John 18: In the Garden
After finishing His prayer, Jesus and the disciples (minus Judas) cross over the Kidron Valley into the Garden of Gethsemane, an olive grove. In fact, Gethsemane means “olive press”. What an appropriate name for the pressure Our Lord would suffer as He asked His Father 3 times if this “cup” could pass from Him. We read in Matthew, Jesus says, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” I know you know what it is to be overwhelmed-too much to do, too little time. Pressure. Sorrow. Fiery trials. Long dark nights when it seems the sun will never shine again. Realize you have a High Priest, the Lord Jesus who knows exactly how you feel and can empathize with you in the dark hours of sorrow, distress and anxiety. He knows what it is to be overwhelmed.
Now when you read John’s account of this evening he does not report some of the same things recorded in the other three Gospels. John passes over certain details, because when he wrote the Gospel of John the other three Gospels had already been written and these details recorded in triplicate. John explains his purpose for writing the account he wrote: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, who are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John 20: 30, 31.
Jesus knew what was about to happen. He had told his disciples this was going to take place. He had spent the evening explaining these truths to them. He had told them: “I have told you these things that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But rejoice! I have overcome the world.” I want you to notice Jesus steps forward and put Himself between the enemy and His disciples when Judas arrives with the temple guard to arrest Jesus. Stand still and do not be foolish and rush in as we will see Peter do. Sometimes fools rush in where angels dare to tread. Do not get ahead of the Lord. We are to follow where He leads. He had stepped in front of his disciples to protect them. Peter wants to step outside of His protection to do it himself. Nothing can come into our lives except what the Lord has allowed.
For today’s lesson, I want us to look at five elements:
1. The Garden.
2. The Kiss
3. The Sword.
4. The Cup
5. The Fire.
As we have studied the Gospel of John, we have become familiar with John’s style. John used symbols to convey important spiritual truths, for this is the way Jesus taught. He used symbols and parables and also designed His teaching to his audiences’ background. He spoke of bread, water; wine, light, dark, physical birth, spiritual birth. When Jesus called His disciples he had them cast the net and haul in a record catch. He then told them, to “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
THE GARDEN: OBEDIENCE
The Kidron Valley was east of Jerusalem between the city wall and the Mount of Olives. Its name means, ‘dusky or gloomy.’ (That name certainly describes the mood of the evening.) This name probably described the water which ran through the valley because it was here the run- off from the temple grounds. For this reason it was often stained by the blood of the Temple sacrifices. On the other side of the valley lay the Garden of Gethsemane on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Gethsemane actually means ‘oil press’, a fitting name as we will see what Jesus endured in the Garden as He was overwhelmed and felt the pressure to the point of death and sweat great drops of blood. He understands when you feel the pressures of life and of obedience for He has experienced it Himself.
It is only fitting the climax of Jesus’ ministry should come in a garden. After all human history began in a garden, the Garden of Eden, which Jesus Himself designed and created. The first sin occurred in the Garden of Eden, when the first Adam disobeyed God. Here in another garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, where the last Adam was obedient. The Garden is a symbol of obedience. Listen to Paul’s explanation: “So it is written: the first man Adam became a living being, the last Adam (Lord Jesus) a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, after that the spiritual. The first man was from the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” (I Cor 15)
Now do you understand why Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” This is a MUST BE. “No one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless he is born of the water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “you must be born again.”
The first Adam brought sin and death into the world on all of mankind by his disobedience. The last Adam by His obedience brought righteousness and life to all who trust Him. He was obedient unto death. The first Adam’s bride came from his side. The last Adam’s bride came from the blood and water of his side, torn by the lance of the Roman soldier.
So we see two gardens in our past which impact our present. There is another garden in the future. Look in Revelation 21 and 22, the last two chapters in the Bible. We read in Revelation 21: “Then I saw a new heaven and new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. “We also read there is no sun or moon, because the glory of the Lord gives it light. There is no more night.
Here is the future Garden: “The angel showed me the river of water of life, as clear as crystal flowing from the Throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the Tree of Life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. “Revelation 22.
THE KISS- TREACHERY.
It is a kiss of betrayal, even to this day referred to as the “kiss of Judas.” In Jesus’ day a kiss was and still is a traditional gesture of greeting among friends in the Mid-East. Family members greeted each other with a kiss. And disciples greeted a rabbi with a kiss as a sign of devotion and obedience. It was in the case of Judas the agreed-upon signal to point out Jesus. It is ironic this age-old gesture of greeting among friends was a symbol of treachery and betrayal. Jesus said to Judas: “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Judas had deceived his fellow disciples during the three years. He was a person always looking out for himself first. He had hitched his ambitions to this Jesus who Judas saw as a potential leader and thus his way to power and wealth. For money was Judas’ master and he believed Jesus was the way to wealth and power. When he saw Jesus did not intend to take over politically, he realigned his future with the chief priests and Pharisees. Judas was not a godly man for he sought the counsel of the ungodly and stood with the sinners. Judas was a tare among the wheat. A hypocrite who ended up with the very ones Jesus called hypocrites. It is interesting Judas was an unbeliever who pretended to be a believer for his own benefit. Peter who was a believer who would stand briefly with the unbelievers and pretend he was one of them for his own benefit as we will see.
We will see the sword of Peter represents rebellion against the will of God. Now what is interesting is Peter was sincere and courageous and wanted to protect the Lord Jesus, he was actually hindering the work Jesus came to accomplish. Peter was trying to keep Jesus from going to the cross. Jesus had told them he was going to the cross and Peter tried to keep it from happening. Jesus told Peter he would deny him three times and Peter said he would not and in fact would die for him. Peter was fighting the wrong enemy with the wrong weapon. The Lord had said I am and Peter said no you are not. The Lord said – get behind me Satan. Sometimes Peter talked when he should have been listening. And sometimes he slept when he should have been praying. We also learn sometimes failure is a great teacher and is a necessary step in success. “It is not by might or power but by the Spirit”…. was the lesson Peter had yet to learn. “The word of God is alive and powerful and sharper than a two edged sword.” (Hebrews 4) The sword of the Spirit is one of the divine weapons we have to pulling down strongholds and taking any thought against the Lord captive. It divides asunder anything which enters our mind which should not. It like the metal detector at the airport. We must learn to use it in the battle. It is both an offensive and defensive weapon. Peter would discover that the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is the weapon God’s servants use in fighting their spiritual battles. In my early days of sobriety and Christianity, I discovered one verse which kept me from taking a drink which I had not been able to do so for 14 years, try as I might. But it is not by might or power but by the Spirit.
We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Peter hated them and wanted to hurt them. He cut off Malchus’ ear, which Dr. Luke tells us Jesus replaced, healed. Since Malchus was the servant of the High Priest, Peter could have been arrested and even put to death. Jesus was protecting Peter- He did not need Peter to protect Him. We read in Luke 22, we read the last time Peter denied knowing the Lord, the Lord was being taken from the hearing and looked straight at Peter. Can you imagine the heartache and despair Peter experienced? He was so ashamed of himself.
Peter will be restored by the Lord as we will see in John 21. Then on the day of Pentecost, Peter used the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God and 3,000 souls were slain in the Spirit.
The cup represents submission. The cup contained not only all the sins of the world, it also meant the Son would suffer, be separated from His Father, become sin, the very one who knew no sin and received the punishment for our sins. We are told He suffered the shame, despising the cross for the joy set before Him.
Jesus asked His Father three times in the Garden if this cup could be passed from Him. And each time, He ended His petition with ‘not my will, but yours.’ Submission. Submission is not commitment; it is absolute surrender. Jesus knew the Father had mixed the cup, prepared it for Him. He knew the cup represented His Father’s will. To Jesus the cup represented complete obedience and submission to the Father’s will, even to death on the cross. Jesus knew His Father was always at work. He also knew His Father always worked all things together for good for those who loved Him.
We need never fear the cup the Father’s hands have prepared for us. Jesus said, into thy hands I commend my spirit. The cup He has prepared for you was prepared with love and wisdom. He will never place more on you than you can bear. Whatever trials you and I face, we can trust the Father’s love, wisdom, and faithfulness. His grace is always sufficient. He always does what will accomplish the most good,for the most people for the longest period of time by the best possible method. He is too good to be unkind. And He is too wise to be mistaken. So when you cannot see His plan, cannot trace His hand, trust His heart.
We saw Judas standing with the enemy although for three years he had stood with Jesus and the disciples. But he went out from them, because he was never one of them. He was a tare among the wheat. He did not lose his salvation, he never possessed it.
Now we see Peter who was a believer, standing with sinful pretending to be one of them. Now this may shock you, yet how many times have you been prompted to speak up and out for the Lord in a group, but held your tongue for you did not want to cause trouble and upset anyone. Or for fear others would think less of you. Peter stood by the fire warming himself in the company of the ungodly. Sometimes we use the world to meet our fleshly needs rather than depend on the Lord. We convince ourselves we are just being reasonable. Our thinking is we have to go along to get along in this world. Yet the Lord had told the disciples and us- ‘ in me you have peace, but in the world you will have trouble. ‘
Now what happened to these two men?
To understand what happened requires we need to understand the difference between Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow.
“ For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow leads to repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what the godly sorry produced in you: what earnestness to clear yourselves, what longing, what concern what readiness to see justice done. “ We will see Peter’s eagerness and earnestness to clear himself in John 21, when he cannot wait for the boat to get to shore, but jumps in swims ahead.
These two sorrows will be clearly portrayed in the lives of Peter and Judas. Jesus knew what Peter was going to do that night and told him: “ Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back ( repentance always involves a change in direction, a change in thinking, a turning point) ,strengthen the others. “ (Luke 22: 31, 32)
Here is the contrast: Peter wept over his sins and repented, while Judas admitted his sins but never really repented. Judas experienced remorse and regret, which are the earmarks of worldly sorrow, not godly sorrow which leads to repentance. He returned ( turned back )to the Pharisees and the chief priest and gave them back their money. He recognized his betrayal. He experienced remorse and regret, worldly sorrow. He had returned to those who represented the world seeking help. They had used Judas and now had no need for him. In fact the account in Matthew 27 tells us they refused to put the money Judas returned in the treasury because it was “ blood money”.
Peter would be restored and this experience would enable him to serve with great power and blessing. Judas committed suicide. There was guilt and grace in the Garden that night long ago. Peter was guilt of resisting God’s will. Judas was guilty of betrayal. But Jesus was gracious. In the garden Jesus surrendered to the Father’s will. He healed Malchus’ ear. He protected His disciples. He would die for our sins. Amazing Grace- how can it be? My God and Savior has died for me. Are you in a garden of gloom today? What is in your hand? A cup of submission or a sword of resistance against God’s will?