John - Chapter 18
Let us continue, then, in our study series on the Gospel of John and begin with a prayer. Lord, we thank You for this evening and we thank You for the freedoms that we enjoy and we pray that we wouldn’t take them for granted. May we always have a heart of gratitude for Your gifts and most of all for Your great gift, Your indescribable gift, of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
We are up to chapter 18, and we are moving, now, in this chapter, from the private ministry of our Lord, with His disciples, into the public drama of redemption. We had five chapters that slowed down the clock to one day.
So, the first 12 chapters of John covered basically the essence of His three and a half-year public ministry, beginning in Judea and also Galilee, and then the clock stops in chapters 13 through 17. If you looked at John, chapters one through twelve, what we would have is His three and half year public ministry, although even here He spends less and less time with the public and more and more time with His disciples as time goes by, in view of the mounting opposition.
Then, in chapters 13 through 17, we have the Upper Room discourse. In these chapters Jesus is telling His disciples the essence of what is to take place and the resources God will give them. He has an opportunity, and we are listening in on this very holy conversation of the last words that He gives His disciples. Again, if you had a chance to speak to your loved ones, and knew you would be dying in one day, what would you say to them? It wouldn’t be trivial stuff.
So, John, alone, gives us an overview of this and in those chapters, you recall, He talked about His offer of peace, His offer of love, His offer of joy, His offer of the Holy Spirit, and His promise to come again to receive them to Himself, so that where He is, so they may be also. Notice how utterly other-centered it is. He never focuses on His needs, but on their needs. He knows that they are distraught and yet He focuses on them because He knows that this is the purpose for which He was sent, to complete His Father’s business on this earth.
Then, in John 18 through 21, then, we go back to a public ministry. Only John records this private ministry. We would be greatly impoverished if we did not have the Gospel of John. It is the supplemental Gospel, for whom something like 90 percent is unique. 92 percent of John is found only in the Gospel of John, so it is truly great that we have it. Really, what we have in this particular text, is the essence of the Epistles. These are the seeds for all the doctrines about how the spiritual life would be led in the Epistles that would follow.
So, we now move back to a public ministry and in the earlier public ministry we saw that He accomplished seven signs. These seven signs were designed to demonstrate who He was. The last sign was the raising of Lazarus in chapter 11. Then, we have an eighth sign, and that sign, of course, is the most important one and it is the resurrection from the dead.
So, here will be the culmination of the evidence for who He is by virtue of His resurrection from the dead. It is not just as evidence for who He is, but it also the basis for our redemption and salvation and the basis for our having a right relationship with the living God. So, keeping this in mind, we are making the transition into the third major portion of the Gospel of John.
So, let’s move on into John 18 and what we see in this text is that man will do his worst and God will respond with His very best. That is the real contrast that we see here. We see, first of all, the theme of obedience, in the garden, “When Jesus spoke these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples.” It tells us, in Luke, chapter 22, that Jesus often went to this garden with His disciples, not only to rest, but to meditate, to pray, and the fact is that during this particular time of Passover, Jerusalem would be filled with pilgrims attending the Passover. Jesus would want to go to a private place, where He could get away from the press of the multitudes. Of course, this is an important theme for all of us, isn’t it? Frankly, we all need places of solitude and silence in our lives, otherwise we only live on the surface of live and we lose the real sense of what life is about. It is good for us to have rhythms of activity and engagement on the one hand, but also rest and reflection on the other. That is really how that works.
Now, looking at the garden, you know there is a huge theme, don’t you? Everything begins in a garden and it ends in a garden, in a way. Jesus often went to the garden with His disciples, as we said, and human history is something that tells us something about a journey. The garden that Jesus went into with His disciples will remind them of a garden the first Adam went into. Recall he was created in this garden and the book of Genesis really begins with a garden and it ends, in the book of Revelation, in a city. There is still a garden in that city. You recall, of course, the first sin was committed in that garden and the first Adam disobeyed God and was cast out of the garden, lest he eat from the tree of life and live forever. Having been cast out of that garden, the last Adam, Christ, as we see in 1st Corinthians 15:45, was obedient as He went into this garden, the garden of Gethsemane. You might say that in a garden the first Adam brought sin and death to humanity, but Jesus, by His obedience, the second Adam, brings righteousness and life to all who would trust Him.
So, the first Adam turned a garden into a wilderness, in a way, and turned it into death and a context of alienation. But, the second Adam, because of His obedience, turns this garden into the gate of paradise. The difference is simple. ‘Thy will be done’, in Christ’s case, versus ‘My will be done’, in Adam’s case. They wanted to have life on their terms, supposing somehow that God was somehow keeping their best interests at bay, because He was not going to give them the full knowledge. Eden, then, was a context of disobedience and sin, and Gethsemane was a garden of obedience and submission.
So, the contrast is very radical, disobedience and sin versus obedience and submission. Heaven, I think, is going to be an eternal garden of delight and satisfaction. By the way, the word ‘Gethsemane’ means ‘oil press’, because they had olives there and these olives would be picked and put into the press to squeeze out their oil. The text also mentions the Kidron valley and this was the same Kidron valley David crossed when he was rejected by his nation and betrayed by his own son, Absalom, in 2nd Samuel 15. Jesus was rejected by His people and at that very moment was being betrayed by Judas Iscariot, at the very moment He is doing this.
Now, David’s treacherous counselor was a fellow named Ahithophel, and he hung himself and David’s treacherous son, Absalom, was caught in a tree and he was killed while he was hanging there. It seems to me very interesting that Judas went out and hung himself. In any case, let us go on, now, to verses two through nine. There is, of course, this treachery of the kiss in the garden. “Now Judas, also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples.”
So, he was very familiar with that place and frankly I am stunned that this man, who had so many privileges, despised those privileges and opportunities that he ultimately wasted. He was privy to Jesus’ teaching, to Jesus’ love and ministry, yet he rejected it. “Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.” You need to know that a ‘cohort’ was one tenth of a legion. Anyone know how big a Roman legion was? A Roman legion numbered 6,000 soldiers, so a cohort would have been 600 men. I have to say that the Passion of the Christ disappointed me on this part because they only had 20 or 30 soldiers and they were only temple guards, but this was a Roman cohort and it mentions that plus “officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees.”
So, it was a pretty big crowd that came out and they were armed, it says, “with lanterns, torches, and weapons.” And Judas was really the one leading them in there. And “Jesus,” it says, and note in verses four and five, that He was in full control, “knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth to them and said, ‘Whom do you seek’?”
So, He comes out; He doesn’t let them find Him. He goes out to meet them. Do you see the difference there? “They answered Him, ‘Jesus the Nazarene’. He said to them, ‘I am He’.” Actually, He didn’t say, “I am He.” He said ‘I am’, or ‘ego ami’. Recall that whenever you see a word in Italics, it means it is implied in the English translation, but not in the original.
So, He said, ‘ego ami’, ‘I am’. “And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them.” I want us pause for a moment and review the fact that Jesus well knew what would happen. He knew that “His hour had come,” from chapter 13, and He repeated the fact that it was going to be time if you look at chapter 16, again, and verse 19, that He said, “In a little while, and you will not see Me, and again in a little while you will see Me.”
So, He well knew what was going on and, frankly, I think He shocked Judas. I also think He shocked the arresting officers, because He boldly presented Himself to them. Part of this is to illustrate, again, that Jesus willingly laid down His life. No one took His life from Him. Rather, He laid down His life for the sheep. If He had chosen not to lay down His life, just as so many cases before, remember they wanted to stone Him and what would it say about those stoning events? Jesus just went His way. You don’t just go away when you have a mob that wants to kill you. Yet it says He just went His way. The Gospels are masters of understatement.
But, “His hour had not yet come.” He was invincible until the Father’s will and the hour had come. And so, now He knows the hour has come and He willingly presents Himself. Notice what happens. In verse six, when He said, ‘“I am He’, they drew back and fell to the ground.” I would have liked that in the movie as well, but it wasn’t there. The fact is, something happened when He said, “Ego ami.” You know the words ‘ego ami’ mean ‘the I am that I am’. It is an allusion back to Exodus. Remember that? God tells Moses to tell Pharaoh the ‘I am’ sent you, and it is the One who appeared to Moses at the burning bush. Remember the idea there? It is an allusion to His power and to His divinity. “So when He said to them, ‘I am He’, they drew back and fell to the ground.”
The word that is used there, in the Greek, means that they were pinned there. All He needed to do, if He had chosen, would have been to walk over their bodies and quietly walk away. They were pinned to the ground; 600 of them. You see, again, that John is a master of understatement. I’ll tell what I think happened. Remember at the transfiguration with the disciples, what did they observe? The veil was removed and they saw His pre-incarnate glory for a moment and they were dazzled because He was brighter than the sun.
So you recall that? I think for a very small moment, maybe just a few seconds, they saw that glory and then it was closed again, but it was enough to cause them to fall backwards. To show again, that Jesus’ authority was so awesome, so powerful, that no one could take His life from Him. Recall that He said in chapter ten, “No one takes My life from Me, I lay it down on My own initiative. I have the authority to take it up again. This authority I received from the Father.” No one killed Him. He laid down His life.
So, if you asked, then, who killed Him, in one sense we are all responsible for that, but in the other sense no one killed Him. If you understand what is going on here, He hung on the Cross not because of the nails but because of His love. That is what kept Him to the Cross.
So, He clung to that Cross, knowing that was the purpose for which He came. Continuing, in verse seven, “He again asked them, ‘Whom do you seek’? And they said, ‘Jesus the Nazarene’.” I rather suspect they were quaking, to see if it was going to happen again. “Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go their way’.” So, immediately He is thinking about the needs of His disciples. He does not want them to be arrested, “To fulfill the word which He spoke, ‘Of those whom You have given Me, I lost not one’.”
So, He protects His disciples. However, what Peter does now is something that could have led to real trouble. In fact, he could well have been arrested at this point. He had a sword and, “He drew it and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus.” I suppose he meant to cleave his head but he didn’t a good aim, but in any case, he cuts off his right ear. This becomes Jesus’ last miracle before His resurrection. He takes the ear and puts it back. In so doing, by the way, He averts an almost certain arrest for Peter. Besides which, it is truly an amazing event and they don’t know what to make of it.
So, this healing was an act of grace toward the disciples, especially for Peter, and it is also, of course, for this servant named Malchus. So, in verse 11, “Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it’.” There is a parallel account, back in Matthew 26, verse 39.
But, John does not record the agony of Gethsemane in the same way the Synoptics do. We know, prior to this particular event of His arrest, that Jesus went to pray and He said to them, ‘“My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death. Remain here and keep watch with Me.’ He went a little beyond them and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will’.” Those are the words that made the difference, “Not as I will, but as You will.”
Frankly, that surrender, that submission, to the will of the Father is really what discipleship will ultimately be about. There will be various submissions along the way, but at the end of the day He wants us to continue to submit to His will. Again, there is a phrase from a prayer I have given you before, but I will give it to you again, “Grant that we may love and desire what You promise.” It is a very insightful prayer. To love what He commands is to trust that what He commands is always in our best interest. To desire what He has promised is to be convinced that what God promises really will bring about our hope rather than buying into the fleeting promises of a dying world.
So, there is a huge difference between the two. So, the drinking from a cup is often used in Scripture to indicate suffering and sorrow. It is found in Isaiah 51 and Jeremiah 25 in that way; drinking of a cup is one of sorrow, suffering, and wrath. Jesus has compared His own sufferings to the drinking of a cup and also to the experience of a baptism. If you go to Mark chapter 10, verses 38 to 39, it shows us, “Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking’,” and remember they had made this modest request, to sit, one on His right and one on His left, in His glory. I love that audacious request. Jesus said, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
I love what they said. “We are able.” They have no idea what they are talking about. Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.” In other words, they themselves would suffer martyrdom, just as Jesus would, because of the testimony of the resurrected Christ. When He instituted the supper, He compared the cup to His blood shed for the remission of sin. This cup was the new covenant in His blood. It was a blood covenant. Apart from the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness, no remission of sin.
So, what we are seeing here is a submission to the Father’s will that is reminiscent of Psalm 48: “I delight to do Your will, O my God. Your law is within my heart.” I must tell you that God, our Father, will give us some cups and He will prepare them for us in love and in the long run they will never harm us, though we may suffer pain and heartbreak. Eventually He will turn this suffering into glory, because the story is not over yet. How it ends, really, determines the whole.
So, if we see they are part of a process that leads to a greater good, then the best analogy to use is that of a father who has to hold his own son down on the table in the doctor’s office so that the doctor can give him a shot. The son looks at his father and wonders why he seems to be betraying him. He has no category for understanding, at that age, why it is necessary for him to go through this pain. If he sees his father’s tears, he also knows his father loves him and does this because it is necessary for him.
Do you see the point here? If that is true of an earthly parent, the point here is that when he has to do that it is for a greater good. If the son had not encountered that pain, what would have been the consequence? He would have suffered from a terrible disease or possibly even have died. The point is that there will be things in a fallen and disease-ridden world where pain is involved, but the pain brings us to transformation. You will recall that I said before there are two basic principles when it comes to suffering. One is the principle of substitution and the other is the principle of transformation. Substitution is where you are having trouble and you are hoping that God will substitute and give you something else. If your toy is broken, He will give you another one.
But, transformation is when we go through the pain and we discover that He uses this to transform us just as when a woman experiences pain in labor, she has sorrow, but when the child is born she forgets the pain experiences the joy of a child that has come into the world. Pain is very brief but joy endures. In fact, the ultimate example is that the pain and sorrow in this world is as a tiny moment when compared to the joy of eternity. There is no comparison.
Recall what Paul said in Romans 8:18. “I consider the sufferings of this present time not even worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Pain is momentary in life, but glory has weight and is eternal. The pain is only a little while, the glory is everlasting. That is the perspective that we must understand. Why do we have to have this pain? Our Father knows what we need, even if we do not understand it. We would choose the lesser good, God would choose the greater good, because He knows that pain can be an instrument to forge Christ-like character in our life by causing us to become more dependent on Him.
So, there is a whole process that we go through. So, there is a sense in which we also experience a cup. Now, I believe that we will either hold a sword in our hand or a cup in our hand. Look at it that way. We will either try to resist what is happening or you will surrender to it. Frankly, it goes on to describe a trial that is mentioned here. It says, in verse 12, “So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him, and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. Now Caiaphas was the one who advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.”
So, there was an illegal and brutal trial that took place and Christ began as One who suffered wrongfully. He committed no evil and no sin was found in His mouth. He suffered sinlessly, silently, and as a substitute because there was a redemptive dimension to His claim. It continues on, in verse 15, “Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest.” This was probably John. “But Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in.” Now frankly, Peter followed the crowd. He would have been better off fleeing because Jesus said in verse eight, “If you seek Me, let these go their way.” It talks to the idea about how, if you strike the shepherd, the sheep will be scattered.
Fortunately, had he gone his way, he would have never denied the Lord, but by doing this he has put himself in harm’s way. Have you ever allowed yourself to gradually move into a place of temptation? Have you ever put yourself in a compromising situation, where you make it easier for yourself to be in a position to where it goes beyond your ability to restrain yourself? You don’t want, for example, to put a person who is addicted to gambling in the middle of a Trump casino. There are some things you just don’t want to do. You don’t want to hand a bottle of liquor to a person who is an alcoholic. You see where I am going here? There are obvious things that you don’t want to do. A person who has a sexual addiction shouldn’t be dropped off next to a porn house. Those are all obvious examples, but there are more subtle things we can do so that a person begins to compromise himself. You must allow yourself enough margin, and you know your own convictions, so you must be a safe distance in order to flee the temptation. Remember Psalm 1:1? Turn with me to Psalm 1:1, because there is a good analogy here.
This Psalm invites us to see the consequences of walking with God or rejecting God. Verse one says, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” He doesn’t walk, stand, or sit with them. Then it says, “His delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law he meditates day and night.” It also goes on to say just how fruitful that will be. Here is what happened, though, Peter stood at the door, and was brought in by “that disciple, who was known to the high priest,” and then in verse 17, “The slave-girl who kept the door said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples are you’? He said, ‘I am not’.” That is the first denial. Continuing, “Now the slaves and the officers were standing there, having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter was also with them, standing and warming himself.” He was actually standing among them, but there is a parallel, if you look at Luke chapter 22. In verse 55 we get an extra little detail. It tells us that, “After they had kindled the fire in the middle of the courtyard, and sat down together, Peter was sitting among them.”
So, Peter was first walking with them, then he stood, and finally her sat down. You see the imagery here? There is a continually higher level of commitment and compromise and he is putting himself further and further in harm’s way. Frankly, you don’t want to be sitting with the enemy. The wise person really will not have that kind of connection or temptation.
So, Peter is asked these questions and then the text continues, with Jesus’ trial. “The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples and about His teaching. Jesus answered them, ‘I have spoken openly to the world, I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews came together; and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said’. When He said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, ‘Is that the way You answer the high priest’? Jesus answered him, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me’?”
Frankly, I must tell you, that they violated about twenty laws concerning the Sanhedrin at His trials. There were many laws, specific to trials, that the Sanhedrin had to obey. One of those was that you wouldn’t convene it at night or in secret. They violated their own traditions because they hated Jesus, who violated their traditions. Catch that? He never violated the law. He fully kept the law. He did violate human tradition and they hated Him for it. The irony here is that they were willing to violate their own traditions to nail Him. It is quite remarkable. They ad no right to strike Him in from the high priest.
So, in verse 24, “Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.” This brings on another trial and He is on His way to that. “Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, ‘Are you not also one of His disciples’? He denied it and said, ‘I am not’.” There is the second denial. Going on, in verse 26, “One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with Him’? Peter denied it again and immediately a rooster crowed.” Actually, in other parallel texts, it says he cursed.
Now, I want you to listen to this verse. It is found in Luke chapter 22, and only Luke records it. In verse 61 we get a remarkable account. But before that verse, let me read from a little bit earlier in the chapter. “Having arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance. After they had kindled the fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter was sitting among them. And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, ‘This man was with him, too’. But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know Him’. A little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too’! But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not’. After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, ‘Certainly, this man was also with Him, for he is a Galilean too’. But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about’. Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed.” There we see the parallel.
But, here is the detail that I want you to listen to: Just as Peter denied Jesus for the third time, “The Lord turned and looked at Peter.” Do you see that little detail there? It is chilling, because John’s account tells us that they were leading Him out and were sending Him, bound, to Caiaphas. They were sending Him from Annas to Caiaphas and as He was out in the courtyard Peter denied Him the third time and that was the moment their eyes met. So Peter was then bitterly repentant and it goes on to say, in the Lukan account, “And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He told him, ‘Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times’. And he went out and wept bitterly.” Now, Peter’s context here of his own conviction ultimately led to redemption. He wept over his sins and repented. While Judas admitted his sins, he did feel remorse but never felt true repentance. And so, there are ways in which we deny our Lord. The main way you can deny your Lord is by refusing to do what He commands you to do and by not honoring Him before others.
So, we have this portrait here of that denial, that motif of denial, and then in verse 28, “They led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium, so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” Now, long before the Jewish leaders arrest Jesus in the garden, they had determined to kill Him. John 11 describes this. They planned to kill Him, especially now that the last straw was committed, namely the resurrection of Lazarus. So, they planned to kill Jesus and, by the way, also Lazarus.
But, they needed the cooperation of Rome. Here is what you have. You have six trials that He went through and they lasted most of the night. The first three trials were Jewish, or religious trials. Here is what they were. If you put the four Gospels together, here is the picture you get. First, you have one at the home of Annas. Secondly, you had another at the home of Caiaphas and included the members of the Sanhedrin.
Then, early the next morning there was a council trial. So, you had the three Jewish trials that took place throughout the night. Each time He was mocked and vilified and beaten.
Then, these were followed by three Roman trials, or civil trials. As I said, they needed the cooperation of Rome. The Jews did not have the authority to execute a man. They would normally have stoned Him to death, but they wanted the Roman officials to publicly execute Him. You can ask the question, if they needed permission, how is it that they stoned Stephen to death? My answer is that they didn’t go for public approval. It was an immediate thing and a crime of passion when they killed Stephen. In this case, however, they wanted Jesus to be publicly repudiated and rejected and therefore it required the cooperation of Rome.
So, the first appearance, then, was before Pilate. This took place in the Praetorium. Pilate’s residence was on the coast, in Caesarea. Have any of you visited Caesarea? If you have been to Israel you will almost certainly have seen it. In any event, what would take place, during the feast of Passover, Pontius Pilate, as the Roman Governor, would need to go up to Jerusalem because he wanted to make sure the crowds didn’t get out of hand. It was that large an event. The Romans had this fortress that was on the temple mount, the Antonia fortress, and this was where the Praetorium was located. The next civil trial was before Herod. You see, when Pilate discovered that Jesus was a Galilean, he said it was Herod’s jurisdiction. So he sent Him up there, hoping to get Jesus off his own hands. This irony is interesting because when Herod saw that Pilate had sent Jesus to him, they became friends. Before that they were at enmity with one another. A common enemy brought them together.
But, Herod was disappointed when Jesus didn’t do any tricks. He wanted Him to perform some miracles. Jesus did not say a word to Herod. So, Herod sent Him back to Pilate. Poor Pilate was now in a tough position, because he acknowledged, repeatedly, that there was no sin in Jesus.
Now, Pilate, I might mention, was in office during the years 26 to 36, and was the Governor of the Roman province of Palestine. Palestine is a Roman name, not a Jewish name. The Roman name comes from the Philistines. So, Palestine comes from Philistine. It was no honor to be the Governor of Palestine. This was not a great job. It was a backwater province and was considered a dead-end.
So, apparently Pilate hadn’t had the career he had hoped for. We do know that Pilate was a wishy-washy sort of guy, but he sure could be ruthless when the need arose. If you turn with me to Luke chapter 13, verses one and two, you see this very clearly. Jesus is alluding to an event that is not recorded in the Gospels, and, “Now on this same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate’?”
So, he could be brutal when necessary, and in this case he understood the Jewish power structure. He knew how to use them, although his handling of the trial of Jesus indicated that he was something of an indecisive man, and a weak man, and a compromising man, because in his heart he know that Jesus was not guilty. In fact, he looked for a loophole and was trying to please both sides. He was afraid of the crowd, though. After a while, though, he became more afraid of the prisoner, and he began to wonder who, then, is this that I am dealing with? He knew this was not an ordinary man. Recall that his wife had actually had a dream and told him not to touch that righteous man and that made him even more afraid. He acknowledged that Jesus was not guilty of any crime.
This is mentioned twice in Luke and twice in John. Yet, he refused to release Him because they said if you do not deal with Him, you are allowing an insurrectionist to get away with political crimes. Basically, since Jesus said He was a king, Pilate had to deal with that and asked them what they wanted him to do with their king. They said they had no king but Caesar. Boy, that must have been hard for them to say. So much did they want to get Jesus that they proclaimed something they truly hated to say. They did not want to acknowledge the authority of Caesar, but they were desperate to get Jesus. Then they said if Pilate did not do this, word will get to Caesar and that will be the last straw. So, out of fear, Pilate washed his hands of the affair and he gave Him over to be crucified.
So, going back to the text, we have the three Jewish religious trials and three Roman civil trials, lasting all night long. They were psychologically, physically, and emotionally exhausting. Looking again at verse 28, “They led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. Therefore, Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this Man’?” I love the answer they gave. Instead of giving him a cogent accusation, here is what they said: “If this Man were not an evil doer we would have not delivered Him over to you.” Talk about sidestepping the issue. “So Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves and judge Him according to your law’. The Jews said to him, ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death’, to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die.” It was clear He would not be stoned.
They would take Him and crucify Him and He would rise from the dead. The Jews never crucified anyone. It was a cruel and particularly Roman form of punishment. We have talked about this before, but I had an article from the American Medical Association that gives a lot of details about what is involved in a real crucifixion. It was more gruesome than you might imagine. When people complained about The Passion, that it was so bloody and violent, that is what happened. It was a bloody affair, and it was a cruel and violent affair. Frankly, they were experts on this, and so they knew how to scourge a man, so that he would almost die, but not quite. They could keep their victims in that state. Pilate had Him scourged, you recall, hoping, out of pity, when they saw what He looked like, he said, “Ecce Homo,” or, “behold, the man.” In other words, have pity on this guy, we have already punished Him enough.
But, then the chief priests instigated the crowd to say, “Crucify, crucify.” (Q)(A): If Pilate had simply had Him beaten and released? It is hard to say. Pilate certainly did not want to have Him killed. That is a true statement, but it was needful for Him to be delivered over and it was needful for this to take place.
But, ‘woe to that man who delivers Him over’, it is that same tension, and he is still culpable for his response, just at it said about Judas. “The Son of Man is going to be delivered over, just as it has been predicted.” But, woe to that man by whom He is delivered. It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.
Now, I can’t get around that. There is a tension and a balance. On the one hand, God knows exactly what is happening and there are no surprises to God. He is not like the God in the movie Oh, God!. This was the movie years ago, with George Burns, and he never know what was going on. That is not the God of Scripture. The God of Scripture is never surprised. At the same time, He never eliminates the reality of human choice and freedom.
There is a deep mystery as to how the two go hand in hand. Pilate is culpable for what he does. In any case, we continue on with the story and I was saying a word about crucifixion. We know from crucifixion victims, evidence from their bones, that the nails went through their wrists and not their palms, because it was more painful because of the nerves located there. In doing so, it wouldn’t break any bones, but it would be agonizing for the victim. It is interesting, later on, in Medieval paintings, that they did not know what it was like. Crucifixion was eliminated as a form of capital punishment in the middle of the fifth century. You don’t see renderings of crucifixion scenes until long after that because it was so gruesome. They had no knowledge of what was involved.
It was most likely that the legs would be put together and the ankles would be right next to each other and they would take one long spike and drive it through both of them. There would also be a little pedestal upon which you would stand. In doing that in this manner, the victim would be stretched out and the diaphragm would be in such a position that his lungs would fill up and he would have to push down in order to breathe. Pushing down would be an agonizing event in itself. By the way, your shoulders would be dislocated when they put the Cross down into the ground. In addition to that, your back would be forced against the wood of the Cross. Jesus’ back was already open with wounds because of the flailing and the scourging. It was truly a gruesome method and you recall that one of the things that happened was it led to a deep thirst. The interesting cruelty was that it was the sort of death that would cause a person to try to stay alive because of natural impulses, but the longer you stayed alive, the more pain there would be. It would last, sometimes, two days.
But, it was needful for them to get Jesus down early because it was a holy day. So, they wanted Him down by 6PM, because that was when a new day would begin. The day went from sunrise to sunrise and not as we measure it today. Therefore, they had to get Him down.
Now, how would you get Him down? What would be the technique? If He has to hold Himself up, in order to breathe, what would be the technique? You would have to break His legs. Once His legs are broken, He can not hold Himself up any longer and He would expire by asphyxiation. And recall that is exactly what they did with the two thieves. I have said before that the two thieves represent the two possible responses to Jesus, either to accept Him, or to reject Him. Those are the only choices. To ignore Him is covert rejection. You can not ignore Him, because that is covert rejection, and in the end it will be simply to reject Him. If you recall, they went to the thieves and broke their legs so they would die, but then when they came to Jesus they saw that He had already died.
But, in order to be completely sure, what did they do? They took a spear and pierced His side and that was a fulfillment of prophecy as well. It says, in Zechariah, “They will upon Him who they have pierced.”
So, we knew His side would have to pierced and that He would have to be crucified, but it also predicted that not a bone would be broken. Had they broken His legs it would have violated the prophecy that said you are not to break a bone in the Passover lamb. You see the idea here? It says in Psalms that not a bone is to be broken.
So, inadvertently, these Roman soldiers, totally clueless as to what they were doing, were actually fulfilling prophecies, even as they did not break His legs but pierced Him in the side. And so, you have all these things woven together and even so, as painful as it was, it was nothing in comparison to what Jesus was really sweating blood over. It was not the physical death, as bad as it was. It was the separation from His Father and the bearing of sin. That is what He was really loathing. Here is the sinless lamb of God, before the foundation of the world, perfect in all ways, and now He takes all sin upon Himself. I want to show you a quick chart.
If I take a look at my situation, and what I have done, what does it add up to? If I look at my thoughts and my words and my deeds, what does it add up to? Does it come up to God’s standards or not? “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” And so, I would use the word sin, which is a word that means contrary to God’s character. In other words, even in the best of my words, thoughts, and deeds, I fall short of God’s character. I look at Christ, on the other hand, and look at His words, thoughts, and deeds, and what does it add up to? The key word would be ‘righteousness’. Righteousness means conforming perfectly to a standard.
Now, 2nd Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” He took our sin, on the Cross, and put it upon Himself, and that is what He was sweating blood about. To become, now, a murderer, a rapist, a liar, and a thief and He took on not just a few sins, but all the sins of the world. “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” It is beyond our comprehension.
But, that is not the whole story. What else do we need to have in order to be acceptable before God? We not only have to have our sins removed, but what else do we have to have? What is the positive thing we need? We need the righteousness of Christ. “He made Him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf, that we might have the righteousness of God in Him.” It is called the ‘double imputation’. He imputed our sin on Him and imputed His righteousness on us. He who deserved the love of God received the wrath of God.
We who deserve the wrath of God received the love of God. That is the best offer, the best gift, you will ever, ever get. You can not earn it, it must be a gift. Recall what I said before about Galatians 2:21. “If righteousness came by keeping the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” The implications are two-fold. First of all, then, if it were possible, through some work system, to attain righteousness, perfection, and justification before God, if that were possible, then the death of Christ was a great tragedy and a great waste. If it is not possible, through works, then the death of Christ is the only hope. That is what it comes down to. I have to stress, again, that the world’s religions do not agree about God, about human nature, about sin, and about human destiny. The world’s religions, for example, say the way of salvation is a variation of works.
Only in the Gospels and the Epistles do we discover that it is by grace through faith. It is intimated, also, in the old covenant. Finishing in our text, in verse 33, “Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to Him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews’? Jesus answered, ‘Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me’? Pilate answered, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done’? Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.
If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm’.” Now, that doesn’t say that He has no kingdom in this world, just that He would not rule on the earth. If you look at Daniel chapter 7:13-28, it makes it very clear that as the Son of Man He will reign on this earth and His reign will never end. In fact, it says that in Luke chapter one as well. Pilate was concerned with the source of this kingdom. Where did He get His authority? And so, he goes on to say, ‘“So, you are a King’? Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice’.” That is an interesting combination.
Why does He say, “For this I have been born?” My thinking here is that in John’s work we have an intimation of His incarnation of humanity, “I have been born,” and an intimation of His deity, “I came into the world.” See the difference between the two? It is kind of a perfect combination of humanity and deity. Jesus says, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice,” and then Pilate asks Him this famous question, “What is the truth?” This was said in a cynical and disparaging way. “And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, ‘I find no guilt in Him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews’? So they cried out again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas’. Now Barabbas was a robber.”
There is no explaining how a mob chooses its heroes, is there? The mind of a mob is the mind of a child. It is not led by rationality, but by emotions. Remember they said, “Give us Barabbas.” What did they also say about Jesus? “Crucify Him.” Is it possible that Barabbas only heard the mob saying, “Give us Barabbas,” and “Crucify Him”? That would have put him in a very uneasy state. But then, when the guards came for him he was told that Jesus would die in his place. You get the idea? All of us are Barabbas. We are all him and we are set free. That is a good closing thought.
(Q)(A): Yes, Peter carrying a sword is a strange image. Normally they would not be carrying a sword, but there is sort of a fear about what is going to take place. It is a strange circumstance and there are only two ways you can look at it. Either they try and fight them as men, or you deal with it and know that your warfare is not against flesh and blood. But, it is unusual.
Let us close in a prayer. Father, we thank You that are the One who sent Your Son. For this reason He was born and for this reason He came into the world, so that through the God-Man we might have life. Thank You that He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, by trusting in Him and receiving the gift of eternal life, by embracing Christ and trusting Him, not in the proposition, but as a person. We pray in His name. Amen.