Chapter 1 The Suffering But Triumphant Savior

John 18:1-11

In these pages we will walk with our Suffering Savior and Triumphant Lord from Gethsemane to Galilee. Let us pray that we will be given “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph. 1:17). Our meditations will be in the Gospel by John, chapters 18 through 21. Though our eyes will be upon our Lord, we cannot help but note an instructive spiritual progression for the believer as we go to:

· Gethsemane — The place of prayer and yielding to the will of God.

· Gabbatha — The place of being condemned by the world.

· Golgotha — The place of death: Crucified with Christ.

· The Garden Tomb — The place of resurrection: Risen with Christ.

· Galilee — The place where Jesus manifested Himself: Manifesting Christ.

“When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into which He entered, and His disciples” (John 18:1).

The words that He had spoken were His great high-priestly prayer of John, chapter 17. He had taught His followers the disciple’s prayer: “Our Father…” which He, Himself, never needed to pray. But, here in John chapter 17 we have the Lord’s prayer, emblematic of His present ministry at the right hand of the Father where “He ever lives to make intercession for them.” Heb. 7:25. “These words” may also include our Lord’s discourse in John, chapters 14 through 16.

“He went forth.” In Hebrews 13:13, we are exhorted: “Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp bearing His reproach.” Then, we are reminded of His words: “Blessed is he, whoever shall not be offended in Me.” Luke 7:23.

“He went forth with His disciples.” Even though His walk was unique, because no one could walk there as He did, He still wants us to go with Him. As we do, we can never afterward be the same. “We all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image, even as by the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). I pray that in our walk with Him we will come to love Him more and become more like Him.

“He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron.” According to Strong’s Concordance, the word cedron (Kidron) means: “dark-colored, by implication, to mourn in sackcloth.” What solemn thoughts must have filled the mind of our Lord as He crossed the dark brook! He, David’s Greater Son, would recall how King David had fled over the brook from his son, Absalom, as all the country wept (2 Samuel 15:23). In the reforms under Josiah, the grove where the people of Judah worshipped Ashtoreth (the Greek, Aphrodite and the Roman, Venus) was burned at the brook Kidron (2 Kings 23:6). The altars were broken down, smashed, and the dust thrown into the brook (2 Kings 23:12). Asa, king of Judah, cut down the idol of his mother, Maachah, crushed it, and burned it at Kidron (2 Chronicles 15:16). Under Hezekiah, the priests brought out all of the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the Lord, and the Levites carried it out to the brook Kidron (2 Chronicles 30:14). Kidron was a place for cleansing from defilement. It was more. To cross the brook Kidron meant death for Shimei (I Kings 2:37). Because of his disobedience, the penalty was executed (I Kings 2:46). Crossing the brook meant death for our Lord, also. He became God’s Shimei, but by His death for sin He provided cleansing from defilement. For restored Israel, even the brook itself “shall be holy unto the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:40).

Song of Triumph

“Where there was a garden.” It was an olive orchard. “After singing a hymn they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Matt. 26:30). It has always been a blessing to me that our Lord went singing to His death. At the Passover meal, selections from the Hallel were sung. That is Psalms 113 to 118. Here the Author sings His own psalms. Perhaps He sang the words of Psalm 118:22, “The Stone which the builders rejected has become the Head-Stone of the corner.” And, these words of worship: “This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23). Who can plumb the depths of His love expressed in Psalm 118:24, “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It was already the day of Calvary, because the day begins with evening for the Jews. It does for God, too. “Evening and morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:5). God does not begin with the light to plunge us into darkness. Rather, often from the womb of night is born the sunrise as with the cross and the empty tomb.

Infinite Love

The Lord rejoiced in the day of Calvary! In the upper room, He gave thanks and took the bread. He again gave thanks and took the cup. He said: “This is My body. This is My blood.” He thanked God for the cross. What unfathomable love! For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross (Heb. 12:2). Peter writes of “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:11). The glory that He had after He suffered at Calvary that He did not have before was that He would bear a redeemed race to the Father. He knew the agony that the cross entailed, but in complete submission He may have sung: “Bind the sacrifice to the altar” (Psalm 118:27). Perhaps He concluded with His expression of perfect trust: “O, give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, and His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 118.29).

He went into the Garden of Gethsemane. Gethsemane means “Oil Press.” It was there that the little ripe olives were placed on the lower platform and the upper one was screwed down, tighter and tighter, until all the life fluid was extracted and nothing was left but a dead, dry pulp. It was a cold night in Gethsemane, for later, Peter warmed his hands at the charcoal fire the slaves and officers had made (v. 18). On that cold night, our Lord was so pressed beyond measure that “being in an agony He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). How He suffered! “He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be very sorrowful and very heavy. Then He said to them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even to the point of death” (“all but killed with sorrow”) (Matt. 26:37, 38).

Eden vs. Gethsemane

Arthur W. Pink writes these thought-provoking words, contrasting Eden and Gethsemane:

“The entrance of Christ into the Garden at once reminds us of Eden. The contrasts between them are indeed most striking;

In Eden, all was delightful; in Gethsemane, all was terrible.

In Eden, Adam sinned; in Gethsemane, the Savior suffered.

In Eden, Adam fell; in Gethsemane, the Redeemer conquered.

The conflict in Eden took place by day; the conflict in Gethsemane was waged at night.

In Eden, Adam took the fruit from Eve’s hand; in Gethsemane, Christ received the cup from the Father’s hand.

In Eden, Adam hid himself; in Gethsemane, Christ boldly showed Himself.

In Eden, God sought Adam; in Gethsemane, the last Adam sought God!

In Eden, Adam was ‘driven’ ; in Gethsemane, Christ was ‘led.’

In Eden, the sword was drawn (Genesis 3:24); in Gethsemane, the sword was sheathed (John 18:11).”1

Paradise Regained

Eden was Paradise Lost. Gethsemane is the beginning of Paradise Regained. The Bible begins with a garden, and it ends with a garden. In between, sin has made human history a waste-howling wilderness. But God will have His way. At the conclusion of all things, He shows us “a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:1,2). In Eden, the flaming sword turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). No one must be permitted to eat in his sinful condition and in that state live forever. In Gethsemane, the sword is sheathed so that whoever will may come to Christ and drink of the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17), and one day dwell forever where the tree of life bears fruit eternally.

“Now, Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples” (v. 2).

Gethsemane was the Savior’s place of retirement and prayer. At the close of a busy day, He might say: “Men, let’s go over to the Garden for a time of prayer.” Judas would go with Him. “Judas knew the place.”

Wanted: A Christ-like Life

It is possible to know much about the Lord and still commit the most dastardly deeds. Knowing, not related to living, is dangerous. Of course, Judas was not regenerated, but even we believers must beware of professing what we do not live. It is true that correct belief is basic. We must “hold fast the form of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13), or there will be no foundation to our lives. But, if our belief does not affect our behavior, there will be little reality in our Christian profession. It is the entrance of God’s Word that gives light (Psalm 119:130). The Word of God must become a very part of our character and conduct. I read of an elder of a local church whose son went forward in an evangelistic meeting to receive Christ as his Savior. A friend said to his father:

“Why don’t you go up to your son, put your arm around him, and encourage him?”

The Father replied: “I can’t. He knows me too well at home.”

I was speaking once with a very close friend, Mr. Cyril Brooks, who with his wife, Anna, have been missionaries to the Philippines for more than fifty years. I somewhat dolefully remarked: “Isn’t it terrible, this ‘God is Dead’ theology?”

In somewhat gentle rebuke he replied: “Yes, but if we who profess to know a Living Lord, lived as though He were alive, I wonder if there would have been any room for a ‘God is Dead’ theology.”

I read somewhere a statement of Dr. Vance Havner: “We claim that the Gospel is the dynamite of God, but we live firecracker lives.” May God root us in sound doctrine for a Christlike life. What God is seeking to produce on earth is Christlike Christians.

Futile Assault

“Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees came there with lanterns and torches and weapons” (v. 3).

In the early dawn there were flickerings of light and clashes of weapons. At the Passover it was full moon, but Judas and his co-conspirators were taking no chances. How ludicrous and ridiculous they must have appeared to God. They were seeking the Light of the World with lanterns and torches, seeking Omnipotence with swords and clubs (Mark 14:43). “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision” (Psalm 2:4).

Portraits of Christ

We come now to one of the most beautiful Scriptural portraits of our Lord, in John 18:4-11. Here is the living embodiment of the fine flour of the meal offering of Leviticus, chapter two. There were no lumps or unevenness in it. It was perfectly smooth. In the Lord Jesus, there is every perfection of character in exact proportion. We thus see Him now.

1) His Omniscience. “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that were coming upon Him” (v. 4). He knew that Judas would come. He knew of the kiss of betrayal, the arrest, the beating, the plucking out of the beard, the scourging, and the crucifying. He knew it all when He went into the Garden, and even from all eternity past. He was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). In warfare, the supreme advantage is gained if you can learn the plans of the enemy. Millions of dollars are thus expended and many lives are lost in spying. Our Lord knew all, and also had the power to destroy His enemies. Yet, He obeyed even though He knew what He would suffer. Do we ever refuse to obey for fear of what we might suffer?

2) His Courage. “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that were coming upon Him, went forth, and said to them, Whom do you seek?” (v. 4). How we worship Him for the fearlessness of His pure humanity! He was as much man as though He were not God, and as much God as though He were not man — the two natures perfectly bound together in one person, the God-man, Jesus Christ. “With lanterns and torches” - they thought that He might hide away in the bushes like a hunted animal. Rather, He took the offensive and went forth. He who avoided notoriety (John 5:14) and royalty (John 6:15) went forth willingly to embrace death. What matchless love! He asks: “Who do you seek?” With a sneer and a curl of the lip, they reply: “Jesus, the Nazarene” (v. 5). “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).

3) His Majesty (Deity). “He said to them, I Am” (v. 5). “When therefore He said to them, I Am, they went backward and fell to the ground” (v. 6). This was not merely right overwhelming might. It was a flashing forth of His Deity, usually veiled in His sinless humanity. Hear the voice of God speaking to Moses out of the bush that burned but was not consumed: “Thus shall you say to the sons of Israel, I Am has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). Jesus said: “Before Abraham was, I Am” (John 8:58). “I Am” is Jehovah, the eternal, uncreated, self-existent, everlasting, redeeming LORD. In Gethsemane, the Deity of the Lord Jesus flashed forth and they fell on their faces on the ground.

4) His Meekness. Behold Him quietly standing there. They were at His mercy. He could easily have escaped, but meekly He waits. In His majesty and meekness there is the fine flour of the meal offering. In His majesty and meekness there is His Deity and humanity. At His birth there were angels and shepherds, a star and a stable — so heavenly and so earthly. He is the God-man.

He quietly waits, while they lie, thrown to the ground, so that He might prove to both friend and foe that His death was entirely voluntary. “For this reason the Father loves Me because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father” (John 10:17, 18). If Christ died because He chose to die, why did He choose to die? The primary compulsion of our Lord in going to the cross was not to save you and me. The pressing passion of His heart was “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7). Doing His Father’s will was the heart of Calvary. This, not the nails, was the first cord that bound Him to the cross. Yet, in doing the Father’s will He also secured our salvation. This was the second cord that kept Him there. He could not let us remain unsaved. Does not His voluntary death compel us to a life-long surrender to Him?

The last sentence of verse five contains some of the saddest words of Scripture: “Judas, who was betraying Him, was standing with them.” My heart cries out, “O Lord, no matter how I may fail, please do not let me ever stand with your enemies against you and Your people.”

5) His Great Love. “If therefore, you seek Me, let these go their way” (v. 8). His death was not only voluntary, it was also substitutionary. He as much as says to them: “Remember, it is I whom you are seeking. Center all of your venom on Me. Let these go their way.” Arthur W. Pink notes: “Here is the Shepherd protecting His sheep.” Usually, the sheep die to provide food and clothing for the shepherd, but here the Shepherd dies for the sheep to provide forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He had said: “I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). This is His great love.

I heard of a little kindergarten girl and her grade one brother who were competing in declaring their love to Mother.

“I love you two times,” she said.

With great intellectual superiority, he spoke: “I love you ten times.”

Little girl: “I love you twenty times.”

Brother: “I love you fifty times.”

Little girl: “I love you seventy times.”

Brother, triumphantly: “I love you one hundred times.”

Poor little girl! They didn’t go above one hundred in \ kindergarten. In desperation she put her little arms around her Mother and exclaimed: “Mommy, I love you to the last number!” He loved us to the last number.

What we need most is a fresh baptism of His love, that we might “‘Know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). Concerning this love, the Apostle Paul testified: “The love of Christ constrains us” (2 Cor. 5:14). It overmasters us, hems us in, deepens us, propels us on so that we can do nothing but love and serve Him. “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that One died for all, therefore all died; and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). In its essence, this is not Paul’s love for Christ, but Christ’s love for Paul. It is not a smoke ascending, but a fire descending. This is the only true call to Christian service that will hold us steady. Then, love begets love, and “we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This is the basic motive in Christian service.

Christ’s love for me — The only true call to Christian service.

My love for Christ — The basic motive in Christian service.

6) His Authority. “Let these go their way” (v. 8). Our Lord is in control in Gethsemane. He commanded His enemies not to touch His friends, and they obeyed Him. There are at least two reasons why He thus spoke.

He must suffer alone for our redemption. He did leave us an example that we should follow in His steps:

“Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth:

Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again;

When He suffered, He threatened not, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:22, 23).

But notice that the next verse is exclusive. Here the example stops.

“Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). He must tread the winepress alone (Isaiah 63:3).

The second reason why He commanded: “Let these go their way,” is because their work was not yet finished. Nothing— cancer, hydrogen bombs, or anything else —can take us from this life until our task is finished, if we abide in Him. Then, when our work is done, it would be abysmal to draw another breath. If we don’t abide (if we live unto self instead of unto the Lord), we may sleep (die) as did those sinning believers at Corinth who would not repent and forsake their sins (1 Cor. 11:30). But, if we live in the center of the will of God, one day He will say, “Mission accomplished; come home to heaven.” Until then, He says: “Let these go their way.”

7) His Keeping Power. “That the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, Of those whom Thou hast given Me, I have lost none” (v. 9). I do not believe in the perseverance of the saints, but in the preservation of the saints and the perseverance of the Savior. My dear friend, Sandy Sutherland, veteran missionary to Brookes Point, Palawan, Philippines, one day said to me: “Ed, I’m a Romans, chapter eight, man.” So am I. We begin with “no condemnation” and end with “no separation.” Since I received the Lord Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior in the summer of 1930,1 have never doubted being saved. I have always been “persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). I have never questioned His ability to guard my soul which I entrusted to Him the night that I was saved. “Who shall also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8). To be saved is to be safe forever.

One day, years ago, Captain James Downing of the U. S. Navy, now with the Navigators, spoke to our Grace Christian High School students in a chapel period. He explained the use of the kedge anchor. When a ship is negotiating a dangerous passage, this anchor is carried forward in the ship’s boat. It is anchored ahead, and the ship is safely drawn up to it. Now, read Hebrews 6:19, 20: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us.” We are safe because He is there.

Did you notice the almost unbelievable words: “those whom Thou hast given Me”? God so loved the world that He gave His Son. God so loved His Son, that He gave you to Him, believer. We could not have believed it if it were not in the Word of God. The ugly duckling of the Song of Songs has become His love, His fair one (Song of Solomon 2:10). He wants you to know “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1.18). He wants you to realize not only all that He is to you, but also all that you are to Him, because of His matchless grace.

8) His Grace. “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus” (v. 10). Peter, surprised out of sleep, with a burst of fleshly zeal lashed out with his sword. He was aiming at Malchus’ neck, but got only his ear. Malchus is safe. No one died in the presence of the Lord Jesus when He was here on earth. In this age of grace, He came that we might live. In a coming day, He will have to say to those who have not received Him: “Depart from Me, you accursed, into everlasting fire” (Matt. 25:41).

Dr. Luke is interested in that ear. “Jesus touched his ear and healed him” (Luke 22:51). His last miracle of healing was to restore an ear to a foe who had come to arrest Him. What grace! Mercy is God withholding from us that which we justly deserve. Grace is God giving us that which we do not deserve. Grace is God’s love when we deserved His judgment. All men live by the mercy of God. We, believers, live in the grace of God.

“And cut off his right ear.” Do we sometimes keep our Lord busy restoring ears that we have cut off in the energy of the flesh? Can you imagine Peter going to Malchus sometime later and saying: “Malchus, I love you in the Lord and I want you to be saved.” Can’t you see Malchus fingering his right ear and saying: “I don’t believe it.” If you cut off people’s ears, it will be very hard for you to reach their hearts. Also, those cut-off ears have an embarrassing tendency to reappear. “One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” (John 18:26).

“Jesus touched his ear.” The Shepherd is still protecting His sheep, especially impulsive Peter. Was He also seeking Malchus’ soul with His touch of grace?

9) Lastly, His Obedience. “The cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” What was the terrible cup from which He shrank in His pure humanity? “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matt. 26:39). No one ever suffered as He suffered. He is the sinless One being made sin. Think of it, all lust was laid on Him who is Incarnate Purity! All lying, cheating, and hypocrisy was placed on Him who is the Truth. All blasphemy, all idolatry, all horrible pagan practices, all agnosticism, and all atheism fell on Him who is God manifest in the flesh. How His holy sensibilities must have suffered in their infinite-ness! And further, He was bearing God’s judgment against sin. On the cross, for three hours in the light He suffered the hatred of man, but in three hours of darkness He endured the wrath of God. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). He did, for us.

The deepest agony of all was the separation. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). Behold Martin Luther pacing his study and exclaiming: “God forsaken of God. Who can understand it!” From everlasting, He had existed in the eternal oneness of the Trinity. For three dreadful hours in time, the Father turned His face from Him. Sin, wrath, separation, and more, filled the cup.

“Death and the curse were in our cup;
O Christ, ‘twas full for Thee! But Thou hast drained the last dark drop,
‘Tis empty now for me.”

Now, “I will take of the cup of salvation” (Psalm 116:113).

Wanted: A Yielded Life

This is the Savior’s Gethsemane. He wants you, believer, also to go with Him to the place of prayer and of yielding to the will of God. I love that Old Testament exposition of Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” It is the testimony of Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, after he had called forth three Hebrew men from the fiery furnace: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent His angel, and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God” (Daniel 3:28).

That is the believer’s Gethsemane. Have you been there, believer? Are you there? You can be, because He who went there indwells you. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Cor. 1:27). Do you fear to obey God? See Him go forth from the Garden and appropriate His courage. You cannot forgive that one who harmed you so much? Behold Him restore the ear to Malchus, and receive His grace. You ask, “How can I know God’s will for my life?” Pray to Him who knew all things that were coming upon Him, and He will be made unto you “wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:30). When world conditions depress you, and the powers of darkness increase, rejoice in the authority of Him who said: “Let these go their way.” In all of life’s circumstances may it be: “Not I, but Christ” (Gal. 2:20).

1 Exposition of the Gospel of John. Bible Truth Depot, pages 157, 158.