Thanks for not giving up on me while I was temporarily without internet access on the computer that I do this work on.
We’ll be wrapping up the Gospel of John in today’s reading. It sort of needs to be read altogether, rather than broken apart. But despite the length, I hope you’ll take the time to absorb — and let the story effect you.
Shall I not drink it? — John 18:11
Jesus is saying this in response to Peter’s misguided but valiant defense of his Master. Poor Peter, like many of us today, was a little too focused on this world, and couldn’t possibly imagine a scenario in which the salvation of the world might hinge on the unthinkable — the death of the Messiah. In a clear display that he meant every word, when he told Jesus that he would die for Jesus, Peter was ready to take on a Roman cohort and the Temple guard by himself! In response to this heroic effort, however, Jesus tells Peter something that completely sent this loyal disciple in a tail-spin of confusion — put the sword away, because He needed to drink the cup the Father had given Him. Jesus had tried to prepare them for the fact that this was all part of “the plan”, but it never seemed to have “computed” with His apostles. I’m caused to wonder if we ever considered that part of God’s greater plan might include for us also a “bitter cup” — suffering wrong, injustice, unfairness without cause or (worse) for doing what is right! Often, we think too much like Peter: never imagining a scenario in which God’s plan for the benefit of the church or one’s family or someone you don’t know might hinge on the unthinkable, a bitter, sorrowful cup for us. Will we say with Jesus, “…the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” — or “Nooooooo!!!!!” This is not to say that Christians should simply be slavishly submissive against the world’s injustices; but it is to say that when unavoidable suffering comes our way that we need to avoid stand up straight, lift our eyes to Heaven, and face it like our Lord! Christianity is for the courageous, the loyal, the valiant, and those willing to look beyond the seen to the unseen, the new creation that Paul talks about in 2 Cor. 5:16ff.
My Kingdom is not of this world — John 18:36
The mainstream Jews of Jesus’ day misunderstood the mission of the Messiah, and it tragically caused them to miss the Messiah. But they are not the only ones who have misunderstood the mission of the Messiah; even today there are those who look for a physical kingdom to be established here in this world. And as they do so, they frequently miss God’s plan for redeeming man and teach others this same error. Jesus, however, could not have been any clearer. It was never His mission to bring a utopian existence to this world, and He tells Pilate this fact in impossible to misunderstand terms: “My Kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus’ Kingdom is a spiritual one; don’t miss it.
Barabbas — John 18:40
There’s a really cool and inspired play on words found in the irony of the man who was released in Jesus’ place. Barabbas is a name which means, “son of a father” — well, duh! How common a name could you have? And is it not descriptive all of mankind? Except Jesus, of course, who was/is the Son of THE Father. The guilty “son of a father” (everyman) set, while the innocent and righteous “Son of THE Father” is led away to execution.
Isaiah 53:5, 6 “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.”
We have no king but Caesar — John 19:15
How true it was! It should have been God, but it never had been so. As they manipulated the system and Pilate to have the true King crucified, they sealed their treason with this significant denial. But lest we look contemptuously down our noses at their treason, who exactly is our king? Oh, yes we have human and governmental authorities that we need to give their due (Romans 13:1ff), but who is your ultimate king? What others think of us? Money? Coolness? Uniformity? Self? Our pet sin? The list of idols could be long and seamy.
It is finished — John 19:30
Yes, it was finished; the battle and war was won! But it was better than finished at Jesus’ resurrection, where Jesus’ identity was completely manifested, where our salvation was completely sealed, where our future was revealed, and where our hope was ultimately guaranteed!
Doubting Thomas — John 20:26ff
Poor ol’ Thomas. Yes, he should have believed, but all the apostles were ultimately rebuked for their lack of faith. But Thomas being that last to believe gets a nickname, “Doubting Thomas”. I for one, however, am glad that he did doubt, because it makes my faith all the more secure. It would be easy, especially in an age of skepticism to think the apostles to be half-brain-washed, gullible, grief-stricken, desperately hopeful rubes, who composed this story of a resurrection out of their distraught but doomed hope for a Messiah. But their doubting takes away our reasons for doubt.
Do you love Me? — John 21:15
What would Jesus be saying to you, as you answered, “Yes, of course I love you, Lord”? Are you doing it? I think this is the main point of this familiar passage. True, we can legitimately see the “redemption” that Jesus offered a broken-hearted Peter. But note that there’s more than mere words that are involved in this interaction; there’s a mission. It wasn’t going to be easy. What’s the not-so-easy mission the Lord has given to you?
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.