The Gospel Of John — Part 19

Jul 2, 2010 1673

—Ritchie Way

Two Types of Treachery

The commander of the detachment of soldiers sent out to capture Jesus, arrested him in Gethsemane and took him to the home of Annas, who was the father-in-law of the high priest Caiaphas (John 18:12-14). Annas had served as high priest from AD 6 to 15, and even though he was no longer high priest, he was still ‘the power behind the throne’(see Luke 3:2; Acts 4:6). After establishing the protocols for Jesus’ trial Annas sent Jesus off to Caiaphas.

All houses of substance in Jerusalem were enclosed by high walls—and still are. A substantial gate led into a courtyard. Jesus was taken into this courtyard and those known to the high priest were also permitted to enter. The apostle John who was known to the high priest, possibly because of a family relationship, was allowed entry. Peter, however, not being known to the household, was denied entry. When John noticed that Peter hadn’t come in he went to the gate and gave his word to the gate-keeper that Peter was his friend and could be trusted.

Where were the other nine disciples? The Bible says, ‘They forsook Jesus and fled’. They were afraid that the punishment about to be meted out to Jesus would be apportioned to them also. They were well aware of the fact that the Romans did not treat lightly anyone who challenged the state authority. They crucified all who dared to contest the political status quo, and when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey—as Zechariah said the Messiah/King would do (Zech. 9:9), and was acknowledged as the Messiah by the people who strewed his path with garments (John 12:13-15)—that was a blatant act of suicide.

At the time the disciples didn’t see it that way because they believed Jesus would use his power to set up his kingdom in the city, and were mystified and perplexed when he didn’t. It seemed to them that when Jesus was arrested his power had run out, and, without his protection they were very vulnerable—so they took off. A soldier grabbed one of them by his garment, but he escaped by slipping out of it and running off naked through the olive grove (Mark 14:51-52). To put it mildly, they were scared witless.

To their credit, John and Peter stuck with Jesus. But as John was bringing Peter into the courtyard, the girl on duty there looked closely at him and said, ‘Aren’t you one of his disciples?’ ‘Not me!’ replied Peter, looking the other way.

Meanwhile the high priest was interrogating Jesus about his teaching. Jesus responded that there was no secret conspiracy to overthrow the authorities and that as he always spoke publicly in synagogues and the temple they should ask those who heard him. One of the officials standing there struck Jesus in the face. ‘Is this the way you answer the high priest?’ he demanded.

Have you been guilty of slapping the Lord in the face? Not with your hand, but with your words. Have you slapped the Lord in the face with an accusation that he is guilty of taking away your happiness? Your spouse? Your child? Your health? Your savings? Your whatever?

‘If I said something wrong,’ Jesus replied, ‘say so. But if not, why did you hit me?’ A lot of our responses to Jesus are gut responses and not well thought through. We forget he is the source of all our blessings and accuse him of being the cause of our troubles.

The high priest then asked Jesus if he was the Messiah. When Jesus acknowledged that he was, the high priest declared that he had to die for such blasphemy. The soldiers took Jesus outside, blindfolded him and started punching him in the face and stomach, challenging him to predict who it was that struck him (Mark 14:61-65). Peter, transfixed by what was happening to his Lord, was at a loss to understand why Jesus did not protect himself. If Jesus was helpless before his accusers, what hope did he have? He became even more fearful for his own safety.

Now Jerusalem is about eight hundred metres above sea level and the spring nights at that altitude can be quite cool. The servants had lit a charcoal fire in the courtyard and people gathered around it to get warm. While Simon Peter was standing there warming himself, he was asked a second time: ‘Aren’t you one of Jesus’ followers? You have a Galilean accent just like him.’ ‘No!’ said Peter. ‘I’ve never personally met the man.’

But a relative of Malchus—the man whose ear Peter had cut off with his sword—looked closely at Peter and said, ‘I’m sure I saw you in the garden with Jesus.’ ‘Will you leave me alone!’ snapped Peter. ‘I tell you, I don’t know this man, and I have no wish to know him. And may there be a curse on me if I am not telling you the truth.’

Just then the rooster up on the wall began to crow and Peter suddenly remembered what Jesus had said to him earlier that evening. ‘Peter, you are not as strong as you think you are. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning you will deny me three times.’

When Peter heard that rooster he stopped speaking in mid sentence and tears rushed to his eyes. Matthew says, ‘He went outside and wept bitterly’ (26:75). Peter was a broken man; he had let Jesus down ‘big time’.

TREACHERY

There are two basic types of treachery against the kingdom of heaven. The first is pretending you’re a follower of Christ when you’re not; and the second is the opposite, pretending you’re not a follower of Christ when you are. Both examples are portrayed in the eighteenth chapter of John, and both occurred in the greatest crisis that ever faced the disciples.

The first type of traitor is portrayed by Judas kissing Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:44-45), and the second by Peter denying Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest (John 18).

Let’s look at each of these in detail, because they highlight two of the major problems faced by the church today.

JUDAS

Judas had the necessary qualifications for being one of the twelve disciples. He could have made a very good disciple. The fact that he didn’t was his own choice, not anyone else’s. The story of Judas reveals that he was a man who had more faith in himself than he had in Jesus.

As far as his beliefs went, Judas was no different from any of the other eleven disciples. Like most conservative Jews of their day, they believed that the Messiah would set up his kingdom in the old city of Jerusalem and from there he would rule the world. Judas and the other disciples would be his right-hand men; they would be the members of his cabinet.

Judas, however, was more ambitious than the others. He knew Jesus had the power to become king; it was just that he seemed reluctant to do so. When Jesus had been given the opportunity earlier, he turned it down (John 6:14-15). Judas concluded that Jesus wasn’t pushy enough to get to the top; he wasn’t prepared to trample people underfoot to achieve his goal. So Judas decided to help him. He would back Jesus into a corner so that he would be forced to do something about establishing his government.

Over a period of time Judas had drifted away from Jesus. As the treasurer for Jesus and his disciples, he carried the purse, but every now and then he’d dip into it and help himself (John 12:6). Judas, consequently, never grew in grace; instead of repenting of his actions he always justified them.

The relationship between Judas and Jesus reached a breaking point when Jesus rebuked him for his self-centred criticism of Mary of Bethany (John 12:4-7; Mark 14:10). It was from that point Judas decided that the time had come to force Jesus’ hand. From now on Jesus would be required to follow Judas’s agenda, rather than the other way round.

In the upper room Judas was obliged to decide either for or against Jesus when Jesus offered him a token of his high esteem. Judas had to choose whether to accept or reject Jesus’ love. He chose against Jesus, and Satan entered into him (John 13:27). The Bible says, cryptically, ‘Judas … went out. And it was night’ (John 13:30).

However, when Jesus refused to go along with Judas’s plan to hasten him to an earthly throne, the traitor’s plans turned to custard. The fact that Jesus allowed himself to be mistreated and falsely condemned took Judas by surprise. This was not the Jesus he knew. And when it finally occurred to Judas that Jesus was not going to defend himself against the false accusations raised against him, his future came to a shattering conclusion.

When Judas’s plans for the establishment of a literal kingdom in Jerusalem failed to materialise, there was no sense of personal sorrow for what he had done to Jesus; he was sorry only for himself and his failed ambitions (Matt. 27:3-5; 2 Cor. 7:10). So Judas did what every rejector of God’s grace will ultimately do, he committed spiritual suicide. God will cast no man into hell; those who end their lives in that place will be there because they put themselves there.

APPLICATION

There are many Judases in the Church today; qualified people who consider their own views to be much more important than those of Jesus. They pretend to be Christians, but they betray the Son of Man with a toxic kiss of deceitful ‘loyalty.’ Someone once said, ‘When a man accepts what he likes from God’s word, and rejects what he doesn’t like, it’s not God’s word that rules his life, but his own heart.’

Not long ago I heard an interview in ‘Spiritual Outlook’ on National Radio with Bryan Bruce. Bruce confidently claimed that the Gospel stories were three generations old by the time they were committed to writing, and by that time they had been added to and exaggerated with many fictitious miracles. ‘And yes, Jesus was a very clever person, but he was certainly not divine and he definitely never rose from the dead.’

In support of his theory, Bruce referred to the Gospel stories about the arrest of Jesus. He pointed out that each of the Gospels has a different report of what happened when Jesus was captured in the Garden of Gethsemane. Mark said, ‘One of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.’ Luke happens to mention that it was his ‘right ear’ that was cut off, and that Jesus healed him. John, the last to write a Gospel, names the servant whose ear was cut off as Malchus.

Bryan Bruce claims this is a good example of how the gospel stories got added to over a period of time. For example, Mark didn’t know the name of the person who cut the ear off the high priest’s servant. A little later, when Luke wrote his Gospel, he garnished the story with the fact that it was the servant’s right ear that had been cut off, and that Jesus performed a miracle to heal the wounded servant. Then John, who wrote many years later, names the servant as Malchus. It’s very strange, smirked Bruce, that Mark, the first person to tell this story, couldn’t remember the servant’s name, but John, who wrote a generation later, could.

I smiled when I heard that because I had just recently served on a Jury for a court case involving a young man who had been nearly killed in an altercation outside an Auckland nightclub. In the Jury Room we drew a sketch of the scene on the whiteboard, adding the details provided by the three witnesses. Witness A gave us some details not provided by Witnesses B or C. Witness B gave some details not provided by witnesses A or C. And witness C gave us some details not provided by witnesses A or B. These combined details enabled us to locate every person involved at the time of the incident, on our sketch. No single witness gave us the full picture, but all together they provided their part of the three-piece jigsaw.

And so it is with the stories of the Gospels.

Peter, who was probably embarrassed by the fact that he was the one who chopped the servant’s ear off, left his name out of the story when dictating his Gospel to Mark.1

Luke, who was a physician, noted that it was the servant’s right ear that had been cut off and that Jesus had healed him.

John was able to provide the name of the servant because he personally knew Malchus due to his relationship with the high priest’s household (John 18:16).

Consider, for a moment, what the critics would have said had the stories of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John been identical; they would have accused the writers of collusion, of working together to deceive their readers. But because the stories have differences, each of the writers is accused of adding his own fictional touches.

Richard Bauckham, professor of New Testament Studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, has written a book called Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans, 2006). In this book he refers to Papias, the bishop of Hieropolis, a city between Colossae and Laodicea. Papias, who was born in AD60, just thirty years after Jesus was crucified, was personally acquainted with the daughters of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8-9). This Philip was one of the seven deacons elected by the apostles (Acts 6:16). Papias also knew two of Jesus’ disciples: Ariston and John the Elder.

Papias wrote a five volume work entitled, An Exposition of the Accounts of what Jesus Said and Did. Unfortunately, nothing of those five volumes has survived except in quotes by other writers of his time. From these writers we learn that Papias, in his work, quoted or referred to the Gospels of Mark, Luke and John, which the liberal critics say weren’t written until three generations after Papias’s day. So don’t be too quick to give ear to those who scoff at the reliability of the New Testament records about Jesus.

PETER

Peter, whose treachery was not premeditated, was really upset that he had betrayed Jesus and ‘went outside and wept bitterly’ (Matt. 26:75).

Peter’s focus, unlike Judas’s, was on Jesus rather than on himself, and when his focus strayed for a time, he repented and got it back on the Master. And that was the main difference between Peter and Judas. Because Judas’s focus was continually on himself, when his plans to shock Jesus into accepting the crown of David and making Jerusalem his capital failed, he had nothing left to fall back upon, so went and hung himself.

APPLICATION

Judas pretended he was a Christian when he wasn’t; Peter pretended he wasn’t a Christian when he was. Most of us are ‘Peters’ rather than ‘Judases’—especially when in a crowd of important or imposing non-Christians. We may not try to hide our identity as Christians, but we certainly don’t push it to the front.

Someone once asked, ‘If you were charged with being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?’ Would there?

If you are not honoured to be a Christian—in the same sense that singer, Sir Cliff Richards and award winning New Zealand scientist, Dr. Jeff Tallon, are proud to be Christians—you need to ask yourself why:

Is it because you are scared, like Peter?

What would be the worst thing that could happen if you confessed to being a Christian?

Would you be executed? No.
Would you be imprisoned? No.
Would you have your Passport taken from you? No.
Would you be given a big fine? No.

What then? It is usually because you might be laughed at, or ridiculed. And you are not willing to endure that even though Jesus endured the cross for you?

Is it because you don’t know how to respond?

This is probably the most common reason why many people keep their Christianity hidden. They don’t know what to say when identified as Christians.

The secret to handling such occasions is to be prepared beforehand. You could say something like this: ‘I haven’t always been a Christian, but when I wasn’t, I had a big hole in my life that Jesus filled when I accepted him. To be quite honest, I wouldn’t want it to be any other way now.’

Or, ‘I couldn’t live without Jesus in my life. Since I became a follower of Jesus I have something worthwhile to live for, as well as peace and joy in my life that I didn’t have before.’

Sit down and write your testimony in less than forty words; any longer than that and it could put people off. The key is to give them something pithy and memorable to think about.

One evening Rosemary and I had dinner at a food hall in the city before attending a concert by the Auckland Philharmonia. Before eating we bowed our heads and I said, ‘Thank you, Lord, for this good food. We are grateful for it. Amen.’

As we picked up our knives and forks a woman came rushing up to us beaming from ear to ear. ‘Oh, how delightful,’ she gushed. ‘You said grace before eating. I think that’s wonderful! God bless you.’

Don’t hide your light under a barrel; it may brighten the darkness of some needy person, or strengthen the faith of a wavering Christian.

Back in the sixties we stopped our car on a Southland Road to ask directions of a roadman. As we prepared to drive off he said, ‘God bless you.’ That was all, and I’ve never forgotten it. Since then I have followed his example and am continually surprised by the number of people who stop short when they hear those three uplifting words.

Maybe it is because you are embarrassed by the way other Christians act that you don’t want to be identified with them?

If that is the case identify yourself with the One who will never cause you genuine embarrassment. Just tell people that you are a follower of Jesus. After all, that is one thing that identifies the 144,000 (Rev. 14:4). ‘They follow the Lamb wherever he goes.’


Endnote:
1. Mark, who was not one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, had his Gospel dictated to him by Peter.


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