John 18:1-37 

JESUS: THE PERFECT SUFFERER

          There are only a few more chapters left in this Gospel of John. This morning we’re going to look at another image of Christ that His apostle gives us. Before we start though let me ask you a question. Please answer by raising your hand. Who here likes to suffer? No one? Just as I thought. You are all normal. In fact, we would think anyone who liked to suffer would be abnormal. And I think all psychologists would agree with us.

          And yet the picture we receive from John as he portrays Christ in this passage of his gospel is one of a suffering Saviour. At this point in the redemptive story, Jesus is being betrayed by someone close to Him, He is being arrested and put-on trial before His enemies. And yet even as he goes through these difficult trials, he still displays for us such a strength of character. 

          The apostle John shows us a picture of Jesus as the perfect sufferer. What I mean by this is that even when the time came for Jesus to go to the cross and suffer the most horrible, torturous death for us, He didn’t avoid the task. Far from it, we see Him moving forward determined to accomplish the redemption that God the Father had planned from the beginning. The prophet Isaiah centuries before, seeing this event, said in Isaiah 50:6, “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting”. The gospel of Luke also affirms His determination when it says in chapter 9 verse 51, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem”.

 

          If anything, this passage shows us that Jesus was not a victim in all of these events. No, He was the master, in control of everything and seeing it all come to its proper and preordained conclusion. These few verses show us Jesus going forward with His eyes firmly set on the end goal despite the suffering, the humiliation, and the betrayal and, in the end, death on a cross.

 

          This morning’s sermon also has one goal. I want to show you not only that Jesus suffered but also why He did what He did. I want to show you that Jesus, by doing everything necessary has made a way for you to be saved and delivered from God’s terrible judgment. I want you to see Jesus this morning as being worthy of your complete trust and faith.  So, let’s begin.

 

          The first thing we see in this passage is Jesus’ claiming to be God. In fact, already, several times in this gospel of John, Jesus has proved He was God to those who were around Him. Also, at many other times in this gospel of John, Jesus had claimed to be God in the flesh to others. For example, in John 10:30 He claimed that He and God where one and the same when He said, “I and the Father are one”. And in John 8:58 he used the personal name for God when He referred to Himself in relation to Abraham, He said, “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” This phrase “very truly” was Jesus’ ways of saying ‘I’m not lying

 

          The first instance, in this chapter, where Jesus claims to be God is found in verses 4-7 during His arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. He asked the soldiers who had come to arrest Him, “Who is it you want?” They responded, “Jesus of Nazareth”. “I am He,” was Jesus’ simple response. This simple declaration to be God was enough to make them “draw back and fall to the ground”. Remember that “I AM” was God’s personal name revealed to Moses at the burning Bush in Exodus 3:14, 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.’”

 

          In verse three we read that this was a detachment of soldiers, so could have been anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand. There were no chances being taken with this rebel. The point is that as Jesus spoke just two single syllable words, “I Am” this group of highly trained soldiers fell to the ground. Just imagine being one of the soldiers that evening. I think you might have thought twice about arresting this man.

          We cannot deny the fact that Jesus claimed to be God. We cannot ignore the fact that this gospel of John makes it very clear from the very first verse. In John 1:1 he writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. In verse 14 we find out a little more about this ‘Word’. John leaves us with no doubt when he writes, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”. We are left with only one conclusion, you will never be saved until you come to the realization that Jesus was more than a teacher, or a good man, or even a religious leader. You can never be saved until you come to accept Jesus as God in the flesh.

 

          When I think of these soldiers, I know they didn’t accept what was right before their eyes. They willfully took part in His execution and death. Here they were given a clear sign and also an opportunity to back away from their conclusions about Jesus. Unfortunately, they continued with their unbelief and eventually found themselves in Hell. Don’t let that happen to you! The question that is before you now after you have heard what Jesus claimed is, “Who do you say that he is?” Your answer may very well determine your eternal destiny.

 

          Jesus not only verbally claimed to be God but even by His actions that night His claims are given more validity. For instance, he is very concerned for His disciples who follow Him. In verses 8 and 9 we see that he wants to ensure that they are protected first. His deity is also proved by this focused interest on their wellbeing more than His own. He does not display the selfishness that most humans would at this time. Only God is able to show this remarkable kind of self-sacrificial love.

 

          I would like to remind you that things have not changed as far as His self-sacrificial love is concerned. He is still focused on the needs of His people. As the apostle Paul teaches us in Philippians 4:19 when He commends the Philippians for looking after his own needs. He assures them that, “God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

 

          Jesus’ concern always translates into action. We see this concern applies to all His creation no matter whether they believe in Him or not. In verse 10 and 11 His concern turns to action as he restores the ear of a man named Malchus.

          Now let’s look at what happened here. Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples has a sword. Maybe he tries to show off his bravery and draws the sword and strikes the high priest’s associate. I don’t really think that Peter was intending to just cut the ear off, I think he was trying to kill the man. But he missed and only sliced off the poor man’s ear. In the gospel of Luke 22:51, we are told that Jesus reached out and restored the man’s ear. I think only God can do things like that! 

 

          Now speaking to the men here. I know we would have been proud to see our friends fighting for us, backing us up, and dealing some pain to our enemies. I remember too, what it was like to be young and get into a few arguments that sometimes turned physical. In fact, it probably doesn’t change when we grow up either.

          But that is not the response of Jesus in this instance. His compassion caused Him to reach out in love to someone who was supposed to be his enemy. He did the same thing for you and me. You see according to Romans 8:7 you and I were enemies of God. And despite that he still reached out to us in grace.

          He is moved by the same compassion now, as He was that evening in the garden. Had it not been for His love and compassion then, I and many others here would be dead and in hell this morning. Now that is something to think about and then praise Him.

 

          I want to point out one final proof that Jesus is God. It is found here in the last part of verse 11 after he tells Peter to put away his sword. He says, “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” We see His determination to finish what the Father has given Him to do and go to the cross.

          I think if this had been you or me in the Garden when the soldiers came then we would have been looking for an escape. And if we couldn’t escape then we would have been on our knees pleading for the authorities to let us go (well maybe not the ‘Heh Heh people’ from Iringa, I heard they are more than willing to commit suicide).

          But this is not what Jesus does it’s as if He has tunnel vision and only had the mind to go to the cross and suffer and die for you and me! Whenever we contemplate this, we should be very grateful that Jesus did not have second thoughts or try to avoid the crucifixion. He willingly went to die for our sins and so that we could be saved and reconciled to God. If we give anything less that glory and praise to Him, then we have not understood the depths of our sin and the great cost He paid. What a Saviour!

         

          As Jesus was being led towards what would be nothing more than an illegal trial, He still kept His dignity. He did not beg or cry for freedom at any time. He did not resist or retaliate in anyway against His captors. This is a reminder to all of us that Jesus was in control of the situation at all times. Not once did something take Him by surprise and he knew what was going to happen. He knew that He was going to die on the cross for you and me. The God-man, Jesus, could have destroyed the soldiers with just one word but His love for us and His determination to be our substitute sacrifice kept Him from doing that.

          In two passages, verses 19-24 and 28-36 we see Jesus going through not one but six trials. First appearing before Annas, then second before his son-in-law, Caiaphas the High Priest who was the leader of the Jewish ruling council known as the Sanhedrin who hastily summoned a group of Jewish elders, and third before the whole Sanhedrin when they finally all gathered together.

          After this third appearance Jesus was tried for a fourth time before Pontius Pilate the Roman governor and then fifth by Herod Antipas the King of Judea. But Herod really only wanted to see Jesus perform some tricks. Finally, after he grew bored, Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate again where he was, after the sixth trial, eventually convicted of treason.  What is revealing is that Jesus was not convicted of blasphemy that the Jewish leaders had wanted him tried for. We witness during this whole process the kind of injustices that Jesus faced at the hands of His accusers.

          It is important to note that Jesus’ arrest and trial would have been considered illegal by Jewish law of the day, for several reasons.

First, if a man was arrested for a capital crime such as blasphemy, he could never be arrested at night. It had to be in broad daylight.

Second, no arrest for a capital crime could be made based upon information given by a follower or colleague of the accused. Because they reasoned that if the accused was guilty so were his followers. But this entire plot to arrest Jesus revolved around Judas, one of Jesus’ followers.

Third, No Jewish trial could ever be held at night. Listen to the code, which is taken from the Talmud: “The members of the court may not alertly and intelligently hear the testimony against the accused during the hours of darkness.” But when we read the Bible, two of the trials, the ones before Annas and then Caiaphas, were held in darkness.

Fourth, the members of the Jewish court, after hearing the testimony of true witnesses in a capital crime, could not immediately act and judge. They were to go home and remain alone and separate from one another for at the least, one full day, thinking about the testimonies they had heard. During that time, here's what they were to do. Here's the language of the code: “Eat like food, drink like wines, sleep well. And once again return and hear the testimony of the accused. Then, and only then, shall you render a vote.” They didn't do that. The Jewish court never left the presence of Caiaphas! Because the next day was the Sabbath and they couldn’t hold a trial then.

In fact, even the method of voting was specified! They never took an “all in favor say I, all opposed say no” kind of vote. Their vote was also supposed to be taken from the youngest to the oldest so that the youngest wouldn't be intimidated or influenced by the older votes. This never happened.

And Fifth, no trial could be held before only one judge, and never without a defense attorney. All of that was willfully ignored and disobeyed. Even though they were people of the book, they didn't follow their own rules.

          The Sanhedrin pronounced the death sentence. However, as John 18:31 tells us when they took Him before Pilate, “Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected”. Under Roman law, the Sanhedrin was not allowed to convict or execute a person. And that is why the charge from the Jewish leaders of blasphemy would not result in Jesus death and they changed it to treason before the Roman governor. Treason was punishable by death immediately.

          Despite all the corruption, injustices, and the beatings that Jesus experienced nothing was more painful to him than the rejection of those he came to save in the first place. In this chapter we find Jesus not only suffering at the hands of His enemies but also because of the rejection of His friends.

          First, he was betrayed by Judas. This was probably the one betrayal that hurt Jesus the most. Judas had been with Jesus for three years and still he led the authorities to Him. He even betrayed him with a kiss of greeting that is usually given between very close friends.

          Then in verses 15-18, and 25-27 we see Jesus being denied by Peter. What makes Peter’s denial all the more hurtful was that just moments before he had sworn that even if all the others left, he would never leave. He promised to stand with Jesus and even die if necessary. And yet he was the only one who publicly denied Jesus.  

          The final rejection was the one that struck at the very heart of God. Jesus came into the world to save humanity. He fulfilled all the prophecies concerning the Messiah. He was the anointed One who would come and establish God’s kingdom and free the people of God from their oppressors. But when He came, they rejected Him and called for His death. This ultimate rejection was directly aimed at God.

          What is even more amazing is that people today are still rejecting Him. Think about it, Israel and Judas rejected Jesus because of their unbelief. Peter denied him out of a moment of weakness. But everyday people still reject him. For what? Because they want to enjoy a few more days of sin. Psalm 14:1 which says, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” This tells us that some people reject Him because they are simply ‘fools’. No matter the reason people give for rejecting the salvation being offered by Jesus, it is a foolish one and not worth dying and going to hell for.

 

          Unfortunately, billions of people have already made that mistake. They have refused to trust Jesus and His finished work on the cross. That is the only response you need to make in order to be eternally saved, to trust in Him!

          As we come to verse 37, we see Jesus in the last of his six trials, and this one was the second time he appeared before Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor of Judea. In this verse Jesus makes it very clear that he did not come into the world to live but testify to the truth by dying on the cross.

This fact causes a lot of confusion for people. They still do not realize what the Bible teaches. In Hebrews 9:22, we are reminded that, In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

          If Jesus had not gone to the cross and shed His blood then nobody could have been saved, ever! Our salvation is totally dependent upon the blood of Jesus.

          You know we all need to be wary of Religion. Religion says that the answer lies with us. They will teach that Baptism saves. They will say you need to continue doing good things and follow certain rituals so that you can keep your salvation. They will say that you need to belong to their church denomination in order to get into heaven. Fortunately, for true believers, the blood of Christ is all we need. (As we sang earlier: What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!)

          Jesus suffering and dying on the cross was the only way God could redeem sinful people. That is the unmistakable message of Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

 

          Jesus also says that He came to “testify to the truth”. He did this ultimately when on the third day he rose again from the dead as we affirm in the Apostles Creed. In Hebrews 7:25 we see that it didn’t just end there because, He now lives forever in heaven where he intercedes, pleads our case, before the throne of God the Father. This is an important truth because, even though a dead saviour could have paid the penalty for sin, in order to serve as our mediator, He had to rise from the grave and ascend to heaven and place the sacrifice before The Lord God Almighty. Do you serve a risen Saviour or a dead one?

 

          This is the reason why I do not understand the Roman Catholic crucifix. Roman Catholic worship seems to focus on Jesus who is still on the cross suffering. Whereas in Protestantism the cross is bare therefore signifying that Christ is no longer there but has risen triumphant over death and suffering. 

          The last thing I want you to notice in this last verse is where Jesus says that, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” As we go through this life God calls to you through His Spirit. Anyone who hears His call and responds will be forever saved by grace! But before there could be a call, the Saviour had to die and then rise again from the dead. That is the gospel, the good news! That Jesus died for sin, rose again from the dead and then calls all people to come to Him. If you do come to Him, you will be saved right at that moment.   

          I hope this morning you have understood that what Jesus did, he did for you. Does that make sense to you today? Maybe you have heard the same story many times before, but you have never responded by believing in this truth. Maybe, this morning you are hearing Him call to you again? Why not respond? Let me remind you of what this passage tells us. It tells us that Jesus loves you and has made a way for you to be born again and free from the power of sin, judgement and Hell. That way is none other than through Himself. Won’t you come while He still calls?

          There is a story told by C.S. Lewis a famous skeptic who became a Christian while he was studying at Oxford University. A fellow skeptic asked Him why he became a Christian. Lewis asked in reply why the other man had not. When the skeptic asked why he should, Lewis answered. Well, when I die it doesn’t matter if Christianity is true or not. I will still have lived a life of integrity based upon good values. However, when you die, if Christianity is true, then you will have lost everything.

 

          Let’s Pray: Father in heaven thank you for your Word today as we are reminded again of the great price that was paid so that we could be reconciled to you. We are in awe and cannot seem to understand the reason why Christ had to suffer at the hands of innocent men. But we remain thankful that he remained resolute as he went to the cross and there suffered and died for the sins of the world. So that all those who respond to His call and place their trust in Him will receive eternal life. Father may you Word not return to you this morning without encouraging those who need encouragement, convicting those who need convicting, and calling those who need to hear your voice. May we all respond as you will us to. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.