John 18:1-11 | Jesus is the Sovereign Prisoner | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 18:1–18:11
Well, please open your Bibles to John, chapter 18. John 18, verses 1-11 is the text for the morning.
We begin a new portion of Scripture, a new part of the Gospel of John. Really you could say that this is kind of the beginning of the end. This is where Jesus will be arrested this morning and then put on trial, executed, buried, and then he will come out of the tomb, give his disciples a commission, and restore one final disciple who had denied him.
And so to say this is an important text doesn’t really do it justice. This passage, or this section of Scripture—John 18 through 21—encompasses the center of all human history. It encompasses the coming to the earth and the dying of God himself, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. And this is really what everybody who is a Christian stakes their entire eternity on—the truths found in John 18 through 21.
And so we’re calling this series through the end of the book, “Jesus Is….” Because we’ve learned a lot about Jesus so far in John 1 through 17, but you learn a lot about who a person is as they approach death, as they near death, and know that they’re going to die. And for Jesus, he then conquered the grave and then continued teaching. So we learn a lot about Jesus in these final chapters that are really special with the fact that he’s about to die and then will rise from the dead and continue teaching.
So we learn a lot about the character of Christ in these final chapters. Every single one, as we’ve kind of gone through them and I’ve kind of prepared for the coming chapters, just see a new facet of the person of Christ. Something he is. Something that is brought out of the text.
And so I’m very excited to learn more about Jesus Christ, and I’ve thought about it. I wonder how many of you have been a part of a church in your life that’s gone slowly verse by verse through the death, burial, resurrection, and commissioning of Jesus. Maybe some of you have once or twice. But it’s not often in our life that we go through these verses slow and reflect on them and take them in. So I’m very excited about the coming months that we’re together in these final chapters. Again, Jesus is….
And this morning, we learn that Jesus is the sovereign prisoner. John 18:1-11:
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. 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. 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. 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.” 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?”
Jesus is the sovereign prisoner. Now, we don’t often think of prisoners as in charge. They’re confined. They’re captured.
Growing up, I had an interest in the island of Alcatraz, the infamous prison, the prison in the San Francisco Bay that was said to be the one where nobody could ever escape. For some reason, some strange reason as a young child, I was fascinated by that prison. There’s probably some huge psychological reason, so keep your analysis to yourself at this point. But for some reason, I was very interested in that place.
And one of the most famous things that happened on Alcatraz Island while it was a prison happened in 1946 when a number of inmates saw a flaw in the system of the guards and overtook a guard and then overtook the entire cell block and basically had control of the entire prison. It was a famous riot that ensued, and tragically, a number of men died.
But the idea there, the reason that was such a strange event in that island’s history, in that prison’s history, was because that was the place in America where prisoners definitely had no authority at all. The worst of men were confined, with no way to escape. And so what was striking about that 1946 event was that for a little while, the prisoners were in charge.
Well, in this text in John as we go through this, you’re going to see in the words that John uses, the words the Holy Spirit uses, Jesus is entirely in charge of his arrest. Jesus is entirely in charge. And it wasn’t just that he was in charge for a little bit. He’s been in charge from before the foundation of the world. Our God is a sovereign God over all human history, including the time of his arrest.
Let me say it this way: In the moments of his arrest, it wasn’t as if the devil got the upper hand, and poor Jesus was powerless. Jesus is in control the whole way through. Jesus is the sovereign prisoner.
We worship a man who was imprisoned, held captive. And we worship a man who was held captive by his own doing. It was his own plan to come and be arrested and then executed and to suffer the wrath of God. And he did that for every one of us who would ever believe. That’s the man we worship. This is the man we worship, the sovereign creator and sustainer of the world.
I want to show you in this text four features of Jesus’ sovereignty over the world’s leaders. Four features of Jesus’ sovereignty over the world’s leaders. At the end of all that, I want to give you two pastoral implications. So what does this mean for us? It’s not just some story that happened, some true account of something that happened two thousand years ago. There are implications for us as a people of God.
1. Jesus sovereignly initiates his capture.
First, the first feature of Jesus’ sovereignty over the world’s leaders is this: Jesus sovereignly initiates his capture. Jesus sovereignly initiates his capture. You see this in verses 1-4. Jesus clearly planned to be arrested this night.
Verse 1: “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.” When he had spoken these words—the words of John 13 through17, the upper room words, the words of the last meal that he would share with his disciples. When he had spoken these words, when he had taught them all of those things and then prayed the prayer to the Father in John 17. After he had spoken those things, they left the immediate city of Jerusalem, the city limits so to speak, and they went out across the brook Kidron up to the Mount of Olives.
So they left the city, left the upper room, and they go across this brook and up to the Mount of Olives, and on the Mount of Olives there’s a garden there. And so Jesus is going with his disciples across the brook to this garden, and this is the location of this text in John 18:1-11—the garden.
Verse 2: “Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples.” Now, if you were being hunted by the government, you probably wouldn’t go to a place where they knew that you would regularly be, or that you regularly would go to. You would go somewhere else. Jesus goes to exactly where everyone knew he would be.
Jesus often met there, verse 2 says. He often met there with his disciples. And the idea is, during this Passover week when Jewish people would have come from all the surrounding areas to celebrate the Passover—maybe over a million people in and around Jerusalem and the areas nearby—Jesus during that week would sleep at this place, in the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples.
Luke 21:37-38 tells us this, and this is speaking of these final days, this final week of Jesus’ life, what his activities were. Luke 21:37-18: “And every day he was teaching in the temple [okay, so that’s what he was doing during the day—teaching in the temple], but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet.” And we know now it’s in the Garden of Gethsemane. So he’d teach during the day and go to sleep on the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane every single night during this Passover week.
“And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him” (Luke 21:38). So Jesus’ normal pattern this final week of his life: Teach in the temple—and he’d evidently start early in the morning--wake the disciples up, get to the temple, start teaching, go at night back to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives and lodge there, according to Luke. Sleep there.
You remember, the other gospel accounts tell us about this Garden of Gethsemane, the happenings there before Jesus’ betrayal. He’s there praying, isn’t he, before the Father? Remember he tells the disciples, you stay over here and watch and pray. Well, what’d they do? They fell asleep. And Jesus rebukes them for that. But also understand this: They were used to sleeping in that place. That’s where they slept at night during this week. So this is the location. This is the setting for this betrayal from Judas.
And by the way, verse 2. It doesn’t come out in the English, but in the original, the idea that Judas knew where he was going is the emphatic thing that verse 2 tells you. It actually starts verse 2. It doesn’t say, “Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place”; it’s, Judas, knowing where he would be, betrayed him. So the idea that Judas knew is something that John wants you to understand. John wants you to know that Judas knew the place where Jesus would be. This is the location of where Jesus would be arrested.
Verse 3: “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.” Now just a little bit earlier, Judas was with Jesus in the upper room; Jesus dismisses Judas, says, what you’re doing, go and do quickly. The men in the room think, oh, he’s going to go and bring some provisions to the poor. But no, Jesus knew what he was doing. Jesus meant, go and get this betrayal underway; go and do what you need to do. The time between Jesus sending him out of the upper room and here when Judas comes in the garden is when Judas would have been going and gathering all the authorities together to go and arrest Jesus. So that’s what’s happening here.
So Judas procures a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees. Now, here’s the interesting thing: some soldiers—these are Roman soldiers. Judas is a Jew. He goes and gets Roman soldiers to come and to help arrest Jesus.
Now, there would have been many Roman soldiers here for Passover week. Think about it. Rome controlled Jerusalem. Rome controlled Jerusalem, and this is a week—the biggest week in the Jewish year—where Jews would have come from all over the place to Rome. The idea that there would be an insurgence or a rebellion led by the Jews—if they were ever going to do it, it would be during this week. So the security is high in terms of the Roman soldiers. They’re ready.
And you know what law enforcement hates to do. They hate to sit at headquarters and do nothing. Like, let us out there and let us protect and serve and defend. They’re ready. They would often remain at the Fortress Antonia, and they would sit there and wait until they were needed during this week.
Well, there’s this idea that there’s a teacher in Jerusalem that’s causing all this ruckus, all of these problems, and so there’s extra security needed. So it wouldn’t have taken Judas a lot to get the Roman soldiers there. He probably was even helped with the Jewish leaders of the day saying, hey, Roman soldiers, you need to come with us; there’s something going on here. The man that has been causing all these problems—we know where he is; now’s the time to get him.
So, Judas brings Roman soldiers, but he also brings, notice, some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees. So now the temple security, the religious security of Israel, is there. So the religious security force and the Roman soldiers are all there to go after Jesus.
This would have been like the liberal Democrats and the conservative Republicans joining forces against some form of evil. It just doesn’t normally happen. It happened here. Two groups of people not normally together in anything are together to capture this man, Jesus from Nazareth.
What did they expect? Well, evidently they expected to have to search him out in the garden. They bring lanterns and torches. Lanterns and torches. They’re expecting to go and have to search through different areas on the Mount of Olives to find Jesus. They evidently think that Jesus and his followers might put up a fight. So they bring weapons. This is what they’re expecting. The leaders of Rome in a sense, the leaders of Israel, are going after Jesus—this man from Nazareth—expecting him to be hiding, and if they find him they expect him to fight. He’s not hiding, and he’s not fighting.
Verse 4: “Then Jesus, knowing”—knowing everything; knowing that they would arrest him, knowing that they would take him through a number of mock trials, knowing that Peter would deny him, knowing that his life would end on the cross, knowing that the Father would raise him three days later; Jesus, knowing it all—“Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’”
Now, here’s where John is different than Matthew, Mark, and Luke. You know that the gospels portray Jesus and the events from Jesus’ life from four different perspectives. All true, all fit together to form the great big picture. But John’s focus is a little different than Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s.
Listen to Matthew 26:48-49 about this exact moment, when the crowd, when the Romans and the security forces of Israel and Judas come forward to get Jesus. Notice what Matthew says. “Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.’ And he came up to Jesus at once and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ And he kissed him.”
Matthew focuses you on Judas. Matthew focuses you on Judas’ kiss in order to get you to say, oh my goodness, how dare he do that? One that was so near Jesus for three years would come up and betray Jesus with a kiss. That is definitely something to focus on. But it’s not what John wants you to focus on.
Listen to Mark 14, verse 44: “Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.’ And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ And he kissed him” (Mark 14:44-45).
Luke 22. “While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’” (Luke 22:47-48).
Matthew, Mark, and Luke focus on the kiss of Judas; John doesn’t mention the kiss of Judas. John doesn’t mention—John doesn’t want you focusing on—Judas and his betrayal with a kiss. It’s fine to read Matthew, Mark, and Luke and to focus on that because that’s what they want you to focus on. John wants you to focus on something else. What does John want you to focus on? The sovereign control of Jesus Christ.
“Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him”—Matthew, Mark, and Luke say Judas came forward; John says Jesus came forward, stepped out. The idea is Judas is coming forward with a kiss and Jesus steps forward to meet him. Jesus didn’t go and hide behind John. He didn’t go and hide behind Andrew. He didn’t go hide behind a bush. Jesus, as Judas is coming forward to kiss him, Jesus steps up to meet him. Jesus is in complete control of this situation.
John wants us to focus on Jesus’ sovereign initiative in this capture. He goes to where he knows they know he’ll be. They come, and he steps forward to meet them. Jesus knows all that’s going to happen. Three times, three statements in just these four verses, show you that Jesus is the one who knows all that’s happening, and he’s gonna make sure that it happens.
Listen to John 10:17-18: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, [Insert the parentheses here in your head: no one—not Rome, not Caesar, not Pilate—takes my life from me. No one—not the chief priests, not the Pharisees, not the Sadducees, not Judas, not Satan—no one takes my life from me] but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” Jesus is in control of his arrest. Jesus is completely in control. The Lord is the one who sovereignly initiates his capture.
2. Jesus sovereignly displays his deity.
Secondly (verses 5 and 6), Jesus sovereignly displays his deity. So Jesus sovereignly initiates his capture, and then he sovereignly displays his deity. He’s in control here, and he’s going to show people who he is. At the moment of his arrest, his captors fall down before him.
Verse 5: “They answered him”—what was the question? “Whom do you seek?” “They answered him, [verse 5] ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them [something John wants us to remember—Judas is on their side now]. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:5-6).
Now, Jesus isn’t just saying, I am he; I’m Jesus of Nazareth. There’s more in that statement. In the Greek, it’s ego eimi, which in other places is translated not “I am he,” but “I am.” I am. Whom do you seek? Jesus of Nazareth. I am.
We know ego eimi. We know “I am” as we’ve gone through John, don’t we? Most people talk about the seven “I am” statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John, and there are actually more. He says ego eimi a number of times, but there are seven key times where he focuses in on who he is to give you the full picture of who he is.
Chapter 6—we learn that he is the bread of life. I am the bread of life. I am necessary for you. I am your spiritual sustenance. Apart from me, the food that I give, you cannot live. I am the bread of life.
I am the light of the world (chapter 8). Apart from me you will not be illumined in your mind. Apart from me you will not be guided. I am the light for the whole world.
I am the door of the sheep. I am the way that you enter to find pasture for your souls. I am the door of the sheep.
I am the good shepherd (chapter 10). I am the one who will guide and protect you. And what’s more than that, he’s unlike most even good shepherds; he’s the good shepherd that would lay down his life, a man’s life, for his sheep. He would lay down his life, the Son of God’s life, for us. I am the good shepherd.
Chapter 11—I am the resurrection and the life. If you want security about what happens after you die, you must trust in Jesus, because (chapter 11) he says I am the resurrection and the life, and he proved that by raising Lazarus from the dead.
Chapter 14—I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me. You need Christ if you want peace with the Father. You need Christ if you want salvation. You need Christ if you want eternal life and hope for after you close your eyes on this earth. You need Christ. This is what Jesus taught over and over again.
In chapter 15, I am the vine. You are the branches. You get your spiritual sustenance from me. You bear fruit through me. You must be connected to me; apart from me you can do nothing.
Jesus constantly taught, I am. I am. I am. And those statements were blasphemous if they weren’t true, because no one says that they are God. “I AM” was the term designated for the Old Testament idea of Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament—I AM. They wouldn’t even say his name, and Jesus is out there saying that I AM.
This is why they fall down. If Jesus is just saying, yeah, I’m Jesus of Nazareth, they don’t fall down. This is a statement of deity. Who are you looking for? Jesus of Nazareth. I AM. And they fall down.
Remember in chapter 8, the Jews ask Jesus—they think he’s getting a little too big for his britches—and they say, “Are you greater than our father Abraham?” Remember, Abraham was everything to them! Abraham was the original Jew, the one they came from. They all come from his line. Father Abraham has many sons, and we are some of them. Are you greater than him?
And Jesus says, “before Abraham was, I am.” I’m outside of space and time. I’ve existed before Abraham; I’ll exist after Abraham. In the words of Revelation 1, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Jesus is saying, yes, I’m greater than Abraham; I created Abraham.
And when he steps out, when he’s going to be arrested and says, I am, they all fall to the ground. What does this show you? That even the most powerful people in the world will fall when Jesus speaks. Make no mistake about this.
Now, I’ve never been in law enforcement. I’ve got a number of friends who are or who were—many of you. I’ve never been to a police academy. I don’t know anything about it, but I’m guessing they would advise that when you go to arrest someone, don’t fall down. Don’t fall down. Either they can get the upper hand, or they can flee.
These men coming to arrest Jesus have no control of their bodies anymore. They can’t stop it. They all fall down. This shows the power of Jesus over any human threat. This shows the power of Jesus even over the greatest human power. Jesus is the sovereign one, the powerful one.
3. Jesus sovereignly protects his sheep.
The third feature of Jesus’ sovereign control over the world leaders is that Jesus sovereignly protects his sheep. Verses 7- 9. One of the things Jesus does in the garden is he sees to it that his sheep—his disciples, the ones with him in the garden—he sees to it that they will be protected.
Verse 7: “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’” (John 18:7-8).
Jesus asks them twice, “Whom do you seek?” Why did he ask them twice? Because he wanted them to answer twice. We’re here for Jesus. We’re here for Jesus. So Jesus tells them, in a sense, then if you’re here for me, you let them go. Jesus wants to draw it out of their voices that they’re there for him, not them. They’re there for him, not them. So if you’re here for me, not them, let them go. This is Jesus protecting his own.
John 11:57: “Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.” Why does that verse come into our mind here? Because there was a decree sent out from Israel, from the leaders of the nation of Israel, that if anyone knew where Jesus was—this was after he raised Lazarus from the dead—if anyone knows where Jesus is, they must turn him over to us.
Well, guess what? The disciples knew exactly where Jesus was. They were with him after this decree. They were with him in the upper room. They were with him this whole time. So there were things for them to be accused of. You harbored a criminal. You knew the decree, and you kept him from us. So Jesus is making sure that he keeps these men from arrest when he asks the guards twice, who are you here for? So Jesus is protecting his own.
Verse 9: “This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: ‘Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.’” So Jesus’ desire to have the disciples dismissed is his way of preserving them spiritually. And here’s the link: Jesus is protecting them in the garden physically, but he’s doing more than that. He’s protecting them spiritually as well. Because we learned in his prayer to the Father just in the previous chapter (John 17:12) that he prayed to the Father, those whom you’ve given me I have lost not one. So Jesus told the Father when he was praying, you’ve given me a group of people, and not one of them has been lost. And then we learn in his arrest Jesus wants them kept from arrest so that they would not be lost—spiritually speaking.
How does that all work together? Jesus evidently—from what we gather from his prayer in 17 and this keeping them from arrest in 18—Jesus is making sure that they do not get arrested because evidently if they would have been arrested, their faith may have failed. End of story. Jesus is keeping them from arrest so that their faith would not finally fail.
Now they went out free men from the garden, and they scattered and dispersed. And we know and we’ll see what happens later—Peter denies him not once, not twice, but three times. The disciples other than John are nowhere to be found at the cross. So their faith is weak at the moment, but evidently if they would have been arrested, that would have been the end of it. They would have turned from Christ. Jesus sees to it that they’re not arrested so that they would be kept. “[I]f you seek me, let these men go.”
What does this tell us? Jesus knows exactly what physical circumstances to place us in and to keep us from. If you are in Christ, you’ve seen over and over through John that God the Father and God the Son keep their own. Nobody snatches them out of their hand. You’ve read Romans if you’re in Christ. Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
And God in everyday providence, Jesus in everyday providence, knows when you’re going to Wal-Mart, when you’re going to Target, when you’re going to the doctor, when you’re going to your grandkids’ home—he knows every single thing you’re going to, everywhere you’re going, what the response will be from that environment that you’re in. He knows it all, and he will keep his own from finally falling. They will never be put into a place where they would finally fall. Put into a place of significant trial, maybe. But not finally falling. He will not let his disciples be arrested and finally fall. He will not let that happen. He keeps them or preserves them because he promised his Father, and he told his Father that that’s what he came to do (John 17:12). You can trust Jesus, not just with your salvation, but with your life here on earth. You can trust him.
Jesus is clearly in charge of the physical circumstances of his disciples’ lives and will see to it that they are never placed in an environment where their faith would finally fail. He is their good shepherd, and he is, if you are a Christian, your good shepherd.
4. Jesus sovereignly suffers his punishment.
The final feature of Jesus’ sovereign control over the world’s leaders is that Jesus sovereignly suffers his punishment. Jesus sovereignly suffers his punishment. Jesus shows us that his destiny, his lot, is to suffer. This is the plan.
Verse 10: “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?’”
Now of course it was Peter, right? Lord, I’ll die for you! Lord, you can’t wash my feet; I should be washing your feet! The one who made these big bold statements pulls out his sword. Peter responds the way the Romans and the Jews expected Jesus to respond. Peter responds the way that they thought; that’s why they brought their weapons.
Jesus isn’t here to fight. Jesus isn’t here to appeal. Jesus isn’t here to lobby. Jesus isn’t here to file a lawsuit. Jesus isn’t here to run. Jesus is here to suffer and die. That’s why he’s here in the garden.
Peter cuts off the high priest’s servant’s ear. Now, the high priest was a pretty important man in Israel, and so to cut off his servant’s ear was evidently a pretty big deal, one that could get you in a lot of trouble. And by the way, that’s one of the reasons that Peter denied Christ later on, because someone linked him to this cutting off the servant’s ear. We’ll see that in the coming weeks.
But Peter does what the world would do. Peter does what wrong-thinking Christians would do. I’m gonna take care of this! Instead of letting Jesus suffer.
Now, Jesus says to Peter, as he rebukes him—and we know from the other gospels that he actually healed Malchus’ ear, which is a beautiful picture of Jesus loving his enemies—heals his ear, and he turns to Peter and preaches another sermon to Peter, rebukes him again publically, which he often did: “[S]hall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?
Now, the cup. What’s the cup? Well, Jesus is talking about the cup of wrath from the Father. Students of the Old Testament would know that over and over again the prophets warned people who lived contrary to the will of God. The prophets warned people that you will be drunk with the cup of God’s wrath. You will drink the cup of God’s wrath.
And so Jesus is saying, I need to drink that cup. Basically, let me be arrested. Let me die. Let me suffer. Let me receive all of God’s judgment for everyone throughout human history who will ever believe. I need to suffer the wrath of God.
I want to read you a paragraph from the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery about the cup. Throughout the Old Testament, God judges by having people get drunk on the cup of his wrath.
The image of the cup of wrath carries special horror because drinking [now understand this] (unlike being overtaken by battle, earthquake, or plague) is something a person does deliberately. Drunkenness implies a humiliating progression: people begin confident of their own power to handle the wine, but it eventually masters them. In several passages that feature the cup of God’s wrath, we see that sinners start out arrogant but lose any vestige of human dignity as they drink the cup God hands them “down to its very dregs.” They stagger and fall unconscious in the streets; they are exposed and disgraced; they go mad; they are scorned and “walked over” by their enemies. Yet clearly their own choices, not God’s capricious anger, have precipitated their destruction.
The idea in the Old Testament was that you’re going to drink down the cup of God’s wrath, and drinking was something that you willingly do, you willingly did. So it’s saying, you are determining to go your own way and to drink what you want to drink, but you in that moment are drinking upon yourself the judgment from God.
And Jesus is saying, I’ve come to drink down the judgment of God. And Jesus didn’t leave one drop in the cup. He drunk down the entire judgment from God, and he’s telling Peter like he’s told him before, get out of my way; don’t stop me from this.
I want to read you another paragraph from a book called The Cup and the Glory written by Greg Harris. Listen to this:
Jesus had his own cup to drink, one whose depth extends beyond our finite understanding. His cup was so intense it led to drops of blood mingled with sweat as he wrestled in agonizing prayer with his Father. Jesus knew what the cup he must drink entailed, and it repulsed him to look even momentarily into it.
Jesus referred to his cup when he was in Gethsemane, which interestingly means “place of crushing,” where the olives were pulverized to produce oil that would bleed forth. Part of the crushing for Jesus began with his cup in Gethsemane. If Jesus had not drunk his cup, we would have no possibility of ever drinking ours. Even more to the point, our cup would have consisted of endless hell, eternally separated from God, with no redeemer. Jesus knew he had to drink it. He drank his because we could not.
Jesus is telling Peter, I must drink down the entire wrath of God. And what he didn’t say but was true, is that he was doing that for Peter and all of his sin, and he was doing that for you if you are in Christ and all of your sin. And if you’re not in Christ today, this is the offer of Jesus. You either drink down your own cup of God’s wrath because of your sin against him, or you trust him to drink it for you. All of it.
The beautiful thing about being a Christian is that while we are sinful and we gossip and we lust and we have pride and impatience—while we have all of that—we will never ever pay for our sin, not because we’re better than others—no, no, no—but because he drank the full cup of God’s wrath in our place. This is what Jesus offers.
Listen to Isaiah 53:5, prophecy about the Messiah: “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.” Praise the Lord, Jesus allowed himself to be arrested. He drank the cup of God’s wrath for us.
Jesus sovereignly initiates his capture, he displays his deity, he protects his sheep, and he suffers his punishment, and he’s in control the whole time. This is what he came to do.
Now, two implications for us. Two implications for us. The first thing I would say is this: If you have not already, fall down before Jesus and trust him to drink your cup. If Jesus is not your Lord, he is not your master, fall down before him.
Look at your knees. Touch your knees. Your knees will fall down before Jesus Christ one day. Philippians 2:10-11: “[A]t 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.” This is a promise. Every knee is going to bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is the master.
Now, we can either do that now when he calls us to believe and to bow before him and become children of his, or we can be made to bow later in judgment and there will be no salvation. Hell will be people saying over and over again for eternity, I should have bowed when I had the opportunity. I should have bowed. He is master.
So you can’t go through a passage like this where you have the strongest people in the known world coming to arrest this meager man from Nazareth, and when he talks, they all lose control of themselves and fall down. They had muscles; they had weapons; they had military training; they had tactics; they had it all. And they are nothing before him. Same is true of us. We think we have so many things when in reality we are nothing before him.
I’d invite you to fall to your knees and call out to Jesus Christ because listen, he is not just a judge; he’s also the one who saves from his own judgment. He makes an offer today. He makes an offer. He says, the one who comes to me I will in no way cast out. I’d invite you to come to Christ if you haven’t.
Second pastoral implication, and this is for believers in Christ, for the disciples of Jesus: Take heart in his sovereign protection. Take heart in his sovereign protection. Jesus Christ, based on John 18, specifically 7 through 9, will not lead you where your faith will finally fail. He will lead you to where your faith will be tested and strengthened. He will lead you into places of difficulty. He will lead you into trial. But he will not lead you ever into final temptation where you would not be able to overcome.
1 Corinthians 10 comes to mind, doesn’t it? 1 Corinthians 10. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13).
We see that exact passage—1 Corinthians 10—in his letting the disciples go from arrest. Sure, they may be placed in times of trial. Look at the rest of their life. Trial. Persecution. Their own sin gets them in trouble. All sorts of difficult environments. But their faith never finally failed. Weak at times, were they unfaithful at times? Yes. But did he restore himself to them? Yes. Wait till we get to John 21. Jesus will not allow his own children to be tempted in such a way that their faith would finally fail.
How does that affect us today? What does that do for us? You are today exactly where the Lord wants you to be. Some of you may be in a place of relative ease. He wants you to learn lessons. He wants you to take heed lest the man who thinks he stands fall.
If you’re in a trial of any length or any depth or any significance, little or big—if you’re in any trial—see the disciples. Trial after trial after trial after trial, and their God is faithful to them. He gives them his Spirit so that they can obey. He gives them his Spirit so they can find joy. He gives them his Spirit so they can find peace. He’s told them in the whole upper room that he would continue giving these things to them through his Spirit.
No matter where you are today, you are in the place that God your Father wants you to be, and he will continue to teach you. What do we do? We keep trusting. We keep trusting. We sang, Lord, I need you. Every hour I need you. That’s the testimony of the disciples, is it not?
Think of being the disciple, standing there in the garden, afraid. Jesus is not. Jesus steps out from the group of you and steps out and takes the arrest. He tells Peter he’s gotta suffer the wrath of God, and he lets you be dismissed.
And I don’t know what the disciples did. I don’t know if they walked away or if they ran. But you can imagine all the emotion going on. They captured our Lord. What are they going to do to him? I gave up my life for him. I gave up my fishing business for him. I gave up my popularity with my family for him. What’s going on here? What’s going to happen to us? What’s happening about him?
All these emotions probably going on the disciples’ minds. All of these emotions. And the whole time, God the Father has a plan, and we see it come out in Acts 2. He’d give them his Holy Spirit, and they’d go out and they’d take trials on head-on and they’d propagate the message of the gospel and they’d care for the other disciples; they’d care for the other children of God. We see these men, once fearful and afraid and concerned, being led by the Spirit of God, preaching his word, caring for one another, and living out their Christian life until the day they die, and their faith never failed because he kept them.
If you’re a Christian, no matter what you’re going through today, keep trusting your Lord. The righteous shall live by faith. Every single day.
To the natural man, this passage shows a low point. All these great things Jesus did—healed a blind man in John 9, went and had this amazing conversation with this woman in John 4, told the teacher of Israel, Nicodemus, you must be born again in John 3, told the people that he is the good shepherd in John 10—all of these high points, and then John 18. Is this a low point? He’s arrested. No, it’s not a low point. This is part of the plan. To Jesus, John 18:1-11 shows that everything is going exactly according to plan.
There’s an old hymn by William Cowper called God Moves in a Mysterious Way, and I think that that’s probably a title that you can give John 18:1-11. This doesn’t seem like a high point in Jesus’ life. Maybe Jesus is losing. Maybe he’s going to be finally defeated by Satan or Rome or Israel. No, God moves in a mysterious way. Listen to this verse:
Oh fearful saints, new courage take;
The clouds that you now dread
Are big with mercy and will break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
Behind a dark gray cloud hanging over the Garden of Gethsemane is a smiling face from God the Father, pleased at what his Son is doing. Behind any cloud in your life where evil assails hides a smiling face from God your Father.
The arrest of Jesus is part of the plan for God to show his favor to you and to me. Today, Jesus is not a prisoner to be pitied. Jesus is a sovereign to be praised. Let’s pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the conquering one. I’m asking this morning that based on this passage and what you’ve taught us, that we would see all of our difficulties and trials and threats and enemies, so to speak, through the lens of your sovereignty. You are in control; you keep your own; you came to die; you told us that we would suffer; you told us the world would hate us; but you also told us that you would give us your Spirit.
Lord, you stepped out into the darkness, trusting the plan of God. In a sense, we go from here out into the darkness, into the world again. May we please by your Spirit trust the plan of God. Make us like your Son. It’s in his name we pray. Amen.
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