Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 9, 2017
Open your Bibles to John 18:12-27. As always we have a lot to unpack so let us jump right in with our text.
Nothing in Secret
Let us being this morning with some review. At the time of Jesus arrest, he was around 33 years old. For the last three years of his life, Jesus of Nazareth was an itinerant preacher, traveling from place to place preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God. He preached primarily in the nation of Israel, the land that was promised to Abraham, and the land that Moses was told was flowing with Milk and Honey.
The exclusivity of Jesus traveling in Israel makes sense on several levels. First, Jesus was a Jew. Both of his parents were descendants of King David, hence why Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a small town in Israel. Second, Israel is where Jesus was raised, specifically in Nazareth, which was in the northern part of Israel, which is known as Galilee. Third, and most importantly, however, Jesus, as the Messiah was specifically sent to the nation of Israel. Jesus speaks of this in Matthew 15:24 when he says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
While traveling throughout the nation of Israel, he would not only preach about the Kingdom of God, but he would also heal the sick, give sight to the blind, cause the lame to walk, cleanse lepers, raise the dead, feed thousands, and cast out demons. When he did these things, it was not in secret. It was in front of thousands and thousands of people over a 3 year period. Jesus speaks of this reality in our text today. Look at verse 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.” The ministry of Jesus was not a covert operation. It took place in broad daylight for everyone to see.
This fact is important because there are many people who like to argue that the writings of the Gospels, the writings of the book of Acts, the writings of the Epistles, the writings of the early Church and the writings of secular historians are all made up. That they are all fairy tails. They attempt to argue that the numerous events documented by numerous people never happened. However, this argument is entirely illogical, for the things that Jesus did, were not done in secret. They were done in front of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people.
In fact, after three years of publicly displaying the power of God, Jesus had amassed a following in Jerusalem that was unparalleled. And the Palm branches that we are holding are a symbol of that reality. These Palm branches represent the Triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem that took place only five days before the events of our Scripture this morning. If you recall, from John 12:19, after seeing the hundred of thousands of people stream out of Jerusalem to meet Jesus the Pharisees said, “Look, the world has gone after him.” This was a testimony of Jesus public ministry.
And this made the Jewish leaders very nervous. Hence why we find ourselves today looking at the text whereby Jesus is standing before Annas bound and being interrogated in the middle of the night. Jesus was a threat. In fact, most if not all people, agree that the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth was in fact crucified. Even atheists believe this, but do any of those people take the next logical step and ask why? Why would they crucify an itinerant preacher from Northern Israel? Because He was a threat. The entire nation had seen his miraculous works and they were ready to make him King.
And this is why we are told Caiaphas says in verse 14, “it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.” Caiaphas’ rationale was that if Jesus continued to amass a national movement, Rome would notice and would perceive this as a revolution and would come in and destroy Israel so as to subdue it. If Rome did this, Caiaphas, Annas, the Sanhedrin, the Scribes, the Elders would lose their position of power. Therefore, to ensure that this didn’t happen, they would just kill Jesus.
I think we should be very clear, the Jews just didn’t kill anyone, they killed only those who were a threat, or who were proven criminals who deserved capital punishment. Jesus was no criminal, as we will see next week. No, they murdered Jesus because he was a threat. Why? Once again, because he performed his miracles in front of hundreds of thousands of people, over a three year period, and they could not deny what took place in front of their face.
Now as we saw last week, this decision to kill Jesus was not ultimately their decision. Ultimately, it was the Father’s decision. The death of the Son, was always the plan on the Father. Time does not permit us go through all the passages this morning, but the Bible is replete with passages that make it abundantly clear that the cross was not a mistake, it was ordained by the Father before time began. When Christ came, he was destined to lay down his life.
And last week we saw the exclamation mark on that realty during the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. When Jesus asked, “Whom do you seek?” The band of soldiers responded, “Jesus of Nazareth.” To that Jesus literally said, “I Am.” This two words caused all 1000 of those men to fall to the ground. Jesus made it explicitly clear that if he was arrested, it would be because he is allowing it. As we saw last Sunday the capstone of the Garden are Jesus words, “shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
I Am Not
With that under our belt, let us now turn our attention to the Apostle Peter. The last few hours have been an emotional roller-coaster for the Apostle Peter. If you recall, in the upper room, Jesus tried to wash Peter's feet and Peter refused. This led Jesus to say, if I don't wash your feet you have no part in me. This was followed by Jesus telling Peter in John 13:38, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” Next Jesus spent the rest of the night talking about how he was going to leave Peter and the disciples. Then in the garden a mob of potentially 1000 people showed up in the middle of the night with lanterns, torches, and weapons, and who was leading them? None other than his close friend Judas. This was followed by the entire cohort falling over by the speaking of two words, “I Am.” Which was then followed by Peter cutting off some guys ear, and Jesus being bound like some criminal and led off into the darkness. If I were to guess, Peter's adrenaline was pumping at an all time high. And perhaps it was because of this adrenaline that Peter was one of the only two disciples that followed Jesus to the house of Annas.
The other disciples that followed Jesus is only referred to as “another disciple” in verses 15 and 16. Who is this other disciple? Most likely it is our author, John. Why do I say this? Because John never mentions his name in the entire Gospel, and it appears that John is going to great lengths not to say this disciple's name. Not to mention, it is not uncommon to see Peter and John paired up, as well as we see some detail in this story, such as the charcoal fire, that only an eye witness would know about it.
Either way, whomever it was, the connection that the “other disciple” had with the High Priest was crucial in gaining access to the interrogation of Jesus. Without this connection, Peter and the other disciple do not get into house of Annas.
So let us now turn our attention to Peter's entry into Annas' home. Verse 16, “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.” Who is this servant girl? We don't know, but we can make three observations about her. First, she was a servant. To be a servant was to be the lowest person in the home. She was not a guard, scribe, a lawyer, an elder, or part of the Sanhedrin. She was a servant. She had no authority whatsoever, she only did as she was told. She was the lowest of the low in the house of Annas.
Second, this servant was a female. Women during the days of Jesus had little to no rights. They were prohibited from certain parts of the Temple. They could not testify in Court. They could not even speak with men in public. In fact, we see an element of this in John 4 when Jesus spoke with the Samaritan women at the well. His disciples were not surprised he was speaking to a Samaritan. What surprised them was that he was talking to a women in public. So not only was the door keeper a servant, but she was also a women.
Third, this servant was not only a women, she was a girl. During the times of Jesus, children were seen, but not heard. We can see this very clearly in Matthew 19 when children were being brought to Jesus, and his disciples rebuked the people from bringing their kids to Jesus. Of course, Jesus ended up rebuking his disciples and then blessed the children.
Therefore, if we want to talk about the bottom of the food chain, it was this door keeper. She had three cultural strikes against her. She was a servant, she was a female, and she was a girl. And she posed one simple question to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” A simple question from the mouth of a slave girl, and what did Peter say? “I Am Not.”
I do not think it is an accident that the words of Peter are the exact opposite of the words of Jesus spoke just minutes before. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus stood before 1000 Roman and Temple guards with weapons and torches and declares the truth, “I Am.” Peter standing before a servant girl lies through his teeth and says, “I am not.”
This, of course, was not the only time that Peter declared, “I am not.” For once it came out of his lips, it became easier and easier. Peter did it three times, just as Jesus had foretold. When Jesus was standing right next to Peter, he was as bold as a lion, but when Peter was on his own, he was scared little kitten. Now even though Peter lied through his death and denied Christ three times, there was also great truth to what Peter stated, “I am not.”
If you recall, John has made it abundantly clear that Jesus is the “I Am.” Which is Old Testament lingo for God. When Jesus declared himself to be the “I Am” he was declaring himself to be God. Jesus is putting the crown upon his own head every time he says, “I Am.” And we should recognize why the “I Am” had to take on flesh and dwell amongst man. It was because humanity has rebelled against the great “I Am” and attempted to steal God's crown and place it upon our own heads. Sin is about rejecting God's authority and trying to be our own gods, making our own decisions, according to our own stands. The world is full of self-proclaiming “I am's” running around and making a mess out of our lives, our family's life, our culture, and this world.
The reality, however, is that we are not “I Ams” we are “I am not's.” We are creatures, not the Creator. We are dead in our sins, not the source of life. We are liars, not the standard of all truth. When Peter lied through his teeth saying, “I am not.” He was saying something more true than he recognized. As Jesus stood face to face with his accusers not backing down one inch, Peter melted like a snowflake.
And we shouldn't be surprised by this should we? Just a few chapters before this, Jesus said in John 16:5, “for apart from me you can do nothing.” Peter, in this moment was living proof of this reality. He no longer had Jesus next to him, therefore, he was effectively incapable of withstanding even a slave girl. Without Christ, he was just a sinful Galilean fisherman. And this moment was a display of Peter's true sin nature.
Satan's Wants to Sift You Like Wheat
However, perhaps we should not be so hard on Peter, for behind this slave girl stood the greatest force of darkness in the Universe, Satan himself. In Luke 22:31 we see Jesus say to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.”
Just as Satan wanted to sink his teeth into Job of the Old Testament, Satan now wanted Peter. He wanted to make a shipwreck of Peter's faith. And what was Satan's strategy? A slave girl. The sifting of Peter by the Father of Lies, by the Prince of the Power of the Air, by the greatest force of darkness in the Universe was through the simple question of a slave girl.
Why was this Satan's strategy? First, he probably had a hunch that it would work. Satan is not stupid. He has been whispering in people's ear's since the garden. Satan knows the evilness of our hearts better than we know ourselves. Satan knows how desperately sick with sin we are. But also, I think Satan also uses a little slave girl to attempt to spit in the face of Christ.
This was Satan's attempt to say to Jesus, “Are you kidding me? This guy? He is the one who is going to be the first among equals to expand your Kingdom? This guy can't even stand up to a little slave girl.” And you know what, Satan is right. Peter has no capacity within himself to be a soldier for Jesus Christ. But as we have already seen, Peter will not be by himself. Jesus has already told the disciples that He will send a Helper. This Helper will be with them and will be in them. This Helper is non-other than the Holy Spirit, God himself, and because Christ as not yet died, the Helper has not yet been sent.
The Power of the Holy Spirit
When you look at Peter before and then after the Holy Spirit it is like looking at an entirely different person. After the coming of the Holy Spirit, He is a man who seems to fear nothing, especially a slave girl. We can see this very clearly in Acts 2. Turn with me there. Acts 2 describes the day of Pentecost, the day that the Holy Spirit comes upon the Church. And Peter in the midst of Jerusalem and before the same crowds that cried out to kill Jesus said these words in Acts 2:22.
Peter was no longer scared to claim the name of Jesus. He even rebuked the same crowd that killed Jesus The Peter who stood before thousands in Acts 2 was a changed man, he was a new creation. The power of the Holy Spirit coursed through his veins and it made all the difference.
So what does this have to do with us? Everything. The reality of Peter is our reality as well. Apart from Jesus we can do nothing and we are likewise called by Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations. We are expected to go and proclaim the Gospel to the world. We are called to be the light of Christ. We are called to live your life in such a way that everyone who is watching knows without a doubt that you are a follower of Jesus Christ. Do you live this way? Does everyone who comes into contact with you know that you are a follower of Jesus?
If not, why not? Are you afraid? Are you just like Peter, denying Christ to the lowest of the low? It should not be this way. If you are a follower of Jesus, the Spirit of God dwells inside of you. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Power. This power is to be unleashed upon the world. We are a light to the world and the light shall not be hidden under a basket, but put upon a lamp-stand.
This coming week, you will have ample opportunities to proclaim Christ. During the Easter season, it is as if people are begging you to talk about Jesus. There will be opportunities around every corner. Will you do it? This Saturday, at the Easter Egg hunt, there will be potentially 400-500 people of all ages at New City Park collecting eggs. Most of them will not be believers. What will you do about it? Will you shrink back and deny Christ or will you let the light of Christ shine as you share the Gospel just like Peter in Acts 2.
What would this world would look like if we actually lived by the Power of the Holy Spirit, instead of the power of our flesh. I think it is time that we find out.