John 18:1-11 and Matthew 26:36-46
To sleep or not to sleep?
Jesus experiences His last hours of freedom on this earth, and He wants to spend them with His Father and His friends. Having prayed for Himself, His disciples and followers down through the ages, He asks His closest disciples to support Him with prayer, both for Himself and them. (Compare Matthew 26:38.) Jesus wants to share this time as He is in great anguish over the coming events. The divine course was set but He, in His human nature, still struggled. (Read Hebrews 5:7-9.) Jesus was not rebelling against His Father’s will when He asked that the cup be taken away. In fact, He reaffirmed His desire to do God’s will by saying, “I want your will, not mine!” His prayer reveals to us His terrible suffering. His agony was worse than death because He paid for all sin by being separated from God. The sinless Son of God took our sins upon Himself to save us from suffering and separation. Because of the anguish He faced, He can relate to our suffering.
His strength to obey came from His relationship with God as His Father, who is also the source of our strength. (See John 17:11, 15, 16, 21, 26.) He experienced the power of the flesh that calls us to disobey God and He determined to receive the strength from the Father to enable Him to be an over-comer in the greatest attack of the enemy the world has ever seen.
Jesus must have felt a real sense of disappointment with His friends as they slept when He needed them most. (Compare Matthew 26:40.) He did not allow any anger or resentment to get hold of Him as He had a job that needed doing for His Father. God’s question to us today is: can we not give Him one hour of our day to pray at this vital time in history? Jesus also warns and promises that we must keep alert and pray, so that we may be prepared when temptation comes, that we will not be overpowered by it. Things might have been very different for Peter if he had not slept!
Our spirit is willing but our body is weak. Tell it who is in charge and make the best choice!
When Jesus decided that His time had come to fulfil His destiny, He went out to meet His captors, the glory of God must have been all over Him, because as He used the name of God they fell backwards, overcome by the power and authority in the name. (“I AM”- John 18:6).
To help or not to help?
Peter wakes up as Judas and the soldiers arrive to take Jesus away and he reacts very naturally with anger, wanting to protect Jesus. All he saw was that his leader was being badly treated and Judas was the cause of it. His immediate reaction was to help Jesus out, so he attacks the High Priest’s servant and cuts off his ear. Jesus immediately responds in love, with no condemnation towards Peter. Peter must have been very indignant that Jesus was not thrilled with his quick thinking and bravery. How often do we become impatient when God has told us what is going to happen, but we do not know how He will work that out, so we try to help Him and, in fact, make the situation worse. (Compare the example of Abraham in Genesis 16.)
Some examples of ways we help God:
- We speak when He says, “keep quiet. I will vindicate.”
- We rap someone over the knuckles when He can deal with it.
- We tell a pastor where he is wrong when God tells us to pray.
- We move when God has said to wait.
- We leave when God has said to stay.
- We set up a ministry when God never asked us to do so.
- We hold onto a ministry when we think it cannot keep going without us.
- We jump to conclusions, because we have such a narrow perspective, but God has the broad picture.
The answer: Hebrews 10:35-36.
When you have the word of God for your particular problem, but it looks as if God has forgotten His promise to you, that is when you need to make a decision not to help God out! Instead, remain constant and let your patience rise up to join with your faith in His word and you will see this promise become a reality.
To speak or not to speak?
Although Jesus’ trial lasted less than eighteen hours, He was taken into six different hearings.
The preliminary hearing was before Annas (John 18:12-24) who was still the “official” High Priest in the eyes of the Jewish people.
The second hearing was the one before Caiaphas. (See Matthew 26:57-68.) This was conducted at night and in secrecy. It was full of illegalities that made a mockery of justice.
The third trial was before the Supreme Court. (See Matthew 27:1-2.) Just after daybreak, seventy members of the Jewish Supreme Court met to rubber-stamp their approval of the previous hearings and to justify their own previous decision about Jesus’ guilt.
There were then three hearings before the secular authorities. The first was before Pilate, the Roman governor (Luke 23:1-5). The religious leaders had condemned Jesus to death on religious grounds but only the Roman government could grant the death penalty. So, Jesus was accused of treason and rebellion, crimes for which the Roman government gave the death penalty. Pilate saw at once that Jesus was innocent, but he was afraid of the uproar being caused by the religious leaders.
The next hearing was before Herod (Luke 23:6-12). Pilate sent Jesus to Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, (where Jesus had been officially resident) because Herod was in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. Herod was eager to see Jesus do a miracle but, when Jesus remained silent, Herod wanted nothing to do with Him and sent Him back to Pilate.
The final hearing was before Pilate again. (See Luke 23:13-25.) He did not like the religious leaders. He wasn’t interested in condemning Jesus because he knew Jesus was innocent. However, he knew that another uprising in his district might cost him his job. He tried to compromise with the religious leaders by having Jesus beaten, but finally he gave in and handed Jesus over to be executed. His self-interest was stronger than his sense of justice.
During that eighteen hour period, Jesus stood before all the top people in the land, yet no one had the courage to go against the crowd and defend Him or speak up for Him and declare any of His mighty miracles. None of those healed was called on to give their testimony. All the “evidence” was presented by calling false witnesses.
Many religious leaders today, even when faced with the truth of God’s word, (such as the signs that follow the preaching of the word – Mark 16:17 – and the signs of the times – Matthew 24 – still deny the Lordship of Christ. They choose to “tickle peoples’ ears” rather than speak the truth (2 Timothy 4:3) because they love the praise from people rather than from God (John 12:43). We have to be constantly aware that any of us can nullify the word of God in our lives and in our churches, just by holding on to our traditions (Matthew 15:6). The disciples also had their opportunity to speak up (John 18:27), but they too let their Messiah down. After the death and resurrection they must have felt so guilty.
We need to be constantly aware of opportunities to share Jesus, so that people will see the truth. They need see the amazing works of God, done through us and in us. The fact that Jesus is alive today is demonstrated in the way that we love one another.
“My Kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36. Jesus knew where He had come from, why He came, and where He was going. This is vital for us too, so that, even when facing the most traumatic situations, we can look to the future with confidence.
Home challenges for Power Up! – No. 29: How far will you go?
1. Read the notes: “To sleep or not to sleep?”
a) Do you find it hard to set a time aside every day to pray or to read the word of God?
b) Do you have a plan you could share to help others?
2. How has God strengthened you in a time of crisis?
3. Read the notes: “To help or not to help?”
a) Have you ever tried to help God answer your prayer?
b) Have you lost patience and taken things into your own hands?
4. Put “the answer” into your own words.
5. Read the notes: “To speak or not to speak?” Write down at least one thing that challenges you about the fact that Jesus said nothing, despite such pressure.
6. Are there any traditions that you hold on to, that you must lay aside, so that the word has freedom to work?
7. a) When you meet Jesus face to face, which person in this Bible text will you be most like? (Herod, Pilate, the soldiers, the chief priests, the women, the criminals, the disciples, or none of the above.)
Read John 19:1-16
8. Try to put yourself in Pilate’s position.
a) Why do you think he had Jesus flogged? (John 19:1)
b) How did he try to persuade the crowd that Jesus was not guilty? (John 19:4-6).
9. a) What was the root cause of Pilate’s reaction to the crowd and the religious people? (John 19:8)
b) What prevented Pilate choosing to do what was right?
10. What was the true charge of the Jewish people against Jesus? (John 19:7)
Read John 19:17-42 very carefully
11. Ask the Holy Spirit to make this true account very real to you. What spoke to you most?
12. Name each punishment that Jesus goes through, giving verses. For example, “flogging” – John 19:1.
13. Describe Jesus’ care for His mother.
14. According to John, what words did Jesus speak on the cross?
15. How was Jesus’ crucifixion different from others? (John 19:31-37)
16. Who buried Jesus and what was the state of the grave?
17. Choose one verse out of this chapter that really means something to you and learn it by heart!
18. Try and sum up what you have learned in one short sentence.