There are some events in history you will never forget: the assassination of President Kennedy, the first men on the moon, the resignation of President Nixon, the explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle, the Oklahoma bombing . . . and maybe the death of Princess Diana. These are events so memorable that many people can tell you where they were and what they were doing when they happened.
I think the death of Jesus must have been like that. I think people must have said to each other: “where were you when you heard about Jesus being arrested?” His arrest, trial and death were so important that they occupy an extremely prominent place in the biographies of his life which we call the Gospels. Little things are recounted. The story is told in much greater detail than almost any other account in the Bible.
In our study we are entering into familiar accounts. These are things we have heard much of our lives. However, you never fail to read these words without being moved and challenged. I think that will be the case again. Over the next several weeks we will work our way through the next couple of chapters of John. It is my hope that the truths you learn from these verses will impact you so greatly that you will remember these studies for the rest of your life.
In the text before us I want to spotlight three truths . . . two are very painful . . . .and one is so wonderful it is beyond what we can fathom.
We See the Degree of Human Depravity
We see this in the lynch mob that looked for Him
We don’t know how many people were in this band who came to the garden but the Greek words lead us to believe that this was not “just a couple of soldiers”. This was a mob. This was a group of soldiers, Pharisees, Sadducees and a number of others who “were ready to rumble.” They came with torches ready for a manhunt of great proportions. They intended to search high and low for the cowardly rabbi.
And why the mob action? What had He done? Had this man killed someone? Had He sold secrets to the enemy? Had He corrupted his high office? Was he a drug dealer? No.
What had he done? He had showed compassion to the hurting. He had taught people about God in ways that was bringing a true revival of heart. You must understand, Mother Theresa was a wonderful and compassionate woman . . . but when Jesus ministered to the sick . . . they got better! When He touched the leper – the leprosy was gone. When He touched the coffin of a dead person – the person sat up and lived on!
How much deeper can corruption go? How much more wicked could people be? These men were coming after a good man . . . a man who had done nothing wrong.
We see this corruption in the fact that Jesus was betrayed by a friend
We have such a negative image of Judas that we don’t understand the depth of what he did. Let me ask you: Who’s negative words hurt more: those of an enemy or those of a friend? Which hurts more: being let down by someone you don’t know, or being let down by one you called “friend”? Who’s betrayal would be worse: that of an unknown or that of a friend? A friend on all counts.
Judas was a friend of Jesus. He had been specially chosen by the Master. He traveled with him, ate with Him, slept in the same room with him. He was part of the daily class. He had been made the Treasurer of the group.
Judas had also had great experiences with Jesus. Judas saw Jesus calm the storm; he saw Him calm the water; He carried the bread around and watched over 5000 people get enough to eat from five loaves and two fish. Judas saw Lazarus walk out of the tomb.
Judas also had known Christ’s power in Him. In Luke 9 we read that Jesus sent out the 12 on their own mission trip. He doesn’t send just eleven – He sends all twelve. We are led to believe that Judas cast out demons and saw miracles come from his own prayers.
How could Judas do such a thing? How could He turn on a friend like this?
In Matthew 11:23 we read,
And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
Jesus tells Capernaum that because they had been exposed to greater truth, they had greater responsibility. Because they had seen more of Christ revealed they would face a greater punishment. How much more would this be true of Judas?
This passage reminds us of how wicked a human being can be. But let me probe a little. Do you see a little of yourself in Judas? You too have seen much. You have known His provision and blessing . . . do you turn from Him? Do you ever turn ON Him? (More on this next week).
We See the Depth of Christ’s Love
I don’t know how you would have responded when you saw the mob coming, but I’m pretty sure how I would have responded. I would have either: run for my life, fought to the death, or sought to get even with Judas. (That’s why you don’t want to see me angry!) I certainly would not have made it easy for them. And when Judas came to kiss me – I would have leveled the little traitor!
But Jesus had a different approach (thankfully). He did not even wait for the group to come to Him. He went to them. He asked, “Who are you looking for?” When they told him who they were looking for, He said, “I am he.” Interestingly, the text says the men fell back. What are we to make of this?
Certainly we can see a couple of things. First we see that these men realized that Jesus was someone unique. Second, we understand that Jesus did not HAVE to go with them. He could have overpowered them with a Word. He could have walked away like He had done before. But He didn’t.
Jesus made a simple request: “take me, leave my friends alone.” It was that display of power that probably made it possible for His disciples to go free. Jesus was exchanging His life for those of His friends. In fact, Jesus had told them, “Greater love has no man than this: that a man would lay down His life for His friends.” (Jn. 15:13)
Jesus was no masochist. He did not want to suffer. Look at the other gospel accounts. You will see that He labored in prayer. He pleaded with the Father to remove the cup from Him. Yet, convinced that this was God’s will . . . .He went willingly. Jesus willingly traded His life for yours and mine.
Paul writes: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is the gospel my friends: Jesus gave His life for those who scorned Him, laughed at Him, ignored Him. He gave His life for people like you and me.
It never fails, every week I meet someone it seems who feels they are so wicked . . . they have done such terrible evil, that they could never be forgiven. Yet, in that statement they are really saying, “I don’t think I could ever make right all the things I’ve done wrong.” And in saying that, they are absolutely correct. We cannot ever make right the wrongs we have done. However, God offers to cloth us in the goodness of Christ. He offers to exchange His life for yours.
Have you ever been loved like that before? Do you understand the depth of the Father’s love? Do you realize that the God that you tend to ignore is the very God who feels so deeply toward you? It is good news indeed.
But there is still one more lesson . . . .a hard one . . . .a very hard one.
Some of Life’s Greatest Blessings Come in Painful Packages
When Jesus is arrested, Peter, His loyal friend, decides to stand up for His Lord. He pulls out his sword and swings it wildly . . . certainly hoping to take off a head or two! He misses the man’s head and cuts off His ear. How does Jesus respond? You expect Him to say, “Get them boys!”. You at least expect that He would put His arm around Peter and say, “Thank you for your loyalty my friend.” No . . .He puts the ear back on and rebukes Peter with these words: Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
Today many would accuse Jesus of lacking a “positive confession”. They would criticize Him for His lack of faith. But Jesus understands something we do not: that God often works through painful circumstances. Jesus doesn’t like the idea of suffering . . . however, He is willing to suffer because He knows that God intends to do a great work through the cloud of pain.
Listen to these words”
Hebrews 12:5 ff And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.
Psalm 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.; 71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.; 75 I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
Romans 5:3-5 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Genesis 50:20 (Joseph to his brothers after a lifetime of agony and affliction at their hands.)You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
This is surely one of the most difficult teachings of all. Our natural reaction is to remove or avoid pain. We want pleasure not pain! We want blessing not difficulty! But the Bible is clear: some of life’s most important lessons . . . some of life’s greatest blessings come out of the furnace of affliction!
I don’t like it. But from my own life I know it is true.
Thomas Case (1598-1682) wrote a book called “A Treatise of Afflictions” (Soli Deo Gloria Publishing) and in this book he expounds 20 benefits of suffering. I won’t share them all, but here are nine:
- Develops compassion for others
- Teaches us to appreciate the blessings we have taken for granted
- Shows us the unknown corruptions in our lives
- Drives us to fervent prayer
- Makes us more attentive to His Word
- Makes us look toward heaven rather than be anchored to the earth
- Draws us closer to God “the soul is a step nearer living upon God, when it hath nothing to live upon but God.”
- We learn to trust Him more – ourselves less
- Helps us to see the things that are really important – re-aligns our priorities
Practically, what does this mean? It means in the difficult times: Rather than panic and despair in times of trouble . . . we should look for the blessing. Maybe there is a sin to turn from, a trait to cultivate . . . maybe God is trying to get our attention.
It also means: Rather than shut God out when we are hurting. . . .we need to draw close to Him. I believe if we refuse to learn the lessons of the furnace we will be forced to repeat them until we do.
So does this mean we ought not to pray for deliverance? Of course not. It means we do so understanding that our perspective may be clouded. We may not see the full picture. It is possible that God wants to deepen our faith and when we pray believing we will see healing . . . but maybe not.
I heard Steve Brown pray this prayer recently: “Meet us at the point of our need….as you define our need. If in our tears we see you better, may we continue to weep; Father if the wound is the source of the power, may the wound remain; if the loss causes us to praise and recognize the one thing we cannot lose – may we lose more”
Can you pray that prayer and mean it? I can’t. I want to . . .but I can’t right now. That shows me that my relationship with God still has a long way to go. I yearn for the day when I will hunger for the Lord’s will more than for the pleasures and comforts of this world. I yearn for the day when I will want heaven more than the blessings of earth.
I would have thought it impossible to have that much faith. I thought it was impossible until I saw that faith in Jesus in the Garden, when He made the choice that led to His death but saved my life.