Thursday, December 18, 2014

John 20:1-31

Peter and John sat together the day after Passover Sabbath, quietly pondering what they would do now that Jesus was gone. They had both watched the horrible scene unfold before their very eyes. John respected Peter for his boldness in the garden, but Peter bore the shame of a three-fold denial. Instantly, the door burst open, and Mary Magdalene rushed into the room.
Between gasps of air and sobs, she formed the words, “They have taken His body.” Their minds swirled as they rushed down the road to the sepulcher. Would the religious leaders desecrate His body? What else could they want with it? Wasn’t it enough to kill Jesus, why this too? What would His mother think when she found this out? John arrived at the entrance of the tomb and looked in to see something unexpected. The grave clothes were still there. John makes a special note that at this point, he believed. He doesn’t explain what he believed, perhaps it was simply that the tomb was empty, but that point basically goes without saying, what rather seems to be the indication is that John realized that Jesus had risen from the grave.
Two days earlier, Jesus had hung on the cross, but now He was raised from the dead. This was the greatest thing that John could have imagined. As John and Peter departed, Mary stayed behind and wept at the perceived loss of Jesus. In the midst of her tears, she was interrupted by the questioning of two angels from inside the sepulcher. “Why are you crying?” they asked. As she answered them, “Because they moved the body of Jesus and I don’t know where they took it;” turning, she saw a man that she did not recognize. Immediately, He asked her the same question, “Why are you crying?”
Her answer to Him was similar, “If you have moved His body, please tell me where, so I can see Him.” She never expected the response that she received, “Mary.” Turning quickly, she looked up at His face. “Rabboni!” In excitement, Mary’s tears of sorrow turned to sobs of joy. Jesus was standing directly in front of her. After He explained that He would visit with His disciples, He departed. An elated Mary sprinted back to the disciples to tell them that she had just spoken to Jesus in the garden and that He was risen. The disciples hurriedly gathered together to discuss the news of Jesus as Mary had shared.
Gathered in a room for the first time since His execution, the disciples discussed what had happened. Because they could all be arrested and imprisoned if they were caught by the Jewish leaders, the door was bolted shut. Immediately, Jesus appeared standing in the middle of the group. Jesus had risen, and now He was with them again. All of the disciples had gathered, except Thomas. Even as the other disciples tracked Him down and explained, Thomas refused to acknowledge the possibility. That is, he doubted until a week later when Jesus came and showed Himself to Thomas.
Lest we read this incredible story and miss the point, John stalls and explains His purpose for writing the entire Gospel account. “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” The evidence had been lain out clearly, now, John had given the last piece of evidence pointing towards the Deity of Jesus, He had risen from the dead. All of the other miracles were evidence enough. This by itself was evidence enough. John knew that the case had been made. The need for any more proof was completely gone. Any skeptic reading the account, denying the facts would do so not because of a lack of clarity or because of evidence to the contrary, rather they would simply refuse because they did not want to believe what was plainly in front of them.

Food For Thought: In what order did Jesus reveal Himself to His disciples following His resurrection?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

John 19:31-42

Jesus was dead.
Physically, His body was lifeless. Even as the other malefactors were struggling to live, He hung their limp. Because of the time of the day, and the fact that in a few short hours, the Passover Sabbath would be taking place, the hypocritically religious Jewish leaders petitioned that Pilate expedite the executions so the city of Jerusalem would not have this disgusting spectacle watching over it through this holy time.
As the Roman soldiers smashed the shins of the first two criminals, resulting in eventual asphyxiation, they realized that Jesus was already dead. He wasn’t fighting for breath anymore like the others. But, to ensure that He was dead, they took the extra step of stabbing His heart with a spear, causing immense amounts of blood and water to flow out of His chest.
After the Roman soldiers and the Jewish leaders were convinced that Jesus was dead, His body was lowered off of the cross by some of His friends, Nicodemus and Joseph. Nicodemus had come to Jesus by night, and had heard the great truth from the very lips of Jesus, “Even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish.” Now, Nicodemus handled the lifeless body of Jesus, and hurried with Joseph his friend to carry the body of Jesus to a nearby tomb.
There in the cold, chiseled, stone tomb these two men laid the lifeless body of Jesus. Without a doubt, as they wound the spices and linen clothes around the dead body of Jesus, they anointed Him with their tears too. This was the one who selflessly had healed thousands. This was the One who had stopped to feed a starving mob, who had raised Lazarus, who had calmed the troubled sea. Now, here He lay, helpless, lifeless, and dead.
This is an important point that must be understood as we see the gospel account according to John. The Roman executioners were convinced that He was dead. They were professional killers, there was no one more qualified to determine whether or not Jesus had died. Furthermore, after being ordered to execute a man, if they failed to carry out perfectly that order, they themselves would receive the punishment of death. These Romans knew that Jesus was dead.
Furthermore, the Jewish leaders, the enemies of Jesus, looked on at Jesus and saw very clearly that He had died. There was no doubt in their minds that they had finally killed Him. They had sought to kill Him for years now. They were finally rid of Him. Despite the grotesque nature of His death, they would certainly ensure that this foe of theirs was completely dead before allowing Him to come down from the cross. They hated Him, and their hatred would see this through to the end. They must have been disgustingly overjoyed when the blood flowed from His heart. He was done. He was dead.
Finally, the disciples of Jesus received His body from the cross. They did not carry Him back to their houses and try to resuscitate Him. There was no use. They could see clearly that He had died. Rather, they wrapped His body and buried Him. In their minds, there was no doubt that He was dead. Every character in the story was convinced that Jesus was dead. This leaves only one possible conclusion when we read this account. Jesus was dead. He had given Himself to die on the cross. There was no life left in Him when He was placed in the ground.
Food For Thought: How do we know that Jesus was dead when He was placed in the ground?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

John 19:17-30

Cowardly Pilate refused to intervene against injustice, and with the whole of history watching, condemned Jesus to die. Those who wanted to kill Jesus from the earliest chapters of the story had finally found a henchman to carry out their loathsome deed. It had cost them nothing but peer pressure, but it cost Jesus His life.
In this moment the desperate situation of humanity was revealed. The closest followers of Jesus had disappeared under the oppression of the evening. The religious leaders had partaken in deception to secure the execution of an innocent man. The political leader, placed as God’s minister for justice, had knowingly carried out injustice to appease a mob. In this scene humanity was revealed in its truest measure, broken and fallen.
The necessity of a Savior was apparent. The Savior that the masses wanted was one who would liberate them from the oppression of a Roman regime. The injustice of the religious leaders revealed that any liberation from Rome would have simply resulted in a different kind of tyranny. What the condition of every heart indicated, wasn’t the need for a political Savior, rather, everyone, the whole world, needed a Savior to come and save them from their own sin and the penalty of God’s wrath that it precipitated.
The sins at the crucifixion were not isolated maladies. No, they were symptoms of the greater infection that goes to the very marrow of humanity. By heredity, and by choice, all are sinners. The cross simply exposed in each character what was already latent in their hearts.
John set the stage for this perfectly. From the first chapter of his book, we learn that the “Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world” was already here. As the evil men raged with murderous hatred, they perfectly carried out the Divine plan that was the only hope for their own salvation. This Sovereign plan that came from the mind of God and spanned the millennia of human history was now being fulfilled. If they stayed their vehement blasphemies they would notice that they did not need to drag Jesus to the cross, He had been walking there willingly. Blinded with hatred, they failed to realize that He had delivered Himself to die.
He had come to save mankind. He was truly Savior. It would be through His death that He would accomplish forgiveness of sins for mankind. Access to God would finally be a reality for all who would believe in Him. Jesus had come to fix what Adam had broken. It was a humiliating work as He was shoved down the path called Gabbatha to a hill called Golgotha. There he was stripped of His clothes and nailed to the cross. This moment of shame was why the Son of God had come to earth. Loving, caring, gentle, dying Jesus hung bleeding on a cross.
But it was more than nails and whips that bruised Jesus. In His offering Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, Jesus received the wrath of God on Himself. God’s righteous judgment of sin was poured out on Jesus. Whereas, before, all who died in their sins faced the wrath of God for sin, now Jesus was taking that wrath on Himself and offering forgiveness of sins to those who would come in faith.
“It is finished.” 
These were His words as He bowed His head and died. The work was finished. He had completed what He had come to accomplish. Now, salvation could be had. Sins could be forgiven. For the first time in the history of mankind, hope was fulfilled. Jesus had come, and now He offered salvation to all those who would come in faith to Him.

Food For Thought: What did Jesus mean when He said, “It is finished.”?

Monday, December 15, 2014

John 19:1-22

“I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel…cursed is the ground for thy sake…thorns and thistles shall it bring forth…” – Genesis 3:15-18
When Adam and Eve fell from perfection in the Garden, a promise was given that in time a descendent of the woman would come and deliver them from the curse brought on by their sin. It did not mean that He would be exempted from bearing the marks of the curse in His own body. Rather, He would come and bear the curse so that He could free all of mankind from the curse.
After Jesus was lied about, falsely accused, and injustice was carried out in a mock trial, Pilate ordered Him to be severely beaten. Having finished shredding the flesh on his back and legs with a specially designed whip, the Roman torturers took a band of thorns (a direct result of the fall) and twisted them together to make a mock crown. The accusations had been flying that Jesus had come to be the King of the Jews. Less than a week earlier, He had ridden into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey being adorned with the cheers of a frenzied crowd. He was the descendant of King David, the rightful heir to the throne. But those moments were gone. Now, He was being treated like a criminal.
Standing next to a bloodied Jesus robed in purple hints of regal satire, and a crown made of curse-born thorns, Pilate presented his case to the Jewish leaders that were calling for Jesus’s death. “Behold the Man!” Expecting the Roman brutality to satisfy their blood thirst, Pilate looked on at the religious crowd and exclaimed, “See how I have abused Him, aren’t you satisfied?” The response of vitriol from the mouths of Jesus’s enemies demonstrated that Satanic hatred has no boundaries, “Crucify Him!”
Unbeknownst to them, when they rationalized their call for execution, they startled the superstitious, Roman Pilate to the core. “He made Himself the Son of God.” John tells us that this statement caused Pilate to retreat with Jesus privately to inquire if it was true. When Jesus refused to answer him, Pilate explained how powerful he was and that he even had the power to kill or to release Jesus. Pilate’s mind was not set at ease at the answer of a confident, truth-holding Jesus, “All of your power is not from you, but is from God.” Pilate could not deny the powerful words that came from the mouth of Jesus, but in fear he succumbed to the lies and will of the Pharisees, eventually offering Jesus to be crucified.
Bearing a cross, Jesus departed from the hall of Pilate. For centuries Pilate would be remembered as the man who knowingly executed an innocent Jesus. Because of cowardice and fear, he had disregarded justice and had partaken in an evil plot by wicked men. Pilate sought to mask his foolishness by attaching the false accusation of insurrection. His claim forever would be that Jesus sought to be the King of the Jews and overthrow the Roman government. Nothing could be further from the truth, and any rational bystander could see that.
How often do we do similar things? Knowing the right and true thing, we succumb to pressure and fear instead of truth and justice. Seeking to please a few, we expend mercy and love. May we see Pilate’s failure today and be encouraged to seek rightness and purity in our own lives.

Food For Thought: Why was Pilate scared of crucifying Jesus? Why did Pilate eventually still crucify Him?

Friday, December 12, 2014

John 18:28-40

Following His arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus endured two mock trials at the hands of the ruling Jewish leaders. Ultimately, these trials were just a charade. We know from earlier chapters that it was the goal of the Jewish leaders to kill Jesus whenever they got the chance, and now, they had the chance. The trials that they were holding were not so that they could seek justice. Rather, these trials were simply their way to attempt to vindicate their murder of an innocent man, Jesus.
Eventually, they decided that they needed to report to the local Roman governor, Pilate, and ask for Him to execute Jesus. They had determined that Jesus should die, but Roman law strictly prohibited them from carrying out a death sentence. Now, they were forced to come to the Roman authorities and ask them to do the dirty work of killing Jesus.
At this point, John reveals the lack of integrity that these religious hypocrites had. Since they were headed into the Jewish feast of Passover, they did not want to defile themselves by going into a Gentile building. Ceremoniously, they would be considered unclean according to their own rules, meaning they could not partake of the Passover. This was the most hypocritical thing that could have transpired on this day. At the same time as they lied and sought to murder Jesus, they somehow rationalized the idea that walking into a Gentile building might somehow defile them.
They truly were flagrant hypocrites. Earlier, Jesus had accused them of being whited-sepulchers, with a well manicured exterior, but a rotten pile of bones and flesh on the inside. Their attempt to obey the ceremonial law was of no purpose up against the deceit and murder that was in their hearts. They thought walking into a building would defile them, but they were already filthy with wickedness.
As Jesus came before Pilate, for the first time true justice was extended. Pilate asked the Jewish leaders, “What accusation bring ye against this man?” Pilate would not execute an innocent man, he needed evidence, he needed to weigh the details and determine guilt or innocence. The answer of the Jews revealed that they did not intend to carry out justice. Instead, they just wanted Pilate to kill Jesus. Here, we see a great departure from the desires of God. Blinded by wickedness and hatred, the Jewish leaders who were supposed to be God’s people obeying God’s desires, instead became worse than their pagan Gentile counterparts. In this scenario, the pagan Roman governor acted with more justice and rightness than any of the hypocritical Jewish leaders.
Ultimately, Pilate cross-examined the testimony of Jesus. After his conversation with Jesus, Pilate carried his verdict to the Jewish leaders who were waiting outside, “I find no fault in him.” Having exhausted his legal training, Pilate determined that Jesus was not a guilty man, and that He was certainly not worthy of execution. Execution was something that was reserved for the vile and the wicked. It was something that was reserved for murderers and liars. It was something that was for those who acted like the Pharisees, not the innocent guiltless Jesus. Jesus was sinless. The religious leaders knew it, and Pilate confirmed it. If He were to die, it would be as a sinless Savior.

Food For Thought: What did the Jewish leaders do that was hypocritical in regards to their meeting with Pilate?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

John 18:25-27

“Peter, put away your sword!” The last words Jesus spoke to Peter were a rebuke. In the torch-lit garden, surrounded by hundreds of soldiers, Peter, alone, had defended Jesus. The closest enemy, and unsuspecting too, was Malchus, the servant of the High Priest. In an instant, Peter flailed his sword at the head of Malchus, but when Malchus instinctively ducked, Peter’s sword glanced off the side of Malchus’s head removing only his right ear.
Jesus and his disciples had been completely non-combative up to this point. During all previous altercations, even when an angry mob was about to kill them, they never resorted to violence. This action of Peter must have been alarming for the group of soldiers who planned for a peaceful arrest.
Rebuking Peter, Jesus turned to help the man that had come to arrest Him. Luke tells us that Jesus reached over and touched Malchus’s ear, healing it. Jesus had not come to kill, but to be killed. He had not come to rescue Himself, but to offer Himself a ransom. He did not want to resist, He wanted to redeem.
As the other disciples departed with fear into the night, Peter followed Jesus closely, watching from a distance as He was led first to Annas, and then to Caiaphas. When Jesus was taken into the house of Annas, Peter subtly moved to enter the courtyard. As he entered, he was met by a young girl that was in charge of the door. Immediately, she recognized Peter as one of Jesus’s disciples. Without hesitating, she asked Peter a question that he had not mentally prepared for, “Aren’t you one of Jesus’s disciples?”
He was ready to fight to the death for Jesus. He was ready to make the enemies of Jesus pay for their wickedness. He was ready for everything, except a probing, untimely question from a young girl. In defensive reflex, he stuttered out, “I’m not!” A few moments later, again, he was accused of following Jesus. Now, surrounded by people favorable to the High Priest and hateful to Jesus, Peter was mortified. He had not been ready for this kind of mental torture. The moment of gravity came when Jesus was moved to Caiaphas’s house. It was Caiaphas’s servant whose ear Peter had previously removed with a glancing sword blow. Now, Peter drew near to the property.
As Peter stood warming himself, John tells us that one of Malchus’s kinsmen stood next to Peter, and immediately recognized him. Just hours earlier, he had been with Malchus in the garden and had seen Peter. “Didn’t I just see you in the garden with Jesus?” the man began. Cursing, Peter spat with fury, “I don’t know Him!!” In the distance, the sound of the early morning-call echoed from the throat of a rooster, and Peter’s guilt came rushing like a tidal wave. Hearing the bird crowing took Peter back to earlier that night and the piercing words of Jesus, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.” The words echoed over and over in Peter’s head as tears of shame filled his eyes. Peter hurried out of the courtyard sobbing. On this night, Judas wasn’t the only one to betray Jesus. Jesus was on trial, and Peter had abandoned Him. Faithfulness was too difficult for Peter.

Food For Thought: Peter sinned when he least expected to, but isn’t that how most sin is? List a couple of moments in your life where the stress or frustration of the moment caused you to sinfully surrender to a quick lie or a harsh word. If you have not yet, take some time now to confess and repent of this sin.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

John 18:15-24

Having been bound, Jesus was taken to the house of one of the Jewish leaders, Annas. Annas is a special character in Jewish history. During the childhood of Jesus, Annas had been chosen for High Priest in Israel. This meant that he was a Levite, probably a descendant of Aaron. As High Priest, Annas had gained so much power that the Romans worried about his control of his countrymen, so they intervened ordering him to step down.
According to the Law, the High Priest was supposed to be a life position, so for the Romans to do this was a move that was in direct opposition to the customs and practice of the Jews. However, while Annas was still alive, he continued to maintain extensive power and influence, even though “officially” he was no longer the High Priest according to the Romans. For example, after Annas was forced to step down, the next seven high priests were all related to Annas; five of them were his sons, one was his grandson, and at the time of Christ’s crucifixion, Caiaphas, was his son-in-law.
Now, Jesus stood in front of Annas, who still was regarded by many to be the high priest since his untimely resignation by Roman coercion. This was to be a trial. Jesus was the defendant, and Annas the sole judge. Nowhere in Jewish law did this little midnight court find any precedent. Rather, everything about this proceeding was filthy, contaminated, and debauched. According to the law, the accused could not be convicted on his own testimony. Rather, the entire Jewish legal system was built on the witness principle, where two or three credible, agreeing witnesses must provide a statement of guilt in regards to the defendant. In the darkness of this night, there were no witnesses, only a conniving and evil, religo-political has-been, Annas.
Furthermore, the trial must not be held simply in the audience of one man, but legally, it must be before the multitude of the members of the Sanhedrin. According to Jewish Law, ample time must be given to call together all of the ruling members. This was not something that could be done legally in the night hours. Rather, time must be taken to ensure that the accused received a fair and unbiased trial. But this would not be the case. The accuser, Annas, was not concerned with fair and unbiased. He had already made up his mind, and would convince his son-in-law, Caiaphas, of the same.
Ever mindful and obedient to the law, Jesus commanded Annas to call witnesses forward to testify of the evil things that He had taught. His ministry had been done in the open, in highly populated areas like synagogues and the temple. Jesus never lost control of the situation. It was not out of control even when one of the foolish guards standing next to Him struck Him in the face. Rather, with a calm confidence, Jesus petitioned the abuser to give the evidence that warranted physical abuse.
The entire pre-trial with Annas was a mockery of justice. From the arrogance of Annas, to the unwillingness to even follow the regular procedures afforded in Jewish law, there was no true trial of Jesus’ guilt. The minds of biased men had been made up. They hated Jesus and they would dispense of Him even if that meant they must dispense of justice and holiness along the way. On this dark, cold night, these evil men stood and looked into the face of the innocent Son of God, inadvertently issuing condemnation and judgment on themselves.

Food For Thought: Name a couple things that Annas did that was illegal according to Jewish law in the pretrial of Jesus.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

John 18:9-14

As we come to the account of the arrest of Jesus, we must keep in mind that John’s goal in writing the Gospel according to John was to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus is in fact God. Up to this point, John has given clear testimony of the miraculous ministry of Jesus from the many unparalleled healings, to the unbelievable power over nature, and even His ability to supernaturally foretell everything that was currently transpiring in the gospel account at this moment. Jesus was undoubtedly God. The evidence was indomitable.
Furthermore, Jesus had clearly explained hours before that one of His own disciples would betray Him. With the arrival of Judas in the garden, Jesus confirmed His Deity, but the implications of that reality were lost on His disciples as the soldiers moved closer. Now, with the soldiers in the garden, torch light illumining their sweaty, bearded faces, Peter settled his palm on the handle of his sword. He certainly wasn’t as highly trained as the band of Roman soldiers that had come to arrest Jesus, but then again, between the two swords that the disciples had (Luke 22:38)and the power of Jesus, Peter must have figured they could have mustered the strength to overwhelm the midnight band of marauders.
The metal flashed in the darkness as Peter swung his cold blade at the head of the nearest guard, Malchus, smashing the side of his face and slicing off his ear. Immediately, Jesus stepped in and stayed the sword of Peter. By not fleeing, Jesus had already indicated that His desire was not escape. This was His hour. There was no need to fight His arrest; it was a clearly orchestrated unfolding of a divinely Sovereign plan. The Gospel of Luke tells us that as Jesus rebuked Peter, He also reached down and healed Malchus’s bleeding ear.
Jesus was God. Even in this moment. He did not need a sword in the hand of a fisherman to protect Him from a band of Roman infantrymen.
God does not need protecting. He had demonstrated His power by briefly disabling the approaching troop with the breath of His words. If He wanted to stop this event, He didn’t need to use Peter’s inadequate swordsmanship. But He didn’t want to stop this event. This was Passover Day, the day where thousands of lambs would be slain as an image of the coming Savior who would take away the sins of the world permanently. Now, the Lamb of God had come, and He would be offered on this afternoon.
The arrest must proceed. The plan of God could not be stopped. From the birth of Jesus, to the betrayal by Judas, everything had been Sovereignly plotted before the foundation of the world. Now, Jesus would proceed to the court of the High Priest to be placed on trial and to be sacrificed by the High Priest for the sins of the people. As they bound Jesus and began to mistreat Him, we must not lose sight of His power and ability to stop the process at any step with the word of His power. The fact that He didn’t clearly indicates that this was His desire. This was His plan. He had come to be offered as a sin offering for God’s people. Now, at the hands of the priests He would be bound and led to the slaughter.

Food For Thought: Why was Peter’s attempt to protect Jesus with a sword completely absurd?

Monday, December 8, 2014

John 18:3-8

The light of distant torches flickered through the canopies of distorted olive trees as the disciples squinted into the darkness down the mountain. The sound of clinking armor plates and strapped scabbards echoed up the trail to where Jesus and His followers had stopped to pray. Every time that Jesus and the disciples had been confronted up to this point, they had simply walked away through the midst of the crowds and escaped. Confusion must have set in for the disciples as Jesus descended the trail towards the troop that carried torches, swords, and clubs. Estimates place this force of guards and soldiers at 200 or more men, fully armed and ready for serious resistance.
Jesus had brought with Him a group of common laborers, fishermen and a tax collector. If this was going to turn into a fight, it seemed apparent to all those that were there that night, which side would be victorious. As the troop approached, the disciples must have been completely perplexed to see one of their own, Judas Iscariot at the front of the group. Perhaps they tried to rationalize his presence there. Maybe he had been arrested, and now these men had come to arrest Jesus and the other disciples. Or, perhaps, the soldiers and guards had become converts, and had come to help Jesus take over as king.
The confusion must have only thickened as cursing, grumbling soldiers sneered at Judas as he approached Jesus. The other gospel accounts tell us how that Judas greeted Jesus with a customary cultural greeting of a kiss, but John expands the story and tells us that at some point, Jesus stepped forward to address the entire army that had come.
“Whom seek ye?” These were the words of confident omniscience. Jesus wasn’t curious, He just needed them to acknowledge Him. This was not Judas’ moment. It was not the soldiers’ moment. This moment belonged to Jesus. He was God, and there would be no doubting this by the end of the night. Quickly, they responded, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Instantly, He responded with an answer that carried with it the power of the heavens. 
“I AM.”
Instantly, the entire group of soldiers, Judas included, fell backward to the ground. What had just happened? In responding to the soldiers, Jesus was not simply giving an answer. Rather, He was making a statement. If you notice, the conversation was one-sided. Jesus was the only one asking questions, not the soldiers. This moment belonged to Jesus. Now, Jesus had spoken with the authority of God, a name expressly reserved for God in the Old Testament - “I AM.” This was no coincidence. Jesus used the name of God given in Exodus. As Moses went to face-off against the plurality of Egyptian gods, God told Moses that He would offer victory and deliverance through His name – I AM.
The power and authority of Jesus was undeniable in this moment. With confidence He had stepped out to meet the midnight army ahead of his disciples. Now, with the simple breath of His voice, He had incapacitated the entire group that had come to arrest Him. There was no doubting who was in control. If Jesus was arrested, it was by permission. He had not fled when He had the chance. He did not hide as the group approached. This was His moment, and He would march with boldness and courage into the hands of those who would malign Him. He was prepared for their worst, because through it, He could offer us our best.

Food For Thought: Knowing the setting and result of original use of “I AM” in the Old Testament, why do you think that Jesus used it on this night when He was faced with those who were contrary to God?

Friday, December 5, 2014

John 18:1-2

Jesus and His disciples finished praying in the upper room, and departed for a nearby garden just outside of Jerusalem. Hours earlier, Judas had departed in haste into the night, but the other disciples had not taken much note of that. Directly outside the city of Jerusalem was a valley, the Valley of Kidron (spelled “Cedron” in the Gospel of John). Winding through the Valley of Kidron is a brook, that flowed from one end of the valley to the other, with Jerusalem and the temple one side of the valley, and the Mount of Olives and the garden of Gethsemane on the other.
The trip across the brook and up to Gethsemane was a familiar one to Jesus and His disciples, because He frequently retreated from Jerusalem to there to pray and to rest. This was a familiar place to all of His disciples, including Judas. As John records the story, He makes an extra note to inform the reader that Judas was very familiar with this place of quiet and respite. We find in the other gospel accounts that Jesus arrived in the garden and began praying. His prayer in the garden was one of agony, accented by the indifference of His sleepy disciples.
While Jesus and the eleven disciples were headed to the garden, Judas was busily gathering an army of guards and soldiers who could come and arrest Jesus and His disciples. Now, at this point, some reading the story might realize that there is a seeming discrepancy in the details. John has spent a massive amount of time convincing the reader that Jesus is God. There were times where the power of Jesus was demonstrated in His telling the disciples what they were thinking of in that moment. But if He knew the thoughts of their hearts, then He would have known that Judas was going to bring a group of soldiers to arrest Him. If He knew this was going to happen, why would He have ever gone to Gethsemane and allowed Himself to be trapped like this?
The answer to this dilemma is quite simple, really. This seeming discrepancy is not a discrepancy at all. Jesus knew exactly what Judas was going to do, which is why He sent Judas away in John 13:27. Jesus was not falling into a trap. He was walking willingly into the most horrible scenario anyone could have ever fathomed, and His eyes were wide open. There was no surprise, and there was no astonishment. Jesus had come to earth for this moment. Just as He had prayed moments earlier, now, His hour of purpose had finally arrived.
On this Passover night, with the slaughtering of tens of thousands of lambs in Jerusalem for the annual remembrance of God’s provision for and salvation of His people, the omniscient Jesus walked confidently into the arms of the betrayer and His arresting hoard. This was not an accident. He was not tricked. He was finally fulfilling what He had come to do - die a sacrificial death for the sins of His people. Satan, Judas, and the entire crowd that hated Jesus imagined that they had pulled one over on Him, but as they yanked the rope of entrapment around Jesus, they simply tightened the noose on their own necks. It would cost Him His life, but He would be victorious by the end of the day.

Food For Thought: Was Jesus surprised by the army of soldiers that came with Judas? Explain your answer.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

John 17:20-26

Have you ever seen a painting or a sculpture of the Last Supper? Perhaps you have seen the famous one by Renaissance Master Leonardo da Vinci. Well, did you know that as Jesus sat at the table that night, He had you and me on His mind? Not only did He think of us, He even spent time in prayer for us.
After praying for His own glory and for His disciples, Jesus finished His prayer at the Last Supper by praying for the church. It is a staggering thought that nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus was praying for us, here in America in 2014. This was the grand reality of His prayer, that as He prayed on that evening before His crucifixion, He had believers from all over the globe, through all the centuries of time on His mind.
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.”
We must realize too that as He prayed that prayer He had not yet died on the cross for sin. This means that His disciples were sitting there at the table, oblivious to the fact that shortly thereafter He would be taken away and executed. But this was not something He was unaware of. Rather, He had been speaking freely all evening about His impending self-sacrifice. Shortly, He would demonstrate that His love for those who believed in Him was genuine.
He had begun the evening by humbly washing the disciples’ feet indicating that He truly loved and cared for His disciples. But it would be days later, when they realized that He had given His life as a substitute for their sins, that they would ultimately recognize the depths of His selfless love for them.
We have the benefit of seeing the entire experience in hindsight. We see His prayer for us, followed immediately by His sacrifice for us. The authenticity of His care for us is inarguable. So, we understand that He prayed for us, but what did He pray for us?
In verses 21,22,and 23, Jesus continually asked God “that they may be one.” His desire for us, reflecting the desire of God for us, is that we would dwell together in a very distinct unity. Some would understand this unity to mean that all Christians everywhere should drop their denominational distinctions and theological differences and build a sort of ecumenical hodge-podge. Rather, if you recall, Jesus was praying for the sanctification of His followers just a couple verses earlier. Now, as He prayed for unity, there was a basis for that unity – holiness. It was the desire of Jesus that believers everywhere, regardless of cultural differences, would be able to unite under one common purpose - holiness.
Jesus still desires that we, as His followers, dwell together in this same purpose. It is not good enough to say that we are Christian. It is not sufficient to be warm bodies in pews. Rather, understanding that Christ only prayed those things that were the will of God, we can clearly see that God desires us to dwell together in unity and holiness. We should seek to create community with other believers that finds its moorings not in a favorite sport or hobby, but rather that finds its foundations in the purity and holiness that God desires and that our Savior Jesus prayed for and then died for.

Food For Thought: What phrase did Jesus say that tells us that He was praying for us too on the night of the Last Supper?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

John 17:6-19

As Jesus prayed following His teaching at the Last Supper with His disciples, He began by asking God to glorify Him in three very specific ways. He prayed that He would be glorified by becoming the source of eternal life for all those who would come in faith to Him. He prayed further that He would receive glory for completing His task of total, humble obedience to the Father. Finally, He prayed that He would be glorified by returning to His pre-incarnate position with the Father in Heaven.
After praying for His own glory, Jesus turned His prayer in a different direction. Having prayed for Himself, He continued by praying for His disciples. They had followed Him faithfully for several years and now, before He would depart from them, He petitioned God on their behalf for some specific needs.
Jesus prayed for His disciples that as they had already been obedient to His commands (v.6), and had put their faith in Him (v.8), that they would continue in that obedience and faith. The indications of a true disciple were these very things that Jesus was praying. Their obedience to the commands of Christ, namely loving God and loving others, would be a continual confirmation that they were truly His followers. Judas had departed in greed and self-service to betray Jesus and all those that were assembled with Him because Judas was not a true disciple; His lack of love indicated that.
Jesus moved on from praying for their holiness and love to praying for their unity. It would be the desires of Satan to separate them. Jesus had already warned Peter that Satan desired to devastate him (Luke 22:31); now, Jesus prayed against that work of Satan. In Philippians 2:2, Paul wrote of this need for unity when he wrote, “[be] of one accord, of one mind.” Praying for His disciples, Jesus asked God to draw His followers into a unity that mirrored the unity found in the Trinity (v.11).
"That they may be one, as we are."
Christ continued His prayer acknowledging the Father’s will that even though Jesus must depart, His disciples would stay in the dangerous world to declare the news of the gospel. It would not be an easy road ahead, but Jesus did promise that it would be a victorious road. There might be trouble and trials, but Jesus prayed that God would take care of His followers.
Finally, after praying for obedience, love, unity, and even strength in their trials, Jesus prayed for the spiritual growth and maturity of His followers. He asked God to sanctify, or to cleanse and mature them. The means by which they would grow would not be through abstract spiritual impressions, or subjective revelations, no, Jesus prayed only according to the will of God. It is God’s will that His people receive the nourishing flow of cleansing from the one fountain of sanctifying truth, the Word of God.
"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."
By extension, this prayer at the Last Supper went beyond the eleven sitting at the table and reaches out through time to us, the followers of Jesus. His prayer for the eleven is a prayer that He continually intercedes and offers in Heaven even now. He prays that we, His people, might continue in faith, obedience, love, unity, and that we might continually grow through the sanctifying power of the Word.

Food For Thought: Put in your own words a few of the things that Jesus prayed for His followers.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

John 17:2-5

For thirty three years Jesus had been on the earth obeying God and ministering to those around Him. Now, the great culmination of centuries of prophecy was being accomplished in one day. As Jesus continued in prayer to the Father, He prayed for something that for us would be unusual to pray.
“Glorify thy Son.”
It was the desire of Jesus that through His sacrifice on the cross, He would be glorified. But how did He plan to be glorified? What would take place that would bring Him glory? As Jesus continued praying, He gave a few ways in which He was going to be glorified.
According to verse 2, Jesus would be glorified by becoming the fountain of eternal life for all those that came in faith to Him. Anyone who would receive the blessing and forgiveness of God must come through Jesus. He was the exclusive way of salvation. Eternal life could only come through Jesus. Every single person that God had chosen for salvation would come in faith to Jesus and would receive eternal life.
In verse 4, we see that Jesus would be further glorified in His completion of the work that God had sent Him to do. Namely, Jesus would be glorified by becoming a substitute for sinners. Jesus had lived a sinless life in obedience to God. He would then become obedient to God in His death on the cross. In this sacrifice, He would surrender His righteousness to those who came in faith, and bear in Himself the punishment for their sin. In submitting Himself obediently to God, Jesus would become the glorious supply of redemptive power.
Jesus asked God to glorify Him by making Him the source of eternal life for all those who would believe, and He prayed that God would glorify Him through His obedient substitutionary death. Finally, Jesus asked God to glorify Him by returning Him to His original place of honor in Heaven. For thirty three years Jesus had been humbled to exist as a lowly human subject to human deficiency like hunger and exhaustion; and He bore the humiliation of mockery and scorn by evil men. With His glory limited, Jesus had patiently waited for the day that His full glory would be returned to Him. He would return to Heaven to be with the Father, and the glory that He had in the beginning would be restored to Him. No more weariness and no more jeers. He would be once again the glorious Son of God that had existed with God the Father and God the Spirit since the beginning.

Food For Thought: As Jesus prayed, He asked God to accomplish things that were already going to happen. Read 1 John 5:14. Why did Jesus pray with confidence for these things in John 17?

Monday, December 1, 2014

John 17:1

The last supper had finished a while earlier, and Jesus sat teaching. Knowing that arrest, imprisonment and a mock trial would happen in the next few hours, Jesus reiterated several promises to His disciples to offer them encouragement during the most harrowing moments of their lives.
As a loving Shepherd comforting and guiding His sheep, Jesus gave promises of joy and peace, of support and sustenance, of a coming Comforter, and of unhindered fellowship with God the Father.

Jesus concluded His teaching, and sat back. In John 16:33, He said to His disciples, “but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Ultimately, the concerns of the next day would be shrouded in this reality, Jesus was not defeated, rather, He was the victor. The sky might blacken, the disciples might flee, but Jesus was finally fulfilling what had been in motion since before the first word of the Genesis creation. 
As Jesus prayed to the Father, His words glistened with the redemptive truth that had lain unmined throughout the Old Testament. From the lips of Jesus came the words that would shake the pillars of Heaven and the heart of all those at enmity with God.

“Father, the hour is come.”

This was the day that the serpent’s head would be crushed. It was on this day that the shadowy cloud of Passover sacrifices would be melted and the world would watch as the Lamb of God would take away the sins of the world. It was on this day that the prophecies of the coming Messiah would be fulfilled in the suffering of the Savior. There was no going back. The roller coaster cart had crested the top of the hill. There was no disembarking. The next day would be a whirlwind of terror, abandonment, agony, and prophetic fulfillment. This hour, His hour, had come. And while the clouds of darkness rolled in, Jesus laid a clear example for us. He did not plan to face this alone. Rather, in John 16:32 Jesus told His disciples what He now demonstrated for them in His praying, “I am not alone, the Father is with me.” Knowing the gravity of what was going to transpire; Jesus turned instinctively to the Father and asked Him for His will to be fulfilled and for His power to be demonstrated. 

Food For Thought: If Jesus knew that God would grant victory to Him, yet He still prayed asking God to do so, what does that teach us we should be doing even when it seems like the outcome is inevitable?