Whom Do You Seek?

Staff
Staff

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Narrative sermon given at Riverside Presbyterian Church (www.RiversideChurch.com), Sterling, VA on Sunday, April 6, 2014.  The narrative of Jesus’s arrest in John 18 is told from the perspective of the Apostle Peter who leans on a shepherd’s staff as he speaks.

Introduction

Good morning!  Welcome to Riverside Presbyterian Church.  This morning we continue our preparation for Easter with the account of the arrest of Jesus in John Gospel.

Prayer

Heavenly father, thank you for your presence among us this morning.  Grant us mouths that speak and ears that listen.  In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Sermon Text:  John 18:1-12

Upset

Why did he lead us to that place?

He must known. Why?  Why?  Why?

My mind plays tricks on me when I remember that evening.  The sun had gone down but the moon was so bright that it cast a shadow [1]; yet, I keep thinking that it was dark and stormy—it’s that brook Kidron—outside the camp—with all those tombs.  It is no wonder that the priests have thrown unholy things there since ancient times [2].  Some think that Ezekiel, in his vision of the valley of dead bones [3], had this place in mind.

Why did the teacher lead us to that cursed place?

Oh yeah, I know. It was the garden. Why did he love that garden so much?  It is like it reminded him of Eden.  Of course, Eden had its beauty; it was peaceful and God was with us.  But, Eden was also had a betrayer.  Death began because of what happened in Eden [4].

Oh, but he must have known and he must have seen that cohort of soldiers with lanterns, torches, and weapons (v 3) walking down from temple mount and back up the ravine.  That tribune loves his cohort.  Five hundred men [5] lit up at night cannot hide in a place like that.

Yes, he must have known, but all he asked us was to wake up and keep watch while he prayed.  Yet, all we did was doze after that big meal [6].  Who doesn’t want to sleep after feasting at Passover?

Analysis

Guess who was leading that parade? (v 3)

I should have known he was unreliable.  His name, Judas Iscariot, says it all.   He’s not a Galilean, but a Judean.  People said he came from Kerioth;  people called him a zealot [7].  The teacher had words with him about that woman crying and wiping her hair with the perfume the week before [8].  Seemed that guy only cared about money [9].

Yeah, it was Judas leading the parade.  Such a sight to see Judas leading that pack to the garden in the middle of the night.

Clue

Still, Jesus was fearless—I will never forget.  How could someone who healed people and talked so much of peace speak with such authority?  How could someone like that so remind me of the Judah’s blessing—the lion’s cub and ruler over his brothers [10].  Jesus was fearless.

Jesus asked them:  who do you seek?  (2X; v 4)

The words still ring in my ears.  The words swept over the parade like a hurricane.  The tribune was so startled that he fell to his knees on the ground like a man in deep prayer.  The whole cohort followed him down.  Even Judas and the Jews with him fell to their knees (v 6).  All he asked was:  who do you seek?

Meekly, someone answered:  Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus responded:  ἐγώ εἰμι. I am.

They said nothing; they did nothing.  They were looking back and forth at one another like lost sheep.  Did Judas think that he could force God’s Messiah [11] to do his bidding; force God’s Messiah to pick up a sword; force God’s Messiah to assume a crown?

Jesus asked again:  who do you seek?

This time the answer was more convincing:  Jesus of Nazareth.

To this Jesus responded:  I told you that I am he.  If it is me that you want, then send these other men away (v 8).

Gospel

When I heard those words, I just lost it—Jesus was surrendering to these hooligans.  I drew my sword and attacked Malchus, the leader of the Jews.  But he saw me coming and got out of the way.  Oh, my goodness.  What does a fisherman [12] known about swords?  Well, he did not get completely away—I did chop off his right ear! (v 10)

Jesus said:  Rock, put the sword away (v 11).

What?!!!  Why would God’s Messiah give up without a fight?  I could not believe it.  Later, I remembered how Jesus washed my feet earlier in the evening [13].  Later, I thought, How could my feet be clean if my hands were covered with blood?  Later, later, why is it always later than we think about what we are doing?

The sword is Satan’s tool—even the tribune and his mighty cohort did not yield the sword that night. Why did I?

Consequences

Then, Jesus said to me: shall I not drink from the cup given me? (v 11)

Jesus knew my future that night—I would deny him three times before it was over [14]—why now did I insist on resisting God’s will for my life?  Why?  I survived that fateful evening only because Jesus prayed for me.

Judas, he was not so lucky—after he tried to force God’s hand and failed, he killed himself [15].  How could he know that in obedience, Jesus would vanquish the betrayer; vanquish death itself?  Maybe that is why he returned to the garden—may be Ezekiel was right:  the dead do rise again.

Why was it so hard to answer Jesus’ question that night: who do you seek?  Funny, Jesus asked us the same question when we first met him—first followed him—by the lake in Galilee.  Who do you seek? [16]  Who do you seek?

Closing Prayer

Let’s pray.

Heavenly father, beloved Son, Spirit of all Truth.  Guard our hearts from the temptation to try to force our will on you rather than accept your will for us.  Grant us a spirit of contentment to allow you to remain in control of our lives.  In Jesus’ precious name.  Amen.

References

Lowry, Eugene L.  2001.  The Homiletical Plot:  The Sermon as a Narrative Art Form.  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press.

Footnotes

[1] At the First Counsel of Nicaea (325 AD), Easter was determined to be the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computus).

[2] 2 Kings 23:6, 12.

[3] Ezekiel 37.

[4] Genesis 2-3.

[5] BDAG (σπεῖρα 6759)In our lit. prob. always cohort, the tenth part of a legion (the σπ. thus normally had 600 men, but the number varied.

[6] Matthew 26:38-45.

[7] BDAG(Ἰσκαριώθ 3742) The mng. of the word is obscure; s. Wlh. on Mk 3:19; Dalman, Jesus 26 (Eng. tr. 51f). It is usu. taken to refer to the place of his origin, from Kerioth )in southern Judea; …Another interpr. connects it w. σικάριος (q.v.), ‘assassin, bandit’. 

[8] John 12:3-8.

[9] John 12:6.

[10] Genesis 49:8-10.

[11] Matthew 16:16.

[12] Matthew 4:18.

[13] John 13:6-10.

[14] John 13:37-38.

[15] Matthew 27:5.

[16] John 1:38.

 

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