We practiced tirelessly and for moths on end. We played the songs over and over until we had them down pat. We were so excited and couldn’t wait to debut our rock band before the entire high school. The guys and I were determined to NOT look like fools. After all this is what we were made to do.
The months passed and the day of the show had finally come. The final bell rang ending the school day and we all began preparations for the evening’s big show. We set up the sound system, built a drum riser, tuned the guitars, did a sound check and waited anxiously for show time. I remember being apprehensive, nervous, confident and yes a little terrified. This was the moment we had been preparing for. This was the night we had all been anticipating. Maple Grove Junior/Senior High School was going to witness the debut of a band that was one day going to rule the radio airwaves…or so we though. The five of us waited backstage for all the acts before us to finish. Finally it was our time. We grabbed our instruments and positioned ourselves on stage. I remember thinking, “This is it! This is what I am going to do for the rest of my life. This is my purpose, my reason for existing.”
The house lights went down. The stage lights went off. I heard a bit of commotion to my left. Jamie is yelling, “I can’t see! I can’t see my guitar neck to know where I am!” I say, “It’s just an E chord… We’ve done this song a million times we can do this.” He walks over to the curtain opens it just enough to let the spot light in and finds his position… and then the curtain opens. This is moment we had all been waiting for! There was no turning back. It was our time to shine...
(Read John 18:1 - 18)
I tell you this story because as I was studying this passage I was reminded of this event in my life. We find ourselves in the part of the Gospel account of John where this is the moment Jesus had been preparing for since he first came to this world. This was Jesus’ curtain call. If you have ever spent anytime on the stage you are aware of the feeling of anticipation, nervousness, excitement and sheer fear before the curtain rises (no matter how prepared you are). Once the curtain rises you have two choices… do what you were meant to do or run away. Here in the garden the curtain (if you will) raises and in this passage Jesus sets in motion the departure from this earth that he has been speaking about for some time. Here Jesus is confronted by the band of soldiers who has been brought to the garden by Judas, the captain and officers of the Chief Priests and the Pharisees. This is the moment Jesus has been moving towards in his ministry. What lies before him is the cup which the Father has given to him to drink and we see Jesus takes this cup and endures it because this is the moment he came for.
After Jesus had finished his prayer and concluded his farewell discourse he went to a garden that he went to often with his disciples (as we can see in Luke 22:39). Judas knew Jesus would be there at this time. Judas brought with him Roman soldiers (possibly up to 200 soldiers) and the temple police to the garden to have Jesus arrested. It is probable at this time Judas kisses Jesus but John does not record it. He meets the group and asks who they are seeking? They (we are not sure who) responds, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replies, “I am he.” The literal translation is “I am.” (I would encourage you to read or re-read Exodus 3 to get a background on the significance of this statement if you are unfamiliar.) What is more interesting is what happens after he responds. John tells us the soldiers drew back or as the NET Bible says, “they retreated” or moved back and fell to the ground. What actually happened at this moment? Why did the soldiers fall down? More conservative biblical scholars believe that the soldiers in the front may have jumped back when Jesus unexpectedly advanced forward causing those in the front to start a domino effect of soldiers falling to the ground. Others believe the falling was a result of a Theophany (an appearance of God to humans) causing his enemies to fall back and fall prostrate before him. What we do know is Jesus is in control of the situation. “We see they are struck down by a power such as that which smote Saul of Tarsus and his companions to the earth (Ac 26:14). It was the glorious effulgence (radiance) of the majesty of Christ which overpowered them. “This, occurring before His surrender, would show His power over His enemies, and so the freedom with which He gave Himself up” [Meyer]. I think it’s important for us (whether a believer or not) to know and understand as Pastor Tim Keller says in his sermon I AM HE, “Nobody can stand on their feet in the presence of God.” The power of God is awesome in all senses of the word. Not only is it awesome, but awe inspiring. I believe in Jesus we see the power of God manifested His name (I AM, Yahweh). If the mere mention of the name of God can bring a squad of soldiers to their knees then we ought to recognize and respect the power of God altogether.
After this happened Jesus asks them again whom they seek and informs them he is the one they seek. He tells them to let the men with him go unharmed. Then Peter decides he wants to seize the opportunity and attacks the High Priest’s servant cutting off his ear. Peter’s knee jerk reaction spurs Jesus to let everyone know he is not seeking violence but will go peacefully. In fact he rebukes Peter by asking him, “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” This is his way of saying to Peter, “This all has to happen. This has been set since the beginning of time. I must do as the Father says in order to accomplish the plan from the start.” As we can see Jesus has accepted the mission the Father has given to Him. His death on the cross was not a hiccup in the plan of God. It was THE plan from the beginning.
Jesus was arrested and bound by the soldiers and taken before the Father in law Annas of the High Priest (who was Caiaphas). Annas is also called the High Priest in other passages so there is some debate over why he is also called the High Priest. Some suggest that Caiaphas and Annas shared the position and others suggest that since he was High Priest before Caiaphas that he was probably retired from the position but still held the title.
Peter and another unnamed disciple followed Jesus to Annas’ courtyard. It is suggested that this “other disciple” was John (Just an FYI). Peter stayed outside but the other disciple was known by Annas entered the courtyard. Eventually Peter was allowed to come in but in the meantime he was and a group of people were warming themselves around the fire and the door keeper questions as to whether he was a follower of Jesus. Certainly Peter was fearful for personal safety thus denies that he is. Of course we can only speculate as to his motivation in denial of Jesus but we know for certain he must deny Jesus three times because this is what Jesus prophesy’s.
I love that the Gospels put in the accounts of Peter. I have no reservation that Peter was known as the hot head or the one who just did and didn’t think about consequences. We also know Peter was one of Jesus’ inner circle. He shared intimate moments with the Messiah, he had the faith to go out and walk on the water (even if it was only for a moment), and he was promised by Jesus to be the Rock on which He would build his church. Yet he is portrayed as 100% flawed human in the Gospels and I am thankful for that. He cuts the ear off the guard, he denies Jesus three times to which he assured Jesus he would NEVER do. Peter is a great example of a flawed follower of Jesus; and my friends we are all flawed followers of Jesus. We all do things in our Christian walk we are not proud of. There may be times where you remain silent when you should speak up, or you may not have the “proper” reaction or response to certain things in your life or better yet maybe you, like Peter have denied Jesus in public.
I have heard so many people say, “Christians think they are perfect, always right and judgmental.” Yes, there are Christians who may have that attitude but we all know (which is evident in this passage) since the beginnings of Christianity followers of Jesus were flawed. The same goes for us today. We are not perfect, we should strive to not be “know it alls” and we certainly should not be judgmental. However there are times we are and thankfully we have a Savior who is forgiving, understanding and loving to his followers… warts and all.
In this passage we see the curtain rising to the final “act” if you will in the Gospel account. The irony to the Good news of this story is that tragedy must strike in order for the news to be good. Since the time of creation this has been the plan of God. Jesus must take this cup and he must drink it in order for those who believe to be redeemed. What I find most beautiful is our perfect Savior lovingly, willingly and obediently goes to the cross of Calvary to give life to us the flawed followers of Jesus. Rejoice in this today. Know you have a Savior who has all the power of God available to him (even so much that at the mere mention of the name of God his enemies fall over) and yet he humbles himself to the point of death so that we who believe may have life and have it abundantly.
Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. On spine: Critical and explanatory commentary. (Jn 18:6). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.