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Guilt and Grace

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Guilt and Grace

John 18:1-27

May 3, 2009

 There’s a lot in today’s passage from John chapter 18. It begins in the garden of Gethsemane with Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. It follows Jesus as He is taken before the high priests – Annas and Caiphus. In this chapter,  we also hear Peter deny Christ three times. Although our key passage is found in chapter 18, I will also be following the account in all four gospels. Even at the climax of Jesus’ earthly life, He challenges His enemies to find fault with Him. The utter futility of their accusations becomes quickly apparent. Jesus’ sinless perfection is about to show us the difference between guilt and grace – the title of this morning’s message. But first, I want to draw from Henry Blackaby’s deep well of wisdom. Here is a practical rendering of grace - in Ephesians 4:32:And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. The Book of Ephesians describes the behavior that ought to characterize Christians as they relate to one another. Our actions ought to be permeated with kindness. Kindness is love expressed in practical ways; it is putting the needs of others before our own. It is intentionally considering ways to meet other people's needs.Being tenderhearted means that we are keenly sensitive to the feelings of others. When a fellow Christian experiences sorrow, we grieve also (1 Cor. 12:26). When another believer is joyful, we, too, rejoice. Being tenderhearted means showing compassion toward those around us.We show forgiveness because we, too, fall short of God's ideal. Knowing that God has graciously saved us from destruction motivates us to forgive others when they offend us. Often we are less patient with our fellow Christians than we are with nonbelievers. We expect more of Christians, and we feel betrayed when they fail us. When this happens, we need to look closely at the cross and remember the forgiveness we received there. We must set aside the self-centered attitude that leads to impatience and criticism of others.Jesus did not say that the world will know Him by our miracles, by our grand testimonies, or by our vast Bible knowledge. The world will know Him by the love that Christians show to one another (John 13:35). Are you constantly in conflict with others? Ask God to give you kindness, a tender heart, and a forgiving spirit. As you allow the Spirit to build these qualities into you, your life will be a blessing to others around you. Will you reflect guilt or grace?The private ministry of our Lord with His disciples has now ended, and the public drama of redemption is about to begin. Man will do his worst, and God will respond with His very best. “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). Perhaps the best way to see the truths in John 18:1-27, and grasp the lessons they convey, is to pay attention to the symbolism that is involved. John’s Gospel is saturated with symbols, some more obvious than others; and these symbols convey some important spiritual truths. There are five such symbols in this section. Listen for them as I continue. The Kidron Valley is located east of Jerusalem, between the city wall and the Mount of Olives; and the Garden of Gethsemane is on the western slope of Olivet. Jesus often went to this Garden with His disciples, no doubt to rest, meditate, and pray (Luke 22:39). Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims attending the Passover, and Jesus would want to get away from the crowded city to a private place. He knew that Judas would come for Him there, and He was ready. Human history began in a Garden (Gen. 2:8ff), and the first sin of man was committed in that Garden. The first Adam disobeyed God and was cast out of the Garden, but the Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) was obedient as He went into the Garden of Gethsemane. In a Garden, the first Adam brought sin and death to mankind; but Jesus, by His obedience, brought righteousness and life to all who will trust Him. He was “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). History will one day end in another garden, the heavenly city that John describes in Revelation 21 and 22. In that garden, there will be no more death and no more curse. The river of the water of life will flow ceaselessly and the tree of life will produce bountiful fruit. Eden was the Garden of disobedience and sin; Gethsemane was the Garden of obedience and submission; and heaven shall be the eternal garden of delight and satisfaction, to the glory of God. The name Gethsemane means “oil press.” Even today there are ancient olive trees in Gethsemane, though certainly not the ones that were there in Jesus’ day. The olives would be picked and put into the press for their oil. What a picture of suffering! So our Lord would go through the “oil press” and the “winepress” (Isa. 63:3) and taste our judgment for us. The Brook Kidron is also significant. The name means “dusky, gloomy,” referring to the dark waters that were often stained by the blood from the temple sacrifices. Our Lord and His disciples were about to go through “dark waters,” and Jesus would experience the “waves and billows” of God’s wrath (Ps. 42:7; also note Jonah 2:3). The Kidron had special historical significance, for King David crossed the Kidron when he was rejected by his nation and betrayed by his own son, Absalom (2 Sam. 15; also note John 18:23). Jesus had been rejected by His people and at that very moment was being betrayed by one of His own disciples! It is interesting that David’s treacherous counselor Ahithophel hanged himself (2 Sam. 17:23), and David’s treacherous son Absalom was caught in a tree and killed while hanging there (2 Sam. 18:9-17). Judas, of course, went out and hanged himself (Matt. 27:3-10). Jesus fully knew what lay before Him, yet He went to the Garden in obedience to the Father’s will. The gospels of Matthew and Mark record Jesus’ time of prayer in the garden. Jesus left eight of the men near the entrance, and took Peter, James, and John and went to another part of the Garden to pray (Matt. 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42). His human soul longed for the kind of encouragement and companionship they could give Him at this critical hour; but, alas, they went to sleep! It was easy for men to boast about their devotion to Christ, but when the test comes, they may fail miserably. Before we judge the disciples too severely  we had better examine our own hearts. Jesus warned us about casting the first stone or trying to take the speck out of an eye when we have a log in ours. It is not ours to judge. Judas had lived with the Lord Jesus for perhaps three years, and had listened to Him teach; yet he knew very little about Him. The traitor actually brought a company of temple guards, armed with swords and clubs! (Matt. 26:55) The word band in John 18:3 could be translated “cohort.” A Roman cohort was a tenth of a legion, and this would be 600 men! It is not likely that Judas brought that many to the Garden, but apparently a full cohort was made available to him if he needed it. Obviously, Judas and the temple officials did not realize that the Lamb of God would meekly submit and that there would be no need to do battle. Jesus was in full control; He knew what would happen (see John 13:1, 3, 11; 16:19). Judas expected some kind of deception, so he arranged to identify Jesus by kissing Him (Matt. 26:48-49). But Jesus shocked both Judas and the arresting officers by boldly surrendering Himself to them. He had nothing to fear and nothing to hide; He would willingly lay down His life for His sheep. Furthermore, by surrendering to the officers, Jesus helped to protect His disciples. He kept them safe not only spiritually (John 17:11-12) but also physically. Why did the arresting soldiers draw back and fall to the ground when Jesus told them, “I am He”? The Jews present would be struck by His “I AM” statement, an affirmation of Deity. The Romans, who were in the majority, would be struck by His bearing, for it was obvious that He was in command. It was an emotionally charged situation, and we do not know what Judas had told them about Jesus to help prepare them for this confrontation. The Jewish leaders had tried to have Jesus arrested before and always without success. The band was prepared for conflict, and they were met with surrender and calm, and a manifestation of divine power, an exhibition of the majesty of Jesus Christ. “When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell” (Ps. 27:2). I can picture Jesus with a puff of breath or a flick of His fingers, prostrating His enemies. How could Judas have missed the obvious? Where was Judas when Jesus asked Peter: “Who do you say I am?” and Peter replied, “ You are the Christ, the Son of the Lining God,” (Matt 16:16) Judas missed it, didn’t he? That’s why the troop of soldiers and the sign of the kiss. Judas’ kiss was certainly one of the basest acts of treachery recorded anywhere in sacred or secular history. In that day, a kiss was a sign of affection and devotion. Members of the family kissed each other in meeting and in parting, but Judas was not a member of God’s family, was he? Disciples greeted a rabbi by kissing him; it was a sign of devotion and obedience. But Judas was not truly a disciple of Jesus Christ, though he belonged to the disciple band. In the Garden, Judas stood with the enemy, not with Jesus’ friends! It is bad enough to betray Christ, but to do it with a kiss, a sign of affection, is the basest treachery of all.  All of the disciples had courageously affirmed their devotion to Christ (Matt. 26:35), and Peter decided to prove it; so he quickly drew out a small sword and started to fight! He certainly misunderstood what Jesus had said about swords earlier that evening (Luke 22:35-38). Jesus had warned them the situation would now change, and men would treat them as transgressors. He was not suggesting that they use swords to fight spiritual battles, but that they expect opposition and even danger. He had provided for them and protected them while He was with them on earth, but now He was returning to the Father. They would have to depend on the Holy Spirit and exercise wisdom.  Peter’s sword symbolizes rebellion against the will of God. Peter should have known that if Jesus would be arrested, He would willingly surrender to His enemies. He told them that would happen in Matt. 17:22-23; 20:17-19). Peter made every mistake possible! He fought the wrong enemy, used the wrong weapon, had the wrong motive, and accomplished the wrong result! He was openly resisting the will of God and hindering the work that Jesus came to accomplish! While we may admire his courage and sincerity, it was certainly a demonstration of zeal without knowledge. This was Peter’s first failure in John 18, but an even greater failure was coming. And with it would come guilt followed by the grace of forgiveness (Jn 21:15-17) Why did Peter fail so miserably? For one thing, he had argued with the Lord when Jesus warned him that he would deny his Master that very night. Peter had slept when he should have been praying, and he talked when he should have been listening. He imitated the very enemies who came to arrest Jesus, for they too were armed with swords. Peter would later discover that the sword of the Spirit is the weapon God’s servants use in fighting their spiritual battles (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17). He would use that sword of the Spirit at Pentecost and “slay” 3,000 souls! Jesus did not need Peter’s protection. He could have summoned legions of angels had He wanted to be delivered (Matt. 26:52-54). Luke tells us that Jesus healed Malchus’ ear (Luke 22:51), which was certainly an act of grace towards Peter. Peter, if Jesus hadn’t healed Malchus ear, might have been arrested and crucified! But the healing was also an act of grace toward Malchus. After all, he was only a servant; and why worry about what happens to a servant? He was also an enemy, standing with the men who came to arrest Jesus. However, our Lord did not judge Malchus, though he was a sinner deserving the wrath of God. Instead, He healed him! It was our Lord’s last public miracle before the cross. Keep in mind that this miracle reveals Jesus’ grace toward us. If Jesus had the power to stun an armed mob and heal a severed ear, He could have saved Himself from arrest, trial, and death. But He willingly submitted! And He did it for us! We are the recipients of GRAC – God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. It is a sad thing when well-meaning but ignorant Christians take up the sword to “defend” the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter hurt Malchus, something no believer should do. Peter hurt the testimony of Christ and gave the false impression that His disciples hate their enemies and try to destroy them. (Note our Lord’s reply to Pilate in John 18:36.) Peter had a sword in his hand, but our Lord had a cup in His hand.  The sword would bring guilt; the cup would bring grace. Peter was resisting God’s will but the Saviour was accepting God’s will. Earlier, Jesus had prayed, “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). The cup represented the suffering He would endure and the separation from the Father that He would experience on the cross. He prayed this prayer three times, evidence that His whole being was sensitive to the price He would pay for our salvation. His holy soul must have been stirred to the depths when He contemplated being made sin! The drinking of a cup is often used in Scripture to illustrate experiencing suffering and sorrow. When Babylon captured Jerusalem, the city had “drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling” (Isa. 51:17). Jeremiah pictured God’s wrath against the nations as the pouring out of a cup (Jer. 25:15-28). There is also a cup of consolation (Jer. 16:7) and the overflowing cup of joy (Ps. 23:5). Jesus had compared His own sufferings to the drinking of a cup when He spoke to the mother of James and John (Matt. 20:22-23). When He instituted the last supper, He compared the cup to His blood, shed for the remission of sins (Matt. 26:27-28). The image was a familiar one to His disciples, and it is not an unfamiliar image today. To “drink the cup” means to go through a difficult experience.  Jesus was able to accept the cup because it was mixed by the Father and given to Him from the Father’s hand. He did not resist the Father’s will, because He came to do the Father’s will and finish the work the Father gave Him to do. “I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8). Since the Father had mixed and measured the contents of the cup, Jesus knew He had nothing to fear. This is a good lesson to us: we need never fear the cups that the Father hands us. To begin with, our Saviour has already drunk the cup before us, and we are only following in His steps. We need never fear what is in the cup because the Father has prepared it for us in love. If we ask for bread, He will never give us a stone; and the cup He prepares will never contain anything that will harm us. We may suffer pain and heartbreak, but He will eventually transform that suffering into glory.(Rom 8:28) Jesus deliberately gave Himself to His enemies. They bound Him and led Him to the house of Annas, which was not too far away. Annas had served as high priest until he was deposed by the Romans; now his son-in-law Caiaphas was the high priest. God had ordained that one man should serve as high priest for a lifetime, so it is easy to see that the Jewish religious establishment was in sad condition. It is generally believed that the high priest’s family was in charge of the temple “business,” and the fact that Jesus twice cleansed the temple must have aroused their anger against Him. The “trial” before Annas was more like an informal hearing. It was illegal and it was brutal. Imagine a guard being allowed to strike a prisoner! Imagine a man not holding an office interrogating a prisoner! Annas, of course, was looking for some kind of evidence on which to base an accusation that would lead to a verdict of capital punishment. What doctrine was Jesus teaching? Was it subversive? Jesus told him to ask the people who listened to Him, because He had said nothing secretly. In fact, Annas himself could have come and listened! What about our Lord’s disciples? Annas would want to know whether they were they organized to overthrow the government. Did not one of them use his sword in the Garden? Jesus was careful to say nothing about His disciples. Think of it: while Peter was in the courtyard denying his Lord, Jesus was on trial protecting Peter! Guilt and grace! Jewish law demanded that witnesses be called before a prisoner was questioned. Annas defied this law, and eventually the council hired false witnesses. Jesus knew His rights (“bear witness of the evil”—John 18:23), but He did not insist on them. He is an example to us when we suffer wrongfully (1 Peter 2:19-25; 4:12-19). For the rest of this message  I want you to put yourself in Peter’s place because we, like Peter, often claim we will stay solidly at Jesus side, yet we fall away. We are so human! Like Peter, we follow the crowd instead of fleeing temptation. Jesus had warned Peter that he would deny his Savior three times (Jn 13:38). If Peter had fled with the other disciples, he wouldn’t have been in the courtyard hovering at the fire, hoping not to be noticed. But he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, wasn’t he? Peter would be restored to fellowship and service (Luke 22:32). Peter followed the crowd when he should have been fleeing (John 18:8; and see Matt. 26:30-32). Had he gone his way, he would never have denied the Lord. While we certainly admire his love and courage, we cannot agree with his actions; for he walked right into temptation. This is what Jesus warned him about in the Garden (Matt. 26:41). The problem with temptation is that, although we may have a way out, we often don’t take it, and like Peter, we gradually move from temptation into sin. Peter should have followed the counsel of Jesus and gotten out of there in a hurry, but he didn’t. Then, Peter stood with the enemy by the fire (John 18:16, 18); and before long, he sat with the enemy (Luke 22:55). It was now too late and within a short time, he would deny his Lord three times. That’s what happens to us when we ignore the warning signs and go where we’re tempted to sin. First, a servant girl asked, “Art not thou also one of this Man’s disciples?” The Greek text indicates that she expected a negative answer, and that is what she got! Peter denied Christ by denying that he belonged to the band of disciples. Instead of fleeing then, Peter remained by the fire, so it is no wonder that he was approached again. Another servant girl asked the same question, again expecting a negative reply.  The third question came from one of Malchus’ relatives! The Greek construction indicates that he expected an affirmative answer: “I saw you in the Garden with Jesus, didn’t I? Yes, I did!” After all, this man had gotten a good look at Peter because he was probably standing with Malchus when Jesus was arrested. Some of the bystanders took up the discussion (Matt. 26:73; Mark 14:70) so that Peter may have been surrounded by challengers. At that point, Peter’s resistance broke down completely. He began to “curse and swear” (Matt. 26:74). This does not mean that Peter let loose a volley of blasphemies, but rather that he put himself under a curse in order to emphasize his statement. He was on trial, so he put himself under an oath to convince his accusers that he was telling the truth. It was at that point that the cock began to crow (John 18:27) just as Jesus had predicted (Matt. 26:34). The crowing of the cock reminded Peter of the Lord’s words, and he went out and wept bitterly. But the crowing of the cock was assurance to Peter that Jesus was totally in control of the situation, even though He was bound and being harassed by the authorities. By controlling one bird, Jesus affirmed His sovereignty. According to Genesis 1:26, God gave man authority over the fish, the fowl, and the animals. Peter had seen Jesus exercise authority over the fish (Matt. 17:24-27; Luke 5:1-11) and the animals (Matt. 21:1-11); but now he recognized His authority over the birds. But the cockcrowing was also an invitation to repentance. Just before Jesus predicted Peter’s denial, He said “but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:32). Luke tells us that Jesus turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:61), and this look of love broke Peter’s heart. Peter had been a witness of Christ’s sufferings (1 Peter 5:1), and by his own denials he added to those sufferings.It is worthwhile to briefly contrast Peter and Judas. Peter wept over his sins and repented, while Judas admitted his sins but never really repented. Judas experienced remorse, not repentance. When Judas went out from the Upper Room, “it was night” (John 13:30); but when Peter went out to weep bitterly, there was the dawning of a new day. It is the contrast between godly sorrow that leads to true repentance, and the sorrow of the world (regret and remorse) that leads to death (2 Cor. 7:9-10). We will discover that Jesus restored Peter (John 21) and enabled him to serve with great power and blessing. In the Garden that night, you would find both guilt and grace. Peter was guilty of resisting God’s will. Judas was guilty of the basest kind of treachery. The mob was guilty of rejecting the Son of God and treating Him as though He were the lowest kind of criminal. But Jesus was gracious! Like King David, He crossed the Kidron, fully conscious that Judas was betraying Him. He went into the Garden of Gethsemane surrendered to the Father’s will. He healed Malchus’ ear. He protected His disciples. He yielded Himself into the hands of sinners that He might suffer and die for us.“Love so amazing, so divine,Demands my soul, my life, my all!”Have you given your all to Jesus. If not, please come to see me this week so we can discuss how you can be certain you will be with Jesus in heaven and not the one who is turned away at the gate with the words, “I never knew you!”  Rather than living with guilt, you can receive grace. Let’s pray Father, in the name of Jesus, I make a fresh commitment to You to live in peace and harmony, not only with the other brothers and sisters of the Body of Christ, but also with my friends, associates, neighbors, and family.I let go of all bitterness, resentment, envying, strife, and unkindness in any form. I give no place to the devil in Jesus' name. Now Father, I ask Your forgiveness. By faith, I receive it, having assurance that I am cleansed from all unrighteousness through Jesus Christ. I ask You to forgive and release all who have wronged and hurt me. I forgive and release them. Deal with them in your mercy and loving-kindness.From this moment on, I purpose to walk in love, to seek peace, to live in agreement, and to conduct myself toward others in a manner that is pleasing to You. I know that I have right standing with you and Your ears are attentive to my prayers.It is written in Your Word that the love of God has been poured forth into my heart by the Holy Ghost Who is given to me. I believe that love flows forth into the lives of everyone I know, that I may be filled with and abound in the fruits of righteousness which bring glory and honor to You, Lord in Jesus’ name. Amen.  

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