The year was 1988 and it was my senior year in high school. Four guys and I met together and aspired to form a rock band to perform at our annual high school talent show. Since I was an elementary student, I had dreamed about forming and playing in a rock band. Finally, the time had come and the five of us were ready to form this nameless band (I think the name we eventually chose was Crossfire) and begin our quest for rock & roll world domination (or so we thought).
I remember Jamie Trusler, Todd Carlson, Frank Eriksen, Scott Dietzel and I coming up with the idea to showcase our band at Maple Grove Junior Senior High Schools talent show. We spent months and countless hours practicing our drummer, Scott, parents’ basement. They were so patient, accommodating and encouraging. Occasionally we would hear his mother yell down to the basement, “Scott, turn it down!” We never did.
We began working on our set list…four songs would suffice. We would do one from Black Sabbath, one from Gun’s and Roses, one from Motley Crue and one from Buddy Holly. It was an odd set list, but it was our set list.
We played the songs over and over until we had them perfected. We were so excited, and we couldn’t wait to debut our band before the entire high school. We were determined to NOT look like fools. After all, we believed, this was what we were made to do.
The months passed and the day of the show had finally come. The final bell at school day and we quickly began preparations for the evening’s big show. We set up our sound system, built a drum riser, tuned the guitars, did a sound check, and waited anxiously for show time.
I remember feeling apprehensive, nervous, confident, and yes, a little terrified. This was it! This was the night we had all anticipated. MGHS was going to witness the epic debut of a band that would one day rule the radio airwaves. The five of us waited backstage, pacing, fidgeting, and anxiously waiting for the acts before us to finish. Finally! It was our time! We grabbed our instruments and positioned ourselves on stage. I remember thinking, “This is it! This is what I am going to do for the rest of my life. This is my purpose; this is my calling!”
Everything was set. We were ready. The house lights went down. The stage lights went off. I heard some to my left. Jamie was yelling, “I can’t see! I can’t see my guitar neck to know where to start!” I say, “It’s just an E chord… We’ve done this song a million times you can do this.” He walks over to the curtain opens it just enough to let the spotlight in and finds his position… Finally, the curtain opens. This is moment we had all been waiting for! There was no turning back. It was beautiful, it was exhilarating, and it was everything I hoped it would be.
If you have ever spent any time on the stage, you know the feeling of anticipation, nervousness, excitement, and fear before the curtain rises (no matter how prepared you are). Once the curtain rises you have two choices…
I tell you this story because I was reminded of this event in my life when I was reading our scripture passage today. For the past few weeks, we have looked briefly at the life and ministry of Jesus and today we reach the epic moment of his earthly ministry. This is the moment Jesus had been preparing for since the creation of the world.
Here in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus sets the plan of salvation in motion. He has talked about this moment, He has prepared for it, and now the time had come. Jesus is confronted by the band of soldiers who has been brought to the garden by Judas, the captain and officers of the Chief Priests and the Pharisees. What lay before him is the cup which the Father has given to him to drink (his death) and nobody have faulted Jesus for running and this moment, but instead we see Jesus willingly taking the cup and enduring the pain and suffering that follows.
John 18:1 - 18
After Jesus had finished his prayer and concluded his farewell discourse, he goes to a garden that he often went with his disciples (as we see in Luke 22:39). Judas knew Jesus would be there and he brings with him Roman soldiers (possibly up to 200) and the temple police to have Jesus arrested. Jesus meets the Judas and the group and asks who they are seeking? They respond, “Jesus of Nazareth.” He replies, “I am he.” The literal translation is “I am.” (This is significant, and I would encourage you to read Exodus 3 to see why.)
John tells us that after Jesus’ response the soldiers drew back and fell to the ground or as the NET Bible says, “they retreated” or moved back and fell to the ground. What happened at this moment? Why did the soldiers fall? Some Bible scholars believe that the soldiers in the front may have jumped back when Jesus unexpectedly advanced forward causing those in the front to start a domino effect of soldiers falling to the ground. Others believe they fell because of the presence of God, thus causing his enemies to fall back prostrate before him. One commentator writes, “We see they are struck down by a power such as that which smote Saul of Tarsus and his companions to the earth (Ac 26:14). It was the glorious (radiance) of the majesty of Christ which overpowered them. This occurs before His surrender, (and) would show His power over His enemies, and the freedom with which He gave Himself up.”
It is important for us (whether a believer or not) to know and understand as Pastor Tim Keller says in his sermon, I AM HE, “Nobody can stand on their feet in the presence of God.” The power of God is awesome in all senses of the word. Not only is his presence awesome, but it is awe inspiring. I believe in Jesus we see the power of God manifested in His name (I AM, Yahweh). If the mere mention of the name of God can bring a squad of soldiers to their knees, then we ought to recognize and respect the power of God altogether.
Jesus asks them again whom they seek and tells them he is the one they seek. He also mentions to let the men with him go unharmed. Peter then decides he wants to seize the opportunity and he attacks the High Priest’s servant and cuts off his ear. Peter’s knee jerk reaction spurs Jesus to let everyone know he is not seeking violence but will go peacefully. Jesus rebukes Peter by asking him, “Shall I not drink from this cup of suffering the Father has given me?” This is his way of saying to Peter, “This all must happen. This moment has been determined since the beginning of time. Jesus declares, I must do as the father says to accomplish the plan from the start.” He has willingly accepted the mission, the cross of Calvary, the Father has given to Him. His death on the cross was not a hiccup in the plan of God. It was THE plan from the beginning.
Jesus was arrested and bound by the soldiers and taken before the Father-in-law of Annas the High Priest (who was Caiaphas).
Peter and another unnamed disciple followed Jesus to Annas’ courtyard. It is suggested that this “other disciple” was John. Peter stayed outside but the other disciple was known by Annas and entered the courtyard. Eventually Peter was allowed to come in but, in the meantime, he and a group of people were warming themselves around a fire and the door keeper questions as to whether he was a follower of Jesus. Peter was fearful for his personal safety thus he denies that he is a disciple of Jesus. We can only speculate as to his motivation in denying Jesus, but we know he must deny him three times.
I love that the Gospels put in this account of Peter. I have no reservation that Peter was known as a hot head or one who didn’t think about consequences. We also know Peter was one of Jesus’ inner circle. He shared intimate moments with the Messiah. He had the faith to step out of a boat in faith and walk on water (even if it was only for a moment). He was also promised by Jesus to be the Rock on which He would build his church. Yet he is portrayed as a 100% flawed human being in the Gospels and I am thankful for this. In his zeal he cuts the ear off the guard, but in fear he denies Jesus three times to which he assured Jesus he would NEVER do. Peter is a great example of a flawed follower of Jesus; and my friends we are all flawed followers of Jesus. We all do things in our Christian walk we are not proud of. There may be times where you remain silent when you should speak up, or you may not have the “proper” reaction or response to certain things in your life or better yet maybe you, like Peter have denied Jesus in public.
I have heard so many people say, “Christians think they are perfect, always right and judgmental.” Yes, there are Christians who may have that air about them, but we all know (which is evident in this passage) since the beginnings of Christianity followers of Jesus were flawed. The same goes for believers today. We are not perfect; we should strive to not be “know it all’s” and we should not be judgmental towards others. However, there are times we are and thankfully we have a Savior who is forgiving, understanding, and loving to us when we come to him in repentance… He loves us warts and all.
How Much Does He Love You?
John 19:16 – 21
The crucifixion is a gruesome, brutal, tragic but altogether necessary account in the Gospels. The death of Jesus Christ establishes God’s new covenant of grace, atonement, and redemption with humanity.
It is important to understand that everything Jesus did on this earth was for a higher purpose. He took the world by storm, he exposed the religious people for what they were, and he showed the world the true look at what real love looks like. We are the beneficiaries of the work that Jesus has done and completed on the cross of Calvary. Because of his life, death, and resurrection anyone who believes, trusts and obeys his commands have been given the true grace of life everlasting (This is the Good News). It is important to note this life is available to ALL who believe, obey, and put their faith in Jesus regardless of race, gender, or social status. God established a new life through Jesus Christ that does not depend on works and legalism. This way is not based on the sacrifice of animals but on the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus. This way is not based on keeping the law but on the fulfillment of a promise or covenant made by God. This new way of life promotes freedom through submission. It promotes living through dying. It promotes loving all. It promotes faith in God and not faith in humanity or circumstances. This way is available to us because Jesus willingly gave himself to die on the cross so that humanity could be made right with God. In all what Jesus talked and taught about all along was “The Kingdom of God is at hand, so be prepared.”
In these passages the curtain rises to the beginning of the end, if you will, to the Gospel account. The irony is this tragedy must happen before the good news can be declared “good news.”. Since creation this has been the plan of God. Jesus must take the cup and he must drink it before those who believe can be redeemed. Our perfect Savior lovingly, willingly, and obediently goes to the cross of Calvary to give his life for his flawed, and imperfect followers. Rejoice in this today. Know you have a Savior who is loves you, is sovereign, and all powerful (even so much that at the mere mention of his name his enemies fall over) and yet he humbles himself to the point of death so that all who believe may have eternal life and have it abundantly.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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