John 18:1-4 "When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. 2 Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. 3 Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”
Jesus’ entry into His road of suffering to the cross began with His arrest. The sequence of events following from His arrest, through His six trials, to Golgotha (i.e. the cross) comprise what is commonly called "The Passion". We refer to these events (found in all four Gospels, with John's Gospel recording them in John 18:1-19:30) with the word "passion" (deriving from the Latin "passio", meaning "to suffer") to summarize what Christ willingly undertook to provide salvation. No clear understanding of the Person and work of Jesus is achievable apart from the aforementioned events.
In today's post we consider the question raised by Jesus in John 18:4,7 to those seeking his arrest: "whom do you seek?" The episode of Jesus’ arrest delivers three details of Jesus that demonstrates why He alone is worth seeking.
1. Jesus is God in the flesh. John 18:1-7
The 19th century theologian Charles Hodge writes beautifully on how the New Testament presents the Lord Jesus Christ. Hodge starts by first noting the true humanity of Jesus:
“The facts which the Bible teaches concerning the Person of Christ are, first, that He was truly man, i.e., He had a perfect or complete human nature. Hence, everything that can be predicated of man (that is, of man as man, and not of man as fallen) can be predicated of Christ)”.
Whenever we journey into John 18, we undoubtedly see a very human Jesus. Christ walked with His disciples (18:1) and was arrested & bound (18:12). Only as a man could Jesus fulfill the conditions spoken of by one of his opponents, Caiaphas the High Priest, in John 18:14 -
"Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people."
Hodge then continues to his second point about the New Testament's portrayal of the Lord Jesus:
“Secondly, He was truly God, or had a perfect Divine nature, Hence everything that can be predicated of God can be predicated of Christ”.
John's Gospel affords glimpses of the true deity of the Son of God. For example, in John 18:4 we find reference to the Son's omniscience: “knowing all the things that were coming upon Him”. Further statements recorded by John as coming from Jesus' lips include His self-reference of having the Divine name “I am” (three times, 18:5,6,7). This same name "I am" was first spoken back in Exodus 3 to Moses at the burning bush. So we see then Jesus Christ as truly God and truly man (vere deus et vere homo).
Hodge then reminds us of the third important truth about Christ that we see in the New Testament, namely that He is a Person (no less than a Divine person):
“Thirdly, He was one person. The same person that said: “I thirst” said “Before Abraham was, I am”.
As one see Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, walking into the Garden of Gethsemane, one cannot help but see a parallel of God walking in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day in Genesis 3:8. The Divine Person of the Father, identified often in scripture by His voice speaking to men (see Genesis 1; Exodus 19:1-6; Matthew 17:1ff; Mark 9:1ff; Luke 9:28ff; 2 Peter 1:16-18).
God moved in the midst of that Garden, seeking the fallen man and his wife. In John 18, we see the Divine Person of the Son, physically walking in the midst of those Olive trees of Gethsemane. He did this in preparation to go to the cross for the sake of fallen humanity. So which Jesus ought we seek? God in human flesh. But notice a second truth in answer to this question....
2. Jesus is the Great Shepherd. John 18:8-10
Jesus Christ is not only God in human flesh, but also the Great Shepherd. We know that His identification as the Great Shepherd is attached to His arrest by how the other Gospel writers portrayed this pending event. In Matthew 26:31 and Mark 14:27 we find reference to this event fulfilling a prophecy uttered by the prophet Zechariah in Zechariah 13:7 -
“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, And against the man, My Associate,” Declares the Lord of hosts.
“Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; And I will turn My hand against the little ones."
So whenever we seek after Jesus as the Great Shepherd, we are pursuing Him that is the prophetic Shepherd. As the prophetic shepherd, Christ is also our protective shepherd. As Jesus confronts those coming to arrest Him in John 18, we read these words uttered by the Lord in John 18:9 -
"to fulfill the word which He spoke, 'Of those whom You have given me I have not lost a one".
As you read on into John 18, all the disciples flee from the Lord Jesus. Amazingly, the Romans do not pursue them, hedged and hemmed by the hand of Providence as urged by the restraining power of the Son of God. So we seek after Jesus who is God in human flesh and the great shepherd. Now notice the third identification of the Christ whom we ought to seek...
3. Jesus is the Grand Savior. John 18:11-14
The timing of Christ's arrest, trial and crucifixion occurred during the Jewish Passover (see Mark 14:1ff). The details of Christ's arrest are meaningful when taken into consideration with the Passover in the background. The timing of these events underscore the mission for which Christ came: to be the Grand Savior. As the Grand Savior, three brief observations are noted.
First, He came as the satisfaction for wrath, or what scripture terms "propitiation" (see 1 John 2:1-2). Quite literally, He came to drink the cup of wrath, all of it, for our benefit. Christ's death as the satisfaction of wrath meant that as God, His work was sufficient for all and, as man, blood could be shed and applied to all who believe. Hence, we can say His atoning work was sufficient for all and effective for believers, as our satisfaction for wrath.
Second, He went bound as a sacrifice for sin. John 18:12 specifically tells us that they arrested and "bound him". This echoes back to a statement we read in Psalm 118:27 -
"The Lord is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar."
In Jewish practice, Psalm 118 became associated with the Passover celebration. The meaning of the imagery of the Passover sacrifice offered up on the altar to represent the people is more clearly understood in light of Christ's actions (see John 1:19; 18:12-14).
Thirdly then, we see Christ, as the Grand Savior, not only the satisfaction for wrath and the sacrifice for sin but also the substitute for sinners. We have already noted how Caiaphas prophetically (unwittingly so, mind you) predicted how expedient it was for one man to die for the people. This idea of substitution is central to God's overall redemptive plan in the Old Testament and is fulfilled perfectly by Christ as the sinner's substitute in the New Testament.
In this post we looked at answer the question raised by Jesus in John 18:4 - "whom do you seek". We discovered that when it comes to seeking Christ, we seek after Him that possess the three following identifying traits:
1. God in human flesh
2. Great Shepherd
3. Grand Savior
As we follow this same Jesus in the narratives of John 18 and 19, we will find again and again how as God He is more than enough, how as man He supplies what is needed for my humanity and as the Person of the Son, He is ever personally precious to those who place their trust in Him.