Sunday Morning | December 17, 2023 | John C. Majors | Louisville, KY
In Pastor John's sermon on Sunday, December 17, 2023, he focused on John 18:1-14, exploring the theme of power and contrasting the appearance of power with true power. The sermon highlighted three displays of false power and one display of true power.
The sermon began with a transition from the previous discourse in chapters 13-17 to the endgame of Jesus' journey. Pastor John emphasized the importance of discerning true power and the need to see through appearances.
The first point addressed Jesus' deliberate choice to go to the place where he was likely to be found, showing that he was not running from betrayal but moving toward it with complete control and trust in God. The sermon drew parallels with biblical instances involving Kidron, such as David fleeing from Absalom and references to final judgment.
The second point explored the first display of false power when Judas arrived with a band of soldiers. The term "semblance of power" was emphasized, indicating an outward appearance that is different from reality. Despite the soldiers, Jesus remained in control, as evidenced by his statement in Matthew 26:53 about summoning legions of angels if needed.
The third point delved into the disciples' response to the impending capture, focusing on Peter's use of a sword as a symbol of power. Jesus intervened, instructing them to put away the sword, emphasizing that worldly means of power were not the way to achieve their goals.
The fourth point discussed the final picture of false power involving positional power during one of the trials Jesus faced. The importance of not confusing position with power was highlighted, drawing attention to Caiaphas' misunderstanding of his own wisdom.
The sermon then returned to the display of true power in verses 4-9, where Jesus asked, "Whom do you seek?" and identified himself with the divine name "I AM." The response of those seeking him, falling back, was interpreted as a glimpse of Jesus' glory and power.
Finally, the sermon emphasized that Jesus' own words, referred to as fulfilling Scripture, were the source of true power. The audience was encouraged to discern the contrast between the appearance of power and true power and to recognize the power within themselves.
The sermon drew on biblical references, symbolism, and the narrative in John 18 to convey the message of distinguishing between false and true power.
At Valley View Church we are currently studying through the entire gospel of John, verse by verse. You can join us on Sunday mornings at 11 AM for worship. We are located at 8911 3rd Street Road, Louisville KY 40272.
All right. So let's get into the message we're in John Chapter 18. We're continuing our study in the book of John. We've been working through John, and we're hitting a pretty significant transition in the book today. In fact, as I thought of this passage, I was reminded of an experience our family had when we were living in Phoenix. We had a very energetic three, four year old, and so we spent a lot of time over at the park, Los Olivos Park. It was named after an old olive grove. There were still some of the olive trees in that area, but they built a big playground right in the middle of it. And we spent a lot of time at that playground trying to get him to burn off some of that energy. It didn't work, but we tried. We spent a lot of time there, and I saw there this scenario play out. And by the way, you could go to almost any playground, almost any day of the week and see this same scenario play out. You've probably seen it. You may have been involved in it. That's okay. But what I saw was little Susie playing in the sand, filling her bucket up, playing with her little toys she brought along, having the time of her life and mom and dad, after being there for, it felt like eons, were ready to go. And they looked down at little Susie and they begin to talk her into It's time to go. Aren't you ready to go? Let's go. They try every trick in the book to convince her that they really should go. Finally, they get to the point where she's not having any of it and they do the trick. You've seen it. They stand up and announce loudly. Susie, we're leaving. We'll see you later. Bye. And they start to walk off and they get a little further away and they have to get a little louder to make sure she hears them and everyone else hears. And Susie were really going. Bye! And Susie does not even pay them a lick of attention calling their bluff. And of course, in that moment, you would think the parents, the mature ones, the strong ones, the older ones, that they would have the power, but they only have the appearance of power in that moment. Little Susie is the one that has all the control and power in that moment. And of course, we've been there. We've done that. We know sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But we've all been in situations where someone appears to have the power, but really someone else has the true power, the real power. And in today's passage, as we look at this interaction Jesus has, we're going to see that contrast between the appearance of power. We would say false power. In fact, we're going to see three displays of false power. The contrast between that and true power are going to play out in this section. So let's turn to John chapter 18 and start by looking at verse one and get our setting, because there's a big change in what's been occurring in the book of John that happens right here in verse one, chapter 18. That's on page 850 in the church Bible. We ran out of copies of our church Bible. That's a good problem. But now we have more. So if you don't have a copy of the Bible, we'd love to put one in your hands. The page numbers that you see on screen tie into that Bible, they're out there in the connection corner. John 18, verse one. When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. So the first phrase here says a lot when Jesus had spoken these words. So with Jesus and his words that He had spoken, we've been looking at those for many, many weeks for five chapters in a row. We just looked at this one long discourse or sermon from Jesus in the Upper Room. Chapter 13 through 17. Last week it ended with his high priestly prayer. One whole chapter, long prayer. He's been talking and talking, investing in his disciples over and over and over again. But one commentator, as I read study done this, he said, There's a time for talking and there's a time for action. And this is the time where Jesus is done talking. I've said enough, It's time to act. It's time to move forward towards this hour he's been talking about over and over again, my hour is here. Now, notice here one thing that happens, we see where he goes. It describes where they go. They left the upper room and they go across the brook Kidron. Now, this is significant and we've seen in the book of John, oftentimes there are these layers of meaning where he talks about one thing that's obvious in front of him, but it's also pointing to something else that may have occurred in the past or might occur in the future. When you see the Brook Kidron show up in scripture. In fact, one place in particular where it shows up, I'll flash the reference on screen. You can look it up later.It's 2 Samuel 15:
23. There was something happening there that is also happening in this moment with Jesus. And so you have Jesus, the true king, leaving Jerusalem, going across the brook Kidron in the midst of being betrayed by Judas. But in 2 Samuel, you have a situation where David was leaving Jerusalem, crossing the brook Kidron-- It's mentioned there as well, in the midst of his own betrayal by Absalom, his own son, someone who should have been the closest to him, was in the midst of betraying the true king, leaving Jerusalem and Jesus being betrayed by someone who should have been one of his closest persons in his life. So we see this parallel to David and Jesus. The other thing we also see here is that this area of Mount Olives, it doesn't say that here, but in the other gospels it mentions that's where they go. That is often seen as will be the place of final judgment brought to earth, maybe where this messiah actually sets foot down and shows up where the Lord himself comes to bring judgment. And so you have a couple of things pointing out to what's really going on here. The true king moving towards a place of his rightful reign and day of judgment all occurring here just in the background, just in the subtlety. John is hinting at this in the midst of the passage. So this sets up this whole section. And now let's look at what happens. How does the action continue? This is where they go. What happens next?Verse 2:
Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. We got to pause here and just acknowledge that reality. Jesus went to a place where he knew Judas knew He would be. Jesus didn't run from the challenges that were coming. Jesus wasn't trying to hide from Judas. Jesus knew he would betray him, and he went towards the place of betrayal. Jesus, in this moment was in complete control. He wasn't hoping to get out of it. Maybe waiting. We'll see what Judas does. No, I know what's going to happen. And I'm moving toward the challenge and I'm going to a place that's very familiar. And as I thought about this reality, I thought about the fact that in our lives at times, some of the biggest challenges we face happen in the most familiar places. Could be your home, could be within your family, could be at work, could be a church even, dare I say. Some of the biggest challenges you face in life are in the most familiar places. But like Jesus, we don't avoid that. We don't run from that. I mean, there are times to avoid conflict. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about in general, we trust that God is going to show up in the midst of those challenges, in the midst of life and Jesus models that here in the fact that he keeps moving forward. Now, what happens as they get to the garden, as Judas moves here, look at verse three. So Judas having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. So I mentioned in today's passage we're going to see three false displays of power. And this is the first and I'm going to use the word I love this word, semblance of power. This is a semblance of power. Here's why I like this word. I'm going to throw the definition of this word up on the screen because this perfectly summarizes what is happening right here. Go ahead and put that up. The semblance of power semblance is the outward appearance or apparent form of something, especially when the reality is different. And here in this moment, look what Jesus, Judas did. He got a band of soldiers, officers, chief priest, Pharisees, lanterns, torches, weapons. They come in with the appearance of power. But it's not real power. It's a semblance of power. It appears to be power. But the reality is different because the reality is Jesus in that moment, I mean, this is the moment where he even says, I think it's in Matthew something or other where he says, Matthew 26, Don't you know that in this moment I could call down more than 12 legions of angels? Don't you know?Matthew 26:
53 in fact. I could call this down in an instant. He is in complete control. He is the one with real power. But the semblance of power here, there's a lot in fact, look back at that word, Judas having procured a band of soldiers. It's an interesting word choice--procured. I looked at almost all of the other English translations. None of the others translate that this way, and it's a super common word in Greek. It shows up over 250 times. Usually it's translated like it could be receive or take. Sometimes you'll see maybe in whatever translation you might have. Judas led a band. Judas-- Judas guided, Judas brought a group of soldiers with him. What's interesting about this word, and this plays off the whole reality of contrast in this passage, the last time this same word appeared was just in the previous chapter. Chapter 17. Look back at Chapter 17 Just flip back one page, verse eight, and look at what he says.Jesus says this of his disciples:
I have given them the words that you gave me... and here's the word-- they have received them. Now stay with me here and notice this contrast. The disciples receive the Word of God, the true source of power, and Judas goes and finds, receives, earthly power, soldiers, rulers, positions. So you see the contrast. Judas says, I'm going to get power man's way. Disciples say the word of God is our power. And the contrast is even more stark in this moment, because there probably was a significant amount of soldiers there. If you look back at that word band, Judas having procured a band of soldiers, the word band also has a range of meaning, but it often refers to a pretty large group of soldiers, maybe more like a battalion. Now, we don't know exactly how many soldiers he had there in that moment because a battalion leader could have just brought a small group of them. We don't know exactly. Here's the point. Judas said, I am going to lean on man's abilities to take charge of this situation. I'm going to bring my own power. And at the end of the day, though, it was a false power, it’s just a semblance of power. So that's the first false display of power that we see here. Now, let's keep reading this. Look at the next group of verses. Look at how Jesus responds to this. Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, Whom do you seek? They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus said to them, I am He. Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, I am he, they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, Whom do you seek? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I told you that I am He. So if you seek me, let these men go. This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken of those whom you gave me. I have lost not one Now, I'm actually going to unpack this passage a little bit later, because this obviously is the place where the true power shows up in the section we're studying today. But notice how the disciples respond to this, to Jesus exposing true power in the midst of false power. Notice what the disciples do. We’ll jump ahead to verses ten and 11 and look at that. We'll circle back around to thisafter. Verse ten and 11:
Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. So Jesus said to Peter, Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the father has given me? First thing to note, this is our second false display of power. The first was a semblance of power. This is a symbol of power. So Peter, in this moment, pulls out a sword, a symbol of power. And the sword had shown up earlier in Luke. Luke, Chapter 22, The disciples, they had been on a journey. They had been doing ministry, but they know the time is coming. When Jesus is going to set up his earthly reign and their eyes show himself as Messiah. And they say, Lord, should we get swords? Here are two. And He says, that's enough. Now, That's always s--- kind of confused me. Wouldn’t he say either go get a whole bunch more because what are two swords? Or you don't need any. You know what's interesting about that? I have to think that the disciples in that moment are going of course, two are enough. Here's a guy that calmed the storm with a word. He's the man. Why would we need more than two swords? He's just showing off in this moment. We'll bring swords as a symbol of power. But we know he has the true power. What's interesting, though, about the swords, there's one famous writer, Anton Chekhov. He said, if a gun shows up in the first scene, it's got to go off by the end in a book or in a story. And so when the swords showed up in Luke 22, here it is. And for whatever reason in this moment, I mean, you got to think that the disciples, they've been waiting for this moment where Jesus is going to finally show how powerful He is. It's all been very confusing. You're going to die, whatever, we know, you're setting up your kingdom as Messiah, whatever you're saying, Jesus, Maybe this is the moment. He's got the power, but it clearly seems to Peter this is not going the way I thought. And so Peter takes power in his own hands. Now, one thing I love about the book of John, number of scholars have pointed this out, and and I think it's true there's some debate about it, but many think there are key places where the author, John, who would have been the disciple John, who would have been here alongside with Peter, many think there's this kind of subtle rivalry going on between John and Peter. And you see places where John layers this in. We’ll point out some others as we go. I think this is one of those because I doubt Peter was aiming for this guy's ear, right? John is kind of pointing out, Peter, you need to work on your aim a little bit. You need to get to the range, buddy. He was probably aiming for his head or more. Caught an ear in the midst. He's probably not a practiced swordsman, and Jesus says to him, Put it away. This is not the way. We are not here wielding symbols of manmade power to change the world. That's not what we’re about. And the same is true for us. We don't look to take on more worldly power to change the world. No, the opposite is true. We’re called to live differently than the world. We're not power hungry. We’re called to serve, to love. That's what we're going to do today. We didn't take up a sword collection today. We’re bringing food to pour into the lives of the community, to give, to serve, even, dare I say, sacrifice. That's how we change the world, not through manmade symbols of power. But to be clear, that's that's a temptation for all of us to think the more power we get, the more influence we'll have, the better for the kingdom will be. And of course, there are reasons to influence powers and governments. And I get that. Yes, all that's true. But Jesus says, put it away. That's not the way. Now we get another side comment here. One is just the reality that they name the servant who got his ear cut off. John is the only one who does that. None of the other gospels name him. You see the scenario play out in one book that Jesus actually reaches up and heals his ear. Why does he name him here? I think personally it's the same reason why he named Paul, for instance, names people all the time in books of the Bible-- say hello to this person, I healed that person, you see names specifically. And I think one of the powerful reasons is that it's a subtle way of saying this really happened. And if you don't believe me, go talk to him. Now, his name was Malchus. You don't, you don't think this is true? Look, this happened. Go talk to him. Of course, when this was written, you could have done that. We're not trying to hide anything here. This is based in historic reality. I'm not making up something that is, that is not here. I'm trying to point everyone to God's word. Here it is. Look at it. See it here. If I make a point, there should be a clear connection to what's in the page. And if I'm guessing, I should say that as well. This is our best guess here. We're not 100% sure we think this is what happened, but God's Word is our basis for that historical reality rooted in truth. And by naming Malchus, it's just another sign that that's reality. So we had a semblance of power, first false display of power. Second was a symbol of power, the sword, a symbol of manmade power. Now, number three, let's look at these last group of verses starting in verse 12. So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas, for he was the father- in- law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. Side note, Annas had also been high priest previously. In fact, their family kind of had a lock on the high priest seats. It was kind of a family thing among him and his son- in- laws and sons, keeping power. Annas, Caiaphas. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. So here what I think we see in terms of false powers, there's a semblance of power, a symbol of power. Here we call it positional power. Annas and Caiaphas both thought that because they were in the right position, they were really the ones with power. We are the ones who have been appointed as the spiritual leaders over Israel. We have the power. But you all have seen this. You know this. There are people who are in a position of power who don't, much like these parents on the playground, who don't really have the power. Positions are great. They can be great, but they can also be abused. And that's what's happening here. Don't equate, in our own hearts and even in your experiences, don't equate the position with power. In fact, it's pretty stark here that Caiaphas didn't even realize what he was really saying, the one who thought he was in power as he talked about the reality that someone had to die for the people he saw it in the near term, protect us from Rome through wanting to overthrow us because one guy tries to overthrow them. He saw it in the political realm. He didn't even know what he was really saying, that the real power was the spiritual power and that he would die for the people, willingly, in control. Another display of false power, the positional power. Now back to Jesus's comments where we see true power at play. Look back at verse five when Judas comes with his band, with his soldiers, when he comes to confront Jesus and notice how Jesus responds to them. Again, look back specifically at what he says they answered him, or he asked, Whom do you seek? They answered him. Jesus of Nazareth. Nazareth. Jesus said to them, I am he. Now, probably in your Bible, you have a footnote that if you look down at the bottom, it says It's actually just I am. It’s not, I am he. But that's to just say I am in English. It's kind of weird. You'd want to hear a little more. I am that person. I am him. I am he. So we added in. But by doing that, we lose a little bit of the connection. And I'm not going to spend a ton of time on this because we spent a lot of time on it in John Chapter eight. At the end of John chapter eight, where Jesus says Before there was Abraham, I am, and by doing so was making a connection between himself and the divine name of God, the name that God used to describe himself. And how did the Jews react in that moment? What did they do? Because they knew what he was doing. Do you remember what they did? They picked up stones to throw at him. They knew what he did. Him claiming himself to be God. And so here you're looking for Jesus of Nazareth. I am. You think you're listening for, looking for a guy from Backwater Galilee. But I am. Now look at how they react to this. What happened in that moment? Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with him when Jesus said to them, I am. They drew back and fell to the ground. Now this is entering a little bit into the realm of speculation. Why did that happen? What was going on there? We don't know exactly. I think two things were at play personally just by the fact that he said I am, invoking the divine name of God, the shock of that to another Jew would have been a bit overwhelming. In fact, there may have been a bit of I'm taking a step back so that I don't get struck by the lightning that's about to hit him. That's a big claim, I think that's going on. But I think there's something else going on. I think there's a bit of Jesus just revealing a glimpse of his power. I remember a time one of my children, they were very young, challenged me to a foot race. You've been there. You've had that happen. And by the way, when they're real little, that’s fun, you play along. You might even run on your hands and knees, let them win. But then there comes an age where they challenge you in a way that they think they really can beat you. By the way, that day comes where they beat you anyway. But this is still that moment where they're just delusional. They can beat their friends and there's just no chance, no way in the world they can beat you. Like I'm talking seven, eight years old. Maybe we don't get much older than that. Now we're pushing it because. I'm slow, but I knew I'm like, look, there's zero chance. There's no chance. As slow and as old as I am, there's zero chance you beat me in a foot race. Really? Yes, I promise. Well, let's go see. Okay, let's go see. You got to take it while you can, right? Dominate them while you can athletically. So we go out and we run this foot race. I mean, right from the get go, I'm turning around, running backwards almost immediately. It's that easy. And this child is kind of like, you just see their countenance drop. I thought for sure I was going to dominate my dad and now he's dominating me backwards and I think I might have seen a tear or two in that moment as well, which is appropriate. I think that's how it should have gone down, right? But in that moment, that child got just a glimpse of reality. But there will be a day where that child dominates me in a footrace. But in that moment, there's a glimpse of a power there that I didn't know was there. And when Jesus says, I am, they get just a glimpse of that power that is there that they've tried to ignore. They've tried to push aside. He says, I am. And he shows them real power, true power. You know, the amazing thing about that power, Jesus at any moment could have walked away from that. Don't you know, I could call down 12 legions of angels at any moment? And he stayed in there. I always think of those Navy SEALs. You've probably seen some of those training where they're covered in sand and they're doing pushups and flutter kicks and they're spraying them with a fire hose the whole time. And then there's that that instructor who's, of course, yelling at him. But occasionally, hey, by the way, this can all be over in a moment. I know you're suffering. All you've got to do is go over there and ring that bill, and it'll all be over. You'll have a nice warm meal, a warm bed to sleep in, a hot shower. Aren't you tired of this? Wouldn't that be so much better? And of course, they're just dying. Dying! And you hear the guys after the ones who did it, they rang the bell and some of them were like, I was glad to be done with that. And some of them were, in that moment, If I had just held on a little longer. Looking back, I gave up too early and others said, I'm glad I held out. I was ready, but I held out just a little longer. Jesus has this temptation looming over him in the midst of all this, the temptation to say, Come rescue me, rescue me in the midst of the challenge. But he doesn't do that. And here's partly why I think this is important for us today to remember. The enemy's semblance of power, It's not real power. It seems like it. And whatever you're facing, it seems like it in the moment. It seems like that that temptation is overwhelming, but it's not real. It's a false semblance of power. He doesn't have authority over you. He doesn't! Don't give in to that authority. There is one real source of power, and it's Jesus. He's the source of power that we depend on. And it's true power. In fact, he points here to the source of his power because we see the source and sign of power in this passage. The source of his power is right here at the end of the passage. Look at what he says. They said, Jesus of Nazareth. He he answered, I told you I am he. So if you seek me, let these men go.Now, this is important:
he asked to them let the men go. There's a reason why. Look at the verse. This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, of those whom you gave me. I have lost not one. This is subtle, but really powerful here. Usually when the New Testament says this is to fulfill, it's pointing to the old Testament. This is to fulfill the Word of God. The Old Testament would have been the Word of God to his audience. But here, this is not what he's doing. John, in writing this, is saying that this is to fulfill-- not the Old Testament, but Jesus’s own words.He said this in 17:12:
I have guarded them and not one of them has been lost, except the son of destruction. All right. So the connection, though, follow this carefully. Here's what's happening. John, the author, is saying that the words of Christ are the very words of God. They're the very source of power in life. This is the reason why we continue to push God's word, push God's word, get in his word, know his word, know him through his word. It's where you're going to find power and source and hope in life. But there's an important distinction here for us, absolutely critical distinction, because you can know all about real power, but it's got to come in to you to transform you. I heard this illustration from Tim Keller, but it's a common illustration. It's one that's going to make immediate sense. If we were going to build a new road through a mountain, you'd have to remove part of that mountain. You can't go over it. It's too steep. You've got to create a path for that road. How do you do that? You've got to blast that bedrock away. It doesn't move away otherwise. Now, the way to blast bedrock is, though, you do not take the dynamite and just set it on top of it. That won't do much. You might break off some chips, but it's not going to do much. The way to affect, dare I say, transform that rock, is to drill a hole deep into the rock. And you plant that dynamite, that power, deep inside the rock, and there is where the transformation takes place. And so God's power, it's right here. We have access to it all the time, but it's got to come deep inside you to transform you. And that's my prayer for us. And I know so many here are hungry for his word and depend on his word, study his word. My prayer is that especially over this holiday season, his word will come into you deeply more and more every day.