Lenten Devotional: John 18 Who’s in Charge?

Jesus prayed for Himself, His disciples and for all believers that would come after them and then headed out to a garden. Where do you go when you know stressful days are ahead? Jesus went to a garden. Judas knew the garden and led a band of armed officers there. Jesus came forward asking who they were seeking. They said they were seeking Jesus of Nazareth.

“When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.” John 18:6

Here we see a display of Jesus’ power. At the spoken words of Jesus these men drew back and fell to the ground. I’m having visions in my head of the first Matrix movie where the characters were flying in the air and slamming into things! I’m certain that people drawing back and falling to the ground wasn’t a common thing to see or experience. Why is there not anymore written about this? I can imagine the men who fell to the ground’s eyes became as big as saucers! Did they have the breath knocked out of them? Were they afraid? Here we see a display of Jesus’ power. The religious leaders and soldiers show up in big numbers to arrest Jesus and there they are, fallen to the ground. Jesus asks them once again who they are looking for. I’m not sure I would have answered if I were on the ground! Jesus a third time says, “I am he.” Jesus asks that they let his men go. He’s protecting His disciples.

Peter then draws his sword and cuts off the right ear of the high priest’s servant! Peter thinks he needs to protect Jesus. Jesus quickly puts him in his place and tells him to put his sword in its sheath. John does not record this but in Luke 22: 51, “But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.” Here is another grandiose display of Jesus’ power. Peter turns to violence and Jesus heals. Jesus is caring for the ones who are against Him in His final hours. So many wanted Jesus to be a leader that would take over those who had power over the people but Jesus’ mission was much greater. Jesus came to establish an eternal Kingdom by offering the gift of eternal life to all who surrender their lives to Him. Overpowering these soldiers and priests would have been walking away from Jesus’ mission and purpose. Jesus is willingly arrested and taken to Annas and Caiaphas.

Christ Taken Prisoner 1308-11
Tempera on wood
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena

Irony – Annas, Caiaphas and Pilate are the ones in charge, but Jesus is really in charge. Jesus willingly walks the steps to the cross, to crucifixion and to death. Jesus willingly lays down his life for all of mankind. He is innocent and has done no wrong and irony oozes throughout chapter 19. Pilate doesn’t want this decision. As a leader he’s choosing between Jesus and his reputation and position of power. He doesn’t feel good about sentencing Jesus to death. Pilate choses his power over what he knows is right.

Jesus was not a helpless victim. Jesus was not a courageous martyr. Jesus is a sovereign savior. Jesus lays down His life because that was his mission. Jesus chose it. Who’s in charge? I think I know! Today it still seems like we want Jesus to come and take over politically. Let’s dig deep this Lenten season and see Jesus for who He really is: Sovereign Savior. Jesus is in charge.

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