PALM SUNDAY, Sunday, April 9, 2017
John 18:1–14 / A Man of Sorrows
At His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was a man who had been betrayed by everyone. He stood alone before his accusers. The prophet Isaiah had described this event years earlier saying, “He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces – he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Is 53:3)
Earlier in the Old Testament, another king – King David – crossed the Kidron Valley, reeling in the pain of betrayal. David, barefoot and weeping, ran away from Jerusalem because his son, Absalom, had betrayed him. David’s friend and counselor, Ahithophel, was also a part of the conspiracy (2 Samuel 15–17). In disheartened distress, King David fled away from his accusers. But here – in Gethsemane – we see Jesus, the greater Shepherd-King – running into the betrayal of those closest to him— running to Judas, Peter and the other disciples. He faced his betrayers. Even in his most desperate moment. Jesus stood – showing compassion and love to those who abused and abandoned him.
Yet, Jesus was not a victim. No. He was a volunteer. In fact, he was the Only One who was qualified to volunteer to rescue His people. Everything was happening according to plan – down to the finest detail. No one could take Jesus’ life from him; he freely laid it down for us (John 10:17–18). Earlier in his ministry, a large army of natural enemies, both Jews and Gentiles, tried to kill Jesus; but He spoke two words, “I am,” and they fell back to the ground (18:6)—an echo of divine encounters in the past (Ex. 3:14) and a preview of the day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord—many to their coronation as heavenly citizens; and many others to their condemnation as God’s enemies (Phil. 2:1–11). Christ’s glory was being perfectly put on display. The beauty and majesty of Christ was being revealed – even at his arrest.
Not only was the glory of the Son of God revealed in Jesus’ arrest, but also in the loving compassion of a caring Savior, displayed even at this dark moment. Think about it. Christ has asked Peter, James, and John to pray with him while he anguished in the garden. Yet, they fell asleep. They were not in tune with the Lord’s will in any way. So, when evil religious men and Roman soldiers came to arrest him, Peter wildly pulled his sword and cut of a man named Malchus’ ear. However, Peter’s misguided action of cutting off Malchus’s ear is superseded by Jesus’ merciful reaction of reattaching the severed ear (Luke 22:51). In this act, Jesus was showing mercy to all.
- He was showing mercy to Peter, who was out of step with the Lord’s plan to sacrifice his own life.
- And he was showing mercy to Malchus – a man who most likely was not dressed for combat and didn’t have a sword – yet, who had come out with other merciless men to arrest Jesus.
- Finally, he was showing mercy to all of his people as he was determined to lay his life down.
At this moment, Jesus had no friend to stand with him. Yet, he had compassion on us all. Oh, how beautifully patient our God is to show mercy to people like us; that even while we were his enemies, Christ died for us.
John 18:7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”