John 18 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence
In the previous chapter we see Jesus praying extensively in his role as our great high priest. In this chapter we get a glimpse of Jesus as our great king. While still in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus and his disciples are accosted by the religious authorities who have sent their thugs to capture the one who has been troubling them these last few years. Jesus knows that they are coming but makes no attempt to elude them or to escape. His disciples, though, still not fully understanding his predictions concerning his death, burial and resurrection are of a different mindset. When Peter sees them grabbing their teacher, he immediately withdraws his sword to cut off the ear of one of the men to show that they are ready to fight for Christ’s kingdom. But Jesus tells Peter to put away his sword reminding him that He intends to drink the cup of judgment intended for him by his Father. Clearly, Christ’s kingship is not what Peter is expecting; nevertheless, he complies and sheathes his sword.
In the next scene, our great high priest and our great king is being brought before the old order in the person of Annas who is the high priest of Israel at this time and is also performing a dual function as sort of king in examining and pronouncing judgment upon Jesus. While this is going on, Peter, who had just shown his willingness to fight for his king, is now ashamed to acknowledge that even knows him. Three times he is asked if he is one of his disciples and he swears that he does not even know the man. Clearly, Peter has not yet learned to trust and to submit to his king. It is not uncommon at first for a new believer who is a vassal to try to set the terms of his relationship with the king. But it is always the king who initiates such covenants and sets these terms, for that is assumed by his very authority as our king.
When Jesus is questioned by the high priest and gives a corresponding answer showing the false assumptions of his questioner, one of the officers strikes him for his perceived lack of respect for a holy one in Israel who bears the authority of God. But unlike in Acts 23:5 when the apostle Paul repents of his words in response to the high priest, Jesus does not back down, for His authority trumps that of the high priest, and He has every right to challenge the reasoning as well as the motives of a sinful man. It would be good for us to remember this as well when we attempt to judge the providence of God when, clearly, it is the king’s prerogative to sit in judgment upon us.
Then in the next scene, Jesus is brought before the Roman governor Pilate who asks him directly if He is the King of the Jews, and Jesus responds saying, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this world.” Here Jesus is not saying that he has no authority over this world or that his kingdom is merely spiritual in nature; rather, he is saying that his kingdom is not like that of the Romans in that it is not brought in by the sword, or by bloodshed, as Peter had thought. In fact, later on in Matthew 28, Jesus acknowledges before his disciples after his resurrection that the Lord had granted unto him all the authority over heaven and earth, but his kingdom would come in through the preaching of the gospel not through the instruments of war. Pilate, making no attempt to understand Jesus words, again repeats his question, saying, “So you are king?” And Jesus acknowledges that he was born to be king and that he had come into the world for this very purpose, but that kinship would only be embrace by those who listen to the truth of that testimony. Again, Pilate refuses to listen to his responses and fails to understand the truth, instead concluding the matter out of expediency.
When Pilate delivers his verdict to the Jews, he informs them that he finds no guilt in Jesus of Nazareth; nevertheless, he is still willing to punish him if he must in order to maintain order in the city and to preserve his own political standing in a very volatile area. Realizing that Jesus is innocent, Pilate tries to wash his hands of the matter by allowing the Jews to request his release. But when the crowd is told that one prisoner can be released, they choose a terrorist named Barabbas instead of the King of the Jews. Even though John tells us he is robber, Mark and Luke add that he is a murderer. And the crowd would rather a murderer go free than to accept the truth of Christ’s kingship. Certainly, it is no different today in our culture. It is amazing what sorts of evil unbelievers are willing to unleash in our society so long as they do not have to acknowledge King Jesus. If we think about, we naturally have the same problem. It is only by grace that we see the foolishness of our decisions and it is only by the conviction of the Spirit that we see our pride in thinking that we know better than the king.