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Jesus is in control. God is sovereign over everything that happens. He is not responsible for our evil. People are responsible for their sins, and they will face the judgements of God if they do not repent. At the same time, their evil deeds do not frustrate God’s plans. As the Early Church prayed in Acts 4:27-28, “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”
God predestined the death of Jesus, but those who did it were also responsible for their terrible sin. We will not understand in our lifetime why God allows our sufferings. We know He will work all things together for good because He is sovereign, and He does love us. God’s sovereignty over this tragedy of the cross of Jesus is throughout John’s account of the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. The sovereignty of God is pre-eminent in John’s consciousness as he omits Jesus’ agonising prayer at Gethsemane. But John includes Jesus’ resolve to obey the Father’s will when He rebukes Peter (John 18:11). John also omits Jesus’ betrayal kiss. But he includes something other gospel writers omit; when the armed group came to Jesus, Jesus took the initiative in greeting His persecutors (v4). He was in control. Only John tells us when Jesus answers them, they all drew back and fell to the ground. The power and authority of Jesus! The overall impression that John brings to this narrative was that Jesus was in complete control of the arrest, the trial and His own crucifixion. Jesus was calmly in complete control in events leading up to His death. He was not a tragic victim, but rather the Good Shepherd who willingly laid down His life for His sheep.
We are going to see a number of characters.
Firstly, we see the self-condemnation of the opponents. Sometimes, when we look on the evil of the world you may wonder where is God in all of this? Here, in verse 3, you have the Jewish leaders, who should have welcomed their Messiah. Secondly, you have the betrayer under the influence of Satan himself, and the Roman military in all its might, representing the world-dominating Roman Empire. All are aligned against Jesus. All the evil powers of the darkness of this world coming against the humble, innocent, pure Messiah. From outward appearances they seem to triumph. But from God’s perspective, it is absolutely laughable to thwart God’s plans (Psalm 2).
Firstly, under this heading of opponents, are the religious authorities. They are filled with pride that demonstrates the sovereignty of Jesus in this account. During His three-year ministry the Pharisees and Scribes were Jesus’ main opponents. They knew the Old Testament, they heard Jesus’ teaching, they saw Jesus’ miracles. Of all people, they should have been worshipping Jesus and seen that He uniquely fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. But they not only rejected Him but stirred people against Him. They created a crowd to instigate an arrest, even to the point where they desired His cruel death.
Why? Jesus threatens their comfortable grip on power, they made a nice profit selling animals for sacrifices, they loved high places of honour (Matthew 23). All of that would be gone if their religiosity proved false. Also, Jesus confronted their root problem – their pride of their religious practices. They were fastidious about their cleanliness, keeping ceremoniously clean. They also thought their racial identity and practices secured a place in heaven. But Jesus showed them God looks at the heart. He is not interested in outward religious performances. God always looks at the heart. Religiosity – trusting in religion rather than trusting in Jesus, is always built on a system of work. It never deals the death-blow to pride. It is always trying to build up pride. They over-estimate their own goodness – their good works will out-weigh their shortcomings. But the Bible declares, “There is none righteous, no not one.” The second error of the Scribes and Pharisees and today’s religious is that they underestimate the absolute holiness of God.
Secondly, we see Judas, who is harbouring sin. This is the final appearance of Judas in John’s gospel. John describes Judas as privileged. He was numbered among the twelve disciples of Jesus (verse 2). A beautiful picture is painted of a special meeting place which the disciples, including Judas and Jesus, would often meet. What a privilege to have sat in the garden and listened to Him. Judas had seen and been a part of so much. He saw miracles, Lazarus raised from the dead. Here, in the garden, he saw that sudden flash of glory that threw them to the ground, including probably him. He has changed allegiance. He professed to know Christ but his deeds denied that he did.
Secondly, he is a thief! (John 12). He often pilfered money meant for the whole group. He kept much for himself. That greed led him to betray the Lord Jesus for 30 measly pieces of silver, which were utterly useless to him after he got them.
Thirdly, he stands with the opponents (verse 5), the enemies of Jesus, not with the elven others, his friends. They were at risk of arrest now. They were at risk of being killed because they were standing with Jesus. Whose side would you be on this that circumstance? Where would you stand?
Judas is now at greatest risk. He is at greatest risk of his soul. To stand with the world is to put your own soul at risk, to stand under the judgement of God. To stand with Jesus against the world is to face eternal security. It is so easy to fake being a Christian. When Jesus told His disciples at the Last Sipper that one of them would betray them, they didn’t have a clue who it was.
Thirdly, under the opponents who are at risk of judgement, is the Roman authorities, the Roman cohort who had joined the Jewish temple police. They all fall backwards, don’t they! When Jesus answered, ‘I am He,’ at that moment they all fall, like a mighty earthquake. They just cannot stand. Hundreds of fully-armed soldiers, strong men, fall flat kin the presence of the unarmed, humbled man, Jesus.
Jesus could have destroyed them all in that moment, taken their breath away. But He doesn’t. It is a reminder He is not just Jesus the Nazarene, He is God. It also reminds us His purpose is to save. How many times has God struck us down, only for us to stand up and just carry on? These three groups we have seen, just condemn themselves.
Secondly, another way the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrates His control over all that is happening here is the disciples who remain under Jesus’ care. Wonderful care. Back in John 17:12 Jesus says He has guarded them. Although preservation in 21:9 refers to keeping them from arrest, it also refers to keeping them spiritually.
Peter impetuously draws his sword and wildly swings it and chops Malachus’ ear off. Why is Malchus’ name mentioned? John is quite specific in naming the servant’s name as Malchus. I think it’s an indication that everyone knew this name. Malachus was on the Roman side? Peter, whilst he goes for Malchus’ head, would have split this guy’s head in two if Malchus hadn’t ducked.
Peter was a loyal and committed enough to try to defend Jesus. Hopeless odds. There was a Tsunami in front of him. His action stems from a mis-understanding for God’s purpose for Jesus going to the cross. Peter is trying to stop Jesus going to the cross, but he was wrong. Jesus has repeatedly told the disciples of His impending death. The Lord’s intervention to let the disciples go, shows Jesus keeps all of those of whom the Father has given Him (John 6). He intervenes for us. Jesus bore the penalty of our sin on our behalf. Having saved us, He keeps us. Despite our foolishness, our doubts, our lack of understanding, He so evidently has a strong grip on us. Even when we fail, His promise still holds. “I give them eternal life and they will never perish and np-one will be a le to snatch them from my hand.”
We have seen:
firstly, the rebels who oppose Jesus do not thwart His Lordship;
secondly, the disciples who fail Him are still under His protective care. Jesus is in control.
Thirdly, Jesus’ suffering achieves salvation for us, which shows us Jesus is in control. In the Garden, the first Adam succumbed to the tempters there. Here, in another garden, the second Adam triumphed over Satan’s desires and actions. Satan is now influencing and possessing Judas. On the surface, it looks as if Jesus is defeated but it is Satan who is being crushed. Jesus was being obedient to the divine plan (John 3:16).
Even though Jesus could have escaped, He deliberately went to the place where Judas and approximately 600 soldiers would find Him. Jesus was in complete control. ‘I am’ is a declaration of His divinity. Jesus is Lord God. He rebukes Peter for his attempted rescue because Jesus was resolved to drink the cup which the Father had given Him. Nothing took Him by surprise. He was in total control.
The cup (verse 11) was the cup of the Father’s wrath of His righteous anger against all ungodliness. It is the cup of wrath for our sins. The cup of wrath spoken of in Psalm 75:8. Because God is just and holy, the penalty for all sin must be paid for. It must be paid for either by us or by the God-appointed substitute. Because Jesus drank this cup for us, we don’t have to drink that cup of the wrath of God. Rather, we can drink another cup – the cup of His salvation spoken of in Psalm 116:30. The cup of love, the cup of atonement.
While Christ’s suffering was unique, an atoning sacrifice, we can learn about our suffering. Our suffering is only a cup, not an ocean. It is momentary. It is given by the Father who does us no wrong. Just as Jesus was in control, even around the events surrounding His own death, so he is Lord over every difficult circumstance that you may face. Even though you, like His disciples, love Him, we fail Him often, grievously. He still keeps us, and He is still protecting us. After our failures He restores us and uses us.
Inspite of rebels who oppose Him and disciples who fail Him, Jesus is still Lord over every situation, including His own death. He is Lord over the situation of our lives, so at all times we can really lout our trust in Him.