John, Chapter 21, Part 2

John 21:15 – When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”  He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”  He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

As we ended out post last week, we were examining the miraculous catch of fish that Jesus gave to his disciples in Galilee.  After they came to shore, they found Jesus had prepared a breakfast of fish and bread for them. 

After the meal is concluded, Jesus begins to speak to Peter. 

Notice how specific Jesus is with his inquiry – he doesn’t just ask Peter if he loves him.  He asks if Peter loves him ‘more than these’.  In the original Greek language, ‘these’ is slightly ambiguous.  It means one of two things. 

In the first scenario, ‘these’ would refer to ‘things’, such as Peter’s boat, his fishing equipment, his business, his house, etc.  If this is the reference, then Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him more than his possessions.  He is asking Peter if he is ready and willing to leave these things behind in order to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth. 

However, in the second (and much more likely) scenario, ‘these’ would refer to the other apostles.  If this is the reference, then Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him more than the other disciples do.  That might seem like an odd question, until we remember the haughty claim made by Peter – that he would never abandon or deny Christ even though his fellow disciples might:

Matthew 26:33 – Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”

With that statement, Peter implied that he loved Jesus more than his colleagues, and that he was more committed to Christ then they were.  

So, with this one simple question, Jesus reminds Peter of his pride, his fall and his blasphemous denial of his master.  Notice how merciful and loving Jesus acts towards Peter.  Jesus could have scorned and chastised him in front of all the others; Peter certainly deserved it.  But instead, Jesus brings up this tough topic after they had shared a meal together in peace, speaking to Peter as a friend, not an accuser.

Why would Jesus bring up this topic in the first place?

He does it because Peter needs to be restoredMany scholars maintain that Peter’s treacherous denial of Christ rendered him unfit to be an apostle, and that he must be reinstated into his office.  Others feel this viewpoint is a bit extreme because there is no official record that Peter was ever actually excluded from the apostolic leadership.  Because of his denial, Peter himself may have wondered where he stood with Jesus and what his future role would be as a disciple.

Clearly, Peter’s repudiation of Christ is a situation that cannot be ignored, ‘swept under the rug’ or simply shrugged off.  His conduct has dishonored Christ and stained the gospel message.  How can he now lead the church?  How can he instruct others in the faith?  How can we have faith in his testimony about Christ?   

The only way for Peter to move forward and be effective in ministry is for Jesus to renew/reaffirm his calling or re-establish his position.  This is what we find happening in the last part of this chapter.

The three confirmations that Jesus requires of Peter mirror his earlier three-fold denial of Christ.  Through this three-fold confirmation, Jesus is restoring Peter to his position as a full apostle; his betrayal and disgrace are completely blotted out by Christ. 

Once this situation was addressed, Peter was able to move forward and boldly execute his office, being confident and assured of the calling he had been given by Christ. 

John 21:16 –He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”  He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ – This is now the second time that Jesus confronts Peter with this question.  We notice that Jesus questions Peter in front of all his fellow apostles.  The reason is two-fold.  One, Peter had publicly denied Jesus, so he should now publicly affirm his love for Christ.  Two, it was important for the other disciples to hear Jesus re-affirm Peter’s call to ministry so they too could feel confident having him as a colleague and leader in the church.

‘Yes Lord; you know that I love you.’ – Wow!  Peter sure has changed/matured.  We now see that his attitude is one of humility.  He no longer brags that his love of Christ is superior to that of his brothers.  He is now aware of his own weakness and his need to be spiritually strengthened. 

This is a good lesson for every believer.  When we first come to know Christ, we are unaware of just how immature we are in the faith.  We are often unable to see our own shortcomings, even though we can seem to see them clearly in everyone else!

Matthew 7:4-5 –Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull the speck out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the speck out of your brother’s eye.

It is imperative that as Christians, we remain humble at all times.  While we may excel in some areas of Christian development, we all have areas that still need work.  If you think you are perfect, or close to it, I suggest spending time in the presence of Holy Spirit.  He can reveal to you those areas of your life that need to be more fully submitted to God, even though you can’t see them.  He is here to help you mature in your faith.

‘Tend my sheep’ – Throughout the scriptures, God often refers to himself as a shepherd and his followers as his flock/sheep/lambs (John 10:14, I Peter 2:25, Psalms 78:51-52, Ezekiel 34:12, etc).  This concept is key to understanding the command of Jesus in this passage.

The directive Jesus gives here is not exactly the same as before.  The first time he instructs Peter to ‘Feed my lambs’.  The Greek word for ‘feed’ means ‘the care afforded (to the animal) by furnishing nutrition for the flock’.  Thus, our translation renders the phrase ‘feed my lambs’. 

In other words, when Jesus instructs Peter to nourish his sheep, he is referring to giving them good/sound teaching and doctrine regarding the gospel.  This would be one of the main avenues of ministry for all the apostles once they were enlightened and empowered by Holy Spirit.   

Sound doctrine/teaching was (and is) absolutely imperative to the church! Though the disciples didn’t realize it at the time, Satan was not going to sit idly by while they spread the gospel and won the world to Christ.  Just after the birth of the church, Satan unleashed his fury on earth.  He tried to destroy the church using a two-pronged attack:  persecution and false teaching.

2 Peter 2:1 – But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who shall secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

It was vitally important that the disciples maintain sound teaching and pure doctrine in the church, so that Satan could not lead believers astray into some kind of fruitless bondage or spiritual death. Even today, Christians must continue to be diligent in guarding against false teaching. 

The second time Jesus answers Peter, his instructions are to ‘tend my sheep’.  The Greek word for ‘tend’ means to ‘govern, care for, guide, protect’.  This is the kind of care that a dedicated shepherd or pastor uses to guide his flock.

The job of a pastor is much, much more than just giving a good sermon once a week!  Pastors are responsible for overseeing the spiritual growth of the entire congregation.  He or she must spiritually equip the church to stand up against attacks of the enemy and lead the congregation in Christian disciplines.  He or she must comfort, guide, teach and protect the flock, just as a shepherd does for his sheep.  Being a pastor is an awesome yet difficult job!

John 21:17 – He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

Now we come to the third time Jesus asks Peter to reaffirm his love for him.  Peter is grieved that Jesus would continue to ask this question.   Why was Peter grieved?

It may be that Peter felt Jesus saw something deep within his heart which might lead to another fall from grace, and that Jesus was about to tell him about it.  After all, Jesus had accurately predicted Peter’s earlier denial (Mark 14:30).  

It may also be that Peter thought Jesus did not consider his repentance to be sincere.  This would best explain why Peter appeals to the divine nature of Christ, stating that because Jesus was divine he knew all things, and because he knew all things, he knew that Peter had sincerely repented of his earlier denial. 

This questioning was painful for Peter, but God used his grief and anguish for his own good.  Jesus reaffirms him as a true apostle, and Peter’s rashness in speech and action were gone for good – we never again see them appearing in scripture.

John 21:18-19 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”(This he said to show by what kind of death he as to glorify God.)  And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

The apostle John tells us that Jesus is speaking of the death of Peter in this verse.  Ancient writers tell us that Peter was crucified on a cross, upside down, about 34 years after Jesus’ resurrection.  If we examine this verse in light of these two facts, it seems plain enough to understand.

The apostle John tells us that Jesus is speaking of the death of Peter in this verse.  Ancient writers tell us that Peter was crucified on a cross, upside down, about 34 years after Jesus’ resurrection.  If we examine this verse in light of these two facts, it seems plain enough to understand.

Early on in life, when Peter was young, he had the freedom and ability to dress himself and go wherever he desired.  But if he accepts the mandate of Jesus to ‘feed my sheep’, then things will change when he grows older.  Specifically, a soldier will dress him and force him to go where he does not want to go – the place of crucifixion, where his arms will be stretched out on the cross and nailed (or bound).

Several things can be noted about these verses. 

  • Jesus is warning or predicting the future suffering and martyrdom of Peter.  While that sounds awful, it was proof that Peter would never again deny Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Once filled with Holy Spirit, Peter would possess the fortitude to successfully endure any and all persecution that Satan could throw at him.  Because of his former fall, these words must have brought comfort to Peter at different points in his life.
  • There was no shame in the fact that Peter did not want to go to the cross.  (No one I know is hoping to die a humiliating, painful early death.  Do you know anyone?)Jesus is not saying that Peter would be unwilling to suffer martyrdom; he is just drawing a contrast between the freedom of Peter’s early life and the fact that he would be compelled to endure prison and death when he was older.  Keep in mind that Jesus also prayed to his Father to remove the cup of the cross from him, if at all possible (Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36).   
  • This death would not come upon Peter until he was mature in the faith, and ready to endure the trial.  He seems to have known when the time was near, and he was able to speak about it without fear (2 Peter 1:12-14).  God also left him on earth for a generous amount of time, that the church might benefit from his teaching and testimony.

Here is the good news – God does the same for us.  He will not put us into a situation unless it is possible for us to be victorious (I Corinthians 10:13).  In addition, we know that God walks with us through every trial:

Hebrews 13:5 -Let your conduct be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.

Christ was glorified by Peter’s death.  When Peter was older and stronger in his faith, he was willing to die as a testimony to the truth of Christ and his gospel.  Incidentally, the scriptures tell us that the death of every believer is precious in the sight of the Lord, because it means we are reunited to him forever (Psalms 116:15). 

After these words, it appears that Jesus rose from the table and began to walk, beckoning Peter to follow him.  This was a further confirmation that Christ had forgiven and restored Peter. 


In some ways we could also say it was the reason for Peter’s eventual martyrdom – following Christ will cost you something.  Jesus had explained to all his disciples that the servant is never greater than the master.  Since the world hated and persecuted Jesus, it would hate and persecute his followers too (John 15:18-20).  Some of them, like Peter, would be asked to give their lives as a testimony to the truth.

It has often been a topic of speculation among Christians whether or not their faith would stand strong if they were given the choice between death and renouncing their faith.  Overall, I think this is idle speculation.  The best way to be prepared for that situation is simply to remain close to Jesus and trust Holy Spirit for the strength to face that battle, if/when it comes upon you.

Jesus’ command to ‘follow him’ still applies today.  Christians in our generation must continue to abide by the word of God and follow the example of Christ in all of our speech and actions.

John 21:20-21 – Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”

As Peter walks and talks with Jesus, he sees the apostle John following behind them.  At this point, Peter asks Jesus about the eventual death of John. 

What prompted Peter to ask this question?

We can’t say for sure because it is impossible for us to know his motivation.  Maybe, since John was a favorite of Jesus, Peter wondered if he would have an easier (less violent) death.  But on the other hand, the question may have come from a loving concern for his friend; perhaps Peter was very concerned about John suffering death by crucifixion. 

What we do know for sure, is that Jesus did not choose to gratify the idle curiosity of Peter. 

For most of us, God does not reveal to us the date or manner in which we will enter eternity.  There are certainly man good reasons for this. 

  • If we knew the date of our death, we would surely live reckless lives, assuring ourselves that it wasn’t our time to die. 
  • Because of our fallen nature, many would have a tendency to indulge in sin, thinking they could repent later. 
  • We would delay or ‘put off’ laboring for Jesus on a daily basis, if we knew we had more time. 
  • We would try to carefully avoid the place and time of our death, and thus seek to extend our lives.

God’s plan is obviously far better – when we don’t know the final date or place of our death, we can live and work for Christ as if each day were our last. 

John 21:22-23 – Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?  You follow me!”So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

With this statement, Jesus makes it very clear that Peter was to stay within the limits of his own calling.  It wasn’t his business to know what God had prepared for John.  It was his business to follow Christ and complete the race that God had specifically laid out for him (Hebrews 12:1-2). 

How does this apply to us?

Our main business in this life is to follow after Christ.  It is fine to become rich/famous or create popular music or make great scientific breakthroughs, but these things are secondary to serving God.  Remember, you can’t take it with you!  The things of this world are temporary; only spiritual things are eternal.

Matthew 6:19-20 – Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

Just because you follow Christ does not mean you should abandon a secular calling on your life and pursue full-time ministerial work.  God is looking for people to serve him as they practice law, coach sports, govern people, run successful businesses, collect trash or repair cars.  Excel in the arena God has assigned to you and serve him there. 

The path God has set before each one of us is unique.  Because each of us has an individual role assigned to us by God, we should never compare ourselves to other Christians.  Use the talents God gave you to the best of your ability, and you will succeed.

Matthew 25:15 – And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his own ability; and immediately took his journey.

Humans are curious by nature and we have many questions about life and religion that we would like to have answered.  However, there are some things we will never know.  We should not spend a great deal of time speculating about things that fall into this category.  For instance, we could argue or speculate endlessly on the interpretation of some portions of Revelation.  However, this would not be beneficial.  Instead, we should concentrate on being ready for Christ’s return.

John 21:24 – This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

It is commonly believed that the last two verses in John’s gospel were not written by him, but by the person or persons to whom he entrusted his manuscript.  This person verifies that the apostle John was a man of honesty and integrity. 

The facts contained in his gospel are not mere rumors or third person reports.  John was both an eye-witness and an ear-witness to the events recorded here; these events have not been exaggerated but recorded just as they occurred. 

John 21:25 – Now there are also many other things that Jesus did.  Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

We can be sure that the miracles and teachings of Jesus were never exhausted by any of the gospel writers; many, many more miracles were wrought by Christ than those recorded in the New Testament.

Yet, we have the assurance that it was not necessary to record more than the ones Holy Spirit included in the scriptures.  What has been written is a sufficient revelation of the doctrine of Christ. 

Furthermore, it is implied that it would not have been possible to record all the actions of Jesus, even if someone had wanted to!  The sheer volume would be prohibitive. 

Instead, let us rest assured that we have what we need to go forth and share the love of Christ with others!

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Today’s post spoke about the responsibility of Peter to perform pastoral duties – to govern, care for, guide and protect the local flock of Christ that has been placed under his or her care. 

Your pastor bears many of these same burdens, often with little help and/or compensation.  So, if you love and appreciate your pastor, here are some things you can do for them:

  • Send them a text of appreciation and encouragement. 
  • Pray for them on a regular basis. 
  • Volunteer to serve or help on a church board or ministry.
  • Call them sometime when you don’t want or need something!

What other ways can you think of to assist your pastors?  Don’t just wait for ‘pastor appreciation day’.  Let them know how much you love them right now!

Let me offer you some relief:

We noticed how merciful and loving Jesus acted towards Peter after his denial of Christ.  While that situation had to be dealt with, Jesus did so with mercy and grace.  He fully blotted out Peter’s sin and disgrace.

Have you failed Jesus in some way?  If so, don’t hide from him like Adam and Eve did in the garden.  Instead, right straight to him in prayer, and confess your sin!  He will be deal with you in love and mercy too!

Let me offer you some strength:

Have you ever wondered about the time or place of your own death?  We have probably all done so at some time.  However, it is clearly not a circumstance that God wants us to dwell upon. 

The best thing we can do is remember that TODAY is the only time we are guaranteed.  So, if you want to do something for Christ, spend time with him in prayer, ask him to visit you with dreams/visions, fill you with Holy Spirit or anything else, I suggest that you do it NOW!

John, Chapter 21, Part 1

John 21:1 – After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.

In the final chapter of his gospel, John gives us additional infallible proofs that Jesus has risen from the dead.

At this point, all the disciples of Jesus are well aware that he has risen; they have seen and interacted with him themselves.  Their eyewitness accounts give us faith to believe in the resurrection.

As this chapter opens, we find the disciples have left Jerusalem, the site of the crucifixion and resurrection.  In some ways we might say that Jerusalem is now a forsaken city; it rejected Christ and now it is slated for destruction.  That destruction would happen in 70 AD at the hands of Rome. 

Although the Jews will face intense and terrible persecution there, God has not completely rejected his city or his people.  He will preserve the Jewish nation and restore it to its homeland once again (1948 AD).

As you recall, the Sea of Tiberius is the same as the Sea of Galilee.  This shows that the disciples have gone to Galilee, the place where they were told to meet the Lord (Mark 14:28, Matthew 26:32, Matthew 28:10). Galilee was a natural choice for the meeting; Jesus often ministered here and it is far away from the politics of Jerusalem. As far as we know, this account is the third time that Jesus has revealed himself to his disciples. 

And of course, we find a lesson for ourselves in this verse.  Jesus told the disciples where to meet him – in Galilee.  He has also told us where to find him – in the place of prayer.  He desires to reveal himself to us there, just as he revealed himself to the disciples in Galilee.  If we want to fellowship with him, get to know him, and allow him to work in our lives, we must seek the place of prayer.

John 21:2 – Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.

Here we find seven of the disciples ‘together’ in Galilee.  The meaning is that they were residing together in the same place.  While they were in Galilee, waiting for Jesus and the outpouring of Holy Spirit, they went back to work. 

This was a logical thing to do.  Remember, as long as they traveled with Jesus their needs were met by people who supported the ministry through donations (Luke 8:2-3).  With Jesus gone, that source of income was gone.  Because they had no idea how long they would need to wait for Holy Spirit to come, they had to find a means of support.  Hence, they returned to fishing.

Notice that two of the disciples mentioned here are not identified by name.  Many scholars suppose they were Philip and Andrew, but there is really no clear basis for this identification – it is purely a guess.  The two ‘other’ disciples may have simply been followers of Jesus and not two of the apostles. 

However, we can clear up any mystery about the apostle ‘Nathanael’ – we know him better as Bartholomew.

John 21:3 – Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”  They said to him, “We will go with you.”  They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

First, let us remind ourselves that these men are experienced fishermen.  Not just recreational fishermen like many of us, but commercial fishermen – they had formerly gained all their living in this manner.  Therefore, we can conclude that they have all the necessary equipment, skills and knowledge to be successful in their venture.  We would expect them to succeed. 

Yet, they labor all night long, without the least bit of success.  They didn’t catch even a single fish!  How can this be?

There can be no doubt that God permitted the men to work all night long without the least bit of success, so that it would dramatically draw their attention to the miracle that was about to take place.

John 21:4-5 – Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?”  They answered him, “No.”

How is it possible that the disciples did not recognize Jesus?  We know it was very early in the morning (twilight) and because of the distance to shore, they could not clearly see him.  Since they were not expecting to see Jesus, they probably thought he was a common person, looking to buy some fish.

One thing we should note here is the timing of the appearance of Christ.  The disciples were at a point of hopelessness and possibly even despair.  Nothing was going as they thought it would, and they had exhausted all their own earthly strength and knowledge.  When they came to the end of their own strength, then Christ appeared to offer hope and assistance.

Jesus addresses his disciples with a term of endearment (children), which infers both friendship and affection.  The greeting itself would not necessarily have revealed his identity because the word was commonly used by superiors offering a greeting to those of a lower station. 

By asking them if they have any fish, he again draws attention to their true situation – they have nothing.  Once again, this will make the upcoming miracle an astonishing event in their minds.

John 21:6 – He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”  So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.

Does this situation seem at all familiar?  It should!  In Luke 5:1-11 we have an almost identical situation.  Simon, along with James and John, had fished all night and caught absolutely nothing.  They headed for shore and were washing out their nets when Jesus came and asked them to put him in their boat and push off from the shore, so he could teach the crowd. 

When he had finished, he instructed Peter to launch out from the shore and let down his net.  Peter was skeptical, but he did as Jesus instructed.  He caught such a huge catch of fish that his net broke.  He called for James and John to bring their boat and help him gather the fish.  The catch was so enormous that they filled both ships until they began to sink!

At that point, Jesus told them to follow him, and he would make the fishers of men.

Matthew 4:19 – And he said unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

This scenario is now played out a second time.

Again, the disciples had fished all night with no results.  This time, a man on shore whom they do not know instructs them to specifically cast their nets on the right side of the boat. 

We really do not know what prompted them to obey him.  Perhaps they remembered the command of Jesus from years before.  Perhaps they were simply at a loss as to what else to do, after an exhausting and unfruitful night of work.  In any case, they obeyed him.  After all, what harm could it do?  Maybe this stranger was acquainted with the lake and knew where the fish gathered, or maybe he could see a school of fish from his vantage point.  What was one final casting of the net, in this long night of frustration?  At least they would have the satisfaction of knowing they did all they could to succeed. 

Immediately upon their obedience to his command, the miracle occurred. 

Their net was so completely full of fish, they were not able to haul it into the boat!  In fact, they were barely able to drag it to shore.  Of course, you and I know that the ‘stranger’ was Jesus!

This miracle shows the divinity of Jesus in two ways: The quantity of fish that were taken as well as the preservation of the net, which would ordinarily have broken under the strain.

The multitude of fish was intended as an example for the disciples – it represented the immense number of souls that would be ‘caught’ for Christ through their ministry (Matthew 4:19).   The prophets had ‘fished’ for souls for years and years, but caught very little.  However, things had now changed.  As Holy Spirit worked through the disciples, 3000 souls would enter the kingdom of heaven on a single day (Acts 2:41)!

In addition, the miracle provided an ample supply of provision for the disciples to support themselves and their families as they waited in Jerusalem for the coming of Holy Spirit.  Clearly, Jesus is revealing himself to the disciples as Jehovah Jireh – the provider of all of their needs.

Consider this: God is the author/fountain of every blessing to mankind; the immense quantity of fish in the net was an act of kindness and provision from God to the disciples. 

In the same way, the money that we earn today is a result of the blessing of God.  Scripture tells us that it is God who gives us the ‘power’ to get wealth:

Deuteronomy 8:18 –But you shall remember the LORD your God: for it is he that gives you power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he swore unto your fathers, as it is this day.

This power includes things like intelligence, opportunities, creative ideas, health, strength, capital, connections and anything else that we need to succeed.  Like the disciples, we must take this power and earn/work for the wealth we need. 

When we reap the rewards of a job well done, we need to remember that our success cannot be solely attributed to our own labor; God has made it possible.  Since that is the case, we should happily and gratefully bring our tithes and offerings into the house of God.  Furthermore, because God has been generous towards us, we ought to freely and generously give to those in need.  

John 21:7-8 – That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”  When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

As we know, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ was none other than the apostle John, the writer of this gospel.  He realized Jesus was the man on the shore, but not because he could physically see him.  His recognition was based on the miraculous catch of fish – John perceives that the great multitude of fish could only have come to him by the hand of God; therefore, it was God who guided his hands in obtaining it.

He shares this information with Peter, who reacts with his usual zealousness.

Peter (and probably the others as well) had been clothed only in his inner garment, which was his normal working attire.  But immediately upon hearing the Lord was on shore, he puts on his outer garment and jumps into the water. 

While some feel he swam for the shore, leaving his friends behind to bring in the fish, others believe that since the boat was fairly close to land (roughly 100 yards), his intent was to assist in quickly drawing the boat to shore.  The latter explanation makes more sense because it would have been much more difficult to swim to shore wearing an outer garment. 

In either case, we see that his actions are a reflection of his intense desire to be with Christ.

It is interesting to note how different each of the disciples were, both then and now.  Some members of the church are contemplative, like John.  They serve the church with their great gifts of knowledge and wisdom.  Others (like Peter) are strong and active, making sure that things get done. 

It is easy to see why the apostle Paul likens the church to a mortal body with different members such as ears, hands, shoulders, etc. Each and every member is vital to the health of the collective body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12-31). 

John 21:9 – When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.

Remember, the disciples have been up all night, working a very physical job.  They are tired, hungry, wet and probably cold.  When they get to shore with Jesus, they find that he is ready to minister to their bodily needs.  He has prepared a warm fire and a hot meal. 

This is an example of a truth that Jesus taught while he was physically on earth – our Father knows all that we have need of in this life Matthew (6:25-34), and he will provide it as we seek him first.

Matthew 6:32-33 -(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.  But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Scholars are divided on the origin of the bread, fish and fire.  The scriptures do not specifically indicate they were miraculously produced, although that is certainly possible.  What do you think?

John 21:10-11 – Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them.  And although there were so many, the net was not torn.

Jesus asks the disciples to go back to the shore and bring him some of the fish they just caught.  Why would he do that?

We can be sure it had nothing to do with a shortage.  The scriptures tell us that Jesus fed 5000 men plus women and children with just five small loaves and two fish (Matthew 14:21).  Jesus already had bread and fish cooking on the coals.  Feeding seven disciples wasn’t going to be a problem, no matter how much they ate.

The answer is that Jesus wanted them to taste the gifts of his miraculous bounty, so they could be witnesses of his power and goodness.  The blessings he gives us are not to be hoarded for ourselves; as we have freely received we should freely give to others. 

It also represents the partnership between Jesus and mankind.  Jesus made us fishers of men, but we are only able to catch people in our gospel nets by the power and influence of Holy Spirit.  Once we bring them to Christ, we still need his assistance to train and disciple them.  Only Christ can complete the good work that he begins within the heart of every believer (Philippians 1:6). 

Many mysterious and silly explanations have been given regarding the exact number of fish (153).  None of them are supported in scripture.  The number may simply have been recorded because the disciples counted the fish in order to divide them equally amongst themselves. Besides, if you landed the biggest catch of fish ever in your whole life, wouldn’t you count them too, just out of curiosity? 

Keep in mind, the miracle here is not the exact number of the fish, but the enormity of the catch and the preservation of the net.

John 21:12 – Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”  Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?”  They knew it was the Lord.

In asking the disciples to breakfast, Jesus is revealing his true nature to his followers.  Specifically, he is both God and man.

The miracle of the fish proves his divinity.  By eating breakfast with them, he proves his humanity – Jesus is not just an apparition or a spiritual figment of their imaginations.

This assures us that Jesus is our living high priest, our brother and our kinsmen redeemer, who now makes intercession for us in the throne room of God, while dwelling in our hearts through his Holy Spirit.  He continues to be clothed in the body which once hung upon the cross in a pool of blood and gore, only now it is exalted and glorified, shining brighter than the sun.

Besides the proof of his nature, Jesus also invites his disciples to eat because he is concerned about their physical welfare.  Our bodies are temples of his Holy Spirit and he provides what we need so that our bodies can be refreshed and in good working order! 

One can’t help but wonder if this is one of the reasons why the gift of healing was included in the sacrifice of the cross.

John seems to make a big deal out of the fact that none of the disciples ‘asked’ Jesus who he was.  It was not that they did not recognize him; they were all well aware that it was Jesus sitting with them at breakfast. 

The Greek word translated ‘ask’ means ‘to prove or inquire’.  John’s point seems to be that a proper awe of the deity of Christ had settled on their hearts and minds and as a result, they approached him in reverent silence. Asking him for any further kind of proof would be to display unbelief and hardness of heart, and they certainly didn’t want that!

John 21:13-14 – Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.  This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When John references the ‘third time’ Jesus appeared, he means the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples collectively.  Since John is giving us his own personal account/witness in his gospel, he skips over the instances where he was not personally present.  These would include Jesus’ visitation of Mary as well as well as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and others. 

John does not specifically say that Jesus ate breakfast with them, but it is certainly implied in the context.  Besides, in the book of Acts, Peter specifically tells the Gentile Cornelius that the disciples both ate and drank with Jesus after his resurrection.  This is one of the infallible proofs that Jesus provided to show that he was alive after the crucifixion (Acts 10:41). 

Let me offer you some encouragement:

In today’s post we talked about the disciples meeting with Jesus in Galilee.  Let’s stop and consider this for a moment. 

Under the Old Testament law, NO ONE could come into the presence of God except the high priest, and he could only do so once a year.  Fellowship with God was not possible because of our sin.  Think of the millions and millions of people who lived during that era – they had zero access to the presence of God.

When Jesus came to earth, his disciples (especially the twelve) were able to fellowship with him on a limited basis, but he was only one person and he still had to eat, sleep and teach.  Plus, access to Jesus continued to be almost nonexistent for everyone else (especially the Gentiles).  

But now that Jesus has risen and he abides in heaven, you and I have UNLIMITED access to the throne room of God 24/7!  What a privilege to be able to meet/fellowship with the God of the universe at any time, in any place, regarding anything on your heart and mind!

If you still think of prayer as an obligation, I encourage you to think again – the opportunity to meet with Jesus is a priceless gift!

Let me offer you some relief:

Several of the disciples went back to their fishing boats in order to provide for the daily needs of themselves and their families.  They toiled without success until Jesus came into the picture, bringing them relief.  But keep in mind, the relief came in the form of work – they still had to cast the net, catch the fish, drag them to shore and eventually sell them.

The bible assures us that God knows what our needs are, and he is here to assist us.  However, it is very unlikely that he is going to make money grow on a tree in your backyard.  Rather, he will open doors of opportunity for you to work/earn what you need.  So, if you are praying for relief in your finances, be aware that most likely something will be required on your part – God isn’t going to do your work for you!

Let me offer you some strength:

The period of time between Jesus’ the resurrection and his ascension to heaven was an unusual one.   The disciples encountered Jesus at different times and in different ways. 

Jesus was furnishing them with proof, after proof, after proof of his resurrection, so that they could spread the gospel message with confidence.  Overall, we could say that Jesus was preparing them for their future role as his apostles.

What is Jesus doing in your life right now?  Have you considered the fact that whatever you are going through right now is training for a future ministry or good work that he has prepared for you to do?

Remember, if you are still on this planet, then God still has plans and purposes for your life.  So stay strong in your faith, and keep an eye out for new opportunities to serve the Lord!

John, Chapter 20, Part 2

John 20:19 – On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Back in chapter 19, John gives us the testimony of several eyewitnesses who confirmed that Jesus was undeniably dead after his crucifixion.  In chapter 20, he gives us the testimony of several eyewitnesses who saw, touched and spoke to our resurrected Lord.  So far, we have studied the testimonies of Mary Magdalene and the apostle John.

In today’s post, we find the testimonies of more people who interacted with Jesus after he was raised from the dead. 

In the early morning of ‘that day’, Mary and her friends went to the tomb before sunrise and found it empty.  By midday, all the disciples had heard that Jesus was risen, although not all of them had seen him.

But he had been seen by the other women who came to the tomb (Matthew 28:9) and two other believers who were on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13).

It would appear as though the Jewish religious leaders were also coming to grips with the fact that something had happened.  The Roman guards had reported seeing angels, who rolled the stone away from the tomb.  They accepted a bribe from the Jewish leaders to keep quiet about what they saw (Matthew 28:11-15).  

In light of that news, some of the priests and Pharisees would certainly have gone to the tomb to see what was going on; it was in their best interest to know what they were facing.   They certainly would have desired to put their own ‘spin’ on this news before it reached the general public.

All things considered, it seems logical that we find the disciples gathering that same evening to discuss this news, to consider what might happen in the near future, and to worship God.  Because it was only a few days after the crucifixion, they were all still very much afraid of the Jewish leadership.  For all they knew, they were going to be the next targets of their wrath. 

At some point in that meeting the unexpected happened – Jesus appeared!  Please note: There is nothing in the text to suggest that he miraculously appeared out of thin air.  

He probably just opened the door and entered the room, the same as everyone else.  But because of his unexpected appearance and because most of them had not yet seen him alive, they were alarmed or fearful when they saw him.  The fact that they had abandoned him just before his death probably didn’t help either.

As we see multiple times in the scriptures, God does not want his followers to be fearful.  Jesus addresses them by saying ‘shalom’ or ‘peace be with you’ which was a very common greeting at the time.  

‘Shalom’ is an interesting Hebrew word.  It denotes all the peace, cheerfulness and prosperity desired to live a happy life.  We could rephrase it like this: ‘May you be well and prosperous’ or ‘May every blessing of heaven and earth which you need be granted to you’.  

The overall meaning is very clear – much to the disciples relief, Jesus has not come to condemn them; he has come to them as a friend and brother.

John 20:20 – When he had said this, he showed them his hands, and his side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

When Jesus rose from the dead, he retained the same scars he had in life.  He showed the disciples the wounds in his hands, feet and side (Luke 24:38-39).  This was irrefutable proof that he was the same being who had suffered and died by crucifixion, and he had truly risen from the dead just as he promised.

In that instant, all the grief and sorrow of the disciples simply melted away.  It was replaced with incredible joy as they were reunited with Christ, and their faith was confirmed within them.

John 20:21 – Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Once all of the disciples had a chance to verify this was really Jesus, our Savior once again gives them a salutation of peace and blessing.  Thus, he assures them that they have been forgiven and reconciled to him, despite the fact that they abandoned him in his hour of suffering and death.    

Not only has Jesus forgiven them, he also proceeds to commission them to continue his work, in his authority.  They are his ambassadors, going forth in his name and establishing the kingdom of heaven in the world.  They will be the ones to continue preaching the gospel (while confirming it with signs and wonders), baptizing new converts and making disciples of the nations.  

Using the authority Christ has given them, the apostles will establish and organize the church. They will declare the fullness of God’s love and show the way to peace/reconciliation with God (II Corinthians 5:18-20).  In essence, Jesus has declared them to be pastors, teachers and evangelists (Ephesians 4:11-12). 

Because they carry on the work he started, the disciples of Christ can expect the same treatment he received – at times they will be persecuted and at times they will be accepted.  At times they will be revered/honored and at times they will be cursed.  At times people will accept the gospel and at times they will reject it.  

We too continue to work under the same commission as the disciples.  Jesus has set us apart for the very same purpose (to spread the gospel), clothed with the same authority and empowered by the same Holy Spirit.

John 20:22 – And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

This is a most unusual verse.  We know that the followers of Jesus did not receive the indwelling Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them, because the gift of Holy Spirit had not yet been given.  That could not occur until Jesus had ascended to heaven and been glorified (John 7:38-39, John 16:7).  Furthermore, we have a very detailed account of the coming of Holy Spirit in the book of Acts.

So, what was happening here?

Jesus was giving his followers an outward physical sign of an inward spiritual change that was shortly to take place.  This is a technique often used in scripture.  A similar example would be water baptism.  Believers are to be baptized in water (Matthew 28:19).  The act of being baptized is an outward physical sign of the repentance/cleansing that has taken place in the invisible heart of the believer. 

In this case, the act of breathing on the apostles was an outward sign/pledge which represented the invisible nature and influence that would come upon the disciples when they received Holy Spirit.  It also clearly identified the source of the Spirit and all his gifts/workings – Jesus himself.  Sadly, many Christians have attributed the works of the Spirit to Satan, because they seem unusual or because they have been given incorrect teaching.   

The word John uses for ‘breathed’ only occurs once in the New Testament.  It is the same word used in Genesis when God ‘breathed’ the breath of life into man’s nostrils, and he became a living being:

Genesis 2:7 – Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Just as the breath of God breathed natural life into our physical bodies, the breath of Jesus breathed Holy Spirit life into our spiritual man.  Once we accept Christ as savior, Holy Spirit resides in our hearts, enabling believers to accomplish the spiritual agenda God prepared for us. 

We can clearly see the result of Holy Spirit’s work in the lives of the apostles. 

Just after the crucifixion, we find the apostles uncertain and afraid.  Despite having been the interns of Jesus for three years, they are still ignorant of the true meaning of scripture.  They were not yet qualified to establish and govern the church, or to fully explain and share the gospel message.  They would have immediately crumbled if faced with persecution.

However, once they had been filled and baptized with the Spirit (Acts 2), we see a complete change in the apostles.  They became confident and courageous.  Because of the illumination of the Spirit, they could accurately interpret the scriptures.  They received wisdom and authority to establish/govern the church.  They were bold and fearless in the face of persecution, preaching the gospel at every opportunity.  Clearly, because of Holy Spirit, they were now enabled to accomplish the work which God had commissioned them to do.

John 20:23 – “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

We need to be very careful how we interpret this particular verse.  It is an irrefutable fact that God alone can forgive sins.  It would be blasphemous and absurd to say that any ordinary man (created creature) could absolve the guilt associated with a sin against our Creator, God. 

Isaiah 43:25 – I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake…

In other words, God has the authoritative or magisterial capacity of forgiving sin.  This authority belongs to him alone.

What Jesus is giving the apostles is the ability to sanction forgiveness in a ministerial capacity.  Let me explain.

To begin with, let’s look at the context of the statement Jesus made.  Two things should specifically be noted. 

First, the statement is spoken immediately after Jesus has conferred Holy Spirit upon the disciples (verse 22).  This implies that it is not the disciples, but Holy Spirit within them, who can remit sin. 

Second, it was spoken after Jesus commissioned the disciples to carry on his work of spreading the gospel (verse 23).  This implies that the disciples were not sent into the world to condemn it, but to bring/reveal the light of the gospel so mankind could be saved.

The meaning of this passage is that Holy Spirit, working through the disciples, would determine/establish/make known the terms and conditions under which people could receive forgiveness during the age of grace.  Establishing those conditions was part of the apostle’s responsibility in instituting the church.  However, the requirements were not of their own choosing; the requirements were given to them by Holy Spirit.

Because the conditions of forgiveness are clear, every believer can have a personal assurance of forgiveness when they comply with the requirements (Acts 2:38, Acts 16:31, etc).

Thus, in a ministerial capacity, the disciples could assure/declare to someone that their sins were forgiven.  Again, this is different from the authoritative or magisterial forgiveness of sin, which comes through Christ alone.

Simply stated, the only power of forgiving sin that man has, is to declare that if a person is truly penitent, their sins are forgiven because of/through the work of our Redeemer.  The purpose of bestowing this ministry on the apostles is so that ordinary men and women who live during the age of grace (the church age) can be fully confident that their sins have been forgiven by God and they are truly reconciled to him. 

John 20:24 – Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.

We are not specifically told why Thomas was not with the other apostles.  It may have been that his fear of the Jews was so great, he dared not come.  Perhaps he had given up hope.  Or perhaps his attention was diverted by the demands of his family. 

What we can say for sure is that he really missed out on a blessing by not attending the meeting that day. 

Likewise, as Christians we are specifically told to regularly meet together (Hebrews 10:25).  The reasons for this are many:

  • You will have an opportunity to anoint and pray for others.
  • You will have an opportunity to encourage/strengthen your spiritual family through your testimony. 
  • You will have an opportunity to engage in corporate worship and praise.
  • You will have an opportunity to teach or instruct new believers.
  • You will have an opportunity for the gifts of Holy Spirit to flow through you.
  • You will have an opportunity to give your tithes and offerings in obedience to the word of God.
  • You will have an opportunity to form new friendships/relationships.

The list goes on and on…

Here is something to keep in mind:  By missing the meeting, Thomas not only deprived himself of the chance to minister to others, he missed the chance to be ministered to himself.  Had he shown up that day, his colleagues would have encouraged him in his faith and he would have had a chance to see Christ for himself!

Are you a regular in-person church attendee?  If not, you are not only missing opportunities to strengthen the local body of Christ, you are depriving yourself of receiving blessings from God.  Please, please, please – get plugged into your local church now!

John 20:25 – So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

The ten disciples who had seen Jesus hastened to report these events to Thomas.  We can easily imagine their excitement as they give him a full account of what transpired at that meeting. 

This information was not hearsay or rumor or even a third-party account.  It was actually a testimony – a firsthand account of what they personally experienced with Jesus!

All Christians have a testimony.  Each one of us should be able to give others a firsthand account of how Jesus has impacted our lives, forgiven our sin, and given us hope for the future. 

Your personal testimony is one of the most powerful witnessing tools you have.  You can easily and naturally share it with others during the normal course of everyday conversation.  It gives others a genuine example of the impact Christ can have in the life of any individual.  It will draw them to the Lord.

What is your testimony?  You should consider rehearsing yours.  I recommend writing it down and organizing it in such a way that you could share your life story in five minutes or less.  By preparing in advance, you will be able to stay on topic and keep the attention of your listener long enough to share.  Don’t be caught off guard – have your testimony ready!

Sadly, despite hearing the testimony of his reliable colleagues, Thomas is still skeptical that Jesus is alive.   Furthermore, he demands physical proof of the resurrection – he wants to see the scars in Jesus’ hands and side.  Unless he receives this evidence, he refuses to believe.

Thomas is often criticized for his unbelief (as well he should be):

  • He disregarded the words of Jesus, who repeatedly stated he would rise on the third day.
  • He ignored the testimony of the other apostles, even though he knew them to be men of wisdom and integrity.
  • He offended and discouraged his brothers by openly denying/disregarding the resurrection.
  • He treated Christ and his word with contempt by saying he would only be convinced by a physical sign, instead of by faith.  The unbelieving Jews had also asked for a physical sign, but they did not get one (Matthew 16:4). 

It’s only fair to point out that the other apostles also initially exhibited unbelief at the news of the resurrection, although their unbelief was quickly replaced by faith:

Mark 16:14 – Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at table, and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them who had seen him after he was risen.

Let’s beware of falling into the same error in our own lives, because unbelief is a sin which is very displeasing to God.  If Jesus said it, it’s true.  If he promised it, you can count on it!

John 20:26 – Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them.  Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

Instead of honoring the Jewish Sabbath, the disciples began to regularly meet on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2, Revelation 1:10), which they called the Lord’s Day.  The current Christian tradition of meeting on Sunday was derived from this practice.

This time, Thomas is present in the group. 

Jesus once again comes into the meeting and this time he condescends to the weakness of Thomas’ faith – he offers to let Thomas touch his wounds.  This does not mean that Jesus was pleased with his lack of faith; the opposite was actually true.  

However, Jesus uses this event to prove to Thomas (and us) that he was the same Christ who had been crucified. The same wounds that were present on Jesus before he died were present when he rose from the dead.  Because of this example we can place our faith in Christ with full confidence, knowing that he has indeed risen from the dead.

John 20:27 – Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.  Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Did you notice that when Jesus speaks to Thomas he uses the exact same words that Thomas had spoken earlier?  By doing so, Jesus demonstrates that not only was he risen, but he possessed divine knowledge – he was conscious of the words and actions of men. 

All it took was this one statement from Jesus to convict Thomas of his unbelief.

Thomas was the last apostle to have faith spring up within his heart; until Jesus reached out and convicted him, his faith was in danger of dying.  Through the preaching of the gospel, Holy Spirit still convicts men and women today, leading them to eternal life in Christ Jesus (II Corinthians 7:9-10). 

John 20:28-29 – Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”Jesus said to them, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The response of Thomas is immediate and forceful.  It is a heartfelt statement of truth reflecting both his own stupidity and the majesty of Jesus. 

My Lord:  Thomas addresses Jesus as Lord; he acknowledges that Jesus is indeed the very same person that he had spent the last three years with – the very same person who had been crucified and buried, yet was now alive!

My God:  Thomas also addresses Jesus as God; he acknowledges his divinity and pledges his undying submission to Jesus.  From this moment forward, Thomas will worship him as God. 

Thomas is the first of the apostles to address Jesus as ‘God’.  Notice that Jesus allows himself to be addressed in this manner.  This is clear evidence of his divinity; for if Thomas was wrong, Jesus would have corrected him.

Jesus responds to Thomas by approving/confirming his faith.  He now believed that Jesus had risen from the dead, but only because of what he could prove with his own physical senses.  His faith would have been more excellent if he had believed without such evidence, because faith is the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

Jesus goes on to highly commend the faith of those who will believe in him by the preaching of the gospel without having seen the physical proof of his nail scarred hands.  Jesus declares that this group of people (which includes you and me) are blessed.

John 20:30-31 – Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

In these verses, John gives us the reason for penning his gospel.  He gives us an eyewitness view of some of the things that occurred while Jesus walked the earth, so that we can feel confident about believing in Jesus as the Son of God and trusting him as our Redeemer.  

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Holy Spirit, working through the apostle John, has given us plenty of evidence that Jesus died and rose again.  If he is able to keep that promise, then we can be confident that every other promise he has made in his word can be trusted!

Scripture gives us other confirmations of God’s faithfulness as well.  For example, look at the testimony of Joshua son of Nun, after Israel finally possessed the Promised Land:

Joshua 21:45 – There failed not any of any good things which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass. 

I encourage you to find and claim your promise in the scriptures, knowing that God is faithful to his word.

Let me offer you some relief:

We have seen that the disciples experienced some unbelief in their lives, despite being with Jesus for an extended period of time.  Perhaps you too are experiencing some unbelief.  While that is not uncommon, it isn’t a good thing. 

The unbelief of Thomas disappeared when he saw Christ.  So, if you are stuck in unbelief, move into an extended time of praise, worship and prayer.  Shut out all distractions and focus on God.  Once you enter his presence and touch him again, your unbelief will fade.

Let me offer you some strength:

Once Holy Spirit came upon the followers of Christ, they were empowered with everything they needed to accomplish the tasks God prepared for them to do.   The good news is that Holy Spirit has not changed (Malachi 3:6).  He is dwelling in your heart right now, ready to assist you with wisdom, boldness, spiritual understanding and every other thing you need to fulfill your own personal mission on earth.

If you feel lost or stuck right now, don’t waste any time – seek Holy Spirit immediately and receive everything you need!

John, Chapter 20, Part 1

John 20:1 – Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

Our last post ended with the death and burial of Christ but, hallelujah, the story does not end there for Jesus has risen!

In the prior chapter, John recorded five witnesses who each independently testified that Jesus was truly dead.  Now he will give us the eye witness accounts of multiple people who saw Jesus alive and who would testify that he had risen from the dead.

This is absolutely critical because Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was the ultimate proof that he was the Messiah.  Those who would not believe any other evidence were referred to the sign of the prophet Jonah, who was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights (Matthew 12:39-40). 

Furthermore, Jesus went to the cross to pay the full price for our redemption – the price which was set by Father God.  If Jesus dies for us but never rises again, the only conclusion we can reach is that God did not accept his sacrifice and that we are still in our sin.

So these eyewitness accounts are vitally important.   

The first witness to the resurrection is Mary Magdalene. 

Mary was a faithful believer/follower of Jesus.  Scripture tells us that Jesus cast seven devils out of her (Mark 16:9).  From then on, she (and other women as well) traveled around with Jesus and the apostles, ministering to them in many ways, but particularly by assisting them financially (Luke 8:1-3).  

John informs us that on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the grave while it was still dark.  We cannot help but notice the faithfulness of Mary. 

  • She was with Jesus as he traveled around, preaching the gospel. 
  • She was there for his crucifixion, even though his disciples had fled in fear (Mark 15:40, Luke 23:49). 
  • She was present when Jesus was laid in the tomb by Nicodemus and Joseph (Matthew 27:61, Mark 15:47). 

Now she (along with Salome and the ‘other’ Mary/mother of James) faithfully and courageously goes to the tomb fearing neither the guards nor the dark of night.  Her only concern is how to move the enormous stone that blocked the entrance (Mark 16:3).

Her purpose in going to the tomb was two-fold.  One reason was to bring more spices to anoint the body (Mark 16:1-2), while paying her final respects.  The second was to weep and mourn for the death of the Savior.

But as she arrives at the tomb, John tells us that she finds the stone ‘taken away’ from the tomb.  Let’s take a moment to review this, since John did not include the sealing of the tomb in his account of the death/burial of Christ.

In the gospel of Matthew (27:62-66), we find that on the day immediately following the day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees once again approached Pilate asking for a favor.

They tell the governor about Jesus’ prophesy that he would die and rise again on the third day.  The Jewish leaders are deeply concerned about the possibility of the disciples stealing his body and ‘pretending’ that he had risen.  They were very fearful that if this rumor ever got started, they could never stop it. 

So with Pilate’s support, they placed a seal upon the stone which served as the door to the tomb.  In addition, they stationed a number of Roman soldiers at the entrance to stand guard.  They were determined to prove that Jesus was dead and he wasn’t coming back. 

Yet, according to all the gospel writers, when the women arrived at the tomb, they find the guards gone and the stone rolled away!

John 20:2 – So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

As usual, we find that John does not feel the need to mention every single detail of the events he records, especially things noted by the other gospel writers.  The purpose of his account of the resurrection is to establish the fact that Jesus had risen, and to depict the gradual dawning comprehension and faith of Christ’s followers as they realize he has risen from the dead.

So, when Mary comes to the tomb, she is surprised to find the guards gone and the stone rolled away from the entrance.  As she investigates, she finds the body of Jesus gone.  Soon other women arrive and they too confirm that the body is gone. 

As we know, Jesus plainly told his followers multiple times that he would be crucified and rise on the third day (Matthew 20:19, Mark 9:31, Luke 18:33, etc).  But despite this fact, when the women find the tomb empty, they are bewildered and perplexed.  They assume that the body has simply been moved. 

Specifically, they believe that either someone has moved it from its temporary grave to a new tomb (perhaps Joseph or Nicodemus), or the body has been stolen by the enemies of Christ. 

In bewilderment and alarm, they abandon the useless spices and immediately go to report this news to the disciples.   

John 20:3-5 – So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.  Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.

It appears that the disciples were either lodging together just as they had done when Jesus was alive, or they were staying in very close proximity to each other.  Regardless of which scenario is correct, we are relieved to note that Peter’s denial had not cut him off from his fellow apostles.  John had invited Peter into his home and the other disciples were also still associating with him.   

In a state of fear and sorrow, Mary relates the news of the empty tomb to the disciples.  Having seen the empty tomb, she is seized by despair.  She interpreted the situation as dark and hopeless, but she is completely and utterly wrong!  In reality, that empty tomb was pregnant with victory and promise!

The same is true for the seemingly dead places in your life.  Whether it’s a broken relationship, a financial need, a prodigal child or a physical ailment, know this: There is nothing our God cannot resurrect!

So don’t lose hope when faced with a dark situation.  View it as an opportunity for Jesus to do something miraculous.  Sometimes God allows those things into your life in order to stretch your faith, or show you a new facet of his character. 

After hearing Mary’s report, the two men run to the tomb for a first-hand look at the situation.  John is the younger man and as we would expect, he arrives at the tomb first. 

Also as we would expect, he hesitates outside the grave because he is more timid and restrained than his colleague. 

John 20:6-7 – Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb.  He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.

Peter, however, is as bold and impetuous as ever.  Arriving at the tomb he brushes past John and immediately rushes inside.

Peter notices the face cloth (your translation may say napkin) neatly folded up and placed by itself.  John did not see this at first, because it was only visible from inside the tomb. 

However, both men were able to see the pile of grave clothes.  This fact is noted by all four of the gospel writers, and well it should be, because the grave clothes are clear evidence that Christ had risen from the dead!

It is ridiculous to think that anyone, friend or foe, would have unwrapped the body before moving it. 

If the body had been stolen by the religious leaders (or someone hired by them), they would certainly not have taken the time to unwrap a body that had been dead/decaying for three days.  They would just have taken the entire thing and left the tomb as quickly and discretely as possible.

The same can be said of a friend who wished to move the body to a new grave – they would certainly not have dishonored Jesus by carrying his naked, decaying body through the streets of Jerusalem in order to bury it someplace else. 

And in either case, there would be absolutely no reason to neatly fold the face cloth and separate it from the rest of the linen. 

It is interesting to note that when Lazarus was raised from the dead, he exited the tomb still wearing his grave clothes, because at some point death would claim him again.

John 11:44 – And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a cloth. Jesus said unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

But when Christ rose from the dead he left his grave clothes behind him, because he no longer needed them – he would live and reign forevermore!  Death no longer had power over him.

Romans 6:9 -… Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over him.

And because of the power of Christ, death’s dominion over us is only temporary.  One day, when Jesus returns to earth, the dead in Christ shall rise to meet him in the air.  They will be joined by those who are still alive and all of us will accompany Jesus to heaven (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).  What a victorious day that will be!

John 20:8-9 – Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 

Once Peter enters the tomb, John follows.  He too sees the empty tomb with the pile of grave clothes and he notices the neatly folded face cloth.  The evidence clearly points to the fact that the body was neither stolen nor moved.  But if that was the case, what had happened?

All of a sudden, John begins to remember and consider the words of Jesus – he would be crucified and then rise on the third day!  The truth that John understood with his brain suddenly became truth he understood with his heart/spirit.  Could it be that Jesus calmly and deliberately rose from death, freed himself from the grave clothes, neatly folded the face cloth and exited the tomb? 

At this point, we witness the birth of John’s faith – “he saw and believed”.  Seeing the grave clothes with his physical eyes brought sudden sight to his spiritual eyes. 

Once this truth was birthed into his spirit, the other words/promises of Jesus also sprang to life.  If Jesus had risen from the dead, just as scripture predicted, then the Messiah had come.  The law had been fulfilled.  Our high priest, the mediator between God and man, had taken up his office.  Believers could now be reunited with God and saved from sin and death.

Hebrews 2:17 – Therefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

I imagine at that moment, John’s head was spinning!  But while John believed, Peter still seemed in the dark.  The two left the tomb and returned home, no doubt discussing the situation on the way.

John 20:10-11 – Then the disciples went back to their homes.  But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.

For her part, Mary is utterly consumed with grief.  She follows Peter and John back to the tomb, but when the disciples went home, she (and possibly the other women) remained at the gravesite, crying and mourning and searching for the body of Christ.

Who among us has not been in the place of Mary?  This life is full of heartache; all of us are acquainted with grief and sorrow.  And sometimes, like Mary, we find that family and friends cannot ease our burden or answer the questions we have deep in our hearts. 

During those times, we should continue to seek the Lord, just as Mary did.  He may or may not give us the answers we seek immediately (some questions must wait until eternity to be answered).  But we know for sure that Jesus will meet us where we are, cut through our veil of tears, and bring us peace and comfort.   

In the midst of her grief, Mary once again stoops to look into the grave (the same grave Peter and John had just left) only now there are two angels present. 

John 20:12 – And she saw two angles in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.

It is uncertain whether Mary thought these were men, or if she knew they were angels. Their clothing would certainly have been a clue as angels often appear in bright white clothing (Acts 10:30, Matthew 28:3), which denotes purity and holiness.

But why are they sitting in the tomb, facing each other from opposite ends of the grave?

For one thing, the angels are no doubt contemplating the mystery of the love of God for mankind.  As they look at the grave and consider the sacrifice of God, it must have revealed to them a depth of divine love that was completely unfathomable.  How could God love man so much that he would die for us?  What is man, that God would be mindful of him?  It is a question that should astonish us too, and drive us to greater depths of praise and worship to our Lord.

Also, according to noted commentator Matthew Henry, the position of the angels denotes their careful observation and care of the body of Christ – they were literally in a position to watch over the physical body of Christ.  Did they literally watch over the body of Jesus for the entire time it was in the grave?  We can’t say for sure.

But what we do know for sure is that the church is the ‘body of Christ’, and God has appointed angels to assist Christians here on earth:

Hebrews 1:14 –Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation?

Therefore, it is correct to say that angels carefully observe and watch over the spiritual body of Christ or individual Christians. 

Have you ever seen an angel?  Has there ever been a time when you knew without a doubt that God sent an angel to protect or assist you at some point, even though you may not have seen them with your physical eyes?

Not only do angels assist and protect Christians, they also deliver messages and other words of comfort from God (Luke 1:19, Luke 1:26-38, Judges 13:2-14).  This was the obvious reason they appeared to Mary and the other women at the tomb – to bring them the message that Christ had risen!

Here is something interesting to consider:  As you may recall, the position of the angels in the tomb is the exact same position of the angels over the mercy seat (on the Ark of the Covenant), the place where God dwelt (Exodus 25:18-21).  Back at that time, the angels prevented people from coming into the presence of God, but in the tomb they were welcoming/pointing people to the presence of Jesus, the way of life!

Yet another reason why two angels were dispatched to the grave is because scripture declares that legally it takes two witnesses to confirm something as truth:

Matthew 18:16 – But if he will not hear you, then take with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

(See also Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15). 

John 20:13 -They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

I do not believe the angel asked Mary this question in order to gain knowledge.  He knew very well she was crying because she was distressed about the removal or theft of Jesus’ body. 

Rather, the question is a mild rebuke.  Why is she crying, when she should be rejoicing?  If Jesus said he would die and rise on the third day, then it was going to happen.  In fact, it had happened!   

But Mary does not comprehend the significance of the angel’s comment.  She is still completely focused on finding the physical body of Jesus.

John 20:14 – Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

The obvious question is why didn’t Mary recognize Jesus? 

Many explanations have been given.  One says that Mary did not recognize him because she wasn’t expecting him.  She believed he was dead and her mind couldn’t wrap itself around the idea that Jesus was still alive.

Another explanation is that because of her crying/watery eyes and the twilight of the day, she didn’t see him clearly.  The only person who would logically have been there at that time was the gardener, so she assumed it was him.

But the most likely answer is that God had placed a veil over her eyes, which prevented her from recognizing Jesus, just as he did to the two believers who walked with Jesus along the road to Emmaus:

Luke 24:15-1 – And it came to pass, that, while they discussed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.  But their eyes were held that they should not know him.  

Here is some exciting news: Jesus is about to reveal himself to Mary.  And the spiritual parallel is clear – Jesus is found by all those who seek him (Jeremiah 29:13, Proverbs 8:17, Luke 11:9)!

John 20:15 – Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?”  Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Again we note that Mary was looking at the situation through earthly eyes.  Her one and only goal is to find the dead body of Jesus, so she can once again hide it away in the grave. 

Although she was misguided, her words reveal the depth of love and devotion she had for Christ.  She does not seem to take into account that Jesus himself probably weighed over 100 pounds and he was embalmed with another 75 pounds of spices.  It is doubtful she could have actually moved his body anywhere by herself.  But in her hunger and longing for Jesus, she declares that she will find a way to make it happen.

Wow!  Wouldn’t it be great if we felt the same way? 

What if we were so in love with Christ and so desirous for his glory to be manifested on earth, that we would ask God to accomplish the impossible through us?  Do we have the mindset that allows mountain-moving faith to work through us?  If we desire to be that kind of Christian, then we need to take steps to make it happen. 

  • We must renew our minds with the word of God; we must believe that God is fully willing and capable of doing what he promises in his word.
  • We must ‘decrease’ while allowing our devotion and desire for Christ to ‘increase’.  We have to let go of our own plans and desires in this world and allow God’s desires to become our focus.
  • We must stretch and grow our faith through constant use.
  • We must be prepared to tackle and conquer problems and difficulties.
  • We must be faithful, just as Mary was.

John 20:16 – Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

With that single word, we witness the birth of Mary’s faith.  Hearing the master’s voice with her physical ears brought sudden revelation to her spiritual ears.  Jesus had risen!

With great joy she responds by addressing Jesus with a title of honor.  By using the title ‘Rabboni’ Mary is acknowledging Jesus as both her teacher and master.  She is professing her obedience and submission to Christ. 

Do you remember what Jesus said to his followers in John chapter 10?  He declared that the shepherd personally knows each sheep in his flock.  He calls them by name, and they hear his voice and follow after him (John 10:3-5).  This is exactly what happened to Mary in the physical sense. 

It is also true in the spiritual realm as well.  When Jesus first called us to himself through the conviction of Holy Spirit, we heard his voice and we responded.  We accepted him as Lord and Master of our lives. 

Jesus continues to speak to his people all the time.  Have we sharpened our hearing so that we recognize his voice?  Do we submit and obey when he calls us?  If not, what steps can we take to change that?

John 20:17 – Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

It is evident that upon recognizing Jesus, Mary immediately embraced him, and subsequently fell at his feet to worship him (Matthew 28:9).  Having discovered him alive, she is so happy she can’t let go of him.  Jesus allows it for a brief moment, but then tells her to stop.  Why would he do that?

The answer is that a change has taken place.  Formerly, the earthly followers of Jesus (such as Mary) were accustomed to worshiping his physical presence.  So Jesus allows her to briefly do so, in order that her faith might be activated and she might realize that he had risen from the dead.

But once that fact was established in her heart, she needed to make the change to worshiping Jesus in spirit and in truth – not in physical form (John 4:23-24).  In another few weeks, Jesus was going to depart for heaven to sit beside his Father.  After his ascension his followers could worship him as intensely and frequently as they desired. 

We too must worship God in spirit and in truth.  Instead of being led by Jesus in bodily form, Christians are now and will continue to be led by Holy Spirit until Christ returns to earth at the end of this age (Romans 8:14-15).

This concept is also included in the message that Jesus told Mary to give the disciples.  She was to tell them that Jesus was shortly going to ascend to the Father, which meant they should not expect the continuance of his bodily presence on earth.  They should also, once and for all, get rid of any dreams they held in regard to Jesus setting up an earthly kingdom to conquer Rome.  He had not risen to remain on earth, but to return to heaven and receive the rewards of his labor – his office as the mediator between God and man. 

In the meantime, Jesus commands Mary to give a message to the disciples – His Father is now their Father; his God was now there God.  Because of the redemptive work of Christ, our relationship with God (which had been broken through sin) was now renewed and restored. 

Notice that Jesus specifically addresses them as ‘brothers’.  Formerly he addressed them as friends, but now that his redemptive work is complete, they are family – children of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Hebrews 2:11-13), as are we. 

What a wonderful honor Jesus has bestowed upon Mary – she is an eye witness to the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead.  She can confirm that the prophesy given by Jesus shortly before his death has been fulfilled:

John 16:16 –A little while, and you shall not see me: and again, a little while, and you shall see me, because I go to the Father.

Her announcement of his resurrection no doubt brought great joy to the eleven, which was the fulfillment of yet another word spoken by Jesus:

John 16:20 –Verily, verily, I say unto you, That you shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and you shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.

In the tumultuous events of the last few days the disciples had forgotten these promises, but now Jesus brings them to their remembrance through Mary.

Sometimes our lives can be tumultuous as well.  During those times of trial, let us never forget the promises of God which are contained within his word. 

John 20:18 – Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” – and that he had said these things to her.

When the disciples last saw Mary, she was weeping and seeking the Lord.  They could have stayed and searched with her, but instead they chose to go home. 

But Mary was rewarded for her diligent searching – she had seen/found the Lord! Can you imagine the kind of relief and hope that must have surged through the disciples as they realized Jesus was risen?  Her good news was a huge comfort and blessing to them in the midst of their darkest hour.

Here is something to consider:  God hasn’t changed.  He is still using his followers (you and me) to share the good news of the gospel to sinners.  He is still using us to display his love and comfort to the hurting people of this world.  It is our duty and privilege to tell them Jesus is alive!

If you have lived through a struggle in this life, don’t keep your victory to yourself.  Share your testimony with others, so they too can find strength and comfort.  Your story of victory gives others the strength and faith to overcome in their darkest hour too.

Let me offer you some encouragement and relief:

Mary Magdalene was a real mess when Jesus found her – she was possessed by seven devils.  But Jesus totally transformed her life.  He cast the devils out of her and allowed her (and several other women) to travel along with him and assist in his ministry. 

Perhaps you are in a real mess right now.  If so, let me give you some relief – God specializes in the impossible!  Jesus is standing by right now to give you beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3); to transform your life and make you a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17). 

And once he does, he has a special place of ministry for you, just as he did for Mary. 

So don’t keep that good news to yourself!  I strongly encourage you to share your testimony with others!  Scripture tells us that the ability to impart both life and death are in our tongues (Proverbs 18:21).  Your testimony may be the very words of comfort and blessing that cause someone else to be victorious over Satan. 

Let me offer you some strength:

In today’s post we noted that when Christ rose from the dead he left his grave clothes behind him, because he no longer needed them – he would live and reign forevermore.

Once we accepted Christ as our savior, we passed from spiritual death to spiritual life (John 5:24).  Therefore, physical death does not need to be a fearful or terrifying experience for us; it is nothing more than the portal through which we enter eternity and the presence of God!

The key to being peaceful and confident in death is to live your life for Christ right now!

John, Chapter 19, Part 2

John 19:13 – So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha.

As we concluded our post last week, we left Pilate at the moment of truth – would he crumble under the threats of the Jewish religious leaders, or would he stand for truth/justice and pronounce Jesus innocent of all charges?

Of course, this really isn’t a cliffhanger because we all know what happened.  Pilate heard the veiled threats of the Jews; they would accuse him of treason if he didn’t crucify Christ.  He was more afraid of losing his life than his soul, so he chose to try and save/protect himself by giving in to the pressure of the Jews (Matthew 16:26).

Once his decision was made, his only course of action is to pronounce judgment on the prisoner.  In our culture, this would occur in a courtroom, where the judge would sit up on his bench and the prisoner would stand before him to receive sentencing.  But back then, sentencing occurred at a place called the judgment seat.

The judgment seat was normally located in an outdoor, open court area.  In Roman culture, was customary for the floor of this space to be paved with stones of various colors; marble was frequently used for this purpose.  Because of the unusual floor this location was also referred to as ‘The Stone Pavement’. 

John tells us that it was also commonly called “Gabbatha” which means ‘elevated’ or ‘lofty’.  This is the only time the word is used in scripture, and it is believed to refer to an elevated bench occupied by the governor as he passed sentence. 

As we go through the judgment scene, I encourage you to picture yourself in the place of Jesus.  Imagine yourself standing bound and humiliated before the judgment seat of Almighty God where you would justly be condemned for your sin.  Imagine the hopelessness of being sentenced to eternity in hell, without any chance of escape or reprieve.  Then earnestly give thanks to Jesus for taking your punishment upon himself!

John 19:14 – Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover.  It was about the sixth hour.  He said to the Jews, “Behold your king!”

The day of Preparation is exactly what it seems – the day before the Passover Sabbath, which the Jews used to make everything ready for the Passover celebration as well as the feast of unleavened bread, which commenced the day after Passover. 

John gives the time of the sentencing as about the sixth hour.  As you recall from some of our other studies, the Jews considered the day to begin at 6 am and they counted time starting from that point.  Therefore, the sixth hour means six hours after 6 am, or noon.

So according to John, Jesus was condemned around/approximately at noon and crucified sometime after.

But Mark tells us that Jesus was crucified at the third hour (Mark 15:25), which is 9am. 

Various explanations have been given for this discrepancy.  They include an error in translating the number in the text (6 instead of 3), differences in the division of hours/time between the Romans and Jews and alternate ways the Jews marked or ‘blocked’ time. 

In the end, I think one commentator summed up the situation perfectly by noting ‘no solution of the discrepancy is wholly satisfactory’.   Rather than spending our time and energy adding to this unsolvable mystery, we are simply going to acknowledge that the discrepancy exists, and move on to other points that can aid in our spiritual edification.

What we know for sure is that Pilate once again brought Jesus outside to the Stone Pavement where the agitated and combative Jews were waiting. 

But this time he must have looked very different.  He had been up all night.  He had been savagely whipped – his back had long, deep wounds; blood soaked through the thread bare purple robe and ran down his legs.  He was also profusely bleeding from his head, where the crown of thorns still rested upon his brow.  His face was bruised, swollen and almost unrecognizable – the result of being hit in the face numerous times and having portions of his beard plucked out.  As a result of blood loss and dehydration, he was probably unsteady on his feet as he stood there, bound in manacles. 

Now picture Pilate raising a hand towards Jesus and saying, “Behold your king!”

Perhaps Pilate made this declaration to shock the Jews.  He may have been trying to show them once again that, despite their accusations, Jesus was no threat to Rome and he should be released.  Alternatively, he may have been trying to garner pity from the common Jews, hoping they could sway the priests.  Or maybe Pilate was mocking the Jews – if this was their king, they would always be subject to Rome!

John 19:15 – They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!”  Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”  The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

This statement proves that the priests have gone completely mad!

The Messiah was the foundation for the entire Jewish law and all of the promises God made to his people.  To reject him was to throw away every grace and blessing of God.  

Yet, here we have the priests, who were (or should have been) well acquainted with the law violently rejecting Jesus as their king! 

It might be argued that the Jews did not believe in Christ as the Messiah.  But even if that is a legitimate excuse (which it isn’t), there is absolutely no way to justify their statement ‘We have no king but Caesar’. 

Did they really prefer the utter tyranny of Rome to the government of righteousness, peace and justice of God’s kingdom?  Really? Because that is what they were choosing – death and misery over peace and joy. 

It wouldn’t be long before they regretted their choice.  In 71 AD Rome stormed Jerusalem, destroying the temple and massacring the Jews.  

John 19:16 – So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. 

Although John omits it from his account, Matthew tells us that Pilate, in an effort to ease his own guilt, places full responsibility for the unjust execution of Jesus upon the Jews.  He does this by symbolically washing his hands:

Matthew 27:24 – When Pilate saw that he could gain nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see you to it.

Pilate now issues orders – Barabbas is to be set free, while Jesus (and two robbers) is sentenced to immediate executed by crucifixion.

John 19:17-18 – So they took Jesus, and he went out bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.  There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

Crucifixion was a punishment reserved for slaves and the vilest criminals in society.  It was considered such a curse that Roman citizens were exempt from it.

Crucifixions were performed outside of the city walls, and it was not uncommon for the Romans to make the condemned man carry his own cross.  It was a punishment designed to not only humiliate the prisoner, but to further weaken him and hasten death.

The other gospel writers tell us that Jesus began to faint along the way and the Romans commanded a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, to bear the burden of the cross for Jesus (Mark 15:21).  This was not an act of mercy.  It was an unimaginably cruel thing to do; they did not want Jesus to die quietly by the side of the road.  They wished him to remain alive so he could be subjected to the unbearable pain, suffering and humiliation of the public death they had planned for him.

This event sometimes raises a question in our minds: Why couldn’t Jesus carry his own cross?  Why would he need help from someone else?

Here are some possible reasons:

  • Jesus was in an extremely weak physical state.  He hadn’t had any sleep in over 24 hours, and nothing to eat or drink in since the prior day.  He had been savagely beaten and was bleeding profusely. 
  • The sharp edges of the wood grated on his raw and bleeding shoulders.
  • Perhaps this was a demonstration for our benefit – it was proof of his humanity.  Jesus was fully God, yet fully human.  He was subject to all of the constraints and weaknesses of a fleshly body, just like we are.  And even though he was tempted like we are, he was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

We know that Jesus was crucified in the midst of two convicted robbers who were considered the scum of the world.  The Jews no doubt rejoiced in this because it seemed to confirm their own allegations that Jesus was guilty. 

But we are not fooled by this because we know that long before the crucifixion, the prophets revealed that Jesus would be ‘numbered with the transgressors’:

Isaiah 53:12 – Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. 

We are also not surprised by the method of death.  Scripture tells us that anyone who is hanged on a tree is cursed by God:

Deuteronomy 21:23 – His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;)…

The guilt of our sin could only be removed by the Son of God becoming a curse for us, which he did back on the day of his crucifixion.  Because of his sacrifice, we can have full confidence that he has redeemed us from the curse of the law.  We are now new creatures in Christ; we are righteous in the sight of God.

Galatians 3:13 – Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree:

2 Corinthians 5:21 – For he has made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

The more we study the death of Christ the more we find that his death fulfilled/satisfied the wrath of God in even the most minute detail.  The plan of salvation is perfect, complete and foolproof.  There are no loopholes or loose ends. 

For instance, did you know that under the Old Testament law, when an animal was sacrificed for sin, the body was always carried outside of the camp (Leviticus 16:27)?  This is why Jesus was crucified outside of the city of Jerusalem.

Here is something interesting to ponder this week – It has been said that the four limbs of the cross reflect the height, depth, length and breadth of the love of Christ, forever extending salvation to all (Ephesians 3:17-19).  Praise his name!  

John 19:19 – Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross.  It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’

It was customary for the Romans to post the crime of executed prisoners over their heads as they were crucified.  It not only served as a deterrent to crime, it justified the actions of Rome in the eyes of the people.  

In the case of Jesus, we find that Pilate ordered the plaque to say ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’.  This is a far cry from the words ‘insurrectionist’ or ‘traitor’ which were the crimes Jesus were sentenced for. 

It is possible that in choosing the title he did, Pilate was delivering a final parting shot at the Jews for bullying him into having an innocent man executed.  In a way, the title throws blame onto the whole Jewish nation, which cried out for the release of Barabbas and the bloody execution of Christ.  It also ridicules the entire Jewish nation by implying that anyone who attempts to lead/deliver the Jews from Rome would meet the same fate.

Whatever his petty motivations might have been, we know the providence of God was guiding the pen of Pilate.  His inscription certainly does not brand Jesus with the commission of any crime. 

In fact, ‘King of the Jews’ is a well known Messianic title, so the inscription was a clear acknowledgement that Jesus was the Messiah.  Thus, his true honor/glory was openly proclaimed by his enemy in the midst of his greatest reproach and suffering. Pilate correctly labels Jesus the Author of Salvation, even though he did not know the meaning of what he wrote.     

John 19:20-21 – Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin and in Greek.  So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”

Not surprisingly, the chief priests and religious leaders were angry about the title.  They recognized the insult of Pilate and they wanted the inscription changed immediately, so that it placed blame for the whole situation on Christ.  

John 19:22 – Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Because Pilate plainly intended to insult the Jews with the inscription (and probably because he was now sick and tired of them), he flatly refuses to change the inscription. 

But I believe there was more to it – it was God’s sovereign hand that kept the truth posted on that cross in the three main languages of the known world.  It was a message of salvation to the world – the Messiah had come and the way was open for Jew and Gentiles to return to God.  It was also a message of warning to the Jews – no other Messiah was coming.  If they rejected Jesus, nothing was left for them but the deceptions of false antichrists.

John 19:23-24 – When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic.  But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.”  This was to fulfill the scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”  So the soldiers did these things…

The prophesy that John mentions in this passage regarding the division of Jesus’ clothing is found in Psalms 22:18.  Now, if the soldiers stripped Jesus and divided his clothing, the natural assumption is that Jesus was crucified naked, or with only a small covering.  Knowing the cruelty of the Romans, it is likely they would have further humiliated him by forcing him to die naked.

It has been noted that once man sinned in the Garden of Eden, he was both naked and ashamed.  Jesus suffered naked on the cross, that we might be permanently clothed with garments of salvation and robes of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).  All our sin and shame has been washed away!

John 19:25-27 – … but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mothers sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!”  And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

It is commonly believed that Mary’s husband Joseph was dead by this time, but thankfully she was not alone in her grief.  We find her supported during this tragedy by some of her friends.   

It is hard to imagine the turmoil and heartache that Mary, mother of Jesus, suffered on that day.  She knew full well that her son was divine.  Perhaps she entertained notions of a physical kingdom on earth for her son, just as the disciples did.  If so, this was an even more terrible agony to her.  Truly, her heart must have been ‘pierced by a sword’ as prophesied by Simeon on the day Jesus was dedicated in the temple (Luke 2:34-35). 

But even in the midst of his own suffering, Jesus remembers her.  In one of his final commands, he made the apostle John her adopted son, and she John’s adopted mother.  As such, John would provide Mary with a home and all the necessities of life until her death.

Although Mary was not present on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, she remained in fellowship with all of the disciples and was likely present in the upper room on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:14).      

John 19:28 – After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), “I thirst.”

As is his custom, the apostle John will skip over many of the events that occurred at the crucifixion which the other evangelists relate.  He chooses to focus on the final moments of Jesus’ life.

Thirst is a notorious symptom of those who are crucified.  Jesus suffered a significant amount of blood loss from the scourging, his wounds were highly inflamed, he underwent the physical exertion of carrying the cross and he was crucified in the heat of the day.  No wonder he was thirsty!

But despite his indescribable suffering, he gave the world one last proof of his identity as the Messiah.  By admitting he was thirsty, Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophesy of Psalms 69:21. 

John 19:29-30 – A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.  When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

The jar of sour or tart wine (your translation may say ‘vinegar’) was the common drink of the Roman soldiers.  The jar may have been provided for them to drink as they worked the multiple crucifixions of the day.  However, since there was a sponge and hyssop branch nearby, it is possible wine was provided for the thirst of those being crucified.

In either case, after fulfilling the prophesy, Jesus proclaims, “it is finished”! 

What did he mean?

The Father’s will and purpose which the trinity decreed from ages past, was now accomplished.  Mankind could once again have fellowship with God (Revelation 21:3).

The scriptures are now fulfilled!  Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).  All of the Old Testament types or pictures of the Messiah have received their final accomplishment in him.

Our salvation is now complete.  The price of our sin has been fully paid; God’s wrath has been completely satisfied (I Thessalonians 5:9).

The fury, malice, rage and revenge of the enemies of Christ was now ended.  The suffering and sorrow of the Son of God is over – and it has ended in victory!  

Satan is now defeated; the power of darkness is broken.  We now have victory through Christ Jesus our Lord, Savior and King! Hallelujah!

Let me offer you some encouragement:

God gave us his all.  He gave us his only begotten Son to make atonement for our sin.  Once that was done, he made us joint heirs with Christ.  This means that all that the Father has is available to us because of Jesus!

In light of that, shouldn’t we give our best to him?  I encourage you to think of an area of your life that is not yet fully surrendered to God, and make an effort to give that to him this week.

Let me offer you some relief:

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a widow when Jesus was crucified. But as we noted in today’s post, she found comfort in her friends and relatives. 

It is no coincidence that the church is called the ‘family of God’.  The men and women who attend your local church are truly your brothers and sisters.  They can be a great relief to you during times of heartache and tragedy by offering you support, comfort and love.  And you can do the same for them. 

So be sure to get involved in your local church.  It is a great place to find fellowship and establish friendships that will last until eternity.    

Let me offer you some strength:  

Sometimes when we look around the world, it looks like Satan is winning the war.  But nothing could be further from the truth!

Satan never, ever, ever had the ability to defeat God.  Demonically inspiring the Jews to kill the Savior did not give him victory, it merely sealed his fate for eternity!

So don’t be discouraged by what you see around you.  Stand firm/strong in your faith and keep praying and declaring the kingdom of heaven on earth.  When the appointed time comes, Jesus will return to earth again for his victorious bride, the church.  What a wonderful day that will be! 

John, Chapter 19, Part 1

John 19:1 – Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.

As we saw in chapter 18, rage and jealousy had driven the Jewish religious leaders to the point where they would stop at nothing to have Jesus crucified by the Romans.  So they dragged Jesus to Pilate’s judgment hall and accused him of rebellion against Caesar. 

But Pilate won’t just ‘rubber stamp’ this execution. He isn’t stupid or uninformed of what is taking place in the city.  He is well aware that the religious leaders have arrested Jesus because they are jealous of him (Matthew 27:18).  Therefore, he conducts his own investigation and concludes that Jesus is innocent; he posed no threat to the rule of Caesar or the authority of Rome. 

In addition to being convinced that Jesus was innocent, Pilate had been warned by his wife not to mess with Jesus:

Matthew 27:19 – When he was sat down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.

At this point, Pilate is becoming uneasy; his conscience is bothering him.  He is slowly losing control of this situation.  He must maintain peace in the city, but he is also desperately seeking a way to release Jesus, because in his heart Pilate knows he is innocent.  Subsequently, Pilate placed both Jesus and the notorious criminal Barabbas before the crowd believing they would chose to have Jesus released to them.

But he was wrong – at the insistence of the religious leaders, the mob called for Barabbas to be set free while they clamored for the crucifixion of Christ. 

It is interesting to note that Pilate, a Gentile/pagan, absolves Jesus by the evidence before him and seeks to set him free while the Jews who heard his doctrine, saw his miracles, and were looking for the Messiah, seek to condemn him.

At this point, Pilate orders that Jesus be scourged/whipped. 

Public whipping was a common form of punishment back in that day; even the Jews used it.  According to the Law, the Jews could never give a person more than 40 lashes (Deuteronomy 25:3).  In order to ensure that they never broke this law, the Jews limited each whipping to a maximum of 39 stripes (II Corinthians 11:24). 

But the Romans, who were the ones scourging Jesus, had no such limitation.  It was their custom to savagely flog prisoners before they were crucified and there is no reason to think that they showed any mercy to Christ.

The torture that Jesus endured during this whipping was all part of the payment for our sin.  He was well aware that he was going to endure this pain and suffering (Matthew 20:19, Luke 18:33, etc).  But he still willingly endured it in order to save us.

Isaiah 50:6 – I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked out the beard: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

In addition, God informs us that this punishment fulfilled a specific purpose – it provided healing for us: 

Isaiah 53:5 – But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Many people interpret this to mean healing from physical sickness and disease – and they would be right.  It definitely covers that.  But it is wrong to limit our healing to just physical ailments.  The stripes of Jesus also provide healing for our minds, our emotions, our relationships, and anything else in our lives that is broken.

What parts of your life need healing?  I urge you to bring them to God and ask him to intervene; the price for your healing has already been paid by our Lord and Savior.

Now, let’s ask ourselves this question: What was Pilate’s motive in having Jesus punished this way? 

Scholars speculate that he was hoping to pacify the anger of the Jews so that he could dismiss the charges against Jesus and let him go (Luke 23:16).  But that was not God’s plan. 

John 19:2-3 – And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purples robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

At this time in history, the Roman Empire ruled the world.  So when the soldiers hear that Jesus is a king, it ignites feelings of scorn and mockery.  In their opinion, no one had even the slightest chance of destroying the empire or defeating Caesar.  And this certainly included the meek, unassuming man standing bound before them in the judgment hall. 

Their contempt for Jesus manifested itself in the form of ridicule.  Since Jesus claimed to be king, they would make him one!  

Taking a mass of needle-sharp thorns, they twisted them into a crown and shoved it down on Jesus’ head.  The thorns pierced his skin and he bled heavily from these wounds. 

Although John does not mention it, the other gospels tell us that the soldiers also placed a weed in the right hand of Jesus, to represent a scepter:

Matthew 27:29 –And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

Their representation of Jesus as king was completed with some kind of a ragged purple robe.  Once he was arrayed like this, they taunted and jeered at him by bowing down and acknowledging him as a king.  They spit on him, mocked him, hit him in the face and plucked out parts of his beard.

Mark 14:65 – And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the guards did strike him with the palms of their hands.

Mark 15:19 – And they struck him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshiped him.

These men ‘made sport’ with Jesus, just as the Philistines did to Sampson (Judges 16:23-25).   As they were cruelly abusing our Lord and Savior, Pilate was still trying to think of a way to escape judging Jesus.  Once he finds out that Jesus is from Galilee (Luke 23:6-7) he came up with the idea of sending him to Herod. But that backfired on him as well; after Herod and his men further vilify Jesus, Herod returns him to Pilate:

Luke 23:11 – And Herod with his men of war despised him, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.

We now see how cowardly, base and cruel Pilate really is.  He believes Jesus is an innocent man, yet:

  • He has Jesus publicly whipped.
  • He allows the soldiers under his command to dishonor, abuse and mistreat him. 
  • He makes a friend and ally of Herod by allowing him and his men to do the same. 
  • He will shortly surrender Jesus to death, in order to keep the favor of the Jews.

John 19:4-5 – Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”  So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.  Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”

Having scourged and abused the prisoner, Pilate now brings him outside and displays him to the religious leaders and common people.

Now that Pilate has publicly profaned and debased Jesus, it was doubtful that masses of people would continue to revere and follow him.  This should have alleviated the hatred/envy of the Pharisees.  In addition, Pilate again reiterates that he finds Jesus innocent of all charges.  His hope is that the Jews would be satisfied with the extreme punishment Jesus had already endured and drop the charges against him.

If so, Pilate would also benefit – he would be relieved of the responsibility of judging Jesus.

Pilate intended the stripes of Jesus to be a never ending reproach/disgrace that would remain with him until he faded into the obscurity of history.  Little did he know that these same stripes would cause Christians to revere, love and adore the Son of God for eternity!  

John 19:6 – When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!”  Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”

But this did not satisfy the fury and indignation of the Jewish officials.  Indeed, it only seemed to aggravate them even more.  Notice how unreasonable the chief priests and officers have become:

  • Even though Pilate finds Jesus innocent of the charges, they refuse to accept his findings.  They also refuse to furnish further proof of their accusations and they have no other charges to bring against him.
  • They will not be satisfied with the extremity of the punishment Jesus has already endured, even though he is innocent. 
  • They do not allow mercy, compassion or justice to influence their actions.
  • They were willing to risk their own safety to see Jesus destroyed – if they stirred up a mob and a rebellion ensued, the Jews would be slaughtered by Rome.

It was their utter contempt and blind hatred of Jesus which caused them to cry out “Crucify him!”

At this point, Pilate gives them one last chance to check their fury and change the course of the proceedings.  He pauses and once again insists that Jesus is innocent of all charges; he ironically commands the Jews to crucify Jesus themselves.

John 19:7 – The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.”

And now we see what truly lies in the hearts of the Jews (Luke 6:45).

The Law was one of the most important aspects of Jewish life.  And well it should be – the Law was the covenant between Israel and God; it was an agreement that no other nation had.  It set the Jews apart as God’s chosen people.

However, over time the Law became a source of national pride.  The Jews boasted in having it, but they dishonored God by breaking it (Romans 2:23-24).  For instance, we saw that the Jews refused to enter into Pilate’s judgment hall on the eve of Passover because they did not want to do anything that would make them ceremonially unclean, but their reason for being there in the first place was to murder an innocent man.

Scripture also gives us the example of the Pharisees who were so eager to obey the letter of the law that they tithed on the herbs growing in their gardens, but they ignored issues of justice and mercy:

Luke 11:42 -But woe unto you, Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over justice and the love of God: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 

In the current situation, the religious leaders refer to a portion of the Law which dictates that anyone guilty of blasphemy should be put to death (Leviticus 24:16).  Falsely claiming to be the Son of God definitely counts as blasphemy, and this is what they were accusing Jesus of doing. 

But just as in the prior examples, they once again attempt to keep the letter of the law while ignoring the obvious will of God. 

The Jews failed to fairly and impartially study the claim of Jesus.  If they had, they would have realized that the scope of his doctrine did not draw people away from God; it drew them closer to him.  He was not abolishing the Law, he was fulfilling it.  Furthermore, if Jesus confirmed his mission and doctrine by miracles (which he certainly did), then by Law, they should have listened to him:

Deuteronomy 18:18-19 – I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto you, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

So, although the Jewish leaders sound very ‘religious’, they actually perverted the Law and used it as a tool to murder an innocent man.

John 19:8 – When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.

Meanwhile, Pilate’s day is going from bad to worse.  When he understood that his prisoner was claiming not only royalty, but deity, he became seriously afraid.  The alarm bells of his conscience were now ringing at full volume!

John does not tell us exactly what was causing this fear, but it may well have been the possibility of vengeance.  The Romans were polytheistic, which means they worshiped multiple gods.  They believed that it was possible for the offspring of gods to visit mortals and thus Pilate was afraid to condemn Jesus and offend one of the supreme deities, who would later take vengeance upon him. 

So Pilate is contending with his own conscience, plus the possibility of vengeance from a ‘god’, plus the huge crowd of Jews who are all stirred up and ready to cause a riot in the city.  With all this going on, it was no wonder he was experiencing fear!  It must have seemed as if things were quickly spiraling out of control.

Based on this new charge from the Jewish leaders, Pilate returns to the judgment hall to further question Jesus. 

John 19:9 – He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?”  But Jesus gave him no answer.

Pilate is now in a state of anguish.  What has he gotten himself into?  Should he follow his conscience and acquit Jesus of all charges, risking a full scale riot in Jerusalem?  Or should he bow to the demands of the unpredictable Jews?  Is Jesus a demigod?  If so, what punishment will he suffer for crucifying him?

In a desperate effort to find an answer, Pilate returns to Jesus and asks ‘where are you from’?  Of course, Pilate couldn’t care less where Jesus was born; he is asking Jesus if he was a mere human born on earth or if he was a divine being.  (Keep in mind, Pilate has no real understanding of the One True God which we serve and his only begotten Son.  Pilate is thinking of demigods in the way of the pagans.)

Jesus, however, remains steadfastly silent.  Many explanations have been offered to account for this. 

One explanation says this: Jesus was silent because he was not there to plead the truth of his case and receive mercy.  He was there to be condemned and suffer on our behalf so that we could be forgiven of sin.

Another says this:  Jesus had already given Pilate the answer to this in verse 37, when he explained that he was a king, but not a king of this world.  Since Pilate could not receive the truth of that concept, neither would he understand the answer to the current question.

1 Corinthians 2:14 –But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Yet another says this:  Although Pilate was still debating with himself, Jesus knew that the final outcome was crucifixion.  Having already made a reasonable defense for himself, he sees no point in continuing the conversation.  Instead, he yields to death on the cross. 

Why do you think Jesus remained silent before Pilate?

John 19:10 – So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me?  Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”

Pilate seems to have forgotten the fear that just gripped him moments ago.  His pride is offended because Jesus will not answer him and he becomes angry.  He insinuates that since Jesus refuses to speak when spoken to, he is showing disrespect to those in authority.

What a laughable thought!  Pilate boasts of his own authority as if the world hung upon his every decision.  What he doesn’t know is that God has put all power and all authority into the hands of Jesus – the very man standing before him!  In fact, everything and everyone is subject to him:

Ephesians 1:22 -And has put all things under his [Jesus’] feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 

(See also I Corinthians 15:25-27, Hebrews 2:8).  If we ever find ourselves in a position of authority, let us take this to heart:  Just like Pilate, we have no power and no authority that is not given to us by God, so we have no reason to boast! 

John 19:11 – Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.  Therefore, he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

The statement of Jesus that Pilate’s power had been given to him ‘from above’ can be understood in two ways.

First, it could refer to Pilate’s official office/job which was that of a magistrate/judge.  All civil power is both ordained and limited by God (Romans 13:1).  In other words, the only reason the governor of Judea had the authority to judge/decide criminal cases, was because God sanctioned it.  So, the authority of the governor (whoever that might be) to release or crucify prisoners came ‘from above’ by the hand of God.

In this particular case, God allowed Pilate to wield the authority of this office.

Secondly, everything that happened to Jesus had been predetermined in the eternal councils of God before the world began (I Peter 1:18-20).  Since God had determined that the Messiah was required to sacrifice his life for our sin, Pilate was given the authority ‘from above’ to sentence Jesus to death by crucifixion. 

The opposite is also true.  If Father God had determined that his Son did not need to die, then Pilate would not have been able to crucify him.  God was fully in charge of this situation; he was not at the mercy of Pilate.

Both cases show us that Pilate did not have as much power as he thought he had; although he had a free will choice, he had to work under the limits God had determined before he was ever born.

Jesus then goes on to discuss culpability. 

In Luke chapter 12, Jesus tells a parable about a house owner who goes on a trip and leaves his servants to manage the property while he is gone.  The servants who do a good job have nothing to fear when the owner returns.  They will be rewarded for good service. 

However, the wicked servants will be punished.  Those who were ignorant of the master’s will receive a few stripes for wrong doing, while those who were fully aware of the master’s will but chose not to do it are beaten with many stripes.  The bottom line is that to whom much is given, much is required:

Luke 12:47-48 – And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating.  But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating.  Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

This spiritual principle applies to the case of Pilate and the Jews.  Pilate was certainly guilty of wrong doing.  He was fully convinced that Jesus was an innocent man, yet he allowed him to be severely beaten, mocked and abused.  He then shipped him off to Herod for more of the same.  But Pilate is not a Jew.  He does not have an understanding of the law.  He does not realize that there is only one God and Jesus is his Son, the Messiah.  Consequently, his sin is less than that of the religious leaders.

Meanwhile Judas, who delivered Jesus to the Jewish high priest, and the Jewish leaders who delivered Jesus to Pilate (especially Caiaphas), have a much greater culpability because they knew the law.  They had access to the Old Testament scriptures.  They professed to be experts at interpreting the law.  They knew the Messiah was coming.  They knew his work would be confirmed with signs and wonders.

Despite knowing God’s will and plans, they conspired to murder the Messiah – an innocent man. They had Jesus arrested and brought to the Romans under false charges. 

They intimidated Pilate.  They produced false witnesses.  They incited the crowd to have Barabbas released and Jesus crucified. Therefore, their sin is greater than that of Pilate.  

John 19:12 – From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend.  Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

This case is not turning out to be the slam-dunk the Jewish officials were hoping for.  Pilate is very unwilling to simply condemn Jesus and move on.  The possibility that Jesus may be released only fills the Jews with more hate and determination.  They have come this far and they will accept nothing less than the death of Jesus, no matter what they have to do.  So they ‘up the ante’ on Pilate.

Having worked themselves into a frenzy, they once again throw charges of sedition into the mix, but now they are not just leveling this charge against Jesus – they are insinuating that Pilate is guilty of rebellion against Rome as well.  In effect, they are bullying Pilate! 

Given the political climate of that day, this was a very effective tactic.

Rome was actually ruled by emperors.  However, after the reign of Julius Caesar, all the emperors assumed the title of Caesar, just as all the kings of Egypt assumed the title of Pharaoh. 

At the time of Christ, the reigning emperor was Tiberius (Luke 3:1).  He was one of the most cruel and wicked men to ever rule Rome.  If he heard so much as a rumor that Pilate was undermining his power, Pilate could look forward to a slow, tortured and painful death.  It would be natural for Pilate to fear retribution from him.

The threats of the Jews have hit their mark.  The defining moment of Pilate’s life has now come – he must make a decision regarding Jesus. 

He can either follow his conscience and do the right thing or throw Jesus under the bus in an effort to keep peace and protect himself.  Sadly, he fails to do what is right.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

As we noted in today’s study, Jesus endured unspeakable pain and suffering so that we could be reconciled to God.  In light of this, how could we ever question his love for us? 

I know that all of us go through tough times.  Occasionally we wonder if God has forgotten or abandoned us, but let me set the record straight:  HE HAS NOT! 

God assures us that he will be with us until the end of this age (Matthew 28:20).  He repeatedly tells us to stand strong and fear not (Genesis 15:1, Psalms 46:1-3).  He says that all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28). 

So the next time Satan tries to whisper in your ear that God doesn’t care about you, encourage yourself by remembering the cross!

Let me offer you some relief:

Pilate sinned in some really ugly ways and so did the religious leaders of that day.  But before we cast any stones, we should keep in mind that we too are guilty of sin, which separated us from the love of God. 

But there is good news – Jesus has provided relief from our sin.  Because of the cross we can be forgiven and restored into a relationship with Father God. 

Let me offer you some strength:

How is your relationship with God today?  Is it the strong and vibrant relationship you wanted?  Or has God been pushed aside in the busyness of your everyday life?  Is it possible that you are reading this post, yet you have never actually asked Christ to forgive you of your sin?  If so, you can come to cross right now, and find restoration and forgiveness by praying this prayer:

Dear Jesus, I confess to you that I am a sinner.  I am sorry for all the wrong things I have done and I ask you to forgive me.  I believe that you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross and rose again, and that your blood paid the price for my sin.  I invite you to come into my heart and life and to be my Lord and Savior.  I commit myself to you right now.  Thank you for saving me from death and giving me the gift of eternal life.  Amen.

If you prayed this prayer and sincerely meant it, then you have received the gift of salvation from Jesus Christ! 



John, Chapter 18, Part 3

John 18:25 – Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself.  So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?”  He denied it and said, “I am not.”

Welcome back, readers!

In our last post, we left Peter in the courtyard of the high priest.  He already denied Christ once, when questioned by the lowly matron at the door/gate.  He now proceeds to huddle by the fire with the other servants.  All of them are waiting to see what will happen to Jesus, who is being questioned by Annas and Caiaphas.

As they wait, another servant identifies Peter as one of the disciples of Jesus.  Once again, Peter denies his relationship with Christ.  This is the second of his three denials, which were predicted by Jesus (Mark 14:30).  

John 18:26-27 – One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?”  Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.

Malchus was the man who had his ear cut off by Peter in the garden.  Clearly, one of his relatives had also been in the detachment of soldiers that was sent to capture Jesus, and he saw the whole incident unfold.  He probably got a good look at Peter while Jesus was healing Malchus’ ear.  This man is not going to keep silent based on a simple denial; he wants to confront Peter about his role in this whole affair.

When he once again calls Peter out, Peter responds with his third denial of Christ.  This third denial was very vehement; the other gospel writers tell us that Peter resorted to cursing and swearing (Mark 14:70-71, Matthew 26:74) to make his point.  

Immediately after the third denial a rooster crowed, fulfilling the prophesy of Jesus. 

Let’s take a closer look at the denial of Peter.

First of all, Peter showed some faithfulness to Jesus.  It is true that he fled with the rest of the disciples in the garden when Jesus was arrested.  But afterward he seems to have gathered some of his courage and followed Jesus at a distance.  Perhaps he was motivated by his recent promises to stick by Jesus regardless of the cost. 

Second, when it was impossible to enter into the judgment hall with Jesus, he stood outside the gate, trying to be as near to Christ as possible and looking for an opportunity to draw closer (which he received by the intervention of an unnamed disciple).

However, he should never have taken these actions because they put him in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Let me explain.

It is clearly evident from the preceding chapters (14-17), that the faith of the disciples was very weak at this point.  They were losing their leader, they were uncertain about the future, they were not yet filled with Holy Spirit and they were overwhelmed by the amount of information Jesus had given to them over the last few hours. 

Jesus was well aware that the disciples were not yet ready to face any kind of real opposition at this point.  This is evident all throughout his final discourse with them, and particularly in the prayer he prayed for them (John 17:11, 15). It was also evident when, just before his arrest, Jesus instructed the band of soldiers to let his disciples go (John 18:8).

In addition, Jesus had warned Peter that he would not only abandon him, but he would deny him three times. 

The bottom line is that Jesus was setting his disciples up to succeed – he knew their faith was weak so he kept them out of danger until they could be strengthened and filled with power by Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).

The best thing Peter could have done after the arrest of Jesus was to go home (a place of safety) and pray.  But instead, he places himself in temptation’s way by inserting himself into a situation he was not equipped to handle.  He was essentially outside of God’s will for his life.  His only option in this situation was to depend on his own strength.  Not surprisingly, he failed.  This failure was not God’s fault; it was Peter’s fault.

This example should cause all of us to pause.  It is true that we should be spreading the gospel.  It is true that sometimes this takes people into dangerous and difficult places.  So if your plan is to enter one of these danger zones, you better make sure you are clearly hearing the voice of Holy Spirit.  Just because an inner city drug cartel needs to hear the gospel, it doesn’t mean you should barge in unannounced and start preaching to them! 

Here is something else to consider:  You may have a testimony that shows the power of God to deliver from some particular sin, such as alcoholism.  As a person that has been delivered from that addiction, you have a very powerful testimony to share with others. 

But you need to be careful about how and when you share it.  If you were just delivered a week ago, you probably shouldn’t go into your old ‘hangout’ and try to witness to your drinking buddies.  Even though you are doing the right thing, you could wind up failing if it is done in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

We have an example of this in the scriptures.  In Acts 9:6-10 we see that Paul wanted to preach the gospel in Asia.  Did they need the gospel?  Certainly!  But Holy Spirit would not let him do it, because it was the wrong place to go at that time.  Paul wanted to visit several other places as well, but each time he was forbidden to go there by Holy Spirit.  Finally, he was instructed to go to Macedonia, where many were saved.

So, by all means, go into the world and share the gospel – but if you plan to go somewhere unusual, make sure you follow Holy Spirit there!

John 18:28 – Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters.  It was early morning.  They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.

The governor’s headquarters (your translation may say ‘hall of judgment’), was the seat of Roman authority. It would be like one of our court rooms – a place where the judge (Roman governor) heard and ruled on cases brought before him. 

At this point, Jesus had been condemned and pronounced guilty of death by the Sanhedrin:

Matthew 26:65-66 -Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, He has spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now you have heard his blasphemy. What think you? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.

The only problem was that the Jews did not have the authority to execute anyone.  For this reason, they took Jesus to Pilate.

Since Pilate’s hall was a place of Gentile judgment, any Jew who went inside would be considered unclean and thus unable to participate in the imminent Passover celebrations.  (Any/all Jews were considered ceremonially unclean or polluted if they entered the house of any Gentile.)  For this reason, the religious leaders refused to go inside Pilate’s hall.

This verse clearly shows us that Jesus was right – the religious leaders were truly ‘whitewashed sepulchers’:

Matthew 23:27 -Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 

The Jewish leaders show the utmost attention to the most minute detail regarding outward forms of the law, yet they are filled with moral corruption! They may have ‘righteously’ stood outside Pilate’s judgment hall that day, but their hearts were full of envy/jealousy, fraud, injustice, hatred and murder.  What a mockery they make of God when they refuse to enter Pilate’s hall, but are completely unconcerned about shedding the innocent blood of the Messiah!

John 18:29-30 – So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.”

Because the Jews would not enter the judgment hall, Pilate condescended to come outside to them.  But chances are he did not do it out of respect for them; he did it for his own sake.  During Passover the population of Jerusalem exploded with Jews and Pilate did not need any trouble, so he did what he had to do to help keep peace.

The Jewish leaders were clearly hoping that Pilate would simply pass the death sentence on Jesus based on their own evaluation of the case.  It was probably common for the governor to ‘rubber stamp’ or automatically approve most of their decisions.  After all, Pilate really had no interest in Jewish affairs of state.

However, in this case, Pilate asks for the list of charges the Jews are bringing against Christ.  Why would he do that?  Perhaps it was due to the odd hour of night.  Or again Pilate may have been taking extra caution because of the large number of Jews present in the city.

But there was probably another good reason as well.  Many scholars believe that Pilate had heard of Jesus and his miracles; it would make perfect sense that the governor of Jerusalem would be informed as to what was going on in the city.  Because of this, he would automatically be interested in the case.  He also seems to have held the opinion that Jesus is innocent and he was fully aware that the Jewish leaders were extremely jealous of Jesus (Matthew 27:17-18).

Regardless of the reason for Pilate’s request, it presented an obstacle for the Jewish leaders.

They had convicted Jesus of the charge of blasphemy, which carried the death penalty under Jewish law.  But Roman law was different; under their civil rules, Jesus had done nothing wrong.  If the Jews gave blasphemy as the charge against Jesus, Pilate would have immediately dismissed the case and told them to deal with the issue themselves.

Knowing this, they try to avoid stating the actual charges against Jesus.  Instead, they indirectly accuse Pilate of questioning their ability and integrity in judgment.  They act indignant and offended that Pilate wants to see clear evidence of an act deserving death.  Maybe they protested so much because they knew there was no case against him!

John 18:31-32 –Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”  The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.”This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

To his credit, Pilate does not bow to their pressure.  He throws the case back to them, instructing them to have an official trial in the Sanhedrin and then to punish Jesus accordingly.

But the Jews continue to press Pilate.  They insist that they do not have the right to execute people.  Was that true?  The answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

The Jews could still stone people to death if the judgment was clear and the execution was spontaneous.  For example, in Acts 7:59-60, the Sanhedrin was questioning Stephen about preaching the gospel.  During the trial, Stephen testified that he saw heaven opened and Jesus sitting at the right hand of God in glory.  Immediately upon hearing this ‘blasphemy’, the enraged mob stoned Stephen without a trial.

However, the Jews had no right to execute anyone found guilty after the ordinary course of justice.  In that case, death sentences had to be carried out by the Romans.  This would apply to the case of the Jews versus Jesus. 

There is no doubt that the religious leaders intended to kill Jesus after they arrested him (Matthew 26:3-5), but whether they intended to do so secretly, or by means of a mob (stoning), or through the Roman governor is uncertain.

Although they may not have known what they were going to do, Jesus certainly did.  He very clearly told the disciples that he would be delivered to the Gentiles and crucified (Matthew 20:18-19).

John 18:33-34 – So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”

The gospel of Luke tells us that the Jewish leaders went before Pilate (while he was outside) and accused Jesus of inciting a rebellion against Rome and claiming to be a king:

Luke 23:1-2 – And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate.  And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.

Once those charges were brought, then Pilate returned inside and asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews.

Notice that Jesus is very careful how he answers Pilate.  He neither confirms nor denies that he is King of the Jews. Instead, Jesus asks if this was a personal conviction of Pilate’s own mind or if he was merely repeating information he heard from the religious leaders.

Here is why that matters:  When Pilate uses the term ‘King of the Jews’, he thinks of it as a political statement or ambition.  To him, this indicated a person who was attempting to establish an earthly, political kingdom that would oppose Rome.  If Jesus were this type of king, he was a threat to Rome and should be immediately executed.

The facts clearly showed this was not the case; Jesus had never claimed to be king, he never appeared in the worldly attire of a king, he never assumed any secular power, he never raised an army, and he never acted as a judge or civil authority.  Nothing he did ever pointed to political aspirations.  He was not, and never had been, a threat to Roman rule.

However, if the term ‘King of the Jews’ is being used by the Jewish leaders, then Pilate should consider the source of the accusation.  Although they maintained that Jesus was a threat to Caesar, it was really the religious leaders themselves who intensely desired to overthrow Rome!

They would have loved for Jesus to use miraculous power to bring the Jews out of Roman bondage the same way Moses brought Israel out of Egyptian rule.  And truly, if Jesus had been willing to do this, the Jewish leaders would gladly have supported the uprising.  So the charges of rebellion against Caesar reflect their own desires, not those of Jesus.

But as Jesus will shortly explain, his kingdom was spiritual, not physical.  He was not going to use flesh and blood to overthrow Rome.  And if his kingdom was spiritual in nature (not political) then technically Pilate had no authority to order his execution. All charges against him should be immediately dropped. 

John 18:35 – Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew?  Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me.  What have you done?”

There is an old saying ‘Where there is smoke, there is fire’.  The meaning of the proverb is that rumors often have at least some basis in truth.  Or we might say that if there is a persistent indication of wrongdoing, then chances are something illegal or immoral is at the heart of the rumors.

This is what Pilate is saying to Jesus.  He maintains that since the leaders of his own nation are furious with him, and since they are making serious accusations against him, Jesus must have done something wrong.

That being the case, Pilate demands that Jesus tell him what he has been involved in.  

John 18:36 – Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews.  But my kingdom is not from the world.”

In response to Pilate’s question, Jesus admits to being a king, but not in the sense that the religious leaders claim.

  • His kingdom is ‘not of this world’ – it is spiritual in nature, not secular/political.
  • Its purpose is not to rule the world, but to rescue men from the kingdom of darkness. 
  • The weapons of his kingdom are spiritual, not physical like spears and shields.   This is a significant point; if the kingdom of heaven was an earthly kingdom, Jesus would have incited the multitudes that followed him to prepare for battle.  He would have organized and army and used his miraculous power to arm them.  He certainly would not have given himself up (unarmed) in the garden of Gethsemane. 

John 18:37 – Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”  Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king.  For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Although Jesus confirms that he is a king, he also declares that he did not come to reign on the earth (at that time).  His purpose in coming to earth was not to assert immediate power or raise armies or subdue nations in battle.

Jesus came to reveal and bear witness to the truth of God. The truth was that he was/is a king (the Messiah). And through this truth, he will usher salvation into the world and make it available to all mankind.  This was his purpose in coming to earth.

Jesus is our king; he governs the minds and hearts of his subjects.  Everyone who hears the truth and accepts Christ as savior hears his voice and follows him:

John 10:27 – My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  

And as we know, one day Jesus WILL rule over this earth with an iron rod (Psalms 2:7-9).  He will rule a kingdom that cannot be over thrown and it will last for one-thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6).

John 18:38 – Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”  After he said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.”

What is truth? – Pilate almost certainly asked this question in contempt/scorn which explains why Jesus did not answer it.  If his question had been sincere and he really sought the truth as Nicodemus did (John 3:1), we know that Jesus would have answered.  He would have explained to Pilate the nature of the kingdom of heaven.

Since Pilate asks the question in mockery and then immediately leaves the room without waiting for an answer, we know that his investigation was finished.  He was satisfied that Jesus was not a king in the sense that the Jews had asserted; he was no threat to the Roman government.  Therefore, he was innocent of the charges filed against him. 

Pilate seems to regard Jesus as a poor, ignorant, deluded fanatic, and he goes out to the Jews and declares Jesus to be not guilty.

Yet, the original question – ‘What is truth?’ – still requires an answer. 

John 1:17 -For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

(See also John 1:14, Ephesians 4:21, John 14:6, etc). Thankfully, God has given us the tools we need to help us determine truth: the Holy Scriptures, divine revelation and our ability to think/reason.  We can be confident that if we sincerely ask Jesus for an answer, he will certainly give it to us (James 1:5).

John 18:39 – “But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover.  So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”

Pilate is in a somewhat difficult position here.  It is his duty to keep the peace in Jerusalem.  If he doesn’t, Rome will reprimand him, exile him, or even kill him.  So he can’t afford to enrage the Jews on the eve of their biggest religious celebration of the year, especially when thousands of out-of-town Jews had flooded the city.  But at the same time he believes Jesus is innocent and he wants to judge him justly. 

So Pilate tries to figure out a way to save Jesus while simultaneously diffusing the anger of the religious leaders. 

His plan is to offer the release of a prisoner – Jesus or Barabbas.  Scripture indicates that the release of a prisoner during the Passover celebration was a custom back in that day, but we have no information on the origin or reason for this custom.

What we do know is that Barabbas was a terrible criminal.  He was not only a violent robber, he was also guilty of murder and sedition (Luke 23:19, Mark 15:7).  He seems to have been a criminal who was universally despised by everyone.  He definitely belonged in prison, not out on the streets of Jerusalem!

Pilate was sure that given a choice between this violent repeat offender and the meek, miracle working Jesus, the Jews would certainly choose Jesus.  But he was wrong.

John 18:40 – They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!”  Now Barabbas was a robber.

As is typical of the apostle John, he does not include many of the details routinely given by the other gospels.  Since he was the last of the four to pen his gospel, he apparently chose to give us details the others left out, while skipping over things they had already well documented. 

For this reason, he does not mention Jesus being sent to Herod (Luke 23) or the large crowd outside Pilate’s judgment hall, who were being incited by the Pharisees to choose Barabbas over Christ (Mark 15). Neither does he does not mention Pilate washing his hands of the whole affair.  But he does include the bottom line: Jesus was sentenced to death.

Let me offer you some encouragement and relief:

In this post we noted that Peter denied Jesus three times.  His spiritual failure was due to the fact that he was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing.  He was trying to gain victory over darkness using his own strength.  He wanted to prove to the rest of the world that he was stronger than the other disciples; he would never abandon Christ!

But obviously, he failed. 

This is an important lesson for us.  No matter what your ministry is, be sure that you are following the leading of Holy Spirit.  When you undertake a project or make plans, you will succeed when you follow him, not when you ask him to follow you!

Let me offer you some strength:

During the trial of Jesus, the followers of Christ were no doubt disheartened, discouraged and afraid.  They were probably stunned that Jesus was convicted and sentenced to death.  From their perspective, things looked hopeless.

But they were wrong.  God had things well in hand.  The situation was playing out exactly according to God’s plan. 

If you have submitted your life to Christ and you are following the leading of Holy Spirit, the same is true for you.  Even though you may experience a set back or even if things look impossible, you can be sure that things are happening exactly according to God’s plan. 

This is not only true in the life of each individual believer, it’s true for our nation as well.  The Christians of America have humbled themselves.  We are repenting and praying for our nation.  And even though things look bad right now, we should not be disheartened or discouraged.  God is in control; he has a plan to redeem and rescue this nation. 

For our part, we need to be strong and continue to do all we can to fight evil.  As we do, God will grant us the victory.

John, Chapter 18, Part 2

John 18:12 – So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him.

In our last post, we left Jesus and the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane with Judas and the band of soldiers he brought to arrest Christ.

At this point, Jesus calmly surrenders himself to the soldiers.  Tradition says Jesus was bound with such cruelty that it drew blood and having bound his hands behind him, the soldiers put an iron chain around his neck and dragged him along by the chain. 

Jesus was bound like a runaway slave, in order to humiliate and disgrace him.  His captors did everything in their power to inflect pain upon him.  They did not treat him as ‘innocent until proven guilty’; they instantly treated him as a condemned man who deserved punishment and death. 

This was the day that the kingdom of Satan was waiting for.  Satan thought he was going to defeat Almighty God.  Drunk with anticipation of victory, he and his demon hordes reveled in delight as they influenced the soldiers and the religious leaders to abuse Jesus with the utmost cruelty. 

Satan was right about one thing; this was a day of victory – for Jesus Christ our King!  

Although the soldiers did not acknowledge it, it wasn’t the cords that held Jesus in their power, it was his own will/determination.  He could have slain them all with just a word and escaped if he chose to.

But he didn’t.  He had already made up his mind to embrace the will of his Father and drink the cup of suffering which would result in our salvation (John 10:18). 

As one commentator so eloquently put it, ‘He was bound that you and I might be set free from the bondage of sin’.

John 18:13 – First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.

According to the book of Nehemiah, the city of Jerusalem had ten gates.  The easiest and quickest way to get from the Mount of Olives into the City of Jerusalem was through the Sheep Gate (Nehemiah 3:1). 

This gate was so named because it was the closest gate to the temple.  Sheep (and other animal sacrifices) were brought into the city by this route.  The sheep market was located near this gate, as was the pool where temple animal sacrifices were washed.

We can’t help but notice that as they led Jesus from the garden to the high priest, they took him along the exact same route that hundreds of Passover lambs had taken over the years.  The soldiers were truly leading him as a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7, Acts 8:32).   

By this time, it was well after midnight, and the common practice would have been to place Jesus in jail overnight, until court (the Sanhedrin) convened the next day. 

But the religious leaders did not wait.  What was the big hurry?  Perhaps they feared some kind of public rescue or maybe they were just anxious to condemn Jesus, their sworn enemy.  We don’t know for sure, but in either case, the religious leaders had Jesus brought immediately to Annas.   

Who was Annas? 

Scripture tells us that he was a former high priest.  Now if that seems odd to you, then award yourself a bonus point or a piece of candy, if you have one!

As you recall from your Old Testament studies, there should never be a ‘former’ high priest.  When God set up the function of the temple, he declared that once a man was appointed as the high priest, he remained in that office until his death.  Then the office passed down to his first-born son, who passed it down to his first-born son, and so on.

So how is this situation possible?

Well remember, Jerusalem wasn’t really a peaceful place.  The Jews hated Roman authority and sedition was always bubbling just under the surface, especially in Jerusalem. The Romans, who had no intentions of losing power, were always looking for various ways to keep the Jews under control.  Since the high priest was the most powerful position in the Jewish nation, they sought to control that office.

So instead of the priesthood passing down the generations as God had decreed, the Romans rulers began to dethrone the high priest at will.  Under their control, the high priestly office was bought for money, given as a favor, revoked as punishment, or awarded to those who supported Rome.

Obviously, at some point, Rome had replaced Annas as the high priest.  But don’t feel too sorry for him.  He was still very active in the Jewish nation and he still wielded a great amount of authority.

  • He was allowed to keep the title of high priest, which still gave him automatic influence and authority with the common Jews.
  • He was a member (and likely the head/president) of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling body. 
  • He had five sons who were successively named as the high priest, and his son-in-law currently filled the office. 

The question is, why bring Jesus before Annas, instead of straight to Caiaphas, the current high priest? 

It is likely that Jesus was taken before Annas as a token of respect to the influential former high priest. It is assumed that he worked hard to have Jesus arrested so he ‘deserved’ to interview the prisoner.

It seems as if he was responsible for conducting a preliminary investigation of Jesus’ doctrine (John 18:19).  Jesus would then be turned over to Caiaphas, the legal high priest for ‘official’ trial in the presence of the Sanhedrin (John 18:24), before being handed over to the Romans to be put to death (John 18:28). 

Here is something you might find interesting:  Scholars believe that Annas was not planning to attend the late night emergency meeting of the Sanhedrin because he had to rise in just a few hours and go to the temple where he would examine the Passover lambs that were to be sacrificed that day.  Each lamb was examined in order to make sure it was without blemish, and thus fit to be sacrificed. 

If that is so, then we see the hand of God at work once again – Jesus, the true Passover Lamb,  was presented, inspected and approved for slaughter by the rightful high priest of the Jewish nation.

One other point in this narrative needs to be addressed.  It is unclear whether Annas and Caiaphas lived in the same house or not.  There was a good chance that they did, as they were related and it was a common custom back in that day.  If they did have separate homes, that of Annas must have been very close to that of Caiaphas. 

John 18:14 – It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.

Annas did not detain Jesus and his guards very long.  Almost immediately he sent them to Caiaphas, the current high priest.

We are not told how or why Rome chose Caiaphas as the high priest that year, but his role in the death of Christ suggests a wicked heart (Matthew 7:17-20).   

Back in chapter 11 of his gospel John informed us that the Sanhedrin had been debating what to do about Jesus.  During that time, Caiaphas received a word/revelation from God which he didn’t really understand.  This is what he said:

John 11:49-50 – Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all!  You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

Despite his position as the high priest, Caiaphas was not very spiritually minded.  In fact, he was all about retaining his own position and earthly power as the high priest.  His allegiance was to Rome, not to God.

He assumed that the revelation of God applied to the current political situation of the Jews.  He interpreted it to mean that Jesus should publicly die to serve as an example/deterrent to any future mutinies or rebellions among the Jewish people.  (Rome was more than ready to slay the Jews if they got out of control; this actually occurred in AD 70.)

We can easily read between the lines and see that because of this belief, Caiaphas could not be an impartial judge in the case of the Jews versus Jesus.  His mind was already made up; he was convinced that Jesus should die before he even heard the facts of the case.  Therefore, any trial that Jesus received was just a sham. 

I want to point out that God did not force Caiaphas to make a wicked decision because it was his will for Jesus to die.  Rather, (as in the case of Judas), Caiaphas was already a wicked man, so God allowed him to have the position of high priest that year, knowing the decision he would render.

John 18:15-16 –Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple.  Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door.  So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in.

John could have spared us all a lot of time and confusion if he had just named ‘the other disciple’!  (Maybe we should talk to him about that in heaven one day!)  In the meantime, we will discuss the possibilities of this mysterious disciple:

Some people believe that the other disciple is actually the apostle John, the writer of this gospel.   This theory is based on the fact that John often speaks of himself in the third person, without mentioning his own name (John 13:23, John 19:26, John 21:20).

However, there are difficulties with this explanation

First of all, although John frequently speaks of himself in the third person, he normally identifies himself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’, which is not the case here. 

Second, John was a common fisherman (strike one) from Galilee (strike two) and a close associate of Jesus (strike three).  The Jews of social prominence in Jerusalem would never have had him as a close personal friend (to say the least). 

Third, the scripture indicates that the mystery disciple was comfortable being in the house of the high priest.  He was confident in speaking to the servants and having Peter admitted to the grounds.  Based on the apostle John’s close association with Jesus, it would be very strange for him to be such a visitor in the house of Caiaphas.

Nevertheless, people who support this theory point out that God works in mysterious ways and if he wanted the apostle John to be an eyewitness to these events, he could have made this happen.   

However, assuming it isn’t John, who else could the mystery disciple be?

Well, it would need to be someone who has these qualifications:

  • He is a believer in Christ, but not one of the twelve.
  • He is most likely from Jerusalem.
  • He is wealthy and socially connected.
  • He knows Caiaphas well enough to be comfortable asking him for a personal favor – to allow Peter to come into the courtyard.

Based on these criteria, the mystery disciple is often believed to be the unnamed owner of the house in which Jesus and the disciples just ate the Passover meal.  Supposedly, John does not mention his name because he was still alive at the time this gospel was written. 

Despite all the conjecture, here is what we know for sure:  Scripture simply does not give us enough information to identify this man.  Therefore, we can correctly conclude that his identity doesn’t really matter; it is not a focal point of this bible narrative. 

Regardless of the identity of the ‘other disciple’, the end result was that Peter was admitted to the outside court of the house of Caiaphas.

John 18:17 – The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?”  He said, “I am not.”

But sadly, as we will discuss in our next post, Peter is in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Temptation immediately assails him on his way in the door/gate to the high priest’s estate.

Peter is confronted by the lowest, lest important and least threatening person present – an older female household servant.  She has no power, no authority and poses no physical threat to Peter.  She doesn’t even accuse him of anything.  She only identifies him as a possible disciple, based on his friendship with the unnamed man.  Yet her words cause Peter to tremble and deny Christ in fear (Matthew 26:70, Mark 14:67, Luke 22;56).

Thus, all his foolish boasting exposed:

Matthew 26:35 – Peter said unto him, Though I should die with you, yet will I not deny you.

(See also Matthew 26:33).  Peter declared that he would prove to be a courageous and valiant champion for Christ, able to meet death with confidence and be faithful to Christ no matter what the cost.  He thought he was a spiritual Superman, but this insignificant maid was his kryptonite!

John 18:18 – Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves.  Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

At this point, the Roman guards had probably been released.  The servants mentioned here were those assigned to the household of Caiaphas and the officers were temple servants.  The group is gathered around a fire. 

According to the architecture of that day, this estate would have had a street door or gate.  This was where the maid was stationed; she admitted or denied people onto the grounds of the estate. 

Once inside the gate, visitors found themselves on what we would call a patio – a large roofless rectangular shaped space paved with flagstones.  It was sometimes referred to as a ‘court’ or ‘hall’.  The firepit was located in this area.

At the upper end of this space was the open chamber in which the trial was held.

Additionally, Mark indicates that the chamber may have been raised slightly above the court possibly accessed by a short flight of stairs (Mark 14:66).  The court would have been visible from the chamber.

Since the ‘other disciple’ has been admitted into the trial chamber, Peter is essentially alone; he is the only believer in the court.  Fear keeps him from pushing forward for a front row view of the proceedings, and since it was obviously cold that night, Peter immediately goes to the fire to warm himself and hopefully blend into the crowd as he waits to see what will happen.

Although we don’t know for sure, the conversation around the fire most likely centered around the night’s events.  The enemies of Christ were probably praising the religious officials and condemning Jesus as a heretic.  Yet, Peter stands among them silent.

At the same time Peter is denying Christ, the high priest is engaged in falsely accusing and judging him:

John 18:19 – The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

EVERYTHING about the trial of Jesus was a gross miscarriage of justice. 

According to the Talmud, Criminal processes can neither commence nor terminate but during the course of the day.  If the person be acquitted, the sentence may be pronounced during that day, but if he be condemned, the sentence cannot be pronounced till the next day.  But no kind of judgment is to be executed, either on the eve of the Sabbath, or the eve of any festival’.

But the Jewish religious leaders are not going to allow a little thing like the law to get in the way of their plans. 

Now that they have finally achieved their goal of arresting Jesus, they need to charge him with something.  Since he hasn’t done anything wrong, it is going to be difficult to find a charge that will stick.  Their task is made even more difficult because they law required at least two witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6) for an accusation to be confirmed and they had none!

John 18:20 – Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world.  I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together.  I have said nothing in secret.”

Nevertheless, they push forward.  In their first attempt, they question Jesus about his disciples.  They were trying to see how many followers he had and how powerful they were.  If they could prove he had a strong and zealous faction of followers who wanted to make him their king, they might be able to charge Jesus with rebellion/treason against Caesar – a charge that carried the death penalty. 

Their next attempt was to charge him with teaching doctrines which subverted Mosaic Law.  If they could prove this charge, it would make Jesus a false prophet – a charge that also carried the death penalty (Deuteronomy 13:5, 9-10).

Either conviction would have fit their purposes. (Their purpose being for him to die, in accordance with the views of Caiaphas).

These haughty men still believed that they were far superior and wiser than Christ.  They expected to trap him in his words or forcibly extract a confession from him which could then be used to condemn him.  This would have made their jobs much easier, as a confession would not require witnesses.

John 18:21 – “Why do you ask me?  Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.”

But these foolish men could never trap Jesus.  You would think that they would have already learned that, based on prior interactions with him (Matthew 22:15-22).

Jesus had done nothing that was sinful or wrong in any way.  He taught openly in the temple, in the synagogues and in other public places in front of enormous crowds (Proverbs 1:19-21, Isaiah 45:19).  Anyone, including the high priest, could have come and listened to him at any time.  If there had been a problem with his doctrine, they could have confronted him publicly while witnesses were present.  Furthermore, every synagogue had a leader or officer.  If Jesus had been preaching a false doctrine, he would certainly have been confronted about it multiple times; it would have been a well-known fact.

There is also the matter of the miracles of Christ.  If the religious leaders had actually taken time to ask people about Jesus and his doctrine, they would once again have been confronted with the testimony of his numerous miracles.  It would have been irrefutable proof that he was the Messiah, approved of God.  For this reason, the religious leaders don’t even bring up the subject. 

Because he had perfectly discharged his duties as a teacher of God, Jesus does not attempt to defend himself here in the court.  Instead, he reproves the high priest who tries to cast doubt and suspicion upon a matter that is perfectly well known to all the Jews. 

John 18:22 – When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”

Just who is this haughty officer of the court, who dares to correct the Lord Jesus?  His words imply that he considered Jesus a rude and ignorant prisoner who was not good enough or wise enough to speak to his master. 

It’s rather disgusting to see how this man abuses Christ just to gain the favor of his boss by acting jealous for his honor and dignity. 

This man’s actions were wrong on every level:

  • It was insolent for a mere servant to strike a public figure; especially one revered by much of the nation.
  • It was cowardly to strike a bound man who could not defend himself.  
  • It was unjust to strike a defendant who was giving testimony to the court.

Had this been a fair and legitimate trial, the court would have taken action against this man, however, they completely ignore his action and continue on with their treacherous business.

But Jesus was not caught off guard by this undeserved blow.  It had been predicted by God long, long ago:

Job 16:10 – They have gaped upon me with their mouth; they have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully; they have gathered themselves together against me.

(See also Isaiah 50:6, Micah 5:1).

John 18:23-24 – Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

This is a wonderful display of the meekness and forbearance of Christ.  We all know that Jesus could have responded to this blow by striking this man bind, forcing him to the ground or even killing him.  It would only have taken a word from him to do this and though his hands were bound, his mouth was free.

But again, Jesus had already determined to drink the cup of suffering given to him by the Father.  He gives us an example of turning the other cheek and refusing to render railing for railing (I Peter 3:9).  

This provides practical instruction for us.  We are not to avenge ourselves.  We should appeal to the established courts for the judgment of our adversaries.  If this is not possible or justice is not served, scripture makes it plain that the right for vengeance belongs to God alone; he will repay our enemies for us (Romans 12:19).

Let me offer you some encouragement and some relief:

The Roman soldiers bound Jesus with ropes and chains.  They thought they were controlling him, but they were not.  The significance of this does not escape us – Jesus is all powerful.  He allowed himself to be bound and fettered so that he could rescue us from our inescapable bonds/chains of sin. 

But sometimes we limit the deliverance of Christ to just the forgiveness of our sin, though it includes so much more! 

For instance, scripture says that by the stripes he endured during the crucifixion, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).  This includes physical healing, mental healing, emotional healing, healing for relationships and every other kind of healing you might need. 

So let me give you this encouragement today:  Whatever healing you need in your life today, Jesus has already paid for it!  Receive it by faith, just as you did forgiveness of sin.

Let me offer you some strength:

It is tempting to hold a grudge or take revenge on someone who opposes us (at least it is for me).  Our fallen nature would love to inflict hurt those who hurt us.  But if you do, you will regret it. 

God very emphatically states that revenge is not an option for his children.  Any ‘payback’ that occurs will come directly from God; he does not need our help.

Scripture also tells us that, if left unchecked, a grudge can blossom into a spirit of bitterness, which in turn establishes a bondage in our lives.  It will rob us of peace, freedom and other blessings that God wants to pour into our lives. 

The bottom line is that it isn’t worth it!

When someone wrongs you, look at the example of Jesus as he stood in front of the court and was undeservedly hit in the face by a servant.  He reacted with meekness and patience.  Through the power of Holy Spirit, we too can find the strength to react in the same way.  This will be a blessing to us while also giving God an opportunity to minister to our enemies as well.

John, Chapter 18, Part 1

John 18:1 – When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.

At this point, Jesus had said everything he came to earth to say as a prophet.  He now moves forward to discharge his duties as our high priest – to make a sacrifice for sin.  Only this time, it would be the final, perfect sacrifice… himself.  Once that was accomplished, he would become our Mediator as well as our King.

The cross is also the time for Jesus to engage and fully defeat his/our enemy, Satan.  Although it didn’t seem like it to the disciples at the time, we know that the cross is a place of victory for God and for all those who are part of his kingdom.

On his way to the cross, Jesus had to pass over the Kidron brook.  This was a small stream which divided the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.  In summer it is almost dry, but it becomes very swollen by rain and/or melting snow during the spring.  (There would definitely have been water flowing in the brook as the group walked to the garden.)  Eventually, the brook runs in a south-easterly direction and flows into the Dead Sea. 

This stream is also known as ‘Cedron’ or ‘Kedron’.  It occupies a prominent place in Jewish history, and it is mentioned in many Old Testament passages (I Kings 15:13, II Kings 23:6, etc.).

One of the more interesting things about the book Kidron is that it was the same water that David passed over when he fled from Absalom (II Samuel 15:23).  Many scholars believe this particular account of the life of David foreshadowed what happened to Jesus. 

As you recall, David had been betrayed by his close advisor, Ahithophel.  He was driven out of his rightful kingdom by rebellious Jews who did not want him to reign over them.  In humiliation, David crossed the brook with a company of true mourners. 

The parallel is obvious.  Jesus had likewise been betrayed by one close to him – Judas.  He too was driven out of Israel by rebellious Jews who did not want him to be their king, and he crossed the brook Kidron with a very sorrowful group of disciples.  And just like David, Jesus will defeat his enemies and take his rightful place as King!

Having passed over the stream, Jesus and the disciples entered the Garden of Gethsemane.  This was a place that Jesus frequented during his time on earth (Luke 22:39).  Sometimes, when the Jews were particularly enraged at him, he would leave Jerusalem and spend the night there.  He also frequently met with his disciples in this location for prayer and teaching. 

It was good for the disciples to have a regular meeting place with Jesus.  It’s a good idea for us too.  If we have a specific place and time set aside for meeting God in prayer each day, we are much more likely to pray!

John 18:2 – Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples.

Significantly, the garden was a place well known by the traitor, Judas Iscariot.  In fact, it was so well known to Judas that Jesus would have avoided it entirely, if his intention was to hide. 

This is yet another proof that the sacrifice of Christ was voluntary; it was not a circumstance that was out of his control.  He willingly and intentionally went to Gethsemane to present himself to his enemies.

John 10:18 – No man takes it [Jesus’ life] from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

Commentators note that sin entered the world in a garden (Eden) through the first Adam.  Sin was also defeated in a garden (Gethsemane) through the second Adam, Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!

John 18:3 – So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.

All four gospel writers record the betrayal of Jesus (Matthew 26:47-57, Mark 14:43-52, Luke 22:47-53).  However, as we noted in our introduction to this gospel, John often gives us details that the other gospel writers omit, while leaving out things they have already recorded at length.

We find one of those instances here.  John omits the intense agony/suffering of Jesus as he prayed in the garden, because the other gospels clearly describe it:

Matthew 26:39 –And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.

John also passes over the narrative of Judas bargaining with the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver in exchange for the life of Jesus (Matthew 26:15) and jumps straight to the actual betrayal of Christ.  

Judas came to the garden with a group of Roman soldiers.  They were most likely from the company of soldiers who were permanently stationed at the temple.  Rome gave this group of soldiers to the Jews for the defense of the temple and they were under the authority of the Jewish high priest.

John tells us that there were also ‘officers’ within the group Judas brought.  The Greek word used for ‘officer’ literally means ‘servant’.  These men were probably Jewish members of the Sanhedrin who were also sent by the high priest.  Their job was to witness the events of the arrest and report back to the Sanhedrin.

Thus, we see two groups that were bitter enemies (Jews and Romans) united together in their hatred for Christ.  Jesus responds to that hate with love; his death will allow both Jews and Gentiles to be reconciled to God.

It makes sense that they would be carrying lamps and torches.  Although there would have been a full moon at the time of Passover, the night may have been cloudy and therefore dark.  In addition, the soldiers did not know exactly where Jesus was.  For all they knew, he might be hiding somewhere, so they were prepared to search caverns, buildings and/or any other dark, shadowy places in order to find him.

John also tells us that this band of soldiers and Jews came armed.  The professional soldiers all had swords while the Jews probably had weapons like clubs or staves.  All in all, it was a large heavily armed group for the purposes of arresting a single man.

John 18:4 – Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”

Would you like to know what is in your immediate future?  If it was a trial or a struggle, would that disturb you or steal your joy and peace?  I think it would, which is probably one of the reasons why God does not let us see into the future.  Knowing what was about to happen would prevent us from praising God and serving him in the present time.  It would rob us of the chance to exercise our faith in God. 

But that was clearly not the case for Jesus.  Although Judas may have been hoping to catch Jesus off guard with this late-night arrest, scripture tells us that Jesus was well aware of all the things that were about to take place (Matthew 20:18-19).  So, when Judas and the soldiers showed up, it did not surprise Jesus at all.  He was fully prepared to drink the cup that his Father had given him in order to redeem mankind.

John 18:5-6 – They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Jesus said to them, “I am he.”  Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.  When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Judas and the group of soldiers/servants came to the garden with a legal warrant for the arrest of Jesus, fully authorized by the high priest.  The warrant no doubt identified Christ as “Jesus of Nazareth” (hence the response from the soldiers).  The religious leaders used this particular title because it denied or obscured his true role as Messiah; it was yet another ‘slap in the face’ of Jesus.

Too bad they were not present to witness the reply of Jesus which was a remarkable display of the power of God!

“I am he” – these three small words, spoken in a normal tone of voice, lays the entire company prostrate on the ground, as if they had been hit by a bold of lightening!

Although Christ could easily have killed them all, he did not.  His forbearance had two purposes:  One, he had no intention of avoiding the cross and two, allowing these men to live would give them a chance to repent after his death.

Here is something to consider:  At the time of his betrayal, Jesus stood alone as a lamb ready to be sacrificed, with his glory hidden from the world.  Yet, when he identifies himself, it is enough to put armed and courageous men on the ground, with their faces in the dust. 

What then, will it be like on the future day of judgment, when Jesus returns to earth in his full glory, accompanied by countless angels, as the Judge of the living and the dead?  Who could possibly stand before him then?    

Isaiah 11:4 – But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

(See also Revelation 19:11-16).  What an awesome God we serve!

Now, to be fair, it should be noted that some scholars take an alternate view of this verse.  They do not believe that divine power caused these men to fall on the ground. 

In their interpretation, the voice of Jesus produced extreme conviction of sin within the hearts of the soldiers.  As they felt the weight of their sin and perceived the righteousness of Christ, it caused them to willingly fall down before him. 

It is up to you to determine which interpretation you feel is correct.  But in either case, we can agree on the following points:

  • Jesus’ life was not taken from him – he voluntarily gave it up.
  • Righteous people (the disciples) were able to stand in the presence of the Lord, while wicked people (the unbelieving Jews and the Romans) were not.
  • You can’t be on both sides.  Every person must make a choice to be either for Christ or against him.

It is sad to note that Judas, who had been with Jesus at supper that very night, was now standing with ‘them’ – the enemies of Christ. 

John 18:7-8 – So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?”  And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he.  So, if you seek me, let these men go.”

I don’t know about you, but I find verse seven astonishing.  If I had been one of those guards and I was thrown to the ground by just the declaration of Jesus as ‘I AM’, I like to think that I would abandon the mission to arrest him.  I would like to think that I would be smart enough to run for my life and never look back! 

Nevertheless, after they get up from the ground, the company is just as willing to arrest Jesus as they were before.  Apparently, their hardened hearts can attribute their fall to something (anything) other than the power of God, because they still refuse to acknowledge Jesus as anything other than a man from Nazareth. 

For his part, Jesus is just as willing to be seized by them, yet he works to deliver his disciples from their fury. 

Read the words of Jesus again.  Notice that he was not asking them for a favor, he was issuing a command.  Whether they realized it or not, Jesus had the authority in this situation and he was in a position to command them to leave the disciples alone.  If they tried to arrest the disciples, things would have ended very differently. 

This is evidence of the concern and protection that Jesus places upon all his children.  The disciples were going to suffer for the gospel, but they were not yet ready to take on that burden.  Jesus would not let Satan subject them to suffering that they could not handle.  

The same is true for us today. Though we do not know what tomorrow holds, we know that Holy Spirit is right here with us, to strengthen and lead us through all our trials.  We know that God will never place a burden upon us without giving us the strength to endure it. He will never lead us into a battle until we have been fully trained and prepared to fight.

John 18:9 – This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of these whom you gave me I have lost not one.”

This is not a word-for-word quote from Jesus, but it is the substance of statements he had already made (See John 17:12 and John 6:39). This type of summary quotation was common in that era and is present several places in the New Testament.

The question is whether Jesus was referring to the spiritual or physical state of the apostles. 

In this particular context, it mainly refers to the physical lives of the disciples.  God had set them apart for very specific purposes.  They needed to remain physically alive in order to bear witness to the life, death, resurrection and gospel of Christ.  Their eye-witness testimony was crucial during the formation of the church and the first years of the dispensation of grace.  Furthermore, they were to be the first recipients of the outpouring of Holy Spirit.  For these reasons, God would not allow any of them to physically die prematurely (be lost).

However, scripture is often fulfilled in more than one sense; this assurance of Christ also applies in a spiritual context as well. 

As we mentioned earlier, at this particular time the faith of the apostles was weak. If they had suffered intense persecution right at that particular moment, their faith may have failed. Knowing this, Jesus would not expose them to that trial.

We can rest assured that he protects us in the same way.  God grants us divine grace and strength in proportion to our trials, so that we can be victorious in every situation. 

John 18:10 – Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear.  (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

All four of the gospels record this event.  However, Matthew (26:51), Mark (14:47) and Luke (22:49-50) do not name the servant or the disciple who was involved.  This is most likely because Peter and Malchus were both alive at the time the other gospels were written.  Since both men had passed away by the time John wrote, so there was no longer a need to keep their names a secret.

In either case, it is commonly felt among scholars that since Peter had recently promised to give his life for Jesus, he was now emboldened to keep his promise.  It is also felt that he was probably aiming to split Malchus’ head in two, but he missed and was only able to slice off his ear. 

But Jesus put a stop to Peter’s rebellion immediately and miraculously reattached Malchus’ ear.

Luke 22:51 -And Jesus answered and said, No more of this. And he touched his ear, and healed him.

Interestingly, even this second irrefutable miracle does not influence the enemies of Christ; they are still intent on arresting him.  But before they do, Jesus has something to say to Peter.

John 18:11 – So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Jesus rebukes Peter by telling him to put his sword away.  There are several lessons to be learned here.

First, scripture tells us that it is God who gives or allows certain people to have civil authority (Romans 1:1-3), and that he gives this authority for our own good/benefit.  The authority of these rulers is designed to protect the innocent and punish evil; we are to obey them unless they are in direct opposition to God (Titus 3:1).  Furthermore, Jesus had commanded his followers not to resist evil (Matthew 5:39).

The men who came to arrest Jesus did so with a valid warrant, duly authorized by the high priest.  Therefore, while we sympathize with Peter’s emotions, he was acting in rebellion against those God had set in authority (and against the will of God himself).

Second, Peter was acting out of emotion.  Though his heart was sincere, he was sincerely wrong.  He wanted to ‘save’ Jesus because of his own selfish desires.  Specifically, he did not want Jesus to suffer and die, because he wanted to continue walking with him.  He probably also wanted that earthly kingdom that the Jews so passionately believed in.

But as we know, this was not the will of God.  Jesus had clearly stated that the time of his suffering was at hand.  So while Peter seemed to be fighting for Christ, he was really fighting against him.

Finally, Peter foolishly exposed himself and his fellow disciples to danger.  Jesus had just commanded the soldiers to take him and leave his followers alone.  The implication was that Jesus would willingly go and his disciples wouldn’t cause any problems.  So, when Peter suddenly attacks one of the servants, it effectively ruins the promise Jesus just made. 

If Peter had actually lopped off Malchus’ head, things would certainly have spiraled out of control at that point and all of the disciples could have been killed.  Fortunately, Jesus had things well under control and he was able to diffuse the situation by healing Malchus.

Peter’s main mistake was depending on a sword of iron rather than the sword of the Spirit.  Scripture tells us that victory for the kingdom is first won in the spiritual realm.  Only then does it manifest in the natural realm.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 – For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;)

For us, this means that when we encounter a situation that needs to be changed or an instance where we want to manifest Christ’s authority, our first steps must be spiritual. 

After we assess the problem, we need to find scriptures that speak to the situation.  We need to pray, fast, anoint and make spiritual declarations.  Then, when Holy Spirit gives us specific instruction, we can victoriously take action in that situation.

Now, what is the ‘cup’ that Jesus mentions here?

A cup is a vessel that holds some type of liquid. (My personal favorite is a cup of coffee.  What is yours?)

In scripture, ‘the cup’ is a figurative expression that denotes ‘drinking’ or partaking of the contents within it.  In both the Old and New Testaments the cup and its contents represent one’s lot/portion in life or the events/circumstances which one must walk through. 

Sometimes, the contents of the ‘cup’ cause sorrow.  This would include things like God’s wrath, judgment or affliction (Isaiah 51:17, Jeremiah 25:15-16, Psalms 11:6, etc). 

However, the contents of the ‘cup’ can also cause joy; they can represent the blessings of God (Psalms 23:5, Psalms 116:13, I Corinthians 10:16).

In this particular case, Jesus is referring to his sufferings on earth, which were required in order to bring about the salvation of man.  This cup included things like taking on the sin of the world, being separated from the Father, physical pain (like stripes on his back and the crucifixion) and humiliation. 

Even though it was a bitter cup, Jesus willingly accepted it because he loved the Father and he knew the Father loved him, and this suffering was the only way to save mankind.

Although it is not recorded in the book of John, the other gospels tell us that Jesus had already asked the Father to spare him from drinking this cup of suffering, yet if that were not possible, he would drink it:

Matthew 26:42 – He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, your will be done.

Jesus had already determined to drink this cup of suffering, so when Peter tried to come between him and the Father’s will, he was rebuked by Jesus.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Although we all know it is true, it never hurts to remind ourselves that Jesus won the victory over Satan long ago on the cross.  Satan is a defeated foe. 

As we look around the world today, it may not seem like that is true, but don’t be discouraged by what you see.  Instead, be fired up!  If we are not seeing revival, healing, miracles and deliverances like we want to, let’s press into the presence of God and find out what is lacking on our part.  Let’s find out how we can bring the victory of heaven to bear on our current circumstances.

Let me offer you some relief:

In this post, we find that Peter once again ‘blew it’.  In fact, he will do so again in our next post.  I don’t know about you, but I feel I have something in common with him, because I have also done the wrong thing at the worst possible moment!

If that is you, take heart.  God forgave Peter, he forgave me and he will forgive you too! 

Let me offer you some strength:

When an entire company of soldiers met Jesus and the disciples in the garden, it looked like an overwhelming force.  In the natural realm, it was.  But in the spiritual realm, there is no contest – the forces of heaven are far, far superior to the forces of hell (II Kings 6:15-17).  The light of Christ always causes darkness to flee. 

In your daily Christian walk, don’t fear the seemingly overwhelming forces of darkness around you.  Instead, let your light shine for Christ.  Keep it shining brightly and allow it to be a witness to those around you who are desperate for a touch from God.

John, Chapter 17, Part 3

John 17:20 – “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word…”

We are now going to examine the third and final portion of Jesus’ prayer for his followers. 

Jesus makes it clear that he is not praying just for the apostles, but for all people who will be converted by the subsequent preaching of the gospel.  Since we can expect to face many of the same trials, temptations and difficulties as the apostles, we are in need of the same grace, the same comfort and the same divine assistance as they were.  And thankfully, Jesus provides it for us, just as he did for them!  

Now here is an astonishing fact (take a few minutes to consider this):  Jesus prayed for YOU when he was here on earth, even though you were not yet born!  

Think about how much encouragement and strength you get when your pastor, spouse or a close friend prays for you.  How much more valuable is the prayer of Jesus himself!   

There can be no doubt that God heard and answered this prayer.  After this study is over, I recommend that you re-read the 17th chapter of John and insert your own name into the prayer.  It will give you some profound insight into what Jesus did for you!

In short, we will see that Jesus prays for his followers to have unity, peace, love and eternal glory.

John 17:21 – “…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

The first issue Jesus touches on is that of unity among believers (‘that they may all be one’).  There are many reasons why Christians should be united. 

  • We are all redeemed by the blood of Christ; we all have the same Father.
  • We are all going to the same heaven.
  • We have a common enemy and we experience common temptations and trials.
  •  We have a common goal – to spread the gospel throughout the earth and make disciples of all people.

Thus, it makes perfect sense that New Testament Christians are represented as being wholly united – different parts of the same body and members of the same family (I Corinthians 12:4-31).

Romans 12:5 – So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.    

On the basis of this union, we are exhorted:

  • To love one another (I Thessalonians 4:9)
  • To bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
  • To edify each other (Ephesians 4:3, 11-16).  

Our example for unity in the faith is the relationship between Jesus and the Father.

This does not mean that Christians are united in every single respect like Jesus and the Father (John 10:30).  However, there should be a union among all Christians which is founded/based on our strong union with Christ.  We should be united in our plans, councils, purposes and goals.  With Christ as our head (Ephesians 5:23), we should be working to obtain the same ends – glorifying God here on earth, spreading the gospel throughout the world, and making disciples of all men. 

Furthermore, when we are united with each other under Christ, it is a powerful testimony to the world.  The kingdom of darkness is full of animosity, envy, bickering and unforgiveness. 

However, when the world sees how the gospel unites us, overcoming contention and resulting in love, it will conclude that nothing but divine influence could make people love and respect each other this way. 

This kind of unity was strongly evident in the early days of the church:

Acts 4:32-33 – And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that any of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.  And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.

This divine testimony of love is extremely powerful.  It will convince unbelievers that Jesus (and the gospel) came directly from God; they will desire to know Christ and his salvation.

Of course, the opposite is also true – the more Christians break off into factions or denominations and fight with each other, the less the world respects or believes in the God we serve and the gospel message.  We not only hurt his glory when we are divided, we accomplish less for the kingdom than we otherwise would.  

John 17:22-23 – “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

Throughout the scriptures, God’s glory is synonymous with his power (Psalms 19:1, John 2:11, John 11:40, etc).

Jesus had divine glory (power) before the world began.  He temporarily laid that glory aside during his incarnation, and he picked it back up when he returned to heaven.  So, just to be clear, divine glory always belonged to Jesus because he is a part of the Trinity.  Therefore it would be incorrect for him to say that Father God has ‘given’ him divine glory.

If God has not given Jesus divine glory, what kind of glory (power) did he grant to Jesus at that time?

The glory Jesus received from the Father and which he now passes to the disciples is his mediatorial glory (power).  In other words, God granted Jesus (as a man) the power to perform miracles and to preach the gospel with authority so that men might be saved.  Jesus now prays for that same power to be given to all believers beginning with the apostles and continuing on down through all generations, so we can continue his work.

This same glory/power will enable believers to ‘be one’ or to function in unity as his body on earth.  And again, this unity and our resulting love for one another will prove to the world that Jesus is Savior and Lord.

Now, let’s consider the topic of unity from another angle.  Unless the Lord returns to earth immediately, we are all going to go to heaven at some point, leaving the next generation here on earth.  So let me ask you a question.  If you were about to die in a few hours, and you had only a few minutes left to speak to your children and loved ones, what would you say to them?

I believe that, in general, there would be three topics of conversation.  Of course, we would express our love for our kids and family.  We would probably also ‘make things right’ or address any issues of forgiveness and reconciliation that needed to take place.  The third topic of conversation would probably be words of wisdom that we want to impart to those we love. 

This wisdom would center on things that we think are vital to a successful and meaningful life.  We might advise our children to pay closer attention to their spiritual lives, or to marry well, or to spend time with those they love. 

Regardless of the specifics, we can be sure that whatever we told them in the last minutes of our lives would be the things we believe are important. 

With that in mind, we can’t help but notice that in his final prayer, just hours before his crucifixion, Jesus placed a strong emphasis on unity among believers, using the relationship between himself and the Father as our example.

Do you know why he did that?  It’s because he understood our fallen natures.  He saw the dangers of strife and contention within the church.  He knows that we have a propensity to become ensnared in pride, controversy, envy and competition.  He was well aware that the strife caused by our own imperfections and selfish ambitions would bring dishonor upon true religion and his own precious name. 

1 Peter 4:8 – And above all things have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover a multitude of sins.

As children of God, we have a responsibility to overlook offenses and unimportant differences of opinion in order to maintain unity in the body of Christ.  We should be bound to each other by cords of love.  When we are one in heart and purpose, it will show in our actions – we will be effective in spreading the gospel throughout the world and bringing souls to Christ.

John 17:24 – “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

Jesus now expresses one of his most earnest desires to the Father – that his followers will one day be with him in heaven, where we will witness his power, dignity and honor as our true high priest and mediator. 

This honor is given to Jesus by the Father, who loved him before the world was ever created.  God loves Jesus as both his only begotten Son and as the Redeemer/Mediator of mankind because through the work of Christ we are reconciled to God as sons and daughters.  

As followers of Christ, we have a glimpse of his glory now, but we are nowhere near beholding it in full.  But if we will believe, love, obey and persevere to the end we will be eternally united to Jesus, Father and the Spirit.  What an exciting time it will be when we are present in the throne room, experiencing this for ourselves!

John 17:25 – “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.”

In this portion of his prayer, Jesus addresses his Father as ‘righteous’.  Why does he use that description here?  It is because he is calling attention to a specific aspect of God’s character.  As a righteous Father, God will reward each person according to his own work (Job 34:11, Psalms 62:12, Proverbs 24:12). 

The world chose to reject God by rejecting his Son.  They will be ‘rewarded’ for their decision by spending eternity with Satan their father.

On the other hand, countless numbers of people believe in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world.  We too will be rewarded for our decision by being admitted into heaven when our life on earth is over.

John 17:26 – “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

When Jesus says he has made known the ‘name’ of the Father, he is referring to the nature, attributes, commands and councils of God.  This is information that we would never be able to know or discover by ourselves.  We can only obtain it by a special revelation of Christ. 

Jesus partially revealed the Father to his disciples here on earth.  But they were not able to understand everything he wanted to reveal at that point.

The good news is that Jesus promises to continue revealing the Father to mankind after his resurrection. He did this in person for his followers until he was finally taken up into heaven after 40 days (Luke 24:44-45, Acts 1:1-3). 

Afterwards, he continued to reveal the Father to the apostles through Holy Spirit.  This practice has not changed; Jesus is still revealing the Father to believers today through the power of Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit speaks to us through visions, dreams, words of wisdom and knowledge, messages in tongues and through the scriptures.  If we will listen, he will still reveal the nature, attributes, commands and councils of God directly to us.

The eternal love of God, which first rested on Christ is now imparted to us through Holy Spirit, as he permanently lives within our hearts.  Thus, God abides in us and we in him (John 15:5).

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Jesus prayed for YOU while he was here on earth.  How utterly amazing is that? 

Immediately afterward, he went to Gethsemane where he took your sin upon himself and then to the cross, where he made atonement for it.  Furthermore, Jesus made it very clear that he desires YOU to join him in heaven where you can see his power, dignity and honor.  Wow!  What more could he possibly do to prove that he loves you? 

So no matter what discouragement the enemy tries sends your way this week, just remember – Jesus loves you!  The difficulties of this life are only temporary; soon we will be with him in glory!  

Let me offer you some relief:

People are selfish and fickle.  Sometimes they only love you if you please them, or do as they ask, or perform up to their standards.  People will often withhold love from another person as a punishment or as ‘black mail’ to get what they want.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that God is like that, because he isn’t!    

The love of the Father, Son and Spirit is totally pure and genuine.  They don’t play games, they don’t base their love on your performance and they never withhold their love from you.  As we already mentioned, they loved you so much, they paid the ultimate price for you.

So don’t panic if you fail or mess up in your Christian walk.  Remember, God loves you because you are his child, not because you perfect.       

Let me offer you some strength:

Jesus makes it plain that unity among Christians is very important; it proves to the world that God is real. 

Christian unity also benefits us as well.  Being a member of a local church is like having a huge, loving family who will walk with you through all the ups and downs of life.

They will rejoice with you during the happy times, and mourn with you during times of sadness or heartache.  They will pray for you, encourage you, and advise you; they will give practical help to you when you need it.

The fact is, God has put them into your life (and you into theirs) to provide strength and support for your life’s journey.  So thank God for your church family today!