On the Gospel of John 18

John 18  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
We have been through the wonderful chapter, in which is presented to us the touching development of the communion of the Son with the Father with regard to the object of their common interest, the children, believers put into relationship with the Father by His revelation in the Son. The more we think of it, the more we feel how marvelous it is to be admitted to hear such communications.
But let us continue our study of the Gospel. That which follows, is the account of the last events of the life of Christ, as also of His death, of His resurrection and all that belongs to them. The sufferings of Christ are not the subject of John's Gospel, but His divine Person, and this character is found again here. We do not find suffering either in Gethsemane or upon the cross, but a direct testimony borne to His divinity, as to His perfect human obedience. There is another element less important, but which comes out in a clear light; it is, the moral setting aside of the Jews, a subject of sorrow for the Savior Himself and for us, for which the sovereign grace of God will provide a remedy; but here they fall into marked contempt, even from the Gentiles.
The sufferings of Christ not being related, there is far less detail. It is great principles, great facts, that are put in the foreground in the account, or at least spring out of it. I hope it will not be hazarding too much for souls, to pass in review the different accounts found in the Gospels of what took place in Gethsemane and upon the cross.
In Matthew, Christ is the Victim; there is neither comforter nor consolation, but the sleep of His own, and betrayal with kisses in Gethsemane; and upon the cross: " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? " Mark gives very much the same facts in this respect. In John, we shall soon see, it is not a question of sufferings, either in Gethsemane, or upon the cross; it is the Son of God who gives Himself. In Luke we have more human anguish in Gethsemane, but none upon the cross. We will speak further on of what is related in John's Gospel. In Matthew's Gospel it is simple: it is the Lamb led to the slaughter, the Lamb that opened not His mouth, except to own Himself such, and forsaken of God for us. In Luke 1 see the Son of man, and each circumstance answers to the character of the Gospel. Thus, as Man, His genealogy goes up to Adam; He is the Man who is always praying; in Gethsemane, in sight of the terrible cup that He had to drink, He is the Man realizing beforehand that which He would have to suffer, as being made sin. He was in an agony (which is in Luke alone) but that only served to show His perfection; He prayed the more earnestly; He was as a man with God; He went through all the anguish in His soul. Upon the cross, no sufferings at all. All the rest (that which we see in the other Gospels) remains true, but it is seen from another side; it is in another aspect that the precious Savior is presented. The sufferings are past; He asks forgiveness for the Jews; He promises paradise to the thief; then, when all is finished, He gives up His spirit to His Father. It is grace and peace in His soul, when He has realized all. The forsaking of God had taken place, but this is not the side of the history that Luke presents.
It is well to remark too, that the three other Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) relate His controversy with the different classes of the Jews at His last entrance into Jerusalem, the unbelief of whom is set in clear light. In John, when this unbelief as to His word (chap. 8), as to His works (chap. 9), has been made manifest, and He has declared that He is come to seek His sheep, Jews or Gentiles, and God has borne witness to Him as being Son of God, Son of David, and Son of man (but as such He must die), then it is not controversy with the Jews, a matte already settled, but communications to His disciples about the privileges and the position they should enjoy when He would be away. This brings us back to the history.
The few verses that tell us of Gethsemane, present to us the Savior in His divine power, then giving Himself for His own, and finally perfect in obedience as man. Nothing is said of what passed before the arrival of Judas, but then the whole band, upon His voluntary avowal that He was Jesus of Nazareth, fall to the earth, confounded by the divine power which was revealed in Him. He could go away, to escape from them; but He was not come for that, and declaring again that He was the One whom they sought, He adds: " If therefore ye seek me, let these go their way "; that that word, so precious for us also, might be fulfilled: " Of those whom thou hast given me, I have lost none." He puts Himself in the breach, that His own may be sheltered from harm.
Peter draws his sword, strikes the servant of the high priest, and cuts off his ear. Jesus heals him, but saying these words: " The cup which my Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it? " Perfect submission to His Father's will, while showing that by a word from Him they were rendered powerless, and He free.
In that which follows, we find, it seems to me, that Jesus hardly takes account of the high priest. He does not give account of His teaching to him, but refers him to those who had heard Him: what He had spoken was in public. In the other Gospels, we see indeed that Jesus replied, when He was asked who He was. But here the high priest's authority disappeared.
Peter's fall is stated carefully, then left. In the examination that he makes Him undergo, Pilate receives a fuller answer from Him. His reticence before the high priest is not found here, which is striking. With Caiaphas, He refers to what he could have known from the multitude who had heard Him. With Pilate, He enters into conversation; He recognizes the governor's authority, but the Jews are set aside, placed in the position of false accusers, and, when their enmity is rendered evident, He explains to Pilate, that, King though He was, His kingdom was not of this world, and never will be, even when it shall be established here below. The heavens shall reign; the world will acknowledge it; Dan. 4:2626And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule. (Daniel 4:26).
Pilate would have liked to have left the matter to the Jews; he saw well that it was only envy and hatred without cause; but the Jews were to be the instrument of Christ's being treated as a malefactor, and not even stoned as a blasphemer, as Stephen was. In God's wonderful counsels, His Son was to be put to death as a malefactor among the Gentiles-cast out of the vineyard, but the guilty ones, those who were the authors of it, were the Jews (v. 29-32, 35). What terrible blindness was theirs! They did not want to defile themselves that they might eat the passover (ver. 28), at the very moment that they were giving up the true Passover Lamb to be sacrificed. Scruples are not conscience. We must not violate scruples, if we have them, but conscience looks to God and to His word. Conscience did not prevent the Jews buying the blood of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver; but a scruple forbade their putting into the treasury of God in the temple, the money rejected by Judas, because it was the price of blood. (Compare Rom. 14.)
Pilate asks Jesus if He was the King of the Jews. The Lord explains that His kingdom is not of this world, otherwise He would have made good His claims as the world does. But in every sense, His kingdom, at this moment, was not established in this world as a kingdom of the world. His presence as accused before Pilate was the proof of it. Jesus does not fail to confess openly that He is King, when Pilate asks Him. He will establish, later on, a power which nothing will be able to resist, but the time was not yet come. According to the truth, He was King, and He bears witness to the truth. According to the work of God in that moment, He was numbered amongst the transgressors. For Pilate, an infidel and a rationalist, what was truth? He was very guilty in yielding to the urgent demands of the Jews, but it was the Jews who were the instigators of the death of Jesus. They were accomplishing, without knowing it, the counsels of God, and Jesus was there in His perfect obedience. We have before us the truth, the King, the propitiatory Victim, accomplishing a work far deeper and more important than even royalty; we see there also the head of the Gentiles, representing the emperor, then the furious hatred of this poor people against God manifested in goodness, their Savior. Everything assumes its true character, God's counsels are accomplished, and every actor in this scene takes his true place. But the actors, Jews and Gentiles, are to disappear condemned, but for grace; and the condemned malefactor, who, humanly speaking, disappears, leaves the scene to be Lord over all, to sit upon the Father's throne.
Thus things go on even on a small scale, in this world. It is striking to see these poor Jews make use of, at the cross, the very words that, in their own scriptures, are put into the mouths of atheists and of the enemies of God. (Compare Psa. 22 and Matt. 27) But wisdom is justified of her children.
Every one's position is clearly established. Pilate, the judge, convinced of the Lord's innocence, wished to rid himself of the Jews' importunity, and to avoid enmity without profit. The Jews are enraged against the Son of God come in grace into this world, and prefer to Him a robber guilty of murder. Jesus submits to everything: condemned on His own testimony, He was to be cast out of the camp, and undergo the kind of death of which He had spoken, and the Gentiles were to be guilty of it. But the acts of Pilate and of the Jews were to bring out still more in relief the spirit that animated them. Pilate without conscience; the Jews full of hatred-they wished, at all cost, to put Him to death. This is what follows, and that we find at the beginning of chapter 19.