The prayer prayed by the Lord Jesus Christ in chapter 17 was powerful and triumphant. It revealed His love for His people and His certainty of triumph because He was coming back for His people. As we come to chapter 18, despite how things may look from the earthly perspective, John wants us to see how Jesus is in perfect control of the situation. The opening verses of John 18 record the betrayal Jesus had earlier predicted. As wretched and shameful as this act of betrayal was, this very occasion revealed the majestic sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not a defeat, but rather it is a part of the ordained process that leads to the ultimate triumph. Our passage begins,
“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” (18:1)
It has been pointed out that the blood from the temple sacrifices flowed out of the city into the brook Kidron. If this is was the case, while the blood-filled water flowed, Jesus – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) – was preparing for the ultimate sacrifice at the cross. Where did this preparation take place? John tells us that it was in a garden. The other gospel writers call this the Garden of Gethsemane. It is interesting to note that Adam brought all humanity into condemnation by his sin in the garden, whereas Jesus Christ (the last Adam) is about to bring salvation beginning with His submission to the Father in the garden.
As we approach this passage, I would like to point out the contrast between Judas Iscariot (and all opposed to Jesus Christ) and the Lord Jesus Christ. In one group we see sinful actions, whereas in Christ we see sovereign actions.
Sermon Summary: In this message, we will contrast the shameful actions of Judas with the Sovereign actions of Jesus.
1. THE SHAMEFUL ACTIONS OF JUDAS (John 18:2-3)
Judas Iscariot was one of the 12 disciples chosen by Jesus to follow him. Judas was given the privilege to be numbered among the twelve disciples and responsibility to carry the money bag.
Judas Iscariot was not a neutral character nor was the victim of bad circumstances. Judas was a covetous, cunning, and corrupt individual. He never loved Jesus Christ and was only interested in lining his own pockets. The first shameful action of Judas was his selfishness. His focus was himself and not Christ. He wanted selfishly wanted money and not the opportunity to serve Christ.
In these opening verses, we learn more about the shameful actions of Judas. John records, “Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples” (18:2). This verse reveals that the shameful actions of Judas are strategic and deliberate. Knowing where Jesus would be, John adds,
“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” (18:3).
The “band of soldiers” would have been a group that could have ranged between 200-1000 men. Whatever number it was, it is clear that this was not a handful of security guards. Matthew called this a “great crowd” (Matt. 26:46). The band of soldiers and religious representatives seems to show that they thought it would be hard to find or arrest Jesus. Did they think He would be hiding? That is possible because they were carrying “lanterns and torches”. Also, it is likely that they were expecting Him to resist arrest due to the reference to “weapons” (18:3). Alistair Begg points out the irony in how they search for the Light of the world with “lanterns and torches” and the Prince of Peace with “weapons”.
After considering these opening verses, from the earthly standpoint it looks like Judas Iscariot has succeeded and the enemies of Christ are victorious. However, the shameful actions of Judas and co. are crushed and proven to be weak when compared to the sovereign actions of Jesus.
2. THE SOVEREIGN ACTIONS OF JESUS (John 18:4-11)
In complete contrast to the shameful actions of Judas let us now consider the actions of our Lord. This is introduced in verse 4, “Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’” This act of betrayal did not come as a surprise to Jesus. The disciples no doubt were shocked and scared, but Jesus knew “all that would happen to him” (18:4).
The first sovereign action of Jesus in this passage is His Speech. Demonstrating His complete control of the situation Jesus asked the large crowd, “Whom do you seek?” In response to this, they answered: “Jesus of Nazareth” (18:5). John writes,
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 (18:5b-6)
The pronoun “he” has been inserted by Bible translators. What He actually said in response to their question was, “I am”. This was said with power and authority that the entire crowd “drew back and fell to the ground”. This was not a deliberate act of feeling aghast with what Jesus said. This was a response to the sovereign power of Christ’s speech. The Word of Christ spoke the world into existence. The Word of Christ keeps the World together. The Word of Christ will bring judgment upon this world.
The second sovereign action of Jesus in this passage is His Security. If our salvation were up to us to obtain and keep we most certainly would lose it. Thankfully, the Scripture teaches that salvation belongs to the Lord. Jesus loves His people and He will love them to the end (cf. John 13:1). Nothing in this world will separate them from His love. After the crowd fell to the ground John records, “So He asked them again, ‘Whom do you seek?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’” (18:7). Now that Jesus has had them state two times that it is Jesus they are seeking, He has now provided a form of protection. From their own mouths, they have expressed their desire to take Jesus and not the disciples. This act of protection is seen in what follows,
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” (18:8-9).
The third sovereign action of Jesus in this passage is His Submission. Jesus had the power and ability to call down twelve legions of angels to destroy this crowd. However, He displayed His sovereign power by willingly submitting to the Father’s will. After some interaction began to take place between Jesus and the crowd, it is likely that this was the time when Judas identified Jesus as the one to be arrested. The other gospel writers record that he kissed Jesus (Matt. 26:49; Mark 14:45; Luke 22:47). After this, things heated up. Peter would not stand for His Master being arrested. John writes, “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)” (18:10). This fearless act of Peter was perhaps a zealous attempt to take on the whole crowd. Starting with the closest person Peter strikes his head and cuts off his ear. Though filled with zeal, this was a foolish act and could have almost led to his arrest and even death. Jesus immediately responds by saying, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (18:11). Jesus tells Peter that the spread of the gospel and glory of God does not come about by the sword but by submitting to God.
There are many attempts by individuals and groups in history and today where they make use of force and violence for their cause. As Christians, we are to remember that our power is found in our message and not our methods. We take on the world by standing firmly upon God’s Word and living according to it no matter what. We are not to fight people into the kingdom through violence or react in a physically intimidating manner. Instead, we are to proclaim and live by the gospel because it is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Jesus showed His sovereign power by submitting to the Father’s will. He asked Peter, “shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
What do we learn from this passage?
Firstly, we learn an important lesson concerning shameful actions that are displayed when people are not trusting in Christ. This is seen in the life of Judas, a man who was a pretender of faith and not a possessor of faith. Because he didn’t trust Christ for his salvation the actions of betrayal raised their ugly head. Also, Peter was completely different to Judas because he did trust Christ for salvation. But even as a believer, He didn’t trust Christ as he should have. His lack of trust led to regrettable actions.
Secondly, we learn that because the Lord Jesus Christ is sovereign He is in control of all things. This means that no matter what happens in this world, He is in control. Every day we will hear a story showing how the world is unraveling by means of their embracing of things contrary to the Word of God. Bizarre beliefs and inconsistent ideas are heralded every day.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is in control. He proved it in the garden and this is how the book of Revelation describes Him.