Ever get in over your head? Dig yourself into a hole unsure how to get out? a math class is one thing; quite another when it’s relationships, situations that impact others…
We are looking at Jesus’ final week leading to Easter. It’s Thursday, the day before Jesus dies. It’s the night of the last Supper (which is the basis for our once a month communion). Jesus offered a most amazing prayer found in John 17. The disciples and Jesus go to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus suffered knowing what was coming. Jesus is betrayed and arrested. The disciples are lost as their world falls apart. I am limiting the scope of this message to the arrest of Jesus in John 18:1-12.
The Gospel of John is fascinating. John’s perspective as he tells the story of Jesus is quite different from Matt., Mark & Luke. Together the four gospels make a powerful testimony of Jesus Christ, but each is a bit different. John is a LOT different. A truth can be told from different angles. Let’s say I was in an accident recently… I glanced down. I wasn’t going that fast. I bumped into the car ahead of me…the police came to the scene and the other driver shouted, “He CRASHED into me.” Who’s right? Both. Same event, different perspective….
John’s tells the story of Jesus Christ with 20/20 hindsight. The other gospels have the perspective of “this is what happened” as they walk through the life, teaching and miracles of Jesus. John it is more like “Now I understand… at the time I did not get Jesus, but now my eyes are opened and I know He is the Savior, sent by God to redeem the world.” After Jesus was raised from the dead the disciples looked back and understood Jesus was always in control. In the book of John, Jesus is like the conductor of a symphony controlling the instruments, the pace, the blending, the rhythm, the whole…. On Thursday, the day before Jesus died, it seemed like a broken promise to the disciples, a crumbling world. Peter is in over his head; in desperation Peter cut off the ear of a servant (sidenote: If I were a betting man I think Peter had bad aim and he was trying to kill the servant.)
All the disciples were afraid as they neared the end/cowards, argued with Jesus. As John looks back and pens the greatest story of all time, he realizes Jesus was absolutely in control at all times. 20/20 hindsight is good when it helps us gain a healthy perspective today. When you are in over your head and your world spinning out of control, you can fight and try to control, in essence binding God up, or you can look back and regain the truth that God is always in control. There is only one reason Jesus can be tied up: He allows it. It’s healing/refreshing as we look back at our life and realize God was in control far more than we realized at the time. That’s why the greatest treasures among us are Christians that have walked with the Lord many years…. Treasure the perspective, listen to the stories. At the food bank this week I asked Harold M. about his life, and he told me about a job he was so discouraged that he did not get, but looking back, God had other plans…
Mark Harmon is the star of the tv show NCIS… I clicked on a little story about him and secrets of his long marriage. The article spoke of his looking back and gaining a different perspective: “Harmon has had plenty of experience navigating fame over the years. He is the son of sportscaster Tom Harmon and ‘40s screen star Elyse Knox. “My parents kept things real — I had no idea they were famous,” he said. “In fact, it didn’t hit me until one day when I was riding in the car with my father in Ann Arbor, Mich. – I was maybe 8 and could barely see above the dashboard – and we stopped at a crosswalk. "Suddenly, we were surrounded by people who recognized my dad and were really thrilled to see him. I remember looking at this man I thought I knew so well and thinking, ‘Who are you?’” (from article by Stephanie Nolasco)
John does something like that before he pens the story of Jesus. He looks back and asks, “Who are you?” It’s a great question for us to ask of Jesus, “Who are you?” In our present day of overwhelming confusion with crazy politicians, hard to understand conflicts, competing interests, meanness, division, our minds explode. We will never find contentment by trying to understand the world. The better way to find peace is to look to Jesus and ask “Who are you?” Whenever we are in over our heads its because we are trying to control, we think too much of ourselves, we overinflate our abilities…
As John looks back, he sees what he did not see at the time: “I get it now,” John is implicitly saying, “Jesus was always in control, even at that lowest point when we were in the garden and they came to arrest him. At the time it was the worst, everything was falling apart, everything Jesus taught us, all our hopes for a better future, a restored nation, gone. But now I look back and now I can see that Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. He always knew.” Let’s walk through today’s scripture.
READ John 18:1… this is the route to Bethany, where they had been staying each night as they were getting ready for the Passover, but on this night, it appears Jesus decided to spend the night in the olive grove. He knew the events about to unfold…
READ John 18:2… a familiar place. A safe place, so they thought…boom, they are suddenly in over their heads…
READ John 18:3… they apparently also had a rope to bind him… this verse sets the stage for the final conflict. At this moment it must seem hopeless. The whole world, the establishment, is there against Jesus… Judas the betrayer, one of Jesus own disciples. Roman soldiers. Officials from the chief priests…. Pharisees…. None of these groups even like each other, yet they come together to arrest Jesus, to tie him up. It’s an unholy alliance. At the time, surely the disciples thought it was over….
But then John turns on his 20/20 hindsight vision: READ John 18:4. Looking back, John understood Jesus was always in control. Jesus initiates the situation. He goes to those that are there to arrest him. Jesus knows exactly what is coming. Jesus is the conductor as he asks the lynch mob , “who is it you want?” You need to fully understand this question. Jesus isn’t asking the mere factual answer if his name. Embedded in this question is a question of his character, his nature, his purpose. Who is it you want? Another way to ask the question, “Who are you?” On a practical note, did they really not know what Jesus looked like? Probably. It’s dark, lanterns give off bouncing reflections, several hundred thousand people are in Jerusalem at this point…no most wanted posters circulating… By asking the question Jesus is setting them up to dig deeper into His very nature….
READ John 18:5-6. If you are not familiar with the Bible it would be easy to be confused as to what just happened. “I am He” ~ perhaps no more important words spoken by Jesus Christ. Through-out John it is well known there are a series of “I am” statements: the bread of life, the light of the world, the door of the sheep, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way the truth and the life, the vine. And now he declares, “I am He.” Jesus is bringing to mind that great scene in Ex. 3:13-14, several thousand years earlier, in which Moses stood before the burning bush and God spoke to Moses as he was sending Moses to go to Egypt to lead the people out of bondage: “Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’, Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I am has sent me to you.”
To Judas, the priests and Pharisees, Jesus can only be crazy or it’s true. As John looks back with his 20/20 hindsight he knows the truth: they are on holy ground. In the presence of the Almighty, they fall back. Even the unbelieving Roman soldiers. Is it fear. A sudden awareness of unworthiness. John knows the truth as they look back: they are there to arrest Jesus Christ, fully human, but fully God. Tie Him up.
Jesus is the conductor. He’s not really arrested, he gives himself up… they did not need all their weapons, a legion of soldiers… READ John 18:7-12 with comments…
What a crazy idea: tie God up. Are you nuts! God is powerful, almighty, nothing he cannot do. There is only one reason he can be bound up… he allows it. That’s what John is showing us as Jesus willingly gives himself up to the mob. We tie God up because he lets us. We get in over our heads and panic. We put conditions on Jesus. We scream at him that he is not doing enough. He is getting off our script. We want control.
We know the truth of Jesus’ character/power… even the Roman soldiers fell when they heard him pronounce “I am he.” When God spoke to Moses in the burning bush he told him to go unbind his fellow Israelites and free the slaves. Now the mob comes to Jesus the night before he dies on the cross to tie Jesus up….Crazy to try and control God because he is too threatening. / too challenging.
Each of you need to go forward in your faith, deepen your walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. We’re going forward as a church. In this overwhelming world there will be times feeling like we are out of control, tempted to think God isn’t doing enough. When you are frustrated with the world, your life, depressed, overwhelmed, the temptation is to try and get God back on our script, to limit Him, to dictate to Him what He is supposed to be, to tie him up.
Jesus allows himself to be tied up. At least for a time. He gives himself up to the mob. He willingly dies for our sake. When he says, “Shall I not drink the cup the father has given me?” He’s talking to Peter who has just cut off the ear of the servant trying to stop the arrest. I.e. Peter, do you really want to do this your way? Jesus in control.
You gotta laugh at the idea of binding God up…this scripture is absurd the way John tells the story looking back as he now understands who Jesus really is… it’s healthy for us to laugh at ourselves too… It was good for me to almost fail pre-calculus to gain a healthier perspective on myself! Laugh at your spiritual mistakes too. We can try to tie God up, He’ll let us, but don’t think he can’t break the ropes. He is not going to stay bound forever. Spoiler alert: He rises from the dead, He is alive!
When you are in over your head, discouraged by the world, uncertain, there are two ways to respond: you can fight it, try to control it, bind God up, or in faith put your focus back on Jesus Christ and ask him in complete sincerity, “Who are you?” Amen.