Reading for Wednesday, Jan. 25: John 18
In John 18, the passion of Jesus moves forward swiftly. We begin with Jesus in the peaceful serenity of the garden, a place He and His disciples visited often (v2). The chapter closes with the image of Jesus standing before the angry mob as they chant their desire for Barabbas, not Jesus.
John records an interesting piece of information in v6: As the soldiers approach, led by Judas, Jesus meets them and declares His identity. At this, “they drew back and fell to the ground (v6).” In John’s remembrance of this story, he gives us a little nugget that Matthew, Mark, and Luke do not record. The image emerges here of a powerful Jesus, not a man who has been captured by the might of the temple guard, but rather one who has the power to drive these men to their knees with a single word. At the declaration of His identity as Son of God / Messiah / Lord, this armed guard falls to the ground — a foreshadowing of the event that Paul writes about in Philippians 2, a day when every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Jesus is strong to willingly lay down His life. John will also record for us later that Jesus didn’t “die”; He “gave up His spirit” (19:30). Jesus remains in complete control here, even to the end.
This isn’t Peter’s finest hour. In an act of valor, he strikes off Malchus’ ear, and Jesus rebukes Him for it. In an act of cowardice, he wilts at the simple question of a servant girl. In an act of betrayal, he denies that he follows Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I can relate to all three of these experiences. Sometimes we want to do great things for the Lord, and perhaps our exuberance leads us down a headlong path that He never intended for us to take. In other moments, we find it so difficult to stand up and do the right thing; herd mentality, peer pressure — these are ever present forces in our lives, regardless of our age or position. And the simple confession that brings us life — “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God” — those same words get stuck in our throats sometimes and, just like Peter, our words or our actions betray His lordship in our lives. And yet, as we’ll see, the chapter isn’t finished on Peter here. Jesus still has use for this headstrong, exuberant, fearful, deceptive disciple. And thankfully, He still has use for those of us who are more like Peter than we’d like to admit.
I could write volumes about what Jesus says in v36: “My kingdom is not of this world.” In speaking with Pilate, Jesus is explaining His Kingdom’s origins. I think a better translation is “My kingdom is not from this world.” The Kingdom of God originates elsewhere, but it is a Kingdom FOR this world. As Jesus Himself prays, May your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. In Christ’s Kingdom, His followers do not wage war and conquer enemies in the traditional manner. As Jesus will demonstrate, God’s Kingdom is predicated on self-giving love. And the greatest demonstration of that love is still to come.
What about you? What are your thoughts on John 18?