Whom Do You Seek?

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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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JOHN 21: From Fish to Sheep

fish_12232013Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men and women (Matthew 4:19).

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

When I worked in the hospital with psychiatric patients, I met a man with a huge Bible. When we spoke, he opened up this Bible and showed me the many color photographs. When he spoke with the other patients, they ridiculed him for his lessons which he had never applied to his own life. He fashioned himself as a fisherman, but he was no shepherd.

John 21 tells the story of the disciples going fishing on the Sea of Tiberius, but catching nothing all night long. In the morning, a man on the beach advises them to try again, but on the other side of the boat. When they do, they are overwhelmed with fish. At that point, they recognize that the man on the beach is Jesus.

After Jesus offers the disciples breakfast on the beach, he asks Peter a pointed question three times. He said: Simon, son of John, do you love me? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Tend my sheep (v 16). Because Peter had denied him three times on the night of his arrest, the three-fold question and response served to restore Peter to relationship with Jesus and leadership among the disciples. Both events took place in front of a charcoal fire (John 18:18; 21:9)

In Matthew 4:19, Jesus promises that if the disciples follow him, then he will make them fishers of men and women. Now, Jesus is asking Peter—and us—to give up fishing and become a shepherd. A fisherman catches fish with nets and hooks, but a shepherd feeds and protects sheep. This is a story about Christian leadership—the English word, pastor, originally meant shepherd.

The story continues. Jesus goes on to prophesy Peter’s death by crucifixion (v 18). At this point Peter’s rivalry with John rises to the surface. Peter asks: Lord, what about this man? (v 21) At this point, Jesus rebukes Peter: what is that to you? You follow me! (v 22) In other words, as Christian leaders we are to lead out of obedience to Christ, not rivalry with one another.

It is interesting that three of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and John) end with the disciples being given new responsibilities for evangelism. Matthews ends with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20); Mark ends with the disciples preaching everywhere and performing miracles (signs); John ends with a lesson on Christian leadership. Only in Luke do the disciples simply hang around the church. However, Luke is like an extended preface to the Book of Acts (also written by Luke) where virtually the entire book is about early church evangelism and the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel of John is not bashful about describing its objective.  John writes: these are written so 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 20:31).  My prayer is that his objective is accomplished.

QUESTIONS

  1. When and where does this chapter begin? Who is present? (vv 1-2)
  2. What were the disciples doing? Why? (v 3)  Were they successful?
  3. How does Jesus reveal himself to the disciples?(vv 4-6)
  4. Who recognized him first? (v 7) How?  How does Peter react?
  5. What does Jesus do for them? (vv 8-12)
  6. What two things does this breakfast menu bring to mind? (v 9; Hints: John 6:11; 18:18)
  7. What does Jesus ask Peter three times? (vv 15-17)Why is it significant?  What is the lesson?
  8. What does Jesus prophesy? (vv 18-19) What is the significance?
  9. Why does Peter ask Jesus about John? What is the response?  (vv 20-23) Why do we care?

10.Who wrote this gospel?  (vv 24-25)

 

JOHN 21: From Fish to Sheep

Also see:

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Roadmap of Simple Faith

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at:http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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JOHN 20: Encounters with the Risen Christ

seeds_12162013By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24 ESV).

How do you respond to the risen Christ?

In John 20 we observe 8 encounters with the risen Christ.

1. The first encounter is really not an encounter so much as an expression of fear of the unknown.  Mary Magdalene saw that the stone had been move from the grave and she ran to tell Peter and the others.  Actually, she did not even look inside although she reported that Jesus’ body had been taken (vv 1-2).  Maybe she did look, but we are not told.

2. The second encounter is Peter’s.  Peter ran on Mary’s report to see the tomb, found it empty, and left (vv 2-7).  We are not told how Peter responded to the empty grave.

3. The third encounter is that of the “Other Disciple”, presumably John, who was with Peter.  He experienced everything that Peter did (and ran faster), but, unlike Peter, we are told that he “saw and believed” (vv 7-8).  He too then left.

4. The fourth encounter is Mary Magdalene’s second encounter.  She remains at the gravesite grieving.  This time, however, she peeks inside the tomb and sees two angels who ask her why she is crying (vv 12-13).  The angel’s presence in the tomb is most curious because neither Peter nor the other disciple saw angels only moments earlier.

5. A fifth encounter occurs, this time between Mary Magdalene and Jesus.  Jesus is standing right next to her and she does not recognize him (v 14).  He repeats the angel’s question (why are you crying?) and then asks her: who are you seeking?  She then begins to quiz him about the whereabouts of Jesus’ body (v 15).

6. A sixth encounter occurs as Jesus addresses Mary by name.  She recognizes and grabs him.  He cautions her not to hold on to him, but sends her to the other disciples with the word of his resurrection (vv 16-17).

7. The seventh encounter is with the disciples behind locked doors later that evening.  Here Jesus comforts them, commands them to evangelize, grants them the Holy Spirit, and bestows on them the power to forgive or retain sins. The dialog is often interpreted as  commissioning service (vv 19-23) to which Thomas is absent.  When Thomas is told about it, he refuses to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.

8. The eighth encounter arises a week later when Thomas is present and on seeing Jesus comes to faith.  Thomas’ initial doubt and subsequent belief are significant for us because Jesus’ words—Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29 ESV)—appear directed as us.  Interestingly, John closes out the chapter by commenting on his writing objective—that his readers come to faith (v 31).

We each come to Christ in different ways.  Reviewing these encounters we observe 4 things:

(1) Revelations to the disciples differ in time and content,

(2) The disciples do not all respond immediately in faith,

(3) Jesus reveals himself to some, but not others, and

(4) Mary Magdalene ties these accounts together.

How has Jesus revealed himself to you?

QUESTIONS

  1. How has Jesus revealed himself to you? How have you responded?
  2. When did Mary Magdalene visit Jesus’ tomb? (v 1) Why is it interesting?
  3. How did Mary Magdalene know Jesus’ body was gone? Did she look into the tomb? (vv 1-2)
  4. How did she respond to this discovery? (v 2)
  5. How do Peter and the other disciple respond to Mary? (vv 3-4)  Who is the other disciple?
  6. Why did the other disciple wait before entering the tomb? (v 5)
  7. How did Peter and the other disciple respond to the empty tomb? (vv 5-10)
  8. How did Mary respond to the empty tomb? (v 11)
  9. Why did Mary see angels where Peter and the other disciple did not? (vv11-12)
  10. What did Mary ask the angels? What did she ask? (vv 12-13)
  11. Why did Mary not recognize Jesus? (vv 14-15)
  12. When did she recognize Jesus? (v 16) When did she recognize Jesus?  Why is this episode theologically interesting?
  13. What does Jesus say to Mary? (v 17)
  14. How did she respond? (v 18) Why did the disciples not run back to the garden?
  15. How does Jesus appear to the disciples? (v 19)
  16. What 4 things does Jesus say to the disciples? (vv 19-23)What is this series of statement like?
  17. What is significant about Thomas’ encounter with Jesus?(vv 24-29)  What happens?  How does he respond?
  18. What is John’s purpose in writing? (vv 30-31)

 

JOHN 20: Encounters with the Risen Christ

Also see:

JOHN 21: From Fish to Sheep

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Roadmap of Simple Faith

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at:http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

Continue Reading