John 18: January 26—Suffering for our benefit
Jan 19, 2014

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
I confess that my life has been easy. I prefer the easy path and avoid painful situations. Yet, I grieve for many people who experience unimaginable suffering. The human spirit can undergo horrendous suffering. 

Humans inevitably ask the “why” question in the context of suffering. The focal passage of our study reveals that Jesus not avoid suffering. He voluntary embraced suffering as the God ordained way to redeem people. Jesus never asked the “why” question. He understood the sacrificial nature of His death on our behalf.

John 18 reveals the depth of sin in the human heart and incredible love of Jesus. What does this passage teach about human nature? What does this passage teach about Jesus?

First, the actions of Judas reveal the sinful depth of the human heart (John 18:1-3). First, betrayal often comes from individuals close to us. David, the one through whom the promised Messiah was to come, experienced betrayal at this same location. David’s entrusted counselor Ahithophel  (2 Sam. 15:12). As David crossed the Kidron Valley and was ascending the 

Mount of Olives, he received word that Ahithophel had joined Absalom’s rebellion (2 Sam. 15:30-31). Ahithopel may have been the grandfather of David’s wife Bathsheba adding to David’s pain (2 Sam. 11:3; 23:34). Jesus experienced betrayal Judas, a man who followed him for three years. Second, betrayal often occurs in the context of familiarity (v. 2). The location of the betrayal was one Jesus and Judas often experienced fellowship. Third, betrayal regularly involves conspiracy (v. 3). The betrayal of Jesus involved the uniting of opposing forces of Roman soldiers, temple police of the Sadducee high priests, and the lay leadership of the Pharisees.

Second, Jesus actions depict Him as the one in charge rather than a victim (John 18:4-8). First, Jesus possessed knowledge of the betrayal conspiracy (v. 4). Second, rather than hiding in the shadows and dark spots of the garden, Jesus stepped forward (v. 4). Jesus voluntarily accepted His destiny. He faced His arrestors alone as His disciples had fallen asleep. Third, acknowledged His identity. 

In the Greek New Testament, Jesus acknowledged, “I Am.” While the phrase may mean, “I am Jesus the Nazarene,” God’s revelation of Himself to Moses as “I Am” (Exod. 3:14) is a claim of deity in my opinion. In response to Jesus’ claim, the soldiers fell down—an act depicting obedience to a deity.

Third, the actions of Peter illustrate the problem of not remaining close to Jesus (John 18:17-18). Peter’s denial of Jesus developed because Peter was unprepared for two reasons. First, Peter trusted in his own wisdom and strength. Peter’s arrogance caused him to boast that he would die rather than deny Jesus (John 13:37). Second, Peter failed to pray. In the garden, Jesus admonished Peter to pray because temptation was real (Mk. 14:28). Peter slept rather than pray and denied Jesus at a simple question from a servant girl. 

Jesus professed “I Am,” Peter professed “I am not Jesus’ disciple (v. 17). The “other disciple” (John 18:16), likely the Apostle John, did not deny Jesus. The servant girl knew the other disciple because of his association with the high priest. She knew the one with Peter was a disciple—she asked if Peter was also (“too” in HCSB) a disciple. Peter did not deny Jesus in the context of a hostile crowd but in the presence of a lowly servant and a fellow disciple of Jesus.

Fourth, the actions of Jesus at His trial demonstrate His willingness to suffer on behalf of sinners (John 18:19-24). Several actions of the leaders violated Jewish jurisprudence: a trial at night, failure to assemble witnesses, physical abuse, and the inappropriateness of seeking self-condemnation from the accused. 

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