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“He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’  And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’”  John 21:17

Peter and John, together with five other disciples, had been fishing on the Sea of Galilee all night and had caught no fish. In the morning, as they were preparing to return to shore, a man standing on shore, whom they don’t recognize, advises that they cast their net one last time into the water on the other side of the boat. They follow his advice and their net is filled with so many fish that they’re unable to pull it into the boat. It’s at this point that John realizes that the man on shore is Jesus. 

John told Peter that he thought the man on shore was Jesus and Peter immediately plunged into the water and swam to shore. On the shore Jesus has lit a fire and has prepared bread and fish for his disciples and invites them to come and eat. 

During the meal Jesus questions Peter by asking him three times whether or not he loves him. The first two times he asks the question the word he uses for love is the word “agape”, the supreme word for love in the Greek language. The first two times Peter answers Jesus assuring him that he “phileo,” loves him, which is an inferior form of love to agape.  On the third time Jesus asks Peter if he loves him he changes the word he uses instead using the word “phileo” which would be like Jesus was asking Peter, “Do you like me?” instead of, “Do you love me?”

John records that Peter was grieved when Jesus asked him the third time if he loved him.  “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (phileo) You.”

Before Christ’s arrest Peter had boasted that his love was superior to all the other disciples and that he was willing to die for Jesus. But having denied his Lord three times in the court of the high priest Peter, while sincere, is not as confident about his ability to stand for his Lord.

There’s nothing like personal failure to humble a person and teach them how weak they really are. 

But Jesus has not rejected Peter. With each question, “Do you love me?” Jesus renews the call to serve him. “Feed my lambs.” “Tend my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus renews the call for us to serve him each time we fail as well. We may be inclined to give up and abandon our work for Jesus but our Lord knew we were weak when he called us; he’s not surprised by our blunders and mistakes. Rather than reject us he calls us back to himself, encourages us with his acceptance, and invites us to continue serving him and his church. 

Friends, Jesus has the ability to strengthen you, if you’ll accept him. Don’t give up!  He won’t give up on you.

“And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’  Jesus said to him, ’Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”  John 20:28–29

Sunday evening, on the day of the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples for the first time. Thomas was absent but the rest of the disciples had gathered together and shut the door of the house they were gathered in, for fear of the Jews, when suddenly Jesus was standing in the middle of the room. 

“Peace be unto you!  As the Father has sent me, I also send you.”  Notice that Jesus’ first words are ones that are gauged to communicate complete acceptance. “Be at peace; have no fear. Nothing has changed between us. I’m still calling you to be a part of the work the Father has sent me into the world to accomplish.”

Friends, Jesus knew exactly how the disciples would respond to his betrayal, arrest. And crucifixion. Everything happened just how he said it would, and just as Jesus had accepted them knowing what they would do he accepts them still knowing what they’ve done. If we’ll accept Jesus he’s still in the business of accepting people today. 

But Thomas was absent that day and he wasn’t willing to just believe what all the others were telling him. “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later John tells us that that Jesus again suddenly appeared to the disciples, once again in the midst of them even though the door was securely shut. On this occasion Jesus  begins by turning to Thomas and holding out his hands and inviting him to touch and examine them and to put his hand into his side. 

At this invitation Thomas realizes that Jesus is alive and that he knows exactly what has transpired between himself and the other disciples. Nothing more is required to convince him. In a burst he exclaims, “My Lord and my God!”

What will it take for you to believe?  Most of us won’t ever see Jesus like Thomas and the other disciples did. God will come to us and have a genuine relationship with us, and in that relationship he’ll prove himself to us, but while the eyes of faith will clearly see his presence our physical eyes will not have yet beheld him. 

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Do you believe even though you’ve never laid eyes on Jesus?  Jesus says you’re blessed.  Because you’ve believed Jesus’ witnesses, the messengers he’s sent to you, you’re blessed. Don’t let anything take that blessing from you. Renew your faith in Jesus and witness for his salvation everyday.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”. John 20:17

No one had expected the empty tomb, and even now after Peter and John and Mary have seen the stone rolled away and the now uninhabited burial clothes lying in the unoccupied crypt still no one recalls Jesus’ promise that he would rise again and no one is rejoicing in Christ’s victory over sin and the grave. 

John and Peter have left the burial place leaving Mary Magdalene weeping in her grief and bewilderment.

At this point it appears that Mary herself enters the tomb and now she sees two angels, one at each end of the place where Jesus’ body had lain. “Why are you crying,” they ask her. 

“Because they have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have laid him.”  Not even the presence of angels can shake Mary’s belief that Jesus is still dead. 

Mary now turns and sees a third individual, a man. She assumes it’s a gardener so she doesn’t recognize that it’s, in fact, Jesus.

“Woman, why are you crying? Whom are you seeking?

“Sir, if you’ve carried him away tell me where you laid him and I will take him away.”

Now Jesus says her name, “Mary,” and at the sound of her name in his beloved voice she at last sees who it is right there in front of her and with amazement and rejoicing she cry’s out, “Teacher!”

Mary must have reflexively grabbed onto Jesus because he says to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father…”.  Jesus hasn’t yet seen his Father. He hasn’t yet received the assurance that his sacrifice is enough. He doesn’t yet know whether or not he, having taken upon himself all our sin and guilt, will be able to abide with the Father again. 

Now Jesus continues and says some of the most beautiful words in all of scripture, “…go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’”

Jesus calls us his brothers and he calls his Father our Father. Because of what Jesus had done he has made us members of his own family. We’ll never be divine. We’ll always be created beings, made by God, but because of what Jesus has done we’ve become Sons and Daughters of God as well. 

O friends, it’s time we stopped forgetting and disbelieving what Jesus has told us and begin accepting and living in the glorious hope and the reality of what God, through Jesus, has done for us. We are truly children of God.

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.’”  John 20:1–2

As John recalls the events connected with the resurrection of Christ he writes that very early on the morning of the first day of the week, so early that it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went alone to the tomb. When she got there she saw that the stone had been rolled away and this must have frightened her because seeing this she ran and told Simon Peter and John that Jesus’ body had been taken away and that they didn’t know where he’d been buried. 

Hearing this Peter and John ran to the tomb. John arrived first but didn’t go in. Instead looking in he saw the inside of the tomb empty except for the linen wrappings. Peter then arrived and went into the tomb, followed by John, and together they saw the linen wrappings lying in the tomb and also the cloth that had been covering Jesus’ head folded and lying separate from the rest of the burial cloths. 

John reports that having witnessed the empty tomb he believed the report he’d been told by Mary. 

But what does he believe?  That the body of Jesus has been taken and buried in an unknown location. Verse nine of John chapter twenty clearly states that “as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.”

How slow we are to believe the word of God. Jesus has told the disciples many times that he would die and in three days rise from the dead and now when it actually happens they immediately reach for an explanation other than the one Jesus has given. 

Who did they think had moved the body?  The Jewish leaders that Matthew records had sealed the tomb and set a guard over it so that no one would be able to steal Christ’s body away? Joseph and Nicodemus who had chosen this tomb because it was close by and allowed them to lay Jesus to rest before the Sabbath hours began?

Logically there was no one who would have removed Jesus’ body in the night, but the disciples hadn’t believed Jesus when he told them he would rise again so when they saw the empty tomb they didn’t think that he’d risen.

Friends, we need to listen to Jesus as he speaks to us through the scriptures now and believe. Many things are about to happen that others, and even we ourselves, will attempt to explain away.  But Jesus has a perfect record, everything he’s said will happen has happened. Before time runs out we need to know what he’s told us and believe. 

Jesus is risen and very soon all he’s promised will be fulfilled. It’s true, trials will come, but they will quickly pass and then we’ll see Jesus coming in the clouds to receive the redeemed to himself so we can forever be with him. 

“Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.  So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.”  John 19:41–42

After Jesus’ death two men who were secretly disciples of Jesus came forward to provide for Jesus’ burial. 

Joseph of Arimathea approached Pilate and requested that he be allowed to take the body of Jesus. He had a new tomb, one in which no body had ever been laid, in a garden very near the place of execution which he offered as a burial place. 

Nicodemus, the man who earlier in Jesus’ ministry had come to visit Jesus in the night, also came forward and provided about a hundred pounds of spices and linen burial wrappings. 

Together these two men provided for the Savior’s needs in his death. Some think it strange that they broke their silence regarding their fondness for Jesus after his is death when they had held it so long during his life. But sometimes it’s a need in others that brings us out into the open, and so it must have been with these two men. No one else was prepared to provide for Jesus burial and they could. The love they had seen demonstrated so many times in the life of Jesus now bore fruit in the hearts and lives of these two secret disciples. 

But they had to hurry. The sun was about to set; the sabbath was about to begin. Fortunately the tomb was close by and all else was in readiness. 

How strange that today people point to the death of Christ as evidence for the removal of the requirement of keeping the Sabbath when Jesus and his disciples were always faithful in carefully keeping the Sabbath, even after Jesus’ death. Nowhere does scripture record Jesus teaching his disciples that the Sabbath, or any of God’s other commandments, would be done away with. And the disciples actions also give no indication that any of God’s moral law had been changed. 

Christ came and died so that we, the breakers of God’s perfect and eternal law of love, might be forgiven. It’s the power of sin, and guilt, and condemnation that needed to be broken and Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished that for us. Now the Holy Spirit is given to us so that the power of Christ’s righteousness might live within us making the righteousness of Christ perfect in us. 

Friends, the apostle Paul said it first but it bares repeating, now that Christ’s death has set us free from the power of sin in our lives should we take that as an excuse to continue in sin?  God forbid!  We’ve been set free to live righteously. There’s no good reason for us to continue to live as sinners. Let’s take hold of the power of righteousness provided in the gift of the Holy Spirit and truly enter into the Sabbath to keep it, and with it all Christ’s other commands as well. 

“Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.”  John 19:31

Under normal conditions a condemned person could suffer on the cross for days, and it wasn’t just the nails driven through the wrists and feet that brought the suffering. Very quickly the real torture would become the struggle to breathe with all the weight of your body fighting against the effort. 

You see, in order for you to be able to get a breath of air your lungs need to be able to expand but when your arms are extended out from your body and then fixed in that position so that your weight is supported by them it makes it very difficult to expand your lungs making it nearly impossible to get anything more than a shallow breath. 

The only way to accomplish the task of breathing was for the condemned to push upward with their legs against the nails driven through their feet. This was excruciating but did allow them to catch their breath. 

The Jewish leaders, however, didn’t want anyone left on the cross over the Sabbath, since it was the Passover and a high sabbath, so they requested Pilate to order that the legs of the condemned be broken. This would make it impossible for them to breath resulting in a much rapid death by suffocation. 

Pilate gave the order but when the soldiers came to Jesus they found that he had already died.  

To confirm that he was not merely unconscious one of the soldiers drove a spear into Jesus side and from that wound it’s reported that blood and water flowed out. 

The presence of water is evidence for a less common result of crucifixion; death by hypovolemic shock. In hypovolemic shock the heart races causing fluid to build up around the heart eventually causing the heart to stop.  

When the soldier pierced Jesus’ side he ruptured the pericardial membrane releasing the accumulated fluid as evidenced by the presence of blood and water. Because Jesus’ death had been confirmed the soldiers didn’t break his legs. John confirms that he witnessed this. and notes that yet another prophetic element of the life and death of Christ had been fulfilled. (See Psalm 34:20)

It may seem trivial to note some of this very small confirmations but friends if even one were to have been left unfulfilled it would nullify Christ’s claim for being the Messiah. He must fulfill all the requirements, no matter how small and unimportant they may seem. And Jesus did fulfill them all. And because he did in the past we know he will in the future. All that scripture says he will do will come to pass. 

One day soon this world will see Jesus coming in the clouds. He will call the righteous dead into newness of life and all will be transformed into bodies like his own glorious body. Together we’ll live and reign with Christ. Because he has been faithful to fulfill every detail in the past we know he is able to fulfill all he promised in the future. 

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’  Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”  John 19:28–30

Jesus’ ordeal had begun in the middle of the night as he had struggled with his own human frailty in the garden. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all agree that those hours of prayer in the garden were an intense struggle between the weakness of Christ’s human nature and the call of God to be the eternal sacrifice for a largely unrepentant race of sinners. Ellen White, in the book The Desire of Ages, writes that the struggle was so intense that had not angels attended and supported Jesus in the garden he would have succumbed before the mob had arrived to arrest him. 

The trials begun in the garden would continue through that sleepless night and through the next day as Jesus was shuttled from one mockery of a trial to another with repeated abuse being heaped upon him at each one. 

When the order for his crucifixion was finally given he was so weak that he collapsed beneath the cross beam he was compelled to carry and another was required to shoulder the burden.  

Now, as Jesus hangs upon the cross, everything scripture has foretold would happen to him has been fulfilled save one thing and Jesus calls out, “I thirst!”

At this one of the soldiers, in fulfillment of David’s prophecy in a Psalm 69:21, raised a sponge with with vinegar, or soured wine, to his lips and John says that he received some of it. 

After this Jesus cried out, “It is finished!”, bowed his head and died. 

In all points, from his conception to his death, Jesus fulfill what was foretold by the prophets. The apostles attest to the completeness of his fulfillment and bear witness of it. This demonstration of faithfulness as regards to his death ought to convince us that Jesus is going to be just as faithful in fulfilling his word as regards to his return and his making an end of sin. 

Jesus’ purpose was not to merely die. Jesus’ death was part of a plan to redeem mankind and to rid the universe of the blight of sin. Now that the price for accomplishing all this has been paid we can be assured that all else will be accomplished just as it was foretold. 

The question left for us to answer is will we submit to the Holy Spirit and allow him to convict and transform us so that we might be made ready to be with Christ when he comes, and will we be the witnesses of his salvation he’s called us to be so that others might know of the grace he’s provided. 

Jesus is coming. Now is the time to be made ready. 

“When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’  Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.”  John 19:26–27

He next two scenes recalled by John in his account of the crucifixion are the casting of the lots for Christ’s clothes and Jesus’ entrusting his mother to the care of the disciple John. 

When a condemned person was crucified it was intended that the experience would strip them of everything, all pride and honor, before they died. Part of the process was stripping them naked, a reality that was particularly humiliating for Jewish prisoners with whom modesty was prized. 

Once the soldiers work was complete and the condemned was secured to the cross it was customary that they divided the clothes among themselves. John records that those soldiers responsible for crucifying Jesus, at this time, divided his clothes into four parts, each taking a part. The tunic however made up a fifth part and not wanting to tear the garment, since it was made of a single piece of cloth, they cast lots to see who would get it. 

This seemingly trivial occurrence was recorded so that we would remember that every prophecy pertaining to Jesus’ life and death had been fulfilled. Even the dividing of his clothes. 

After this John records that even in his agony on the cross Jesus heart had consideration for his mother. Mary was in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, and she had received word of Jesus trial and condemnation, and the disciple John, together with two other women, had brought her to see Jesus one last time. 

Even to the last Mary, and those followers of Jesus courageous enough to follow him to Calvary, continued to hope that Jesus would assert himself, use his divine power to throw off his abusers and fulfill their expectations of the Messiah and become King over Israel. But Jesus had not come to reign, he come to die and with his death purchase our salvation. 

Even in his agony upon the cross the heart of Jesus was unaltered. As he saw his weeping and heart broken mother supported by the disciple John at the foot of the cross he entrusted her to that earthly companion whose love and devotion for him had surpassed any other. 

“Woman, behold your son!”

And turning to John he said, “Behold your mother!”

Even to his last breath Jesus honored his mother. Many would have found in his situation an excuse for not giving consideration for the fifth Commandment. But Jesus was faithful in everything to the last, and his faithfulness is the pattern set for all of us to follow. Jesus perfect life is also the substitute presented before heavens judgment seat for every sinner, saved by grace, in place of the sin stained life we’ve lived. He was faithful to the end so that we might by faith stand perfect in him. 

“And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was:

JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”  John 19:17–19

The Jewish people had rejected Jesus. 

For three years he traveled their highways and byways healing their sick, blessing their children, and teaching them about God in ways that had amazed and inspired them. 

At times the people had come in multitudes and clamored to be as close to Jesus as they could get.  Then the mob had come and everyone had deserted him.  The gospels record that one disciple, John, was present for his trial and he was join by Jesus’ mother, Mary, at the crucifixion. But the truth is that even their presence didn’t indicate faith and belief in the sacrifice he was making on behalf of sinful man. At that moment their conviction and belief that Jesus was the Messiah had been shattered. 

But still Pilate’s written declaration was true. Jesus is the King of the Jews. And his claim to the throne was based on far more than the fact that he was of the tribe of Judah and descended from the royal line. 

Long before there was ever a man reigning as king over the descendants of Israel they had recognized that it was God and God alone that ruled over and led his people. In Jesus, God stands clothed in human flesh come to earth that he might make a way to redeem sinful men from the condemnation they’ve earned for themselves. 

Our failure to recognize or accept who Jesus is does not change the reality that he is the Son of God, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews, and even more. 

Pilate, even as he rejects Jesus and gives the order for his execution, is somehow compelled to identify Jesus for who he really is, the King of the Jews. But this is not a statement of faith. It’s an admission that comes in spite of an absence of faith. 

Paul, in Philippians chapter two, looks ahead to a day when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. But not all make this confession because of faith and belief. The devil, and everyone he’s convinced to side with him, will bow and confess as well and still remain faithless, unbelieving, and unaccepting of Jesus as Lord. 

Friends, now is the time to cultivate faith in your heart. Now is the time to receive the Holy Spirit and invite him to plant in you a new heart that truly accepts Jesus for who he is: Creator, Savior, and King. 

“‘But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?’ Then they all cried again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a robber.” John 18:39–40

Pilate was looking for a way to be able to release Jesus and maintain the peace.

Too often over the years leading up to Pilate’s installation as governor over Judea riots and destruction had been a frequent occurrence. Caesar and the Roman Senate had grown tired of frequent reports of these riots and the violence that had been required to quell them so they had made it clear to Pilate that his job was to keep the peace; which meant that he was to avoid unrest.

Now the Jewish leaders have assembled a throng of people which they have excited to the point that they’re on the verge of rioting to demand that Jesus be delivered up to be crucified.

Pilate, in an effort to help everyone save face, reminded them that there was a custom of his releasing a condemned prisoner at the time of the Passover. Not doubt he was hoping that the people would recall Jesus’ miracles and his teaching and would then choose to set him free, but they called for the release of Barabbas, a violent criminal, instead.

For the rest of the day Pilate continues to search for a way of reconciling the Jews with Jesus so that he can secure his release. He has Jesus beaten, a crown of thorns twisted and placed forcibly upon his head, and other abuses. Pilate makes it very clear that he can find no fault in Jesus, and no reason under Roman law for him to be executed.

Still the mob cries out for Jesus to be crucified.

“Shall I crucify your king?”

“We have no king but Caesar!”

Twice the Jewish people had been given the opportunity to choose Jesus, and twice they’ve chosen someone else. Both times they’ve chosen those that previous to this day they had considered their enemies: Barabbas, a murderer and a thief, and Caesar, the figurehead of the pagan empire keeping them under subjugation.

Pilate too chose Caesar and the Jewish leaders over Jesus though he knew hi to be innocent and so much more.

Who do you find yourself inclined choose instead of Jesus?

No one has done more for you than Jesus. He’s your creator, your healer, your provider, your Savior. Still it’s so easy for us to choose someone else. There’s something hiding in our sinful nature that predisposes us to rejecting Jesus.

Friends, we must not repeat the mistakes of Pilate and the Jewish people. We must choose Jesus. Even if it means turning our backs on our hopes and dreams and rejecting others in our lives that we hold most dear. We must choose Jesus.

“Jesus answered, ’My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’”  John 18:36

The trials before the Jewish court were a sham and a formality. The people judging him had decided weeks before what they were going to do they just needed a legal justification for doing it. With Jesus’ affirmation that he was the Son of God they had it. 

But they couldn’t actually condemn Jesus to death without the cooperation of the Romans. Roman law required that all death sentences be affirmed by the Roman court, so early Friday morning Jesus was marched across town to the Praetorium so that the Roman governor, Pilate, could ratify the sentence of death. 

You can tell from the conversation between Pilate and the Jewish leaders that Pilate has no respect for these men and no desire to give them anything resembling cooperation. However his conversation with Jesus is quite different. No doubt Pilate has heard reports about Jesus. He’s heard about Jesus’ miracles and his curiosity has been piqued. He’s heard about the multitudes that have thronged to hear Jesus teach, and nothing seditious was ever reported from his teachings.  He’s heard about Jesus confounding the Jewish leaders every time they’d tried to get the better of him, and perhaps these victories have impressed Pilate and made him further inclined to be sympathetic. 

“Are you the King of the Jews?”

“Are you asking me this because you really want to know or have others told you to ask me this?”

“I’m not a Jew, but your own people have delivered you up to me. What have you done?”

“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

Jesus’ words don’t answer all of Pilates questions but they do tell him all he needs to know. Jesus is innocent of any crime against Rome and he’s innocent of wrong doing against the Jewish leaders. It’s jealousy that has brought his condemnation and their desire for his death. 

Jealousy has always been the reason for sinners’ warfare against the Son of God. Jealousy drove Lucifer’s rebellion in heaven and jealousy was inspired in the hearts of Eve and Adam in the garden of Eden when they ate the forbidden fruit. Ultimately it will be sinners’ jealousy of Jesus and their coveting of his rightful place in their own hearts that cements their rebellion against him. 

Our only hope is to surrender to Jesus and accept citizenship in a kingdom that’s not of this world. 

Will you make that surrender?  Will you choose heaven today?

“The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine.  Jesus answered him, ’I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing.  Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.’”  John 18:19–21

Jesus had so conducted his ministry so that there was no evidence to be used against him in his trial. His words had been carefully chosen; they could not be used against him. His actions had been carefully executed so that they could not be used against him either. 

That first trial that night in the house of Annas, former high priest and the father in law of the current high priest, was conducted in an effort to gain the evidence they needed to condemn him. All the previous encounters with Jewish leadership had been with subordinates and Annas flattered himself that he would succeed where they had all failed. 

A skilled questioner can create confusion in the mind of the one being questioned and manipulated them into saying something that can be used against them. John’s record suggests that Annas began by asking him about his ministry and that of his disciples. To this Jesus’ only reply was that he had done nothing in secret. He had always taught in synagogues and in the temple. He counseled that they should any of the hundreds and thousands that had heard him and they could witness before the counsel regarding his teachings. 

One of the soldiers standing by, an officer, struck Jesus across the face, rebuking him for his response to Annas questions. 

Jesus reaction to this attack was to question his attacker, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?”

After this John records no further words from Jesus. The other Gospels also record Jesus silence before his accusers and this fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah predicting that the Messiah would be silent as a sheep being shorn.  In fact, it was only after Jesus was appealed to in the name of God to tell them who he was that he ended his silence affirming that he is the Son of God and then testifying, “Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 26:64

Jesus never lost composure or self control before his accusers. His answers were brief and respectful. The Holy Spirit is able to produce in us the same qualities required so that we too can stand as patient, faithful children of God before the provocations and accusations of the world. 

The witness of Stephen in the book of Acts stands as a record affirming this truth. In fact Stephen’s final witness before his stoning is a partial fulfillment of Jesus final words before the Jewish court, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

Friends, today we may decide against Jesus in our hearts and minds, and even in our courts, but one day Jesus is going to be revealed in power and glory. It’s our belief today that prepares us for that day. 

“Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, ‘Whom are you seeking?’

“They answered Him, ’Jesus of Nazareth.’

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am He.’ And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.”  John 18:4–6

One of the apostle John’s goals in writing his account of the gospel of Jesus Christ was to present an orderly account that was not a repetition of the gospel accounts previously written by others. Doubtless he was familiar with the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and knowing what they had already recorded he intentionally left out parts of the story they had included where he felt he could and still maintain internal continuity within his own account.

One of the significant events not included in John’s account is Jesus’ hours of prayer, wrestling with his Father over his impending sacrifice, in the garden of Gethsemane. John’s record merely says that Jesus and his disciples went to the garden and nothing more. 

At this point the story moves to the account of Jesus’ arrest. All the gospels record this event but here, once again, John’s account differs in the details included. John recalls this event beginning with with a very different exchange from the one the other gospels relate. 

As the mob of soldiers approach Jesus and his disciples Jesus is reported to have stepped forward to meet them and to have inquired, “Whom are you seeking?”

To which the leaders of the mob reply, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus then answers, “I am he.” And at these words those in the mob all step back and fall to the ground. 

Ellen White records, in the book The Desire of Ages, that as Jesus said the words, “I am he,” his divine glory had flashed through his humanity and it was this momentary revealing of his divinity that had caused the mob’s collapse. 

I’ve always been amazed that those in the mob still had the temerity to get up off the ground and actually arrest Jesus. He’d revealed who he really was, the Messiah, the divine Son Of God, and still they continued to fight against him.

Friends, I believe that eventually all of us, if we don’t submit and yield ourselves to the transforming power of Jesus, will, knowing who it is that we’re fighting against, take sides against Jesus to seek his destruction. Jesus will have done all that he could to make himself known to us, and while we may believe lies and possess a twisted understanding of God, we’ll still know that we have chosen to fight against God. 

O friends, while the conflict is not yet engaged chose to side with Jesus. Look to Jesus in the pages of scripture and seek him in the privacy of your own daily times of prayer. He’ll accept you and he’ll strengthen you to stand for him as his witness, just as he stood for you as your Savior. 

“Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me,”  John 17:11

As Jesus prays for his disciples, both those present with him that evening and those that will eventually be his because of the impact of their witness, one request is repeated several times:  “… that they may be one as We are.”

The fellowship of the membership of the church, its unity, its oneness, was of primary concern to Jesus. 

In the months leading up to the upper room it’s easy to find evidence in the gospels to support the argument that the disciples were a highly disunified group of people. Competing desires and ambitions were driving the disciples and had it not been for the direct, repeated, intervention of Jesus these might have driven them away from him long before the trials of the Christ’s arrest and crucifixion. 

Multiple times scripture records Jesus admonishing his disciples regarding the qualities of a godly, self-sacrificing, servant leader. At one time he’s described as placing a little child in front of them and telling them that unless they became like that little one they could never enter the kingdom of heaven. 

Jesus’ presence, his influence, his reprimands and teachings have kept them from coming apart but now he has to commit them to another. “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father…”

Jesus doesn’t give us into the keeping of an angel or even a host of angels. Jesus entrusts us into the care and keeping of his Father. He may no longer be present with us but the one that has kept him has the power to keep us. The one that taught him through the years of his youth has the power to teach us. The one that empowered him through the years of his ministry has the power to empower us. Through all the challenges of his life and work here on earth the Father has been with him and he will be with us as well and Jesus gives us into the keeping of his Father. 

Our unity with the Father, and each other, is Jesus’ primary concern. It’s so easy for individual perceptions, understandings, inclinations and ambitions to drive wedges between people fracturing Christ’s Church and hindering its witness. Jesus doesn’t turn to us and give us the responsibility of safeguarding the unity of his church. We could never fulfill such a responsibility. Only one whose love for us is a match for Christ’s could ever draw us together in spite our liabilities. Only our Heavenly Father could ever answer Christ’s request. 

Unity. It seems so simple. But for the us it’s possible only through divine intervention. 

The Father is working today to fulfill the request Jesus made that night. People won’t make it easy but if you look beyond the weak earthly vessels all around you and keep your focus on our beautiful, glorious Father you’ll find that we’re able, as we’re drawn to him, to help him produce the unity in us that Jesus prayed for. 

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”  John 17:3

It’s been more than twenty years since I first noticed our focus text, and it continues to be one of my favorite texts. 

It’s one of those text that would be easy to just plow through and miss if you’re not being slow and thoughtful as you read it. 

I can’t take any credit for discovery of this text; I believe it was first brought to my attention while I was reading a book by Ty Gibson. 

Let’s start unpacking the text by thinking about the first phrase, “this is eternal life.”  We usually think of eternal life primarily in terms of its length. It’s life that never ends; it goes on eternally. And while that’s true it’s not how Jesus goes on to define it.

How does Jesus define eternal life?

“That they may know You.” As we continue slowly making our way through this text we next notice that eternally life is defined by knowing. It occurs to me that death came to humanity at the same time as we gained the knowing of good and evil. Now eternal life returns to us as we come to know God once again. 

Knowledge of God, the same as knowledge of any complex person, refers to a perpetual process. You never suddenly know someone, neither can you ever completely know anyone. Knowing another person implies a relationship in which you are growing in your knowledge and understanding of one another, day by day, year by year. 

In this case the relationship is with God. We’ll never fully comprehend God. He’s eternal. His wisdom and thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth. Yet he invites us to come close to him and enter into a relationship with him and to come to know him. 

In knowing Him the first thing we’re called to notice is that he’s the only true God. This shouldn’t be a surprise to us; it’s the message of the first of the Ten Commandments, and the reason why we should have no other God’s. Only he is truly God, and it is he who has given us life. Death came when he separated ourselves from that relationship where we were perpetually growing in our knowledge of him, and he calls us back to that relationship so that we can once again know him and have life. 

The next thing we notice is that it’s in knowing the Son, Jesus Christ, that we come to know the Father. Look to Jesus and know him. Look to Jesus and understand him better. Look to Jesus and accept a relationship with God once again. Look to Jesus and find life, eternal life. 

“In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.” John 16:26–27

In the second half of John chapter sixteen Jesus is once again talking to his disciples about his being taken away from them. It’s evident from his words that he’s not just talking about his arrest and death on the cross.

As Jesus is trying to prepare his disciples for the sorrow they will experience as result of their devotion to him and their separation from him it’s important that his words will be ones that apply to the sorrow they will have as a result of his sacrifice and also as a result of his separation from them during the years that follow his ascension.

He compares the sorrow his disciples will endure to the sorrow a mother experiences as she’s going through labor. There are times during the labor process when most women despair that it will ever be over, and as the contractions intensify many are in despair knowing that they’ll never be able to make it through the ordeal of labor required to bring their child into the world. But as soon as the child is born the despair is turned to joy and the sorrow is turned into rejoicing because the child they’ve longed to see, and hold is there.

That’s what Jesus says our experience will be like. During these years of longing for Jesus to return we will have sorrow and despair but as soon as we see his face, and are with him, all our sorrow will be turned to joy.

And during the years of sorrow Jesus promises us that we can ask anything in his same and the Father will give it to us. I think it’s beautiful that in making this promise to us Jesus makes sure to tell us that he won’t need to pray to the Father for us. Our Heavenly Father loves us, and because we love Christ the way is opened for him to act on his love for us by giving us what we need.

So many people go through life doubting that anyone truly loves them. Many others having experienced their own sorrows and having witnessed the tremendous sorrows of others learn to doubt that there even is a God of love. How could there be a God of love with so much suffering, sorrow and despair.

Friends, Jesus loves you; he gave himself for you. The Father loves you; he gave his Son to suffer and die to save you. The Holy Spirit loves you; through all the years of your life he’s be near you trying to prove God’s love to you and teach you how to love him in return.

Don’t let the presence of pain, injustice, sorrow and despair lead you to doubt God’s presence and his love. Jesus warned us that we would have trouble as we wait to be rejoined with him. Hold to hope. He will return and when he does our joy will be made full.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”  John 16:12–13

In my final year of college, during the 92-93 school year, I took my first year of New Testament Greek. We spent most of the first third of that school year learning the basic vocabulary and grammatical rules so that we could begin applying them in what would be our major task for the year, we would be translating all five chapters of the New Testament book of first John from Greek into English. 

Day by day over the a period of several months we all brought the verses we’d translated the evening before to class to discuss them. By the end of the school year, after all the study and discussion, we all thought we’d become experts on John’s first epistle to the Christian Church. 

Five years later, in my first pastoral district, I led my churches through a verse by verse study of the same book from the pulpit, further expanding my knowledge as I expounded on those five chapters. 

Over the two decades of ministry that have followed there have been at least three prayer meeting series where once again the verses of this brief but powerful epistle were studied once again. 

Then, a little more than two years ago I led my churches once again to its message in yet another district, and this time I got a surprise. I noticed something simple in the first few verses, an invitation to a relationship with God and the Church, that I’d never noticed before and a realization came that hadn’t come in all the years of studying those verses prior to this and that realization has altered my appreciation for and my understanding of the entire book. 

It’s not that I’ve had to change what I previously understood. It’s rather like a light has been turned on that allows me to understand something that I couldn’t even see before. Beautiful views have been opened up, adding insight that was invisible to me previous to this. 

What made the difference this time? Why now after all these years and all those journeys through those verses?

I believe that the reason was the same for me as it was for the disciples all those years ago. Jesus had been teaching and teaching but they just couldn’t bear it all. They didn’t know how to take it all in. The messages were wonderful, beautiful, powerful but they were too big, too subtle, too challenging for them to absorb and comprehend them. 

We’ll be learning about Jesus, his kingdom, and his ways all the days of our lives, and even then it won’t be enough to exhaust all he has to teach us. But that’s ok. Our Heavenly Father is patient. The Holy Spirit’s been given to teach us and remind us of what we’ve been taught, and when at last we’re gathered home to God’s throne we’ll have eternity to complete the course. 

Jesus, like the disciples we’re slow to learn. Thank you for being such a wonderful teacher and for giving us such a wonderful Helper. 

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.  And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…”  John 16:7–8

The time for setting an example for the world has come to an end. Enough has been said; enough has been done. To stay longer and to do more would only serve to take time when it could be better used in a different way, and to add more of the same thing they already had when what was really needed was something different. 

“It’s to your advantage that I go away.”

“You’ll miss me, but you’ll be better off, all things considered, if I leave you. You need the advantages that the Helper will give you, and he can’t come if I don’t go away.”

“What kind of advantages will this Helper bring?”

“He’ll convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”

Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that the Helper, that’s the Holy Spirit, will come and condemn the world. To condemn would mean that there was no opportunity for salvation. The conviction tells us that there is a hope for salvation but that choices and changes need to be made in order for that salvation to be accepted. 

A lot of people don’t like the conviction the Holy Spirit brings. They feel judged, and they’re shown that they’re not as acceptable the way they are as they want to be. Conviction tells them that they need to change and they don’t want to change. 

“Don’t judge me!  Don’t condemn!  There’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t need to change. I’m fine just the way I am.

But friends we’re not ok. There’re so many things about our lives that need to be changed that it would be impossible for us to innumerate them all at one time. The Holy Spirit’s role is to reveal to us the sin in our lives so that we’ll understand what it is that needs to be removed from our lives. 

But change also implies that new things are going to be added. Do we know what it means to be godly and righteous?  Truth is our understanding of godliness is sketchy at best, and even the parts we think we understand, in reality, we only know in part. That’s why the Helper also comes to convict us of righteousness. It’s not enough to tell us what needs to go. We also need to know what needs to come in. 

The Holy Spirit also convicts us of judgment. But this isn’t our judgment it’s the judgment of our enemy the devil. The conviction of judgment is to give us motivation to daily choose to side with Jesus. Our victory over Satan has already been won. Our enemy has been defeated.  All that remains is to step my step let the Holy Spirit sanctify us. 

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.” John 16:1–3

For every truth there is about God Satan has created a counterfeit. The biblical account of creation has been substituted with the theory of evolution. The biblical sabbath of God has been replaced with worship on Sunday. Christ’s imminent return in power and glory has been replaced by the belief that he will come at some time in the distant future in silence and secrecy. The belief that the Bible is God’s final, unchangeable, authoritative word has been overtaken by the belief that scripture is just another myth with no more authority than the fairy tales.

Another long standing error of belief is the belief that everything thing that happens in the world, and especially every bad thing that happens, happens because it’s the will of God. This belief is institutionalized in our corporate psyche by the categorization of every natural disaster, be they small and localized or of regional or national scale, as “acts of God.” And without exception we label every trial, heart ache and difficulty as such. Even if we don’t use the term, act of God, the fact that we ask the question, “Why is God doing this to me?” or “why is God letting this happen to me?”, tells us that the underlying belief that God’s the author of all our suffering is still in place.

Friends, in this sin filled world, God frequently doesn’t get to have things work according to his will and in harmony with his plans. Most people, all over the world, are all the time making choices that are in tune with only their personal desires and have no reference to God, godliness, or any divine plan. In fact, God’s at work all the time trying to get us to listen to him, to make different choices, and live entirely different lives, and for the most part we’re deaf to his pleas and dead set on doing exactly what we want regardless of the consequences.

But the knowledge that God is there remains and Satan wants to make sure that we continue to misunderstand Him and remain distrustful of Him. By keeping people in ignorance and error it’s easier to lead them to do what he wants them to do.

When it comes to personal choices it seems that the belief that God’s a myth is the most useful lie, but when it comes to national movements it’s appears that the right kind of erroneous belief in God is the most powerful way to get things done.

Jesus has never advocated forcing belief on anyone. Neither has he instructed his people to try to impose his will on the world against its will. Yet Jesus foretells a day when people claiming to serve God will believe that they’re doing God’s will when they kill true disciples of God.

We live in a world at war with God. Satan will use any means he can to keep hearts turned away from God. Jesus warns us of this so that when we experience these different trials we don’t lose faith and hope. The faith of true believers isn’t shaken by hardship and disaster, no matter how horrendous. Our faith is rooted in our loving Savior, and our hope is in a heavenly home and a world made new.

“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”  John 15:20–21

As Christians we’ve gotten weak and spoiled when it comes to our ability to face persecution. We seem to have an attitude, or expectation, that when we accepted Jesus as Lord, Savior, and friend that life would somehow smooth out, we’d be blessed by God and we’d begin to experience a bit of heaven on earth. 

Where do get expectations like that?  Not from Jesus. Not from the example set by the life he experienced, and not from what he taught his disciples to expect. 

Just a few verse before our focus text John record Jesus saying, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”

The greek word for hate, miseo, doesn’t bear quite the same meaning as the english word for hate. Our English word means that we feel or have an “intense or passionate dislike for someone or something.” When I was a boy my father taught me that if I said I hated someone I was telling them that I wished they were dead, or that I would be happy if they were killed. The greek word for hate literally means “to love less.”  It’s not required that I have an intense or passionate feeling of dislike I just need to love less. 

Here’s the danger for us of people loving Jesus and his followers less in this world. Jesus has an adversary, an enemy at work in this world making war on him and everything he does and everyone he loves. If a person accepts Christ’s love and becomes his follower they then become a participant in the persecution Christ experiences in the world. 

We don’t have to expand on, or logically apply, Jesus’ teachings in order for us to discover this warning. Jesus told his disciples directly, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”

Given the multiple warnings scripture contains regarding what kind of treatment Christ’s followers are to expect from the world it strikes me as being ridiculous that we think somethings gone horribly wrong when hatred and persecution rears it’s ugly head because we’re disciples of Christ. 

Friends, persecution doesn’t come because something’s gone wrong. Persecution, and all kinds trials, come because Jesus is in our lives making us right. 

Jesus message for his disciples down through the ages has been, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Trouble will come. Some of it will be from other people persecuting us because we choose to put our faith in Jesus and follow his teaching in the Bible, and some of our troubles will come because we’re still sojourning in a sinful, sin filled world. We don’t need to fear as if something new has gone wrong. Jesus knew things would be this way and his plan takes these things into account. He’s already overcome them and in his strength we can too.