Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 2, 2017
Open your Bibles to John 18:1-14. It seems very appropriate for us to be in this particular passage today in light of Easter being right around the corner. For today’s text is the early morning hours of good Friday, the day in which Jesus was crucified. At first glance, our text appears to be merely descriptive, a narration of details and facts to provide context and transition from the upper room to the cross. It is my hope, however, to change that perspective and show you the deep symbolism and connection that God has laid out in these particular series of events as they unfold. So with that said, let us read our text and see what the Lord desires to say to us this morning.
John 18:1-11 – “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. 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3So 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. 4Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10Then 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.) 11So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me? 12So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jewsd arrested Jesus and bound him. 13First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.”
From Garden to Garden
I have titled this sermon, “From Garden to Garden.” Obviously, one of the Garden's that I am referencing is the Garden of Gethsemane, the background for this morning's scripture. The other Garden I am referencing is the Garden of Eden. I do not think it is an accident that the betrayal of the Son of God takes place in a Garden, just as it did thousands of years before when Adam and Eve betrayed God. If you recall the Garden of Eden was the location that God put Adam and Eve to do the will of God and to meet with God. As we all know, Adam disobeyed the will of God and plunged all humanity into sin and severed the relationship between God and man. Today, we now find ourselves in a second Garden, whereby the second Adam, Jesus, comes with the purpose to restore that broken relationship between God and man. And as we read the text today, we can get a sense of this purpose. There is no doubt who is in control. Jesus is leading his disciples to this garden for a divine appointment. The sovereignty of Jesus is on full display in these 14 verses. His arrest is not a set of unfortunate events, it is all according to plan.
The Brook Kidron
The first similarity that I want to draw your attention to this morning is the Brook Kidron. The Garden of Eden also had a brook. Genesis 2:10 says, “A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden.” The Brook Kidron was a far cry from the river flowing out of Eden, for the Kidron was a dry creek, only full during the rainy season. However, during the feats of the Passover, it was most likely running, but not necessarily with water. If you recall, the reason that Jesus and his disciples were in Jerusalem was for the Feast of the Passover. In fact, they just left the last supper. This supper was the Passover meal. As we have stated before, the feast of the Passover was a celebration of the birth of the nation of Israel that took place around the year 1500 B.C., and it was one of the largest celebrations of the Jews. It is estimated that several million people would have crammed into Jerusalem during this celebration. A part of the celebration was the sacrifice of a Passover Lamb. Each family or group of people would be required to sacrifice a one year old, male lamb without blemish. This sacrifice would have occurred at the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Jewish historian, Josephus writing around 65 A.D. estimated that 256,500 Passover lambs would have been sacrificed at the Passover celebration. Each one taking place at the Temple. He further states that this slaughter would have occurred from the ninth hour until the eleventh hour or about 3-6 p.m. If my math is correct this would be 1500 lambs killed every minute. If you know anything about sacrifices, you know that it involves a fair amount of blood. I can't imagine the amount of blood that would have been spilled killing 256,500 lambs. Where would all of this blood go? It would flow from the area of the temple and into some sort of drainage pipe or gutter and through the wall of Jerusalem and dump into the brook Kidron. Therefore, it is quite possible, that as Jesus and his disciple crossed the brook Kidron it was flowing, or it least had the remnants of thousands of gallons of blood that had previously poured out of the Temple an into this dry creek. And what a stark contrast from the river that flowed out of the Garden. A river that watered, and gave life. This brook was mostly dry, and when it did run, it ran with the blood of God's wrath, for that it was the blood symbolized.
The death of theses lambs was required because of the sin of man. As it say in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” And likewise as it says in Hebrews 9:22, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” The brook Kidron was stained with blood, because man is stained with sin. However, as the author of Hebrews later says in Hebrews 10:4, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” So why did God implement such requirement? It was not to take away sins, it was to point to the sacrifice of Christ. Every lamb that was killed that day, and every day before, was merely a symbol of what Christ would do upon the cross. And as Jesus stepped over the brook Kidron, I can't help but think that Jesus would have be keenly aware that his blood would put an end to all sacrifices. For as it says in Hebrews 10:14, “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” The blood of Jesus is the single offering that makes God's children perfect before God.
Man Looking for God
After crossing the Brook Kidron, Jesus and his disciples entered in the Garden of Gethsemane. The word Gethsemane mean oil press, which makes sense for this Garden was located near the Mount of Olives. Most likely this garden was gated, for our text indicates they entered it. Our text also tells us that this place was often visited by Jesus and his disciples. In fact, Jesus was so habitual in his going to this garden, that Judas new exactly where he would find him. Which, once again was no accident, Jesus was the one pulling the strings and setting the stage. Jesus could have chosen any place, but he chose a garden.
In verse 3 we are told that Judas did not come alone. He came with officers of the chief priests and Pharisees as well as a band of soldiers. Some of your translations may say a “cohort” of soldiers. The Greek word is actually “speira.” First of all these soldiers would have been Roman soldiers, not temple soldiers. And of course, Roman soldiers are not known for the weakness. They were strong, trained, disciplined, and perhaps even merciless in their duties. According to DA Carson's commentary on John, a speira of soldiers could number up to 1,000 men. However, it was more common to have only 600 men if no cavalry was used. We do not know the exact number of men that night, but it is possible that with two groups of soilders this mob did in fact near the 1,000 number. As our text says, this mob came in stereotypical mob fashion.
Verse 3 tells us that they came with lantern, torches, and weapons. This group was ready for a fight. If I were to guess, they were a sight to behold and perhaps a sound to behold as well, as the trampled into the garden like a heard of cattle looking for Jesus. The irony of this is that they could have brought one man or one million men, the result would have been they same. Jesus was the Lamb of God who was being led to the slaughter. As Jesus says very clearly in verse 11, “shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” Once again, this reminds of another scene from the Garden of Eden. If you recall after Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil we are told in Genesis 3:8, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” In the Garden of Eden we see God looking for man. In the Garden of Gethsemane we see man looking for God. However in Gethsemane the response of Jesus is drastically different then the response of Adam. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve hid themselves. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus did nothing of the sort. Jesus had been waiting for them.
I Am He
As the soldiers stepped in, the Lion of Judah stepped forward and asked “Whom do you seek.” Their response, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Their answer locked them in to the singularity of their purpose. Even though they came with hundreds of men, they only had authority to arrest one, Jesus of Nazareth, anyone beyond this would be beyond their legal authority. What happens next is pretty cool. Jesus responds with “I am He.” In Greek it is “ego emi”, which is literally, “I am.” I wish they would not insert the word “he” when translating. For as we have seen the “I am” statements of Christ have great theological significance, and here we find their climax, for with this final statement “I am.” It is as if the Lion of Judah roars for the last time before he take on the role of the lamb, for his words cause the cohort to fall to the ground. Verse 6, “When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.” Why in this moment does Jesus do this? Simple, to reinforce that he is in complete control of everything. Even though they eventually arrest him, they are not arresting him. Even though they eventually kill him, they are not killing him. Jesus is allowing it, for, once again, “shall [he] not drink the cup that the Father has given him?” If you recall, Jesus spoke of this before in John 10:18, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” Roman soldiers being overwhelmed by the word of his power is evidence of the cross being Christ's accord. You would think that after this event, the soldiers would reconsider. That would be the logical thing to do, so perhaps this is why Jesus reengages with the same question again in verse 7 “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This statement would have made it clear, that even though Jesus could wipe them out at any moment, he would go with them, but the disciples must be allowed to leave. Why was this so important? Verse 9, “This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” So not only do we see the words of Christ as powerful, but we see them as trustworthy. When Jesus promises something, you can rely on it. This is true for those in Gethsemane, and it is true for us. When we read the Word of God, we can allow it to bear the full weight of our lives, we can stand upon it, without hesitation. This is the mark of a true prophet, his words come to pass. But not only a prophet, but God. As it says in Psalm 18:30, “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” On that night, the followers of Jesus were safe, for they were a precious gift from the Father to the son. We are no different. No matter how many enemies show up in the middle of your night with weapons and torches, Christ is our shield, now and forever. Do not fear, if you are a follower of Jesus, you are a gift from the father to the son.
Sheathing the Sword
Which leads us to the final event in the garden, the removal of Malchus' ear by the sword of Peter. A quote that I found interesting said, “The blow was as clumsy as Peter's courage was great.” There is no doubt that it speaks of Peter's love for Jesus. As Peter watched his King surrender into the hands of the world, it was more than Peter could bear. He was overwhelmed with passion. Was Peter's action correct, no, but they were authentic. As odd as it seems, it is behavior like this that reinforces in my mind why Jesus chose Peter to be a first among equals. What Christ wants is your heart, not your skills.
What is fascinating is Jesus' response. In Luke we are told Jesus heals the ear of Malchus, in John we are merely told that Jesus tells Peter to sheath his sword. Why? There are many ways to answer this, but perhaps this morning we should, once again, focus upon the Garden of Eden. Before Adam and Eve were cast out the Garden of Eden, there was blood spilled. We are told in Genesis 3:21, “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” On the last day in the Garden of Eden, there was death, blood was spilled, a sacrifice was made, so as to cover the sins of the wicked. In Gethsemane, there would be no death. The only blood that would fall that day would be the blood of Jesus several hours from now, for once again, this was the cup of God's will. And with that, Jesus was bound and led out of the garden. Once again, very similar to to the ending of the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve were clothed by God they were cast out, never to return again, that is until the seed of Eve, the second Adam, came and crushed the head of the snake. And this is exactly what Jesus about to do, crush Satan under the foot of the cross.
As Jesus was lead out of the the Garden of Gethsemane, he was going to unlock the gates of Eden. For if we fast forward to the book of Revelation, this is exactly what we see. The same writer of the Gospel of John is the writer of Revelation and we see this in Revelation 22:1-3, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life[b] with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.” From Garden to Garden to Garden..Eden restored.