow us to do that so I want to focus on one aspect of the difference between John’s description of Jesus’ arrest and the vantage point shared by the writers of the Synoptic Gospels. The other Gospel writers give us details that John leaves out and John gives us insight that we don’t find in the Synoptic Gospels. For instance each of the Synoptic writers tell us that Jesus chose Peter, James, and John to go with Him as He prayed in the Garden, away from the other disciples. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us that while Jesus was in the Garden He was in anguish, He was greatly depressed, and filled with sorrow. They tell us Jesus prayed three times that if it was the Father’s will that He might not have to drink from the cup that was before Him. Matthew tells us,
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 NIVO)
John knew all of these facts, remember he was an eye witness, he was part of Jesus’ inner-circle, but he chooses to focus on a different aspect of Jesus’ time in the Garden. Why did John choose to leave out these important details and focus on another set of important details concerning Jesus’ life? That’s a great question and I think once we remember that Jesus was fully God and fully human we can better understand the message John was seeking to convey to those who would read His account. The Synoptic writers focus on Jesus’ humanity. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah, would be a “suffering Servant,” a “man of sorrows” who was “familiar with suffering.” Read Isaiah 53:3 with me.
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3 NIVO)
The Synoptic writers highlight this truth in their account of Jesus’ final week of His life until He drew His last breath on the cross. At the same time, Jesus was not only fully human, but He was also God Incarnate, the conquering King who conquered in a most unconventional way, not with a sword and power, but through His death on the cross. John seeks to show us in His Gospel account that Jesus was in control of His destiny every moment on His journey to the cross.
In our Scripture for this morning we can see this so clearly. There had been times that Jesus’ opponents had tried to capture and kill Him, but His time had not yet come. Let me just give you one example. In John 7 we find Jesus teaching in the temple courts. The religious leaders became so incensed at what they were hearing that we read in John 7:30,
30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. (John 7:30 NIVO)
When we come to John 18, we find Jesus leaving Jerusalem and going to a familiar place, a place where He had gone with His disciples many times, and He went there because Judas would know where to find Him. Let’s read John 18:2-4.
2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 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?” (John 18:2-4 NIVO)
The phrase, “detachment of soldiers” doesn’t give us a very clear picture of the number of soldiers that came for Jesus, but we can get a clearer picture by taking a look at the Greek word translated, “detachment.” The Greek word, “σπεῖρα” (speira) is used to describe a military cohort. D.A. Carson tells us,
A full auxiliary cohort had a paper strength of 1,000 men, ie. 760 foot soldiers and 240 cavalry, and was led by a ‘chiliarch’ (lit. leader of a thousand,’ often translated ‘tribune;’ v. 12, ‘commander.) in practice a cohort normally numbered 600 men; but in any case the noun speira can refer to a ‘maniple’ of only 200 men, and it is not necessary to assume that an entire maniple was present. (Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. pg. 577)
Now think of the irony. Was it 1,000 big strong soldiers? Could it have been 600 armed soldiers that came to arrest a Jewish Peasant Teacher? Was 200, or let’s say even as few as 50 of these highly trained defenders of the Emperor’s Empire wearing their lorica segmentata armour to protect themselves really necessary to capture Jesus and His band of ragamuffins? The number of soldiers, regardless of how highly skilled they were, who came to arrest Jesus were insufficient. If there would have been an entire Roman legion of 6,000 soldiers, expertly trained, finely tuned, and honed like our special ops troops they still would not have stood a chance if Jesus had not allowed them to arrest Him. Let me explain. In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ arrest, after Peter cut off the ear of Malchus, Jesus told Peter to put up his sword. Then Jesus said,
52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:52-54 NIVO)
There were 6,000 troops in a Roman legion. So Jesus said all He had to do was ask and the Father would send more than twelve legions of angels, more than 72,000 angels in a flash, in the blink of an eye. What chance would an angel have against the most skilled soldiers in the world at the time? Angels aren’t known for being too tough right? The picture we have in our minds is of angels just floating around heaven playing harps with wings on their backs. I’m not convinced the Roman soldiers would be too intimidated by that sight. Oh but looks are deceiving my friends. I read in Isaiah 37:36 that the angel of the LORD destroyed 185,000 of Sennacherib’s troops in one night. The next day the Assyrian king went back to Nineveh.
Judas, the Roman troops, or the chief priests and Pharisees who were with them weren’t in charge. Jesus was in charge. Notice how Jesus went out to meet them. Let’s read John 18:4-6 together.
4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” 5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. (John 18:4-6 NIVO)
Jesus went out and met the soldiers and religious leaders. He didn’t find cover, didn’t run and hide, He went out to meet them. When He met them Jesus asked, “Who is it you want?” Did you notice what happened to the chiseled, battle tested troops of the Emperor? John tells us, “They drew back and fell to the ground.” In our English Bibles we read, “I am he,” but in the Greek New Testament “he” is missing, it’s not there. The phrase reads, “ἐγώ εἰμι” (ego eimi) or “I am.” Jesus used the personal name of God when He answered the men who said they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth. They drew back and fell to the ground because they were in the presence of God.
Throughout God’s Word we find that nobody can stand in the presence of God. Let me show you what I’m talking about. Turn to 2 Chronicles 5:13-14. Solomon and the people had just completed construction on the temple of God. 2 Chronicles 5 goes into great detail about what happened at the dedication. At the end of the chapter we read,
13 The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, 14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God. (2 Chronicles 5:13-14 NIVO)
Where we read, “…the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God” we know from the Hebrew that they literally couldn’t stand. They couldn’t stand because the “glory” the “כָּבוֹד” (kabowd), the very presence of God filled the temple.
We find the same thing happen to Ezekiel, in the first chapter of Ezekiel, at the end of his amazingly puzzling vision. Over and over again Ezekiel described his vision by using the word, “like,” because he had no words to accurately describe what he saw. Then, in verses 27-28, he writes,
27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking. (Ezekiel 1:27-28 NIVO)
Did you notice what Ezekiel did when he saw “the likeness of the glory of the LORD?” Ezekiel fell facedown before the glory of the LORD. The priests were unable to stand in the presence of the glory of the LORD. The soldiers, Judas, the chief priests and Pharisees fell to the ground in the presence of Jesus, in the presence of the glory of God Incarnate.
The last thing I want us to notice before we go this morning is the cup that Jesus referred to in verse 11. Just after Peter had cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, Malchus, we read,
11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11 NIVO)
The cup Jesus was referring to is the cup of wrath. The cup of wrath is a prominent theme in the Hebrew Bible. The cup of God’s wrath is reserved for those who rebel against God’s Sovereign love and authority. Let me just give you one example. Turn with me to Isaiah 51:17.
17 Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger. (Isaiah 51:17 NIVO)
The cup of God’s wrath is a phrase that we find over and over again in the New Testament book of Revelation. The cup of God’s wrath is a Judgment Day.
1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.” (Revelation 16:1 NIVO)
The cup of God’s wrath is filled with suffering, it’s filled with judgment, it’s filled with justice, and all of those who have rebelled against God have earned an extra-large, filled-to-the-brim cup of God’s wrath. All of those who have exploited others, caused others to suffer because of their darkened hearts and minds, will be judged. All of those who have “suppressed the truth by their wickedness,” as Paul writes in Romans 1:18, will drink from the cup of God’s wrath. Malachi tells us all of those who are sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice will have to drink from the cup of God’s wrath (Malachi 3:5.) The cup of God’s wrath, Judgment Day, is the day of justice.
Here’s the difference between Christianity and every other philosophy and religion that exists. The religions of the world say, “There’s going to be a Judgment Day and you had better get your act together and be good.” The most prominent belief system of our day, cultural spirituality, says, “There’s no Judgement Day, God doesn’t judge us, God loves us, and we just need to revel in God’s love.” I find this most interesting because our culture cries out for justice, marches in the streets for justice against the oppressors most every day. God says, “Hold on, a day of justice is coming,” but then society says, “I don’t believe in that. I only believe in a God of love.” The Bible teaches that there is most definitely going to be a Judgment Day, but the Judge who will preside on Judgment Day has come to earth and He has willingly been judged in our place. Jesus, God Incarnate, has taken the cup of God’s judgment that had our name on it, and He drank it’s bitter fruit, He suffered the suffering that we had coming, and He did so because of His love for us.
This morning there is someone here who has been carrying the burden of your sin and it has weighed heavy on your heart and mind. It’s interesting that even though our culture says there’s no need for guilt and shame we, each of us, deals with guilt and shame over what we’ve done. Some psychiatrists and psychologists will try and convince us that our guilt stems from the damage done from our religious upbringing, but I’ve got news for you, I didn’t have a religious upbringing, but I still had to deal with the guilt I felt over what I’d done, I felt the heaviness of shame often. I found no relief from my guilt and shame on my own. My friends consoling me that what I felt guilty about wasn’t a big deal didn’t soothe my mind in the middle of the night either. I found help, I found forgiveness, when I learned about what God had done on my behalf through Jesus, my Sin-Bearer. I’m not alone, the Apostle Paul wrote,
1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… (Romans 8:1 NIVO)
I want to invite you, you who are carrying your shame and guilt like a heavy weight around your neck, to come to Jesus, your Sin-Bearer this morning and allow Him to free you and forgive you. He has drank the cup of God’s wrath to free you from your shame and guilt my friend. Won’t you come?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
April 2, 2017