This has been a long hard week, the disciples are exhausted. We know from Matthew 26 and Luke 22:46 that when exhorted to stay away and be on guard against temptation they failed. Have you ever looked at the disciples and thought I wouldn’t have slept in those circumstances? How are you doing with your intentions? Your intentions to eat more healthily, spend more time loving neighbours, reading your bible?
You see it’s one matter to sit patiently under the preaching of God’s Word, to faithfully serve in the church, to give sacrificially, and participate in bible study. These are good signs for all when we examine the motives of our hearts. However, when you are in the world through the week how does your life look?
Do you deny yourself and pick up your cross? Do you march to the beat of a different drum, or is it that you conform to the conventions of society? How does your life look to onlookers? Do you stand out from the crowd, are your disciplines apparent to your neighbours, to your friends, and even to your spouse! Not the outward disciplines of the Pharisees, with their piety, majestic headgear and tassels but the inward disciplines that cause you to serve not to be served.
When you leave the gathering the world will immediately seek to embrace you. It will want you to seek the physical comforts it provides; the finest foods, a better car, entertaining theatre and cinema, central heating and hot and cold running water. The irony of course is that all these things are a gift from God. All pleasures in life are from God. The problem is that the world wants to steal good things from God, and take credit for the provision.
I will often hear the unbeliever say that they’ll be happy in hell because all their friends will be there. Here’s the problem. The pleasure you get from friends, that’s a gift from God. If you are having sex outside of marriage, the pleasures you’re experiencing? They’re stolen from God. The reason why there is no happiness in hell is because there are no pleasures, they’re taken away. The torment, the suffering, the anguish and heart wrenching regret, will be everlasting, and you’ll know, beyond any doubt, that your suffering is fair, reasonable, and deserved. Outside of the merciful embrace of the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, you will get what you have earned, an everlasting existence in the bowels of hell, where you will give glory to God, “for every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” If you haven’t read Jonathan Edwards sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, written in 1741 then I encourage you to do so.
So let’s go from here, not pursuing worldly comfort and entertainment that can only satisfy for a season, but instead, pursue Christ.
From verse 2 and 3. Judas knew the place having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns, torches and weapons.
Let me briefly offer you a soldier’s perspective. Jerusalem was a strategic city on the margins of the Roman Empire, garrisoned by an occupying force. Daniel 2:40 tells of Rome as the fourth kingdom as strong as iron. The duties of these soldiers would have included guarding the various gates into the city, guarding the civil magistrate buildings, their own HQs and barracks. They would have some policing and patrolling duties as a show of force to the rebellious locals and riot control to suppress insurrection if and when it looked likely.
The soldiers would have had routine duties. Their commanders would have had the challenge, as every military commander has had throughout history, of making a limited number of personnel cover an extensive range of responsibilities. The men in this account, are being sent out on an operation to arrest someone. This person is supported by a band of men and they do not know the weapons they have or how well equipped they are to defend themselves. The soldiers are outside the protection of the city walls at night and led by Jews, officers of the chief priests. Let me assure you this is not the sort of situation that will fill any soldier with confidence.
Given the clandestine nature of efforts to capture and kill Jesus Christ it is unlikely these soldiers have been given clear orders, or been given adequate time to prepare, rest eat, even rehearse. Militarily it is an entirely unsatisfactory situation. The soldiers are tired, frustrated by having their routine upset and probably apprehensive given the dangers of being outside the city walls.
With that in mind lets go to verse 4. Jesus knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “whom do you seek?”.
Jesus Christ stepped out from the shadows, He knew all that was to happen to him. Do you see that? “Knowing all”. Now take care before you answer this question: How did He know all?
Wouldn’t it be easy to say; well Jesus is God, God is omniscient, all knowing, Jesus therefore as the second person of the Trinitarian Godhead, knew all things? In His teaching, His interaction with the religious authorities, and in His prayer life, Jesus made His deity, His eternal and glorified relationship with His father in heaven clear.
However, the Bible doesn’t allow the liberty of simply saying Jesus was God therefore He knew all things. You see we know that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man. We know from Philippians 2:6,7 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. The writer of Hebrews tells us that therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Heb 4:15
James tells us in his letter; “let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt”. And yet we see that Jesus was tempted as we are. We see in these juxtapositions that Jesus Christ was fully man, facing all the temptations that we each face, but succumbing to none. (Correction: I said in my original text that Jesus set aside His deity, that is a serious error. Please accept my apology for making this statement. I did not study the hypostatic union in appropriate depth. I am sorry. Jesus at all times held His two natures, at no time was He not fully God. This is explained in a helpful, well written, scholarly, though easily understood article from Matt Slick: http://carm.org/communicatio-idiomatum. Here is a crucial paragraph from the article which I recommend as a valuable read for a fuller understanding of Jesus Christ:
“In the sacrifice of Jesus, we have Jesus dying. But, did the divine nature of Christ also die? No it did not, since God cannot die. If the divine “side” of Jesus didn’t die, then how is the sacrifice of Christ of infinite value? The answer is found in the communicatio idiomatum because in this teaching (as we have seen in the scriptures above), the quality and attributes of the divine nature were ascribed to the person of Christ. So, even though the divine side of Jesus didn’t die, the person of Christ did die; and the person of Christ was able to claim the divine attributes as His own. Therefore, the death of Christ was infinitely valuable and able to save us from our sins.”
The Bible shows us that Jesus Christ has two natures, He is fully God, and fully man, 100% God and 100 % man. This has an important theological term that I want you to note, the hypostatic union. We come here to learn that we might give a reason for the hope that lies within, that we may give a defence of our faith and give an account of the life and works of our Saviour.
This then begs a new question. How can Jesus, as fully man, turn water into wine, feed 5000 from loaves and bread, heal the demoniac, and here in the garden, know all things that were to happen? I do not believe we are at liberty to say, because he is God. While that is certainly true, he is fully God, it is not a helpful answer. While he remains God, He is functioning under this nature He has taken on, Philippians 2, fully man.
Clearly the best answer for this question is from the words of our Lord. “I and the Father are one, John 10:30” “I seek not my own will but the will of Him who sent me”, John 5:30. His perfect subordination to the will of the father and by His submission and intimate knowledge of His Father’s revealed will through the Scriptures. This is most noticeably summarised in Luke 4:17 when Jesus started His ministry having been in the wilderness, tempted by the Devil, when He came into the synagogue, opened the scroll at Isaiah 61:1, 2 and announced:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And this needs to be an encouragement to you. This should drive us into the Word of God, for it is here, seeking to mature and grow in likeness to our Saviour, seeking the will of our father in heaven, through the power of the Holy Spirit that we attain knowledge. For it is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom, that’s Proverbs 1:6 and we know from Colosians 2:3,”that in Him, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
So Christ knew all that was to happen, as He knew who He was, His purpose, and God’s plan of redemption for His people because He knew the Scriptures. So let’s go to the Scriptures and see briefly how we might also grow in trust, understanding and confidence of just who Christ is.
And I want to do this without the New Testament. It is always worth remembering that the early church did not have the New Testament and that the Apostles and to an extent, I imagine, the early church fathers, preached alone from the Jewish Scriptures; theTorah and Tonach, what we today call the Old Testament.
We know where he would be born Micah 5:2. We know that he would be born to a virgin Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 7:14. We see when he would come Daniel 2:40, and the Kingdom He would inaugurate v44 and we see in Daniel 9:24, 25 that he would die, be cut off and put and end to the sacrificial system. God tells us history before it happens.
This is but a glimpse of the detailed and specific writings and prophecies that foreshadow and provide types of the coming Messiah, Meshiak. One of the Scriptures that has been conventionally retold during the Christmas season is Isaiah 9:6 – 7
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given; – (Micah 5:2, Isaiah 7:14)
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called`
Wonderful Counselor, (1 Tim 2;5) Mighty God, (El Gibor)
Everlasting Father (Psalm 90:2) , Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it (Matthew 12:28)
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore. (Daniel 2:44, 9:24)
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Was the zeal of the Lord of Hosts seen in Jesus Christ? Was He zealous for righteousness? To the point of having no regard for the worldly social conventions of the day. A friend of sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes! One who had no hesitation in taking whip to the backs of those who would turn His house of prayer into a den of thieves, who would take a stand against the hypocritical religious leaders of the day: Matthew 23:1-15 – Here we see the zeal of the Lord, fiercely and jealously standing for justice and righteousness.
We’ve have been here to show that while the Bible gives us an account of all human history, while it contains different genres, history, poetry, doctrine and prophecy, most importantly, it shows us Christ. The Old Testament testifies to the coming Messiah. If you imagine Christ, the light of the world stood here in the central pages of your bible, he is casting a shadow over the Old Testament.
In the remaining verses, 5-11, we witness Jesus’ mastery over events as they unfold.
V5. Judas is here. You’ll remember the last time we met him was in the upper room when Jesus sent him out, “what you are about to do, do quickly” John 13:27.
V6. The mob of soldiers unlikely to be well led and seem like a rabble as they fall to the ground in the presence of deity, where with their attention gripped, it can be made clear just who they are seeking as Jesus Christ repeats his question. Jesus is establishing his control and making sure His purpose is not thwarted. A helpful reminder, I would plea you never lose sight of. If you are in Christ, you have been drawn by the Father and belong to Jesus Christ He will not lose you.
And then in v10 Peter steps in, removes Malchus’ ear with a deft swing of his razor sharp sword; Did Malchus, who I presume was lying prostrate on the ground, have the potential to cause problems? I don’t know why Peter thought this would help. Risking a fight with a mob of armed soldiers is not a wise move, and we can only speculate his motives. Perhaps it was a moment of recklessness, to take one for the team while Jesus made good his escape, perhaps he thought they could go down fighting or even Jesus would command legions and chariots of angels, who knows, but either way Jesus Christ puts the brakes on Peter’s reversion to quayside fisherman fight mode.
Jesus tells him to lower his worldly weapons and look to follow Christ’s plan and purpose. Are you looking to Christ? Are you following His plan and purpose? There is a time to take up arms. We live in a fallen world that is groaning under the weight of sin. The gospel message of peace and reconciliation between all men is going out, Jesus Christ’s enemies are being made a footstool, that’s the promise of Psalm 110:1, but as God’s plan unfolds, we are still going to need soldiers and policemen. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever and I submit that includes protection as well provision of your family.
And here in v11 we see Christ’s plan, “shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
What is this cup that the Son is anticipating? What does it contain that caused the Jesus such anguish that blood appeared in his beads of sweat as he considered the terrors He was facing? It is the cup of God’s wrath: Psalm 75:8 tells us; For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs. God’s wrath is portrayed in Scripture as an unpleasant mix of intoxicating liquor with filthy dregs.
Consider the desperate plight of our youth as they leave the nightclubs of our city in the early hours. Young men vomiting, or violent, feeling lonely or angry. Women who’ve lost any semblance of dignity, who the following day are in a alcohol induced mental fog.
This collective societal madness is a gateway to poverty, ill-health, and ruin. Broken relationships, impoverished families and even homelessness. Who has not known the pitiful state of someone living on the street overcome by alcohol? The teeth rot, the skin sags and the insides malfunction. Alcohol poisons from the inside out, the abuser suffers and often the only way to suppress the suffering is to consume more, prolonging the suffering.
Why do we people choose this path of sin, inviting God’s wrath and just punishment? Well the bible tells us that in our natural state we hate God, love our sin, and are wretched hell deserving sons and daughters of Adam. But how should we respond? How does the Bible call Christians to respond? Well its right here in the 51st chapter of Isaiah starting at verse 17:
17Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem,
You who have drunk from the LORD’S hand the cup of His anger;
The chalice of reeling you have drained to the dregs.
18There is none to guide her among all the sons she has borne,
Nor is there one to take her by the hand among all the sons she has reared.
19These two things have befallen you;
Who will mourn for you?
The devastation and destruction, famine and sword;
How shall I comfort you?
20Your sons have fainted,
They lie helpless at the head of every street,
Like an antelope in a net,
Full of the wrath of the LORD,
The rebuke of your God.
21Therefore, please hear this, you afflicted,
Who are drunk, but not with wine:
22Thus says your Lord, the LORD, even your God
Who contends for His people,
“Behold, I have taken out of your hand the cup of reeling,
The chalice of My anger;
You will never drink it again.
Do you see? If you are in Christ He has taken the cup you so justly deserved for you? This is the Gospel! Jesus Christ has taken your punishment! You must see this. Do you still have a rebellious heart? Don’t presume upon God’s grace. Do you suppose you are somehow saved from His wrath because at the age of eight you gave your heart to Jesus, when you have since abused His name, neglected His word, engaged in violence, disobedience, drunkenness and sexual immorality? If you are living like the Devil, 1 John tells us, you are of the Devil. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.
Why would you want to stay in your sin when the cure is on offered? What’s preventing you coming? Why procrastinate? Come now!