The Body of Christ in His Passion: Wrists Bound in Willingness
Midweek Lent 4
The Body of Christ in His Passion: Wrists Bound in Willingness
Text: John 18:2-13
How many chances did they get? How many signs could they miss? How many opportunities to change their ways and repent did they pass on with hardened hearts?
The exchange that takes place over a matter of minutes in the Garden of Gethsemane is truly an extraordinary one. This was the last time there would be miraculous power from Jesus on display until the moment he died, and the signs surely came fast and furious in the Garden.
We saw Jesus in the Garden last week with his hands folded in prayer, encouraging the disciples to join in praying. As we left him last week he was rising to meet his betrayer. Now we see Judas arrive.
It was quite the scene. Judas used his insider information against Jesus. Every day that week Jesus had been at this garden praying. Judas knew where Jesus would be and what he would be doing. Consider that for a moment, agreeing to betray and arrest someone when you know they will be quietly praying at night. Then to agree to betray him with a kiss, the dear sign of friendship. Surely Satan had entered into him!
The thought of a mob coming with him in some ways is ridiculous. Judas arrived with the temple guard and officials from the chief priests and Pharisees along wth a detachment of Roman soldiers. There may have been anywhere from 100 up to 600 people in this mob—all armed with torches, lanterns, and weapons. Was this really necessary? Had Jesus ever done anything violent? Had he ever hurt anyone? Besides bold preaching, had Jesus ever done anything but help others? Were they scared of the power they had scene in miracles? Did they think Jesus was going to turn on them with that power? Surely they weren’t afraid of the few fishermen and castaways that were disciples. If they thought Jesus was so powerful, why didn’t they believe who he really is? They would have more chances.
Jesus shows his divine power in verse 4. It’s a passing verse, yet quite profound when you consider it. “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’” Jesus knew everything that was about to happen. He knew who was coming and what they intended to do. Surprisingly, the mob didn’t find Jesus—Jesus found them and asked them who they wanted. Didn’t that surprise tell them anything?
The mob replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.” What happened next is utterly incredible. Jesus responded, “I am he.” While that is a good English sentence and a fine enough translation, perhaps it is a bit too much. Jesus’ response to their question was literally this: “I am.” It would be hard for any believer to hear this response and not immediately think about the great name of the Yahweh-LORD we hear about on Sunday when God said, “I AM who I AM.” Was Jesus perhaps subtly telling them something about himself? He certainly was showing them something because as soon as he said, “I am he,” the mob drew back and fell to the ground. High ranking officials, the Jewish temple guard, and highly skilled Roman soldier from the best military on the planet all fall down simply at the words of Jesus, “I am.” Why did they not get to their knees and repent? How did they miss this chance?
When they got up he asked them again who they wanted. Again they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth,” and again Jesus told them, “I am he.” This time Jesus showed them his divine love instead of his divine power. He asked that his disciples be allowed to go. He cared for them and their safety and he was going to fulfill his own words he had promised earlier that he would not lose one of his sheep.
Apparently Jesus’ promise earlier and his efforts here were not enough for Peter. Oh, Peter. He was always all over the place, but this was not a good night for Peter, and it was going to get worse. Here he quickly drew his short sword and took a swipe the Caiaphas’s servant named Malchus. Either the fisherman was really bad with a sword or else fighting was really unnatural to him because he completely missed serious injury and merely lopped off his ear. (After all, what person looking to defend in a fight goes for the earlobe first?)
Jesus again showed his human-world defying power and touched the ear of Malchus and healed him. Then he scolded Peter declaring his divine power. Matthew tells us Jesus said, “Don’t you think I could have at my disposal 12 legions of angels?” (12 legions is about 72,000 angels) Jesus who simply said, “I am,” and made the mob fall over could have easily had any number of angels do his bidding. Then he said in verse 11 tonight, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
Jesus had just prayed, “Father if it is your will take this cup from me,” but he knew the answer already. Jesus knew what was coming. Jesus knew what he was supposed to do. Clearly Peter did not, nor did the rest of the crowd. But how could they miss it? How could Jesus’ power or these miracles or even his words not clearly show that Jesus is the promised Messiah? How could the disciples be so confused? How could the mob be so hard-hearted? How could they miss who Jesus is and what he came to do?
This is the blindness that a stubborn heart of sin creates. It pulls wool over the eyes so that you do not see Jesus clearly. Consider how this happens in your own life. How many times has God revealed his divine power to you? How many times was there a really bad accident and you drove through either right before or right after it? How many times have you been in the really bad accident or had a terrible sickness and God preserved you? How many days in your life have you had absolutely no food to eat or clothes to wear or shelter to sleep in? How many world events and personal life events did God arrange and plan in your life so that you could become his own child and hear his precious Word when more than five billion people in this world don’t believe in him? Think about the divine power of baptism that made you a child of God! Think about the unfathomable divine power in Communion that Jesus would regularly come to you with his own body and blood to be received!
Our list could go on for hours. It’s not just the confused disciples or the hardened Jews or the heathen Roman soldiers in this story. We all have sinful hearts that pull us away as Satan wants us to miss out on who Jesus is and what he came to do. This is a symptom of sin in all of the fallen human race.
But that’s why Jesus came. That’s Jesus was in that garden. That’s why Jesus was willing to drink the cup of wrath and suffering his Father was giving him.
Jesus could make the entire mob fall over by speaking. Jesus could have called down tens of thousands of angels. Nothing and no one could have stopped him from getting away if Jesus had wanted. But Jesus was not willing to fight and defend himself. Jesus was willing to be arrested and to drink the cup of suffering and death.
With eyes of faith, look closely at Jesus tonight. See what all the others in the story missed. See how clearly Jesus reveals his divine power. See this evening once again The Body of Christ In His Passion. See his Wrists Bound in Willingness—willingness to suffer, to die, and to be your Savior from sin.