John 18 and Psalm 120
Heavy. Heavy hearted. Those were the words I thought of early Sunday morning when I read this chapter in John. Betrayal. Trial. Denial. All harsh words. Jesus’ time on earth was coming to an end. Everyone was surprised, yet it had been predicted. We read several times in John of Jesus predicting his death. Tracy outlined for us in her writing on Wednesday the confusion and eventual heartache his disciples must have been feeling:
“They are so taken back by this news that they don’t even think to ask Him where He is going. They are shellshocked and can only deal with how this is affecting their lives. Then Jesus continues by saying that it is actually best for them if He goes away. How can this be? He IS the ministry, how can they continue to teach and convert people to faith in Him if He is not with them?”
So on the night when he was going to be betrayed, he and the disciples crossed the Valley of Kidron and Jesus went to the garden to pray. He knew what was happening yet he was in a quandary as he did not want to end his time on earth. He knew this moment was planned, yet still difficult. After his prayer, he found his closes friends sleeping, not keeping watch as he had directed them to do. I’m sure he was disappointed.
Then, Judas and the gang of captors arrived. Jesus knew. The disciples went into defense mode. In that moment, they did not grasp what was transpiring right in front of them. Had they not been told or warned as to what was happening? Yet they were caught off guard. Simon Peter retaliates by going after the Roman guard, almost try to cut off his head but instead hits his ear. He would lay down his life for Jesus and was showing his loyalty. Yet, Jesus did not want that help or defense from Peter at that time for he knew this moment was part of God’s plan. He knew all things.
The betrayal. Judas gives Jesus away with a kiss. It is a bit odd to me. He is handing him over to be killed yet gives him a kiss? I am sure the guards knew which person was Jesus. He didn’t care about Jesus at that moment, or did he? He didn’t. He wanted the money. Judas was greedy. “I am He”, says Jesus. We don’t read about it in this verse but we know Judas’ guilt overcame him and he could not live with himself.
The trial. Jesus is hauled away. Taken to Annas first, he was questioned. This encounter did not go well:
19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
20 “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”
22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.
23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Then, he was sent to Caiaphas for an additional questioning. In this particular chapter, we are not given details about his encounter as we move quickly into the meeting or trial with Pilate. Since it was early on the morning of the Passover, Pilate had to come out to meet Jesus. Interesting detail that Pilate wasn’t on his throne, he wasn’t sitting in his “office” ruling the meeting. He had been told many things about Jesus and was finally meeting him.
29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?
Pilate did not want to crucify him. He was confused. Pilate finds not reason to charge him with a crime. He does have a chance to set him free but he knew the people would riot. And so, as the crowd demands, he sets Barabbas free. (Sigh…..)
The denial. Lastly, we come to Peter. Poor Peter. He watched his best friend and leader be captured. His mind is racing: could I have saved him, should I have done more, can I somehow release him from the guards, will I speak with him again. He is overcome with panic and fear. He is first questioned by a servant girl:
17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.
He replied, “I am not.”
Strike One. They are standing around the fire trying to warm themselves. Peter did not run away though. He was standing with servants and officials. He is asked again.
So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”
He denied it, saying, “I am not.”
Strike Two. He still remains. Now, Peter must have been more on edge. He is waiting though. Could he help Jesus? Would he be released?
“Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.
Strike Three. The story foretold to Peter by Jesus has come to life. Peter’s denial. He runs away weeping for he never thought he would deny Jesus.
Dark days. Yet, we will read on and come to a brighter time, Jesus’ resurrection! All this, the Betrayal, the Trial, and the Denial, all lead to our salvation.