134. A lonely man, a dark night.

[John 18]

Everything that takes place in the dark is different from anything in daylight. People getting together during the day are working or visiting for a quick word or two. Lunch parties are so essentially unlike dinner parties. The evening brings a certain relaxation, a time frame that could be stretched. These days dressing for occasions like lunch and dinner parties might not be so contrasting, but true evening wear is never right for middle of the day events. Activities of the light, taking place in the dark, like feasts for the celebration of love and life are full of joy and merriment with a delightful spread of good food and drink to indulge the participants.

Then there is another kind of activity reserved for darkness; more for the cover and camouflage that darkness gives. Robberies, housebreaking and other criminal activities generally take place in the night. Nighttime can be used in positive and negative ways. Darkness is often a metaphor for dark deeds and dark thoughts. God is usually not associated with darkness, although we have to know that God is everywhere, even in the thickest darkness where one would expect only the most evil presence.

 And the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.(Exodus 20:21)

Praise God that He is everywhere. He will never leave us, even if our night is darker and more evil than ever. Jesus also had a very dark night when the authorities arrested Him and took Him to face the leaders of His beloved people for whom He came to earth. Most of the disciples fled when the soldiers recovered from their powerful meeting with Jesus and grabbed Him to deliver Him to Annas and Caiaphas as they were ordered to do.

PETER ‘s role in this night of darkness, which is metaphoric as it should have been a night with a full moon close to the Passover, is discussed in two passages. (18:15-18 and 18:25-27)

 Peter did not flee with the other disciples. He followed Jesus even after the arrest. He followed to the house of Caiaphas in the company of another disciple. It was an extremely brave thing to do.

Many speculations exist about the “other” disciple. The most likely possibility is that it is John himself. How could an ordinary fisherman be known to the High Priest?

It is possible that because John’s father had a flourishing fishing business, he could afford to employ hired servants (Mark 1:20). One of the great Galilean industries was salt fish. It was almost impossible to transport fresh fish in the heat. Salted fish was a staple article in the diet of the time. It has been suggested that John’s father was in the salted fish industry and that he was the supplier to the High Priest. John could have been well known to the household of the High Priest as he often carried the supplies. So it could have been through John that Peter got access into the courtyard where he could observe Jesus from a distance.

It is here in this courtyard that Peter is confronted and associated with Jesus. It was casual confrontations because of his accent, one from a slave girl, not even from anyone in authority. He denies that he even knows Jesus – three times. (Luke 22:55-60)

According to Jewish ritual law it was unlawful to keep cocks in Jerusalem, although it is not certain whether this law has been upheld at this stage. The Romans had a military practice. The night was divided into four watches of three hours each. After the third watch the guard was changed and to mark this, the trumpet was sound at 3am. The sounding of the trumpet was called the cockcrow. Everyone in Jerusalem heard that, and when Peter heard, he remembered the words of Jesus.

Peter’s denial has been the subject of many sermons and comments over the years. Peter’s desire to support Jesus is undeniable. He drew his sword in the garden and he was present in a situation where he could have been dragged off and imprisoned just for being where he was. Yes, he failed in courage, but only because he was in a situation which the others did not even face.

Peter loved Jesus – that is a fact. He was in that courtyard because of love and loyalty.

Peter was redeemed. One must realize that the story of his denial would get around and he would suffer great humiliation with a sense of profound failure. But Peter did not flee from his family in Jesus, the other disciples. He found refuge in their company and somehow found his way back behind the closed doors where the disciples waited in fear after the crucifixion.

Jesus saw his courage, his loyalty, his love. Jesus looked at him there across the courtyard, not in reproach, but in love. The eyes of Jesus that night preserved Peter’s soul. Jesus saw his dear friend buckle under the pressure of vicious judgment and the overwhelming odds of heartless and brutal authority. He communicated His love and redemption to Peter and that preserved Peter in a night of bitter regret and breakdown.

Jesus loves us in spite of what we do. Jesus keeps us safe even in our defeat. He restores our hearts. He forgives our sins – always.

In our darkest hour of defeat, we can look up and find the eyes of Jesus. It will preserve our souls. Peter turned to look at Jesus expecting to find the “I told you so”- stare of censure, but in stead he looked into the Source of love that saved him.

Here is one interesting lesson that stays with me as an encouragement in overwhelming situations. Jesus warned Peter that this is going to happen. Don’t we often feel that a situation in which we have reacted so shoddily would have been better if it were not so unexpected? We might think that a little warning could have alerted us to the circumstances and helped us to prepare and consequently respond more faithful and wise.

Peter had ample warning just shortly before the event. He brushed it off in his zeal and loyalty towards Jesus. All the warning that Jesus felt necessary did not enable Peter to avoid the situation. He stepped into the words in mindless alarm and answered in the fear and panic that engulfed the moment.

Sing the old song:

 Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

Keep in mind that Peter had the revelation from the Father that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:13-20). Revelation knowledge conserved him to overcome his lowest moment. His courage is amazing; his defeat diminishes in the light of his leadership in the church later on.

 

 

Here begins the trial of Jesus. Here in John is a most dramatic account of these events. It runs from John 18:28-40 through 19:1-16.

 

 

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133. Men in the night.

[John 18]

We have come to the beginning of the end of a man’s life that changed the world forever.  It was to be the beginning of the unthinkable; impacting mankind into eternity. Events are set in motion by various groups of men in the night.

When the last meal was finished, Jesus and His disciples departed for the Garden of Gethsemane. They would have left by the gate of the city and go down the steep valley to cross the canal of the Kidron stream. It is into this stream that the blood of the Passover lambs would drain after their blood was sprinkled at the altar of the Temple.

On the slopes of the Mount of Olives lay a little garden. Gethsemane means oil-press. Oil was extracted from the olive trees there. Many wealthy people had private gardens there. Jerusalem was too crowded for gardens and the ceremonial rules forbade soil or manure in the sacred city.

Visitors to Jerusalem are shown a little garden of about eight olive trees; so old they look like rock. They can be traced back to the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem, not really to the time of Jesus, but the paths beneath them were surely trodden by the feet of Jesus.

Some wealthy friend of Jesus probably gave Him the key to this garden to use whenever He needed peace and quiet. Judas knew it and he planned the arrest there.

John states there was a company of soldiers plus the officers from the chief priests and Pharisees. The officers were the Temple police. The Temple had police to keep order and the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council of 70) had police to carry out their decrees. There was also a band of Roman soldiers.  The Greek word used is speira.  It had three meanings: a Roman cohort, which means 600 men or auxiliary soldiers of 1000 men (240 cavalry and 760 infantry). It is sometimes used for a detachment of 200 men.

Even the word in the last meaning indicated an overwhelming force to arrest a simple Galilean carpenter. The authorities were clearly very scared of Jesus and His influence and expected a small war. They sent an army to grab Him!! Just think how surprisingly simple the arrest took place – in surrender and peace – fully under the control of Jesus himself.

 

  • Jesus is courageous. They came with torches as if they had to search in dark places. Remember it was Passover and full moon. The night would have been very light. He was not hiding. He presented himself and declared himself to be the one they are looking for.

 

  • Jesus had the true authority. He stood while the army fell to the ground. His word bowled them over. It is always like that.

 

  • Jesus chose to die, He gave himself for the arrest. He helped them to put God’s plan in motion. This made Judas panic. He hoped for a miraculous confrontation with Roman authorities. [Pebbles 124]

 

  • His love protected his disciples. He presented himself to save His friends.

 

  • He was in full obedience – “drinking the cup of God”.

Peter drew his sword – he was willing to fight. He was willing to die right there and then.  He drew his sword against an overwhelming armed force. Peter’s was one of the lead characters of this night. We will discuss his role a bit later.

First, the authorities.

ANNAS (18:12-14 and 19-24)

In both these passages Jesus is before Annas. Only John mentions this. Annas was the power behind the throne of the high priest.  He was high priest from 6-15 AD. Four of his sons held the office and Caiaphas was his son-in-law.

There was a time when the office of the High Priest was held for life. It seems that at this time a system of rotation has been implemented. Caiaphas was the high priest that year. Because of all the intrigue, corruption and bribery, the priest had to be in line with the Romans. The high priest was a collaborator and lived in ease, comfort, prestige and power. The family of Annas was very rich and he was the power behind it all – knowing how to play the game.

The moneychangers and traders in the Court of the Gentiles were solely in the service of the high priest. One can just imagine the high profit margins of everything going on there. Do you remember Jesus’ anger when He cleaned them out? Can you imagine how Annas would have reacted to the reports of the cleansing-episodes? (Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15, John 2: 14,15) The shops inside the Temple were called the Bazaars of Annas. He was notorious.

Jesus was brought to Annas. He touched Annas directly with the cleansing of the Temple. Annas wanted to be the first to confront Him.

The questioning before Annas was a mockery of justice. A death sentence cannot be imposed on a person’s own testimony. One cannot ask questions by which a prisoner incriminates himself. Jesus says: Don’t ask Me, ask those who heard Me. He was saying: Handle the evidence in a proper and legal way. Ask the witnesses, you have no right to ask Me.

One of the officers slapped Him. He was in effect telling Jesus not to instruct the high priest how to conduct the trial. Jesus confronted the soldier and asked if he had said anything illegal. If this was going to be a credible trial, get the witnesses.

Jesus knew he had no hope of justice. He was condemned before he was tried. He had to be eliminated, so that their lifestyle was not to be threatened. Who cares whether the Galilean preacher receives justice?

A simple web search gives much information on the Sanhedrin. It was an established court based in Jerusalem with strict guidelines on how to function. Most probably a trial like this should not have been conducted in the night. The nightly trial, executed by Annas and Caiaphas was a strategy to exclude the members who sympathized with the teachings of Jesus, like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

Jesus was condemned and sent to Pilate on his own words. No witnesses could be found and the concocted witnesses could not agree – a flagrant injustice by the highest law of Judaism.

In the Gospel of Luke Jesus is asked to openly confess that He is the Son of God:

“If You are the Christ, tell us.”

But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. 

And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. 

 Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.” Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?”

So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.”

And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”

In the court of Pilate, the Jewish elders ask Pontius Pilate to judge and condemn Jesus, accusing him of claiming to be the King of the Jews. Such a claim would be considered as subversive since it would challenge the authority of the Romans.

In all four Gospels the denial of Peter is described within the narrative of the nightly trial. We will leave that for next time.

 

132. Words of glory and truth.

[John17]

In the very beginning of the study of John we have marveled at the miracle of a word becoming flesh. If I may repeat myself: St Augustine said in everything he ever knew about the world, everything he read and regarded as worth studying, he had never heard of a word becoming a man. [Pebbles 84]

If a word can become flesh, we must think hard and deep about the power of a word. God spoke the world into being. Prophecy, Holy Spirit-inspired words, declares the works and mind of God, today as always in the past. Just think of the mighty words of the prophets and Psalms that stayed with us through so many centuries, still bringing peace and miraculous outcome to our lives.

Worship-words describe the character of God and call the presence of the almighty God into our atmosphere. When we speak God, we build up, encourage, calm down, heal and convey the power of the invisible to transform for good. When we speak the slander, jealousy, greed, guilt and pride of our flesh, we break down in our own lives as well as those of everybody around us.

Words spoken become agreements with the powers of the invisible world. Words of confession will heal our inner being. Words of forgiveness will free our thinking and those who have wronged us. Words of celebration will defeat our jealous hearts and become the prayers of gratitude for the great works of God in us and for us.

How we look determine our words. Our perspective can defeat us, before we even venture out for the day. Jesus talked about our eyes many, many times. Let me quote just one example to illustrate our perspective.

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22,23)

It calls for great reflection on what we speak. Jesus said:

But those things which proceed out of the mouthcome from the heart, and they defile a man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” (Matthew 15:18-20)

Our vile words become agreements in the invisible world with everything bad and invite the destruction of darkness into our lives. On the other hand, agreements with the Word of God is a force for good and invite the Holy Spirit to work powerfully on our behalf to build up and restore.

In the light of this enlightened understanding about the power of words, hear the words your Jesus prayed for you.

Hear, precious Pebblepal, and live!

These verses are awesome. (John 17:9-19)

If we could ever grasp the full meaning of these words we will have a heavenly life on earth.

We are given to Jesus by God. The Holy Spirit moves in our hearts to come to Jesus. (John 6:37,44)

Through the disciples (including us), glory comes to Jesus. Our redeemed lives give Him glory. We are given a task, a commission. We lead the world back to God.

We are the instruments of God in action.

Does this not put your whole life in another perspective? Place your circumstances into heavenly perspective and “see” how God deals with it according to His plan and for His glorification.

Jesus offers complete joy even while He is warning them about the stark contrast that their lives will be to the world around them. It does not matter how fierce our struggle is, it is full of His joy.

Jesus claims that all that He has is his Father’s and all that his Father has, is His. He declares His oneness with the Father. Jesus is the incarnation of God Himself.

Jesus prays further for His disciples:

There is no escape from the world, but there is victory in every struggle. We do not bury ourselves in monasteries. We live our Christian life in the rough and tumble of life in the storm waters of evil. We do shut the door for prayer and meditation, but just to be strong to face the world.  We are not to withdraw, but to be God in action in the world. We do not get release from problems but get to solve them through Christ.

We do not abandon the world; we win it for Christ.

He prays for unity.

Division implies exclusivity. Unity is a decision. We cannot “feel” one. We are to be made one. We change our hearts to love unconditionally, to forgive and to include. We follow the lead of the Holy Spirit to discern the spirits, which could be demonic deception or discord.

The unity for which Jesus prayed is not administrative or organizational. It is a unity of personal relationship, love and a heart to heart conversation with Him – ongoing and inexhaustible that would impact our relationship with our fellow humans.

Churches as organized religion may differ as much as the variety of the people that God created. People are different and the differences and variety always amaze me. God’s creation – mankind – is always expanding and always more than can be understood in a single take. So is the church. Only love for God and each other can tear down the barriers of hostility between the denominations.

It is after all more human to be divided; more natural to be hostile. Our unity will prove God’s work in our hearts. True unity can only be supernatural and be explained supernaturally.

He prays for protection from attacks of evil.The Word, the Bible as we have it, spells out all the strategies of the devil. Our enemy is not creative and he comes cunningly with the same things over and over. Learn and know how to resist. Rely on the protection of this prayer.

He prays for consecration by truth.

Consecration (Greek=hagiazein) means separate or different:  to be set apart for a specific purpose, an appointment by God.

 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.(Jeremiah 1:5)

(See also Exodus 28:41 where Aaron’s sons are anointed)

It also means: to be equipped with the necessary qualities for the task.

Jesus will not leave us. He gives us everything we need to come into victory.

In John 17:20 – 26 the prayer progresses. He prays for Himself and the cross.

He prays for His disciples and for the distant future, the ages to come and all those who enter the Christian faith. This is US!

Jesus has complete faith and radiant certainty in the future. He conveys His unshaken confidence in His mission and His men. He knew they did not fully understand the full implication of their chosen path, but He knew His father would empower them for the task – and also all who come after them.

Jesus gives us God’s glory. WOW!

The cross was Jesus’ glory. It was His honour to suffer.  It was not punishment for sin. It is a great effort to bring glory into evil. When a surgeon saves by difficult surgery, his glory is so much bigger than a prescription in a consulting room.

Perfect obedience was Jesus’ glory. To do the will of God is our glory. Our will leads to sorrow and disaster. His will leads to victory.

Jesus’ glory was grounded in His special relationship with God the Father. It was clear to all. So should our glory shine from our relationship with God. Glory is a word with a fullness of meaning, difficult to express. It is the substantial or “heavy” honour, splendour, power, wealth, authority, magnificence, dignity, riches and excellency of God – an effort with words to describe the indescribable.

Jesus said that the disciples (us included) shall see His glory in heavenly places.

 …and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6,7)

 We share the Cross of suffering, but also share the glory of victory.

This is a faithful saying:

For if we died with Him,    We shall also live with Him.
If we endure,    We shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him,    He also will deny us.
If we are faithless,    He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.
(2 Timothy 2:11,12)

Our joy now is just a glimpse of heavenly joy when we see Him face to face.

 Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

This prayer was the words before the betrayal and crucifixion. Precious last words of the greatest of men.

Words of glory and truth – words to live by – words to change us forever.

 

131. The prayer of prayers.

[John 17]

We have come to the end of the long summaries of Jesus’ conversations with His disciples. In this chapter He prays for them. It is remarkable that John records this prayer in so much detail. It is clear that Jesus’ words made a huge impression on him and it was part of the cherished words of Jesus he so lovingly preserved.

We also know that the Bible was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and He quickened things in John to write about this Man he so loved. We trust God wholly for the Word. Holy Scripture is a revelation of who Jesus is and by Him we know the heart of the Almighty God as well as everything we need to know how to live a life of victory in Jesus here on earth.

[I refer again to the miracle of Scripture so extensively researched in Josh McDowell’s book: Evidence that demands a verdict.]

Back to John 17.

It is the prayer of all times, a prayer reaching over centuries to touch our hearts, encourage us, and inspire us. It is the man Jesus praying for us.

Could you pause for a moment and use your imagination to make this a reality? Think of Jesus praying for you. It is difficult to “make” a picture, but I am a visual person and need a “faith” picture. I think of Jesus as the lovely man I learnt to know in my children’s Bible from long ago. I often imagine Him sitting somewhere in my house. Right now I “see” Him looking up and saying to His father: Dad, I lift Ansophie up before your throne.Just writing it, is overwhelming.

Always KNOW that Jesus wants all men to be saved. He is praying for you!

who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)

The climax of the life of Jesus was the cross.

History shows that many great men found glory in death. How and when they died showed the people their inner convictions.

There at the cross the centurion cried out in a dramatic moment of conviction. Jesus was a magnet to men in life but also in His very public death.

The Cross was the completion of His work on earth. He showed that there is NO LIMIT to the love of God.

He walked in full obedience and through the Cross obeyed His father.

The Cross was not the end. The resurrection was the full glorification of the Father. Man could do their worst and still Jesus triumphs.

The Cross was the way back into the glory of the Father.

Jesus talks about eternal life.

The Greek is aionios meaning not so much duration but quality. Only God has eternal life and therefore for us it can only mean that God gives us HIS life, God-life, to live like Him.

Knowing God is a goal right through the Old Testament.  Knowledge of God is the highest life possible.

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:6)

For the earth will be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
As the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)

For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: “Seek Me and live; (Amos 5:4)

To know God through intellectual knowledge is to know what God is like. It will make all the difference to life. The most primitive people believe in a collection of gods in every tree, river, mountain and rock. All these gods are hostile and brings fear to the people. They must appease and live carefully not to offend. Missionaries tell of the immense relief when they surrender to One God. God is not stern and cruel, but loving and kind. Jesus is the ultimate example of this.

To know means intimate knowledge and is used in a sexual context (Genesis 4:1). Knowledge between the husband and wife is the most intimate. They become one flesh. One flesh implies an intimacy of heart, mind and soul in which true love reigns. To know God is to have an intimate relationship with Him, not mere intellectual knowledge. It is only possible in Jesus through the working of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus has shown forth the Father’s name. (17: 6-8)

  1. A name is very important in the Old Testament and Jewish culture in the time of Jesus. The name contains the whole character of the person. Psalms 9:10 states that those who know God’s name will put their trust in Him. By His name they will know what God is like in His character and nature. (Psalms 20:7; 22:22)

My people shall know my Name. (Isaiah 52:6)

Jesus says that whoever saw Him, saw the Father (John 14:9).

  1. Another aspect of the name of God is that is was so sacred it was never used. Only the high priest going into the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement, used the name of God – Yahweh. It was a name with no vowels in Hebrew and under it they wrote Adonai, so that the reader could talk about Adonai when he reads and not even say YHWH, which became Jehovah in English.

In the time of Jesus, God was so holy and so far away that ordinary people hardly talked about him. Jesus came and put the name of a sacred God on the lips of every person who could whisper a prayer to Him. He taught them to say our Father; actually it was even closer – calling God dad. It was unheard of. They never called God Father. To most people it was unthinkable, blasphemous and disrespectful.

But for those who accepted the teaching of Jesus, the unutterable became the beloved and powerful Father.

Jesus obeys God. Obedience is a natural consequence of following Jesus. Obedience is to be fully submitted to listening to His voice and following up in action.

The disciples were given to Jesus by God. He did not choose to call only those. He calls all, but only those who heed the call can enter into the special relationship.

Parents have dreams for their children and can do everything possible to enable them to have a wonderful life. In the end the child chooses. He can refuse and walk away. We can choose our destiny. We have free will. It is not forced upon us, but we all have the opportunity to choose God as a father for our lives.

In this prayer Jesus has confidence in the future. Nowhere is He gloomy or uncertain about the future. With the luxury of hindsight the church was off to a rocky start with severe persecution, and Jesus knew it.

Jesus had no doubt that the people He was praying for will carry His message no matter what.

He does not despise small beginnings. (Zechariah 4:10) He had eleven men around Him after three years of ministry. Jesus knew His father and the fullness of His glory. He had no doubt that His mission was successful.

He puts His trust in men – it is almost unthinkable that a mission as great as the Christian church on earth was put in the hands of these fishermen.

What an encouragement!

Jesus was never daunted by human weakness and the evil of the world.

 

[This is a discussion of verses 1-8.]