Each week of study through John 18, in the dark chapters before his crucifixion, Jesus shines brightly. He doesn’t wait for the guards to find him; he seeks them out. Though he knows the disciples will abandon him and disown him, he ensures their safety in the garden. He heals one of the servants coming to arrest him. He’s calm and articulate through an unjust arrest and harsh questioning. He doesn’t shy away from speaking with Pilate, though he knows what will come afterwards. What a Savior we have!
Every year I read through the Easter story again and I always notice something new. This year, two particular questions Jesus asks – one to Peter, one to Caiaphas – have challenged me. Here are some meditations on each of them below.
John 18:11 – Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?
If there is another statement that better combines authority and submission, I don’t know it. With one clear direction, Jesus leads Peter with perfect authority. He then gives the reason for his leadership: He’s submitting to the Father’s plan and timing. Jesus pleaded with the Father to let this cup pass from him if there was another way. But now, Jesus is confident and assured. This is the time for which he was born, the time for him to submit to the Father, and the time to drink the cup I should have received. And he moves forward, in full obedience, for the joy set before him (Heb. 12:2).
Often we think of authority or submission as tools to bludgeon us into obedience. Jesus combats both of those ideas here and reveals such thoughts as lies. His authority is good. His submission leads to life – for the disciples there that night and later it leads to life for all who believe. Has Jesus’s obedience led you to believe and have life in his name (Jn. 20:31)?
Responding to Jesus’s authority properly allows us to submit in the right way – not in a way that’s demeaning, but placing God where he ought to be. To get there, we need to answer Jesus’s second question – why is he one to whom we should submit? Who is he?
John 18:34 – Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?
For better or worse, we can easily adopt the most prominent voices we hear. As someone who’s grown up hearing God’s Word, there have been many times I’ve wondered if I simply believe what I do because it’s familiar. In many ways, most of what I believe about Jesus and God is because others have talked to me about him. This is a good thing; this is marvelous! However, I think the heart of this question is really important. Pilate may have heard others talk about Jesus – in fact, this was very likely, considering Jesus’s popularity. Although Pilate may have heard about Jesus, he cared nothing about seeking “the king of the Jews.” He only spared him some curiosity when Jesus was conveniently close by. Pilate stared truth in the eyes, but chose instead to turn away.
Do we see other people like this in the Gospels? A few. There’s the rich young ruler, for one (Mk. 10:17-27), who wants to find out directly from Jesus how to inherit eternal life. There was Nicodemus (Jn. 3:1-21), who sought Jesus at night to ask him questions. The Roman centurion (Matt. 8:5-13), who sought healing for a servant in his household. And in these and many other stories, people sought Jesus. They went directly to him, either for knowledge or divine power. Two of these examples show us that hearing led to seeking, which then led to belief and saving faith (Rom. 10:17).
This Easter, maybe you have heard much about Jesus. Maybe the Gospel is familiar. If so, praise God. However we hear the word of life, God uses it powerfully. But what have you done after hearing? Have you sought Jesus out and considered deeply what he says? Are the ideas you have about him merely what others have told you, or have you seen for yourself?
One of my favorite verses in the whole Bible is John 4:42, just after Jesus speaks with a woman at a well in Samaria: “[The townspeople] told the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.’” How beautiful. Christian, may that be our testimony: it’s not just what others say. We have heard for ourselves and know our Savior, the Savior of the world, Jesus, Messiah, spotless Lamb, Son of God.