The Trials of an Innocent Man
Because the Easter season is upon us, I feel compelled to continue on with our conversation of what happened the moments leading up to the cross.
Let's take a look at John 18 as a detective might...seeking the facts and placing ourselves there in order to understand the facts of the matter.
May you be enriched and drawn in by the richness of the sacrifice.
Here we go...
Chapter 18 tells us that Jesus finished praying then left the upper room with His disciples. They walked across the Kidron Valley and up into the olive grove where they often frequented.
Judas had previously left to gather the religious leaders and soldiers to make the arrest, and he knew exactly where to find the Teacher.
If we look back to Luke 22:39-46, we read how Jesus' first instruction to His friends was to "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." What temptation would they face? It was He that would be arrested, tried and killed. Yet, over the next several hours and days, they would be faced with trials and temptations to flee, deny, lash out in anger, fear and doubt. He knew they would require strengthening and so, as always, even in His greatest hour of need, thought of them and their well-being.
Jesus made his way a short distance from them in order to pray to His Father in private anguish. He knelt in humble submission and prayed that if the Father was willing, to take this cup from Him, but nevertheless, not His will, but God's will be done.
Did Jesus resist going to Calvary for us? Did He fear the torture and agonizing pain He would endure? Is this why He asked for the cup to be removed?
No. He came to this earth for this very purpose. This was His greatest work and divine hour, yet He understood the separation He would experience from His Father while on the cross. He understood the weight of the world's sins that he would have to endure. The wrath of God would be poured out upon Him - a gentle lamb, to be made sin for each of us. That...is what caused Him dread.
The stress was so great that He sweat drops of blood. And as He went back to His disciples for comfort, He found them sleeping. How many times have we neglected to keep watch for our brothers and sisters? How many times have we fallen asleep with activity or apathy and have negated our spiritual power source through prayer?
At that moment, Judas came forth with a legion or cohort of soldiers and officials. If you look up the word(s) "legion," "cohort" or "detachment," the Greek word is speira which means "about 600 men". Why would there need to be a grouping so large to arrest one man?
I believe there was a couple of different reasons, the main one found in verses 5-6 after Jesus asked who it was they were seeking. "'Jesus of Nazareth' they replied. 'I am he,' Jesus said. When Jesus said, 'I am he,' they drew back and fell to the ground."
Can you just imagine this sight? Jesus was again claiming to be the Great I AM - Jehovah God. The power He enveloped at that moment caused their knees to buckle and go down like dominoes.
He was no weak peasant man, but rather a God-man ready to take on the impossible. He was not being arrested against His will, but rather by His will. He willingly laid down His life for you and me.
These soldiers and religious leaders knew that Jesus held an unexplainable power and presence, and so felt they had to come in multitudes. Little did they realize that He would have willingly gone if only Judas himself had come.
The next several moments following, were ones of chaos and darkness.
Peter, being the impetuous one, ran forth and cut off the right ear of the high priest's servant. Then after restoring the ear, Jesus was bound and taken to the house of Annas, where Peter denied the Lord three times, just as Jesus has said he would.
The scriptures tell us in Luke 22:61-62, that at that moment after the third denial and the crow of the rooster, "The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter....And he (Peter) went outside and wept bitterly."
Oh the shame Peter must have felt at that moment....the pain that radiated in the Lord's eyes. Have we ever denied the Lord through our words or actions? I know I have, and I too have felt the sting of that shame. Yet, the Lord is so good and is always ready to lovingly restore us, just as He did for Peter after His resurrection in John 21.
Finally, Jesus, after being questioned brutally, was bound and taken to Caiaphas and then on to Pilate, the Roman governor.
By now it was early morning. Jesus had been denied sleep, drink, comfort. His fate hung in the balance and Pilate would ultimately have to decide. Scriptures tell us in Matthew 27:19, that "while Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat, his wife sent him this message: 'Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.'"
Pilate was in a quandary. He didn't find anything criminal about the man, but the Jews were pressing with their anger and persuasion. Sound familiar in this day and time?
"'Do you want me to release the king of the Jews'? They shouted back, 'No, not him! Give us Barabbas!' Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion." (vs. 39b-40)
And so it was. Jesus' death was imminent. He would be crucified on a cross as the sacrificial lamb. The innocent for the guilty...you and I.
How great a sacrifice!
I pray today that you will focus on the love of our Savior. Dwell in these passages and reflect on what this season is really about. Tomorrow we will witness the crucifixion with all its horrors, but....Easter is coming!