John 18 / February 11th, 2018 / Todd Gray
Do you feel like you are being pressed from all sides? Do you feel like the wheels of life are spinning out of control? Maybe God wants you to spin. Maybe God is trying to get your attention. Try trusting in His plan and let the King of the Universe guide your steps.
- Christ’s Sovereignty in the Symbol of the Garden (18:1)
- Christ’s Sovereignty over Human Weakness (18:2-3)
- Christ’s Sovereignty Seen Through His Faithful Protection of the Disciples (18:3-9)
If you have your Bibles this morning, let’s turn back to John. Can you believe we’re already at chapter 18? John chapter 18. We’re going to look at the first 11 verses.
As I was reading the text this week, I was reminded that there’s sometimes situations in our lives that we find ourselves in that we didn’t plan for, and sometimes when those situations get going out of control, we feel like we’re more on a ride than we are driving the vehicle. You know what I’m talking about? This can happen to you on the ski slopes, when you thought you were on the blue and you ended up on the double black diamond, and you’re going down and you’re like, “I don’t wanna be here, but I can’t stop going,” and the only thing that stops you is the tree or the person in front of you, or maybe even driving on ice and you hit some of that crazy black ice, and all of the sudden, you who were once driving the car, you’re now purely a passenger and literally like, “Jesus, take the wheel ’cause I can’t control it?” The ice takes you wherever it wants you to go.
You feel like this in your life sometimes, but how many of you like that feeling? I don’t either. I experienced this many times in my life, but probably the one that sticks out to me the most right now is when I was in Houston and we were in those flood waters just after Hurricane Harvey. Let me tell you, water has a habit of taking you to places, if it’s moving fast, that you don’t necessarily want to go. Sometimes, when it’s moving fast enough, you can’t do anything about it.
Rick and I were down there that fateful night. It was a great evening, and we launched our boat at an exit ramp. That was weird, and then we’re driving down the streets of Houston in a boat, and we come to this intersection that literally the day before, cars were driving on it, taking their kids to school, there were going to work or going back home. This time, it was a bit of a river, and where one subdivision gave way to another, there was fast moving water. It was at night. We could tell there’s moving water, but we didn’t know the immense force until we started driving out in it, and, suddenly, my 21-foot bay boat was taken by that water, and it was sent all the way to the next lane and almost into the next neighborhood. If I wasn’t thinking and I didn’t press on that throttle and gun it, we wouldn’t have gone straight. We would have gone wherever the water wanted us to go.
We finally go through it. We get to the people we’re rescuing. We put about 15 people on the boat, and we make our way back. Sure enough, guess what we got to cross? That same spot. We get the adults out, and we say a prayer, and I tell everybody to get their minds right if you want to live, and my buddy’s always reminding me that I said that, but whatever. Man, I was serious. We pushed through, and God blesses us. For some reason, it wasn’t rushing in that moment. We make it across, and it was good.
There was this other time we were driving up a street, and the water was coming down the street, and it doesn’t matter how much I floored the throttle, it turned us right around and went us the other way. Sometimes, we just get taken into life, and we feel like we have no control. Mistakenly, some people think that’s what’s going on in John chapter 18. Some people read the gospel of John all the way to chapter 18 and they something like, “Well, that was a good run, Jesus. You had a good shot at it.” I’m sure the disciples felt like this. Everything’s going according to plan, but all the sudden, when Jesus was arrested and He was betrayed, and He was taken to be put on trial and, eventually, crucified, they think, “Well, life just kind of got in the way, that what Jesus was doing is good, but it got taken off path and it started spinning out of control and everything that happened after this moment of His arrest, which we call the passion, Jesus didn’t necessarily want that to happen.”
Well, what will we find in John chapter 18 is that idea is completely wrong. We see God’s total design. We see God’s sovereignty and even the control of Jesus Christ, even though He was betrayed, even though He was brutalized, arrested, and, eventually, crucified. We learned, starting now, that the passion of Christ is exactly that, the passion of Christ for God’s glory and the passion of Christ for your salvation. We don’t come to John 18 all the way through the end of the book and find some series of unfortunate events that lead to the accidental death of the Messiah. We see God’s sovereign plan accomplished through the knowledge of His son, every step of the way.
Church, my prayer is that starting now, in this Passion series that we’re entering into and the latter half of John, as we ourselves prepare for Good, yet terrible Friday and Resurrection Sunday, that God would give you an image through His sovereignty of His greatness, give you an image of the love of Christ in a way that you’ve never experienced before so that you can trust in Him all the more.
Let’s read the story together. Would you stand with me as we read John 18? We’re going to start here in verse 1. “When Jesus had spoken these words,” we’re leaving the high priestly prayer in John 17, “He went forth with His disciples across the ravine or the brook of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. Now Judas also …” Pause here. Between verse 1 and verse 2, if you read the other gospels, there’s a whole lot going on. We’re going to talk about that as we get into it, but, “Now, Judas who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. Judas then, having received the Roman cohort,” that’s one group of guys, “and the officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees,” that’s another group of guys, “came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.” “Why,” you say?
Look at verse 4. “So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ They said to Him, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ He said to them, ‘I am He.’ And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with Him. So when He said to them, ‘I am He …’ Don’t miss this. “They drew back and they fell to the ground.” Verse 7. “Therefore, He again asked them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ They said,'” probably a little less hardy this time, “’Jesus the Nazarene.’ Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am He, so if you seek Me, let these go their way,’ to fulfill the word which He spoke, ‘Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one.’ Simon Peter then, having a sword …” Don’t you love Peter? “He drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear, and the slave’s name was Malchus. So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put the sword into the sheath, the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?'” This is the word of the Lord. Please be seated.
As we begin the Passion of the Christ narrative, I want you to see God’s sovereignty from beginning to end. What I want you to see in verse 1 is Christ’s sovereignty in the symbolism of the garden. We start here in John 18:1, but if you’ve been with us the last few weeks, we ended before the Prayer series, the Battle Plan for Prayer series, we ended in John 17 with Jesus praying for His disciples, and that was a perfect time for us to enter into the Battle Plan for Prayer Series, and many of you right now are in that first week of your Battle Plan Prayer Book, and I want to tell you for my wife and I, it’s going fantastic. Instead of five requests like we had last time we were in a prayer emphasis, we created six. That’s okay, and we were already seeing God answer some of those requests. It’s been an exciting time for us. We’re growing together and we’re growing with God together.
If you’re here today and maybe you didn’t start yet, maybe last week, and you didn’t get your book or you got your book and you have yet to start, let me encourage you. Start today. You and your wife sit down or you by yourself, alone with God, start today. I’m excited to see what God will do with us together. We want you to be a part of it. Maybe you started and you missed two or three days already and you’re thinking, “Oh, well, I’ll just catch it the next time. I’m gonna give up on it.” Don’t do it.
Remember what Jesus prayed in John 17, that you will have unity with Him like He has with the Father. Not that you’re God, but this intimate relationship. Satan’s the one who wants you to quit after two or three days off, not God. God wants you to continue, so my prayer would be that you would just continue. If you haven’t started, start. If you’re starting, continue. If you’ve taken a couple days off, get started again.
All right. We transitioned from John 17 to John 18. The Bible tells us after He’s spoken these words, these are the high priestly prayer words. He does what? He crosses the brook into this garden. There’s information that we need to learn as we have parallel gospels. What do they call this garden that Jesus enters into? What’s the name? Gethsemane. You need to underline that. In other gospels, you need to write it down right now in your notes because that’s a beautiful and fantastic and meaningful word. Jesus crosses this brook called Kidron into the garden of Gethsemane. What I don’t want you to miss here that I was introduced to this week by an author named Kent Hughes is the immense symbolism both in the brook and in the garden. I believe it points to God’s sovereignty over this crazy situation of Jesus being arrested.
First, remember, Jesus crossed this creek, this brook, this flowing ravine of water if you will in the area of Kidron. You need to understand that this started at the temple and ran all the way downhill to the garden and through the garden. Does anybody know what’s going on right now at the temple? What are the Jews celebrating? Passover. What are they doing in the temple? Sacrificing thousands and thousands of lambs. Where did that blood go? Down the brook Kidron. As Jesus crossed it, it would have been flowing red with the blood His lambs who were sacrificed to cover their sin. Don’t let it miss your mind and your heart that Jesus, in just a matter of moments and hours, His blood will flow red, not as a lamb, but the lamb of God, to cover our sins so we may have eternal life in Him.
Then He gets to the garden. The garden has some beautiful symbols of its own. Jesus goes in there, and we learn from the other gospel accounts that He was doing what before He was arrested? He was praying, and in that moment as He was praying, God was starting to press upon Him the weight of His wrath against sin.
What’s interesting is that the sin Jesus is starting to bear in the garden began in the garden, thousands of years ago, with a couple named Adam and Eve, and the garden, Adam, in the beginning of his life, fell into sin. Jesus, the greater Adam, at the end of His life, bore man’s sin. In the garden, Adam, the garden called Eve, fell into temptation. In the garden called Gethsemane, Jesus overcame His human temptation. In the garden, Adam hid from God and his sin. In the garden, Gethsemane, Jesus, the greater Adam, didn’t hide from God. He stood up and boldly said, “Put the sin that they committed on me.”
What this shows me, that these moments aren’t happenstance, church. You can see this all through the scriptures if you just look, that this isn’t some kind of accident that’s happened to Jesus, this is by design. The symbolism in the garden shows you Christs’ sovereign control over the situation, but it’s not just symbolism. That’s just the beginning. That’s just a taste. Let’s get into it a little bit.
As you look at verses 2 and 3, we also see Christ’s sovereignty over human weakness, both in His human nature and the weakness of the humans that surrounded Him. We call them the disciples, but before we look at the disciples’ weakness in verse 2 and 3, let’s go back to other gospel accounts that record for us the things that are happening between John 18:1 and John 18:2. When Jesus got to the garden, He didn’t just immediately see the guards and was arrested by them. What was He doing in the garden? He was praying. The Bible tells you in the other gospel accounts, both in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, that Jesus fell to His knees and three times He prayed what prayer? “If it’s possible, Lord, take this cup from me, but not my will, but thy will be done.” That’s the human nature of Christ.
This reminds us that Jesus was both fully God … I hope you know that. That’s a key part of understanding Jesus, but He was also what? Fully man. He went through temptation just like you and me, except Jesus, in His humanity, overcame that temptation. He says, “If it’s possible, take this cup from me. I can’t bear the thought of drinking this cup.” You must ask yourself a question, church. What was the cup? You know what happens the next day. Usually, when we think about this cup that Jesus was seemingly in His humanity afraid of, as I would be. We think of what? The cat of nine tails. We think of the crown of thorns pressed upon His head. We think of the betrayal of His friends and all of the physical suffering that went with the crucifixion. Yes, that was bad, but I want you to know today that the physical price that Jesus paid was just a picture of the spiritual burden that He bore for you and me and the wrath that God put upon Him for our sin. That was the cup of God’s wrath that Jesus did not want to bear.
All through the Old Testament, we read how God’s wrath is viewed as a chalice or as a cup. An example of that is in Jeremiah 25, verse 15. Jeremiah says, “For thus, the Lord, the God of Israel says to me, ‘Take this cup of the wine of my wrath from my hand and cause all the nations to whom I send you to drink it.'”
God’s wrath is poured out on humanity over and over again. We see it here in Jeremiah’s voice. We see it throughout the Psalms, and Jesus is asking God if it’s possible to remove the cup of wrath from Him. Well, that was a temptation. I think it was a real possibility Jesus said and He overcame it, “Not my will, but thy will be done.”
Church, the immense pain that Jesus felt in prayer cannot be emphasized enough. Before we run to the cross, which we’re going to, we’re going to be in the Passion for a while now, let’s not run past the garden. How much was Jesus affected by the wrath of God, which was already being laid upon Him in the garden? To the point of sweating blood.
I was talking to Dr. [Lee 00:15:17] this week, and he says, “That’s a legit thing.” Well, I know it’s legit because Jesus has it recorded in the scriptures, but being under the pressure of stress, I’ve never been here, and I thought I’d been stressed before. It’s possible for that blood to come out through your sweat, but this takes life-threatening stress to be in your life. I ask you, church, what greater stress could there be than bearing the wrath of God for all of humanity? No greater stress. Jesus felt something that you and I have no concept of, and it started there in the garden and it continued to press ever heavy on Him all the way to the cross.
The word that I mentioned to you earlier of this garden, the name of it is Gethsemane. It’s likely we got this word from the Aramaic term, which means olive press or oil press. I want you to have in mind an olive press when you think of the garden of Gethsemane. I brought a picture from when I was in Israel to show you. This is an olive press. It produce oil. There’s a large log, and on one end of the log, there’s these baskets. You can see them and the rock there. What they would have is olives placed in them, and then they would take this large log and press it on top of the baskets with the olives in them, and then slowly they would add weight to the other side of the log.
What do you think happened to those olives? They would become pressured, give way, they would crack, they would smoosh. What would come out of the olives as the weight of the log pressed on them? Oil. Then after they got that first set of oil to use it for food and other things like that, they would add more weight, and the more weight that they added, the more oil would flow, and the best oil … Don’t miss this. The best oil in the olive press came under the most intense amount of weight, so that the stuff that they used for medicine and medicinal purposes came only after they pushed immense weight on the olives.
Church, Jesus Christ entered Gethsemane, the olive press, the oil press of the Lord. He started to bear it in the garden. He overcame His human weakness, and He bore it all the way to the cross, and the oil that became blood, that flowed from Christ established the new covenant that you and I enjoy today, and the oil that was produced from the weight of our sin gave the greatest ointment humanity has ever experienced. It’s called divine forgiveness, but He had to overcome weakness to get there. Don’t miss that. It was a part of the plan for Him to feel the weight of our sin and to be crushed by His Father, but it wasn’t just His own humanity He battled with and overcame. He even had to work through the human weakness of His disciples, like you and me, that surrounded Him.
It started with Judas. Remember when Judas abandoned Him in the upper room? Now we see the betrayal of Judas rear its ugly head again in the garden, but it wasn’t just Judas. His own disciples, we learned in other gospel accounts, what were they doing while He was praying? They were sleeping on the job. He asked for them to stay awake and to pray with Him. It was a great burden He was preparing to bear not only that night, but on into the cross, but they kept falling asleep. It didn’t throw His plan off track. It kept going despite their weakness. It would continue as they abandoned him. It would continue as He was arrested, and it continues into today. You can see the sovereignty of God through and despite human weakness. You would think that it would have affected Christ. I’m sure it hurt Him, but it didn’t throw the plan off track.
Here’s the deal. In your life today, I don’t know what human weakness surrounds you. Likely, if you’re like me, some of it’s in your own heart, and you mistakenly think that because of some mistake that you’ve made, some way that you’ve strayed from God’s path, that this is affecting His divine, sovereign plan in the world. It’s not. God is sovereign, which means He’s in control of everything, despite your weaknesses. It may mean that you don’t get to participate in the level of blessing that you could experience if you were not going astray, but it doesn’t mean for one second that you’re actually altering God’s divine plan.
No, God’s plan overcomes human weakness, but it may not be just within you. You may be like, “Okay. I feel like I’m getting this in check, although that’s one level of hard, but there’s these other people around me. It’s their weakness that is affecting me, and I think that I’ve been living this life a good way up until now, but then these people, my family member, my friends, they let me down, and now the plan that God had me on, it’s all broken and I’m off track and it’s no good.” No, don’t forget, God is sovereign despite and even through human weakness.
This should encourage you, church, because we live in a world full of mistakes because of and due to human weakness, and if you’re not careful, you can look at the world and the nation that we live in and get so caught up in the human weakness that you fall into the idea that maybe this is affecting God’s plan. No, it may be affecting your participation in the plan, but God’s sovereign plan, church, hear me, will carry on. The question is, are you going to be a part of it? I pray that you are.
Not only do we see Christ’s sovereignty over human weakness, but as we look through the rest of the chapter, through verse 3 and verse 4 on until 11, you see Christ’s sovereignty seen through His faithful protection of His failing disciples, so that Judas appears on scene again, and after being the one that Jesus identified as the betrayer, he takes a little bit of the pocket change that he gets and he takes the guards, both Roman soldiers and the temple police with him. Who knows how many there were? The Bible seems to make a big deal that there was a lot of them, and he brings them to Jesus in the garden.
What were they planning on doing when they got to the garden? You know that they were there to arrest Jesus, but I believe that the number was so large, and it tells us, “Everybody there had a weapon.” I believe they were planning on arresting Jesus and all of the disciples at one time so they could squash this Jesus movement in one night, but Jesus knew what they were thinking because He’s sovereign over the situation. He was not surprised when Judas showed up. Although the kiss stung His cheek, He wasn’t surprised at the betrayal. He wasn’t surprised by the number, and He wasn’t surprised by His arrest.
Instead of waiting for them to come to Him, He steps up and He says, “Whom you’ve come for?” They said, “Jesus the Nazarene,” with their hands on their swords. What does Jesus say? “I am Him.” Suddenly, if you don’t read the Bible, careful, you can miss it, what happens to every single one of the police, every single one of the Roman guards, who were bad dudes, by the way? They fall to the ground. What was Jesus doing here? I believe He was making a point of clarification. They gave Him the answer, “Jesus the Nazarene,” and He wanted to use that answer against them later when He was going to tell them to leave His disciples alone. Though they failed Him and though they would continue to fail Him, He was still protecting him because He knew what was coming.
As they’re on the ground, I can almost see Jesus step up one more step. He goes, “I’m gonna ask you again. Whom did you come for?” This time, probably a little bit of fear in their voice, they said, “Jesus the Nazarene,” and, suddenly, He has enough clout with them to say, “Exactly. You came for me. Leave them alone.” That word, that phrase, “I am He,” does it strike you as odd? Well, it’s the Greek word or Greek phrase “ego eimi”. We could leave off the He, and, literally, in Greek, it just says, “I am.” It’s the same, “I am,” phrase that John has used throughout His book when Jesus says, “I am,” to show that Jesus is God. What Jesus was doing in that moment was giving them just a sliver, just a taste of His divine nature so that when He asked, “Whom did you come for,” and they said, “Jesus the Nazarene,” when He steps up and says, “I am,” they felt the power of God ever so slightly, and it caused them to literally fall on their backs.
He showed them that power not to keep them from arresting Him, but to keep them from arresting His disciples. We see the sovereignty of God in the protection of His disciples, even though they’re sleeping and even though they’re about to scatter like mice under the light, and this just reminds me, as there are so many reminders, that Christ loves me and is faithful to me even when I am not to Him. Christ loves me, and He’s faithful to me despite and even through my own weakness.
Church, He was like this 2,000 years ago, and He is still like this today. Many times in my life, even this week, I’m sleeping in the garden. Jesus is still faithful to me, and He still protects me. Seems like Jesus is in control, doesn’t it? Not like everything’s happening to Him by accident, but don’t forget the end of the story. Oh, Peter. Think about. It’s been crazy up until this point, but Jesus has controlled the situation. Why? Because it’s a part of His design, but Peter, in his mind, even though Jesus has already quieted the army that’s coming to get Him, even though He’s already protected His disciples, oh, stupid, fired up Peter, too much like me, pulls out that sword and it says, “He cuts the ear off the high priest slave, Malchus.”
I want you to remember, and I’ve reminded you this before, but it’s worthy to say again that Peter was not a trained warrior. He may have had a little bit of fire in his belly, but he was a fisherman, and I don’t believe he had the sword skills to just cut off the ear in one swoop and not hit anything else on the soldier. I believe he was aiming for what? The neck. He was probably a rage monster, pulled out the sword, and went to kill this guard, but instead of killing him, he cut off his ear and Jesus, with His hand of sovereignty, can almost see Him reach out and put His hand on Peter’s shoulder, and, suddenly, Peter calms because the King of the Universe puts His hand on your shoulder to get your attention, you listen. He says, “Put the sword away.”
This cup from the Father that earlier He did not want to drink, He is ready and willing to drink it now. It was ordained by God and Jesus says, “I am pursuing this cup. Put your sword away. It’s now time for me to start drinking the cup of God’s wrath to the very last drop,” so He did.
Church, I want you to see in this passage the beauty of God’s sovereignty. The symbolism wasn’t a mistake. The weakness of the disciples, they should have been arrested, and Peter should have been killed. That wasn’t outside of Christ’s control. Him, being arrested, and as we continue to travel, I want you to see both the love of Christ and the divine sovereignty of God so when the world is spinning around you, you don’t pull a Peter and try to control yourself, you trust Christ in it.
I don’t know what kind of olive press that you feel like you’re in. Maybe the weight has been increasing upon you week after week and day after day. Maybe you’re sweating bullets. Maybe you may even start to sweat blood because of the pressure from your finances or some physical abnormality or some spiritual or emotional battle that you’re in. Maybe you feel like the wheels of your life are spinning out of control. Maybe the wheels are coming off in your life. Have you ever thought that maybe God wants the wheels to come off? Maybe you feel like you’re failing. Have you ever thought that maybe God wants you to fail?
If you’re in your own sin, that’s on you. You may be causing the wheels to fall off, but if you’re in a situation where it feels like you’re in Gethsemane, the pressure’s upon you, you can’t see a sin that you’re participating in, you feel like you’re about to lose, it may be God’s plan for you to lose, that it’s not taking God’s plan off track in your life. It may be exactly how He wants it to be, and even if you are messing up, it’s not going to change His plan one bit. Would you trust in the sovereignty of God today, is my question. Would you see that Jesus was controlling His own destiny, even to the betrayal, even to the brutalization of the cross, and that if He controlled His destiny, He obviously can control yours, as well. Stop fretting. Stop worrying. Stop trying to control and let Christ work in you and let Christ work through you, and as you lean upon His sovereignty, watch Him take the stress from you. Stop trying so hard in your own failing self efforts.
This is what we’re going to see continue through the Passion, and we’re just now in the garden. Let’s pray.