Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

"All Fall Down" Sermon: John 18:1-11

“All Fall Down”
[John 18:1-11]
May 7, 2017 Second Reformed Church
            In our look at the Gospel of John, we now move to the Garden of Gethsemane:
            “When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.”
            It is Thursday of Holy Week, late in the evening, Jesus is finished praying His High Priestly Prayer for the Eleven and all those who believe based on their witness, and John points out that they cross the brook Kidron.
            The crossing of the Kidron is mentioned several times in the Scripture – as the place where King David fled from his son, Absalom, and where King Hezekiah commanded the cleansing of the priests and the unclean things (2 Chronicles 29-31), and others.  It is a place associated with death and impurity, and the name, “Kidron,” means “dark,” “gloomy.”  Jesus crosses the brook Kidron many times in the Gospels – this being the last.
            And so, we open this text and enter the Garden through the dark and the gloom, thinking of death, impurity – sin.  Something supremely tragic is about to happen – as we well know.
            John assumes a knowledge of the history of the other Gospels – and he doesn’t say anything about Jesus praying that the Father might take the cup away from Him, nor Jesus’ rebuke of the Three for falling asleep during His prayer.  John assumes that his readers know that Jesus “contended with the difficulties” – as Calvin puts it (191) – that Jesus wrestled with what He is going to do and submits to the Father – voluntarily giving Himself up for the people that God gave Him.
            John skips right to Judas’ arrival in the Garden:
“Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.”
It’s rather ridiculous, isn’t it – all this pomp and show about arresting Jesus? 
It is common knowledge that Jesus and His disciples pray in this area – there is no great hunt to find where He might be.  And though most of the band likely knew Jesus, Judas went up to the One he once called, Lord, and kissed Him as a sign that this is the Man.
And Judas came with no small arrest group!  The word that is used for “band” in our text describes a group of 600 soldiers or more – and they came with lanterns and lights to find the Light of the World and weapons to arrest the Prince of Peace.  What overkill!  What irony!  They had no idea that this is Jesus’ plan – but they will get a clue.
And we see, first, Jesus knew everything that would happen to Him.
“Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ They answered him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.”
We need to keep before us the fact that Jesus is at the same time and in the same person the One God and the real human being, Jesus of Nazareth.  So, in His Divinity, Jesus knows everything, yet, there were times when His Divinity kept His humanity from knowing things.  For example, when Jesus was asked when He would return, He said He didn’t know.  In His Divinity, He knew, but His Divinity kept His humanity from knowing.
Here, Jesus, in His humanity, is told by His Divinity everything that will happen to Him – which is why, He prayed with such passion that, if there be any other way – that He would be delivered from the horrors before Him.
Jesus shows Himself to be volunteering as Sacrifice and Sovereign over everything that is going to happen.
Jesus knows everything that is going to happen to Him.  He has wrestled in His flesh and joyfully volunteered to suffer and die for His people – while despising what He would go through.  He did not go into hiding, but went exactly to where He was known to pray so He would be found by Judas and his ridiculous army.  Jesus even approaches those coming to taking Him away and asks them who they are looking for – in this, He chooses to show His Sovereignty.
Jesus says, “Who are you looking for?”
And the men say, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus says, “I am He.” – with no little double meaning there – remember we have seen, “I am” refers to God.
And they all fall down!
The word that is used here describes a violent thrusting down – as though a violent wind or an invisible hand shoves them back and to the ground – as though to say, “I am Jesus of Nazareth – and you have no idea Who I am – I am coming with you voluntarily – in obedience to My Father.”
There were other times that the crowds came after Jesus and He escaped from them, but now, in His Sovereign Providence, it is time for Him to submit to the horrors that would be thrust upon Him so He could gain the joy of securing His people’s salvation and returning to His throne in Glory.  The wicked have no power over Jesus except what He permits.
Do we see that as good news for us today?
Paul wrote, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11, ESV).
Our Triune God is still Sovereign, and Paul tells us that everything that happens does so according to the Sovereign Will of God.  There are no accidents.  Just as Jesus went to the cross by the “definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23, ESV), everything that occurs throughout time and space is according to God’s plan – which no one can thwart or change.
So, we always have reason to thank God – anything good we are experiencing is from God’s Loving Hand.  Anything that happens to us that is evil is either for our discipleship or our punishment, so we should call on God in repentance and ask that He lead us through our trials.
We need to hear this so when things are bad, we do not despair, and when things are good, we remember to give God the thanks He is due.  As we are in the midst of a situation, we are prone to forget or not recognize what is happening and God’s place in it.
So, it is Jesus’ plan to be arrested – betrayed – accused, brought to the Roman rulers, be taunted, have his skin whipped off, and be crucified – and He despised it – but He did it “for the joy that was set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2, ESV).
Jesus knows what He will have to endure – He knows what we must endure – He is our Sovereign God over all things.
Second, Jesus fulfills prophecy.
“So he asked them again, ‘Whom do you seek?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.’ This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: ‘Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.’”
We will remember – just in the last chapter – as we looked at Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, He says, “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12, ESV).
And when we looked at this text, we saw that it refers to God the Father’s Sovereign choice to choose a people out of the mass of humanity to give to His Son to save – and so, God the Son incarnates to save these people.  And since God chooses them and gives them and saves them, not one of them can be lost – they all have salvation, which they cannot lose.
As the High Priest and Substitutionary Sacrifice, Jesus offers us Himself for the sake and the salvation of all the people the Father gave Him.  As the Good Shepherd, He protects His sheep and is willing to give up His own life so they will not be lost.
That being said, do our eyebrows rise to hear Jesus ask that the Eleven not be taken by the Romans, but be let free to go – and this fulfills the prophecy that none of them would be lost?
We have the Eleven and other disciples arrested and killed throughout the book of Acts – why is this different?  What is different about the Eleven at this point in time?  Why would they logically be at risk in a way here they would not be later?
At this point, the Holy Spirit did not indwell the Eleven and all believers.
Without the indwelling of God, the Holy Spirit and His power in them – their being arrested in the Garden would have been too much for them – jailing them and torturing them before God the Holy Spirit indwelled them would have been too much for their infant faith.
We can understand this, can we not?  As we consider our own temptation and sin – I know that without God the Holy Spirit working in me and empowering me to resist temptation and turn away from it, I would give in every time I was tempted.  The devil and his angels continue to tempt us, and the sin nature that still resides in us – even as Christians – is drawn to it – without God empowering us and leading us against them, we would give in.
In love, Jesus asks that His sheep be spared – they had work to do in the future – from receiving the Holy Spirit, to spreading the Gospel, to writing the New Testament.
This is the same God Who loves each one of us who believes in Jesus savingly.  If you believe that Jesus is God the Son and Only Savior, God the Father loves you, God the Son loves you, God the Holy Spirit loves you – and we are given the promise that God is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
Everything that occurs to those of us who love God is being done in love for us and to bring us all the way home to salvation in the Kingdom of God.  We are loved by God and we can call out to Him for help and understanding and to endure through whatever He knows is best for us.
Finally, Jesus submits to the Will of the Father.
“Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?’”
The guards grab Jesus, but let the Eleven go as He requested.
But Peter – are you surprised? – Peter runs forward with a six-inch sword to stop Jesus from being taken by the crowd – Peter didn’t yet understand that all these things had to take place.
And Peter swings – managing only to cut the ear off of Malchus, the High Priest’s servant.
The other Gospels recount this incident, but they don’t give us the names of Peter and Malchus.  Why does John tell us their names?  One sure reason is that the reader could go ask Malchus what happened – he was an eyewitness who was not one of the Eleven.
And as Peter jumps in yet again, Jesus tells Peter to put his sword away and asks him if He was not to drink the cup that the Father gave Him?
“Peter, while you slept, I asked the Father if there was any other way to accomplish My mission, and He answered Me – He assured Me that this is the only way – it has been fully determined by the Father Who loves Me that I am to suffer and die for My people – it must be.”
The other Gospel writers give even more information about what happens.  Matthew records:
“And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?’ At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples left him and fled” (Matthew 26:51-56, ESV).
“Peter, everything is under control – they are doing what My Father wants them to do that I would accomplish My people’s salvation.  If it were not so, don’t you think I could ask the Father and He would immediately send Me 60,000 angels – or more – to fight for Me?  But if I did not submit to the Father’s Will, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled?  The Scriptures must be fulfilled to accomplish all I was sent to do.”
It may have been Isaiah 53 that Jesus was referring to as the Scripture He had to fulfill:
“Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.   By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:1-12, ESV).
Christ’s Victory is bound up in submitting to the Will of the Father – in being bound as the Sacrifice for His people.
I suspect we have all jumped with our swords drawn like Peter – so sure of what God’s Will is.  (That’s not to say there are not perfectly clear and straightforward things in the Scripture – there are!) 
Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, endured more that we can ever comprehend to save the people that God gave Him.  In His Divinity, Jesus knew everything that would happen to Him on Good Friday, and His concern, as He submitted to the Will of the Father is seen in the love He shows for the Eleven – in seeking their safety.
Is Jesus doing any less for us in these last days?  Does He love us any less than them?
Let us trust God for all that we endure – especially for the sake of the Gospel.
Let us submit to the clear Word of God and pray that God the Holy Spirit will help us to understand and do all those things God has commanded us.
And let us hear these words of Paul:
“And being found in human form, [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:8-11, ESV).
On that final day, all will fall down before Jesus:  those who believe in Him savingly will do so in worship in joy and thanksgiving; those who never believe will be violently thrust down like the guards in the Garden.
How will you fall before Him?
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for loving Your Son and us, sending Him to be our Savior.  We thank You that He submitted to Your Will, despite knowing all the horrors of what He would endure.  Help us – by God the Holy Spirit – to submit to You and to know that whatever we endure is according to Your Plan and from Your Loving Fatherly Hand.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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