John 18

Jesus finishes his long night of agony, praying for himself to accomplish the Father’s will, he prays for his disciples and their coming trials and for all of us, believers in the generations to come. He walks back to his disciples and towards his captors who are approaching. Judas comes with a large group of temple guards, chief priests and Pharisees all carrying lanterns, torches and weapons. Jesus meets them and asks “who is it you want?” the armed crowd responds Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus answers, “I am he”. John wants us to understand completely that Jesus was not taken by surprise; he went forward and identified himself to the crowd. John also provides the account that when Jesus spoke those words, “I am He” the entire crowd fell to the ground so that Jesus needs to ask again “Who are you looking for?” When Jesus responds a second time that He is the one they have come to arrest, he asks that they allow his disciples to go free. The willingness of Jesus to do the Father’s will by submitting to the coming injustice is highlighted by the power that knocks them all to the ground and that Jesus could have walked away. Jesus’ love and protection of his disciples is evident as well, he looks to their safety while he willingly presents himself for suffering.

Peter at this point, awaken from his stunned silence, pulls out his sword and attempts to defend Jesus. All three of the synoptic gospels record the incident with the sword, this weak attempt to defend Jesus, Jesus’ rebuke and healing of the high priests servant; it is John who gives us the names of the participants, Peter and Malchus. The long night in the garden concludes with a demonstration of power and grace; the healing of the servant’s ear and the protection of the disciples, especially Peter.

John records that two of the disciples followed the crowd as they brought Jesus to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the High Priest. Also, it is from John’s gospel that we get the details of two inquisitions, first at Annas’ house then later at Caiaphas’ house. Both Annas and Caiaphas violate multiple laws in questioning Jesus; that the examination happen at night, in secret, that Jesus was beaten, that there were no specific charges against Jesus and no witnesses that could agree.

It is during this long night of questions and abuse that Peter and John (another disciple) are hanging out in the courtyard of the high priest’s house watching and waiting. John gives us the detail that the “other disciple” was acquainted with the high priest so he was able to gain entrance to the courtyard. Peter is asked three times if he is one of Jesus’ disciples, at the door as he enters, while he is sitting warm by the fire and by one of the relatives of the servant he attacked. All three time Peter denies knowing Jesus and being one of his disciples. As soon as Peter says this the third time, he hears a rooster crow. Luke records that the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter, Peter remembered what Jesus had said and he went outside and wept bitterly.

Finally the High Priest sends Jesus to the palace of the Roman governor, Pilate. The Sanhedrin convicts Jesus of blasphemy but sends him to Pilate to be convicted and crucified as a rebel. It is early Friday morning; the Sabbath will begin at sunset. Pilate questions Jesus; because of the Jews accusations the questions are about whether Jesus is a king or not. Pilate declares that he finds no basis of the charges they brought against Jesus. But the Jewish leaders want more than Jesus’ death, they want him humiliated, beaten, cursed and rejected as the Messiah. They needed Rome to accomplish that for them quickly.

Pilate offers them a compromise; he was prepared to release a convicted prisoner that day as a boon for the Passover. Who did they want for him to release, this innocent man or Barabbas and convicted murderer and insurrectionist? Mark records that the chief priests stirred up the crowd to a near riot, shouting for Barabbas instead of Jesus. They shouted at Pilate, “No not him! Give us Barabbas!”

Memory Verse:
The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to the law He must die, because He claimed to be THE SON OF GOD.
John 19:7

John 17

Jesus finishes his last instructions for his disciples in chapter 16. They are given dire warnings: they will put you out of the synagogue and a time will come when the Jews will think they are serving God by killing you. Jesus is teaching future prophecies so that when they happen, the disciples will remember what Jesus said and warned them about.

The disciples have arrived at Gethsemane, which means “oil press” in Aramaic, on the Mount of Olives where they will spend the night. It has been a very long day; they are tired and ready to find a place to sleep. Jesus goes deeper into the garden away from the crowds to pray taking Peter, James and John with him. He asks them to stay with him, to stay awake and provide strength and comfort; this last request from Jesus is difficult for them to accomplish, they fail Jesus in his hour of great need.

Chapter 17 is often called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, Jesus prays for himself, for his disciples and for the future generations of believers. Up until this point we are reminded repeatedly that Jesus’ time had not yet come, Jesus begins his prayer saying, “Father, the time has come.” The time has arrived for Jesus to return to the Father, Jesus asks for God to restore him to the position he had with the Father before the world began. It was God’s initiative that began our salvation process when He granted Jesus authority over all people. The Father sent Jesus so that we (all people) may know the only true God and have eternal life.

After submitting to God’s will and plan, “not my will but yours be done”, Jesus prays for His disciples. In chapter 15, Jesus tells his disciples that “they did not choose him, but I chose you”; now Jesus says that God gave the disciples to Jesus. The work of the Father and the Son is interchangeable; they are one, united in plan, purpose and will. Jesus states clearly that His disciples now understand that everything God gave Jesus comes from God, the Father; the teachings, the signs, the miracles, the instructions for their future and the love, all pours directly from the Lord God Almighty.

Jesus knowing the path ahead will be very difficult for His disciples, prays for their protection from the schemes of Satan while they are still in the world. He prays that “they would have the full measure of my joy within them”; to be kept safe in Christ, set apart to continue His work in the world. Jesus will go through this agony not only to save us but also to consecrate us to God’s service.

Jesus finishes His prayer with his thoughts on all of us, the future believers. Jesus prays that they (we) will be one, just as Jesus and the Father are one; united in purpose, plan and practice. Jesus prays “that they (we) will be in us (Father and Son), so that the world will believe that you (Father) sent me (Jesus)”. The church is to evidence unity, the standard for our unity is the unity between the Father and the Son. What an incredibly difficult task for the church, I don’t think we have been doing such a great job on unity. The example of the Father and Jesus, being of one mind, plan and purpose has escaped our current thinking on unity. We have substituted the world’s definition of unity, which has morphed into shallow copies saying, “Can’t we all just get along” and “we will agree to disagree”. Somehow we need to regain a definition of unity that reflects the same oneness that Jesus has with the Father, which we have with Christ in us. Jesus concludes his prayer saying, “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them”.

Memory Verse:
Pilate asked Him, Are you the king of the Jews?
I AM A KING John 18:33,37

John 15

John 14 ends with Jesus saying “Come now; let us leave”; from the Synoptic Gospels we know that they left the upper room winding their way through Jerusalem to spend the night in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. As they are walking through the countryside, Jesus talks to them about who is the “true” vine and who is the “true” gardener of Israel. The disciples understood that the vine was a common symbol of Israel in the Old Testament. Jesus says, “I AM the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

Jesus is referring to believers in this motif which is emphasized by repeating the phrase “remain in me” and “I will remain in you” ten times in 17 verses. We are to get the point: to bear sweet fruit we must stay intimately connected to Jesus and when we stay connected with Jesus He will stay connected to us. Without Jesus all our “good” works are like filthy rags; how many times are we tempted to “go it alone” thinking that our plans are the best? But Jesus tells us remain in me and I will remain in you; not our way but God’s way.

Often we think of pruning as cutting out the things in our life that inhibit our growth in Christ, the list is long we need to continually examining our lives for hidden and not so hidden sins. But another pruning is mentioned, the pruning of every branch that does bear fruit so that it will be even more fruitful. Like the branch of a fruit tree, sometimes we need to be cut back to strengthen the branch to bear larger and better fruit. This is a difficult pruning because it seems to be the good things in our life and work; not something we want to remove, rather something we enjoy doing and are currently bearing fruit.

Jesus continues the teaching on pruning with a repeated promise, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you”. In chapter 14 the disciples were promised that if they asked anything in Jesus’ name it will be done for them. Now Jesus expands the promise with conditions that clarify, stay in close relationship with Jesus and obey his commands, then you will be asking in Jesus’ name and in His will; “and it will be done for you”. This is God’s will that you bear much fruit, our good fruit brings glory to Jesus and the Father, and eventually to us as we share with Christ in his sufferings and glory.

There is a connectedness between obeying Jesus’ commandment with remaining in His love. Jesus stresses the importance of obedience with love; they go together, just as Jesus obeyed the Father and remained in the Father’s love we too show our love by obedience. Jesus made it completely clear: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command”. Throughout the gospel Jesus taught and made statements about Himself, then followed it up by doing what he just as said or taught. When Jesus asks us to serve one another, to wash each other’s feet, to obey the Father’s commands, to love each other and to put ourselves last, it is because Jesus loved, served, washed, obeyed and sacrificed Himself first.

Jesus continues with his friends, preparing them for what is ahead. He warns them that the world will hate them; they are his chosen disciples and the world will hate them because they belong to Christ and not to the world. To this day the world wants to redefine Jesus by their own terms, remake Him into a form acceptable to their thinking or lifestyle. Nothing is new about this, the forces opposed to God’s plan have always tried this, Jesus tells his disciples that they “have no excuse for their sin” and neither do we when we do the same. The disciples are about to experience the most distressing and confusing time with Jesus, but he tells all this now so that they will understand later, “that this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason’”. God’s purposes will always be accomplished, despite the beliefs and manipulations of sinful men who claim victory and think they have successfully won. The long night of teaching and prayer continues on next week.

Memory Verse:
Until now you have not asked for anything in MY NAME. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
John 16:24