Diety Detained – Part Two: Loyal to the End

John 18:8-9 

“Let these go their way.” (v.8)

Jesus asked for protection for His disciples.  Jesus had promised that He would not lose one of them.

Several years ago when I served as pastor to a congregation in California, a woman in a nursing home lay dying.  She was a friend of one of our members, Carmen Sauder, for a number of years.  I went up to see her before she died.  My first visit she was able to respond the most.  She had much to say about her friend, Carmen.  At one point I asked: “Carmen was a good friend wasn’t she.”

She responded:  “Til’ the very end.”

 It reminded me of the commentary John offered at the start of Chapter 14, just before the Passover Jesus had with His disciples.

John 14:1 – Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

Christ will always be faithful to us.

Paul knew this.   Romans 8:38-39 shares his conviction that “…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, [39] nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The question isn’t whether Jesus will be loyal to us until the end… the question is about our loyalty to Him.

Jesus’ disciples display a lack of courage during Jesus’ arrest.  “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter,” Jesus quoted from the Old Testament prophet Zechariah during their Passover dinner.  He knew they would desert Him in His hour of need. Matthew 26:31 records: Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me,

And fall away they did.  When those Roman Soldiers and temple guards appear in the garden… they head for the hills.  Mark records that the soldiers grabbed one of them and he shook off his robe and streaked away naked.  What kind of followers are these?  The same devotees who had just recently proclaimed loudly their loyalty to Jesus.

How about us?  Some of us are scared silly… scared about what revealing what we believe about God might do to our reputations… and our lives.  When my wife, Janine, went back to her first high school reunion, she was so excited to share about her new faith in Christ.  To her surprise a number of her classmates were already Christians.  They were Christians while they were together in High School.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” She asked them.  “I was hurting so bad, I would have given anything to have heard about a God who loved me and died for me.”

What keeps us from sharing?  Fear.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of misunderstanding.  Fear we might say the wrong thing.  The torches and spears scare the courage right out of us.  What we fail to realize is that the Christ we follow has all the power we will ever need in even our darkest hour.  His presence can knock over His enemies like bowling pins.  But we don’t catch a glimpse of any of that.  It is hard to see it when we are running the other way toward the illuminated exit sign.

Christ expresses his loyalty to us by moving forward toward Calvary to die for every one of his deserters.   “No greater love has any man than this…”

Such loyal love calls us for devotion from us… loyaly for life!

Diety Detained – Part One: “Looking for Me?”

John 18:1-14

Americans like to hear a good arrest story.  From the endless stream of cop shows (CSI, Law and Order, etc) , to the endless video loops shown of O. J. Simpson’s white bronco chase, to Michael Jackson’s infamous waving at fans with his hands cuffed behind his back, to the semi-reality based television show, COPS (Bad boys, Bad boys, what you gonna do they come for you. ♫ )  We really can’t seem to get enough of this stuff as a culture.

How many times have we seen the old familiar scene of someone being led in handcuffs to the courthouse, with a coat over their head to protect their identity?  Arresting someone in this country is no quiet affair.  It is very public.

But when we come to the most famous arrest in history we discover it was not a media circus.  It was hush-hush.  Even His trials themselves would be kept under wraps…  held at night (which was against their laws) to keep the adoring eyes of the crowd from witnessing any of them.

Now when Jesus was arrested, Miranda rights were not in place,  but yet He could have remained silent.  Later, during some of His trials, He would do exactly that…  but not on this night.  He made a few statements that have some incredible significance for us, as we understand more about what Jesus did for us.  We look at the first in this post:

“Whom do you seek?”

The irony was that Jesus was a wanted… yet unwanted man.  Here is what I mean.  He was a wanted man for sure.  The Jewish leaders of the day wanted Him.  His picture was hanging up in the local post office.  His crime:  disturbing the peace.  They didn’t like the authority He seemed to wield.   The miracles astonished and pleased the people… the very people these leaders wanted to control.  What else could they do?  They had to get rid of this Jesus.

Likewise, the Romans wanted Him.  Convinced by the Jewish leaders that Jesus might cause a Jewish revolt they dispatch a cohort (This could mean a thousand soldiers, though it doesn’t mean the entire cohort was sent) to assist the temple guards in the arrest of  Jesus.  It is feared that Christ and his disciples might fight back.    And judging from the miracles Jesus could perform, it might require great force to take this young radical away.

Jew and Gentile both want Christ.  To arrest Him.

James Montgomery Boice:  “It is a ludicrous situation, men with weapons coming forward to arrest the Son of God, and John does not allow us to miss the irony.  We remember, for example, that it is John who has stressed more than any other Gospel writer that Jesus is the light of the world.  He has done that in the opening chapter, where the word ‘light’ in reference to Jesus occurs 6 times in just nine verses.  Later he twice quotes Christ’s own claim to be ‘the light of the world.’  Now those of the darkness come in the darkness with ‘lanterns and torches’ to seek him out.”

They creep forward in the darkness to seize the light of the world.

Yes, Jesus truly was a wanted man this night.

But did they really want Him?

“Who is it you want?” Jesus asked, as he emerged from the garden of Gethsemane.  For at least a moment, the gravity of what they are doing succumbs them.  They all fall to the ground.  Once again Jesus offers them the choice.  Do you want me or not?  Whom do you seek?  I am He.  “I am”… the perpetual theme running through the Gospel of John.  I am the bread of life.  I am the door.  I am the resurrection and the life.  7 descriptions of Himself throughout John lead up to this declaration:  Whom do you seek?  — the answer? – I am. (He is not in the original Greek.)

I am what you are seeking!  He tells it to the world, represented by the Jews and Gentiles here.

Bruce Milne writes:  “The world is groping after its true leader:  he offers himself, and the world, after yielding for a moment to the impact of his divinity, arrests him and crucifies him.”

But Jesus was speaking to more than just these arresting officers… He was speaking down through the ages to seekers, like you and I.  “Who are you seeking?”  He asks us.  He answers before we can even speak.
I AM!

Cross of Power

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1:18)

  How important is the cross to us as believers?  It is the POWER of God… for living, for service, for witness, for joy, for action in this world.  John R. W. Stott noted:

“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ … is God’s only self-justification in such a world” as ours….’ ‘The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak; they rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.” (John R. W. Stott, Cross)

Let’s prepare ourselves for Easter 2011, by plugging in to our source of power:  that emblem of weakness, the cross… that is for us, the power of God!