INDEX

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. (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 human sin by being separated from God. The sinless Son of God took our sins upon Himself in order 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. This same God is also the source of our strength. (See John 17:11; John 17:15-16; John 17:21; John 17:26.) Jesus experienced the power of the flesh that calls us to disobey God, but He determined to receive 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. (Matthew 26:40) However, He did not allow any anger or resentment to get hold of Him because 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 spirits are willing but our bodies are weak. We must tell our bodies who is in charge and make the best choice!

When Jesus decided that the time had come to fulfil His destiny, He went out to meet His opponents. 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, either of the servant or Peter. Peter must have been really 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 16:1-16.)

Some examples of ways in which we may think that we can "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" (some service intended to glorify God) 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, forgetting that God always has the broad picture.

Patience

When we have a word from God for a particular problem, but it looks as if God has forgotten His promise to us, that is when we need to make a decision not to help God out! Instead, we must remain constant and let our patience rise up to join with our faith in His word. Then we shall see His promise become a reality. (Hebrews 10:35-36)

To speak or not to speak?

John 18:12-40

Although Jesus’ trial lasted less than eighteen hours, He was subjected to six different judicial procedures or hearings.

The preliminary hearing was before Annas who was still the "official" high priest in the eyes of the Jewish people. (John 18:12-24)

The second hearing was before Caiaphas. It was conducted at night and in secrecy. It was full of illegalities that made a mockery of justice. (Matthew 26:57-68)

The third trial was before the Supreme Court. Just after daybreak, seventy members of the Jewish supreme court met to rubber-stamp its approval of the previous hearings and to justify their own previous decision about Jesus’ guilt. (Matthew 27:1-2)

There were then three, further hearings before the secular authorities.

The fourth hearing was before Pilate, the Roman governor. The Jewish authorities had condemned Jesus to death on religious grounds but only the Roman government could grant the death penalty. Hence, Jesus was accused of treason and rebellion - crimes deserving of death under Roman law. Pilate saw at once that Jesus was innocent, but he was afraid of the uproar being caused by the Jewish leaders. (Luke 23:1-5)

The fifth hearing was before Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, (where Jesus had been officially resident). Pilate sent Jesus to Herod because Herod was in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration and Pilate may have been hoping to "pass the buck". As it happened, Herod had long been 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. (Luke 23:6-12)

The sixth and final hearing was before Pilate again. He did not like the Jewish religious authorities and wasn’t interested in condemning Jesus, because he knew that Jesus was innocent. However, he also 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 they were obdurate and Pilate finally gave in and handed Jesus over to be executed. His self-interest was stronger than his sense of justice. (Luke 23:13-25)

During that eighteen-hour period, Jesus stood before all the top people in the land, yet no one had the courage to speak up for Him. Nobody wanted to stand against the crowd, to defend Jesus, remind people of His mighty miracles or bear witness to how they themselves had been healed or delivered. The only "evidence" was that of false witnesses who claimed that Jesus had uttered blasphemies.

Many people today, including religious leaders, choose to remain silent, despite being familiar with God's word and despite having seen signs of God's activity through miracles and the testimony of believers throughout the world. Rather than acknowledge the lordship of Christ, they pour their time and resources into church organisations and the politics of the "world". They seek to re-interpret the teaching of the Bible according to whatever ideas or philosophies happen to be popular at the time. (2 Timothy 4:3) People love to be praised by others for their wisdom, insight and creative thinking, but give little heed to what God may think. (John 12:43)

We, too, have to be constantly aware that any of us can nullify the word of God in our lives (and in our churches) by holding on to our traditions. (Matthew 15:6) The disciples had their opportunity to speak up, but they too let their Messiah down. After the death and resurrection they must have felt so guilty. We need to be constantly on the lookout for opportunities to show that Jesus is a key part of our own lives and is extremely relevant when it comes to resolving so many of the deep-seated and pernicious problems of our day. People need to see and hear 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 - above all - 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 had come 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.


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