Chapter 1The Profundity of the Atonement
John Ch. 17 v 1, “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to Heaven, and said, Father the hour is come. Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.”
These profound words indicate the dividing of time and the dividing even eternity itself. The hour is come; what hour? The hour of His death. The hour of atonement. He had given to His disciples the symbols of the bread and the wine in remembrance of what He was about to do, the symbols of His death and passion, to be celebrated and observed until He should come again, as the most important thing, representing or pointing to the most important event of all events, the meaning of all history and the dividing point of the whole human race.
You will notice as that it is the atonement, of which He speaks, and for which He is preparing Himself and His disciples by this last audible dedicatory prayer of Himself. You will observe that He speaks about the glory of God, which was about to be achieved. “Father the hour is come,” the hour to which the great life of God had been moving from all eternity, the hour in which the full revelation of God would be made. That would be done in that hour for which all creation waited, and without which being has no meaning at all. In the events of this hour, God would glorify His Son, and by glorifying His Son, the Son would be able to glorify the Father. In accordance with the eternal purpose of God, the Son would be glorified in death, and in the overcoming of death in the rising again from the dead, and the ascension to the eternal throne.
The throne from which He came, He returns to, but not in the same condition as when He left it, for He left it as God. He returns as God and man, raising in Himself our humanity to the eternal throne of God, and thus fulfilling, as Paul elsewhere tells us in the second chapter of Hebrews, the whole design of God in the creation of man, that is the creation of all things, that man should have dominion over the works of the divine hand. It was to thwart this that Satan, in his hated of God and man, intervened in the Garden of Eden, and was so permitted to intervene.
There is a profound saying on the part of one of the great men of poetic history, that evil, strangely, mysteriously, is necessary to God, in the working out of the divine purpose and the expression of the divine life. Bold and tremendous words, which we can only utter with bated breath, but they are true We may not be able to comprehend the whole mystery of evil, anymore than we can comprehend the wisdom of God, or the being of God, but one day we shall, and it shall be the theme of heaven and the point that we shall be exploring throughout all eternity. If there is any occupation in heaven we know it must be this that eternally we shall be probing the depths of Christ and His unsearchable riches, the meaning of the life of God.
We have the formula of all things, the formula of creation, and the formula of the atonement in these opening words of the Saviour in His prayer, “Father the hour has come. Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also might glorify thee.” When we have understood that, there is nothing more remaining to be understood, in time or in eternity regarding the being and nature and purpose of God, the movement of His great life, the design and end which He has in view. The reason why we are here, is all summarised in these few words, “The hour is come, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee,” for it is in the glorification of the Son, that is victory over death and the grave, that is over the totality of evil, that God himself is manifest, and made known at last to all creation. That there is a veil over this mystery, we see only the glimmerings of the ultimate truth, it must surely be self- evident.
We have long esteemed the great darkness which fell over the earth at the sixth hour of the atonement. Christ was crucified at the third hour. At the sixth hour which was midday according to the time then calculated, darkness came over all the earth until the ninth hour. Three hours of darkness. At the ninth hour, there was that succession of four cries to heaven, four cries which in themselves summarise the whole meaning of the atonement, two of which at least can be found in Psalm twenty two. That this darkness was a prophetic darkness, an actual darkness, sent by God for a prophetic purpose there could be no shadow of doubt. I don’t think anyone has expressed it as well as Mr. Spurgeon. This is him at his highest and best. In his entire wonderful ministry he never said anything so profound and so powerful, so weighty, so far reaching as this. He says “This darkness tells us all that the passion is a great mystery. I have tried to explain it as a substitution, and I feel that where the language is explicit I may and must be explicit too. But yet I feel that the idea of substitution does not cover the whole of the dread mystery, and that no human conception can grasp the whole. Tell me the death of the Lord Jesus was a grand example of self sacrifice, I can see that, and much more. Tell me it was a wondrous obedience to the will of God, I can see that, and much more. Tell me it was the bearing, of what ought to have been borne by myriads of sinners of the human race, and the chastisement of their sin, I can see that, and found my best hopes upon it. But do not tell me that this is all that there is in the cross. No, great as this would be, there is much more in the redeemer’s death. God veiled the cross in darkness, and in darkness much of the deep meaning lies, not because God would not reveal it, but because we have not the capacity to discern it all.” So for Mr. Spurgeon in that great statement he made; his great mind was confronted with the dark mystery of the cross, where our Saviour died.
Too often the cross has been represented as a kind of a court scene, God is the judge and there is the sinner, someone steps in and intervenes, the mediator, to take the offence upon Himself, and God the Father is too often represented as an angry God, menacing the sinner with his eternal fate, and the Son stepping in to avert the anger of God. But this is entirely a false meaning of the atonement, because one of the greatest texts upon the matter says “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” So the cross is the greatest example of all, of the love of God. The surrender of his own Son to death, the great heart of God burdened and rent by the view, a view we can never behold ourselves, not in this world anyway, because we do not see, what God sees, the whole mystery of evil, the whole question mark which hangs over all creation, settled in one tremendous moment, in the only way that it could be settled. The only way of destroying evil is by evil, there is no other way, and there's no other one to assume evil but God Himself, and therefore you cannot understand the atonement, without understanding somewhat the mystery of the Holy Trinity. This is central to the whole understanding of the atonement, to know that God is One, yet three persons, not three Gods but One God, in three modes of being, as the early church theologians so correctly put it; God revealed in the person of the Father, in the person of the Son, in the person of the Holy Spirit Three persons not to be confused, one God not to be divided, and it is impossible to separate the persons in all their activity. You say what about the cross? It was the Son who hung dying there, but the Father loved the world He had made, and gave the Son. It was the Father’s love you see there pinioned upon the tree, and “Christ through the eternal spirit offered Himself without spot to God.” The mystery of the Holy Spirit, in the one Spirit of the Godhead, there present to offer as in burning flame, the sacrifice of love and obedience to the Almighty Father. Nor could you have the atonement unless the persons of the Godhead were so related, it must be Father, Son and Holy Spirit and in that order. The Father eternal, The Son eternal, The Holy Ghost eternal, yet there are not three eternals but one eternal, as the Athanasian creed so profoundly tells us. It is only as we perceive this, that the Godhead moves always in unity, in its grand design, to the great and dramatic conclusion, in which God, will reveal Himself finally, in all His perfection, glory, beauty and eternity, to the whole assembled creation. Now this is the intention of God in creation, this is why he made the heaven and the earth, the heaven first, the heaven of angels, Those bright celestial spirits in all their vast innumerable circles of living light, and then, the lower world our three dimensional world,, with sky and the firmament, earth and sea, and all that therein is. It was not in heaven, but upon earth, this lowly passing frail earth in which we live, it was here, that God designed to work out the meaning and purpose of His own life.
Let us remember this, when foolish men, scientists some of them, speculate about intelligent life being found somewhere else in the universe; they will never find it, they cannot find it even in the solar system. Only one planet, only one spot in the entire Universe could contain man, because here the most important events of all time and eternity happened, and it could not happen twice. It may not happen anywhere else and if evil is here, it is throughout all creation, and therefore God would have to die a thousand times upon some other cross, in some other world in order to bring all to His feet. The cross determines all scientific questions, my friend, make no mistake about that, it is the answer to all questions and all mystery, the happenings on this earth could happen nowhere else. This was the stage; lowly as it may seem to scientists, in comparison to the vastness of the universe. Why is the universe so vast? Not that it might contain other forms of life, but that you and I, through true science might have a yardstick, by which we can measure the eternity and the Almightiness of God, and see how great a God He was, and is, how unsearchable is His wisdom. “The Heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament showeth His handiwork, day unto day uttereth speech, night unto night showeth knowledge.” This is the purpose of creation, so far as it shows forth the wisdom, and the providence, the Almightiness of our great God and Saviour, the cross answers this question, it puts everything in right proportions. The intention of God in creation therefore, was to reveal and to prove Himself.
What do we mean by to prove Himself? He didn't need to prove Himself to Himself, but to creation, he had to show forth, that He was worthy to be Creator, He was worthy to bear rule over all things. That is the whole point of sin; the meaning of sin lies just there, that was the original sin. Satan refused this acknowledgement of God’s absolute right to create, and to create what He did, and as He did, is beyond question. The original sin in heaven, was the mystery that was revealed to the angels, at what point of their existence we cannot tell, that God’s purposes were not to be fulfilled in them, except in a secondary sense, that they were to be the servants of another creation, of a feeble, frail creature called man, whose destiny was to be higher than the angels, who should be subject to time, and all that that means, as angels are not subject to it, and even to death itself. But through this means, man would be exalted to the eternal throne, to reign over all the works of God, and Satan in the midst of the stones of Holy fire, pondered upon this, and in his heart rebelled against it. That he should be a servant of such a creature as this, and deprived of the ultimate crown, which he thought was his due, and with the thought, the light went out in his spirit and he became darkness. As Milton so eloquently puts it, Satan discovers Hell. But what is that Hell he discovered? I am Hell he says, I am Hell. I am Hell. Some of the early divines used to say, that the bottomless pit is the soul of impenitent man, there is far more truth in that perhaps, than in the ideas which have survived from the middle ages, and the Spanish inquisition, of the kind of Hell which might be suitable for a body indeed, but certainly would not be suitable for a mind.
Now how would God deal with such a situation as this? The fall of angels was without remedy, because they sinned against total light; there is no redemption for fallen angels, there cannot be. There is for fallen man, because he is a limited creature, they weren't. Man depends upon those who have gone before him, father, son, and grandson and so on, it goes on and on. A short life compassed about with trials, and questions, difficulties and problems and enigmas; man only sees the little world that is around him, he has light for very little more. He is a limited creature and therefore the possibility of redemption arises in man. When the Lord Jesus was revealed, when as the Son came forth from the bosom of the Father, bearing the Father’s credentials, to bring all creation back to Himself, then we read, “verily He took not on him the seed of angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham, to be made in all points like unto His brethren.”
Oh the glory and the wonder of the incarnation. The babe of Bethlehem. Where was the Godhead, when it lay an unconscious embryo in the womb of the virgin, or hung upon that maiden’s breast, where was the Godhead then? Oh the mystery, as the hymn writer said, “Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly, made man.” He, who was the Godhead, in whom the whole Godhead resided, the second person thereof, became the nursemaid of the human race, the second man. There have only been two men, the first was Adam, the second is the Lord from heaven in whom mankind is renewed, and creation is made again without evil, without the possibility of evil because now God is in it. Whereas before he presided over it, now He enters into His own creation, as a helpless babe at Bethlehem, and gives Himself to the death of the cross. At the appointed hour, at the appointed moment, He renders up His life. And we approach the meaning of the atonement and the profundity of it. When we go back to the original sin and see what it is that sin does, sin denies the purpose of creation, it denies the wisdom of God, it denies the right of God to act, according to His own wisdom, which is always according to perfect love, and perfect love is the only dimension upon which creation can exist. So Satan whatever his original name was, moved through the holy stones of fire, and covered as a cherub the very throne of God, denied his own being and was a traitor to his own nature, and to perfect love, when he heard the news and knew the wisdom, that a lesser creature would be made who would be exalted at last above the angels to the very throne of God, and would be one, with God in his eternal reign. He did not know, of course, for it was hidden from him, that it would only be realised through the Son. It would have been no test to Satan and to the fallen angels, if they had known beforehand all the details, for they have to be saved eternally by faith, and eternal and perfect love, just as we are saved by faith, strange that, isn't it? Faith in heaven? Yes there’s a place for it, even in Heaven, the kind of faith, which relies upon the wisdom of God, even when it does not see to the end of it, and says, if there is a purpose that some should be exalted above us, we should love them the more on that account because perfect love seeketh not her own. I don't know what passed through the soul of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, I don’t know what burden it was that crushed Him there, and caused him to say even at this late hour “O Father, if it be possible,” if there is another way, “let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not what I will, but thy will be done." Without Gethsemane, there would not have been that extremity of dedication, which we find in the Saviour, when He discarded all possibility finally and fully, as man of any alternative and said thy will be done.
That is the answer to sin, because Satan had revolted against the will of God, He did not assent or consent to the divine wisdom, he regarded himself as a creation that had the right and title to be independent of the eternal God, else God had no right to create him. You hear the same thing echoing in many a man’s heart and mouth in these days, I didn't ask to come here, I didn’t ask to be put in this world. Whereas life itself, is so infinite a treasure, that we ought to bow in deep thankfulness before God every day of our lives, and thank him that it pleased Him to create us, and grant unto us the joy and the fullness of life and the promise of the glory that is to be. So that if Christ, bore all the evil of all the universe, and answered the great question which hangs over all creation, both in Heaven and in earth, and by this means proved Himself, in perfect love and absolute sacrifice, and self negation to be worthy of the eternal rule, to be worthy of being Creator, that all creation henceforth might worship Him, not simply because He was wise and Almighty, but because He was humble and meek, and because He became the lowest of all. Because He had shown us what perfect love was, which is the element of all heaven, and of the being of God, and so provided for us the certainty, the sureness of that destiny which awaits.
Hence in this sense, the atonement is cosmic. There is a theological term that is very much in evidence in these days, we call it the doctrine of the limited atonement, personally I never use that term. If I want a term that expresses what this is supposed to represent, I always use the term particular redemption. I think it’s safer and is more understandable, because there’s a sense in which the atonement cannot be limited, it affects not only all men, but it affects all angels, it affects all Hell, it affects the devil himself. It has to do with the final answer to the evil that is in the Universe, so that evil can never again rise up, and even in hell there will be unanimity amongst fallen angels and impenitent men. For all eternity there will be unanimity as to the worthiness of Christ to rule. Does not Paul say that at the name of Jesus every knee must bow to him, of things in Heaven, things in earth and things under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Let us remember this, there will be no sin in hell, there will be no possibility of sin ever being committed anymore, Satan will just bear eternally the consequences of his own evil, in the silence and the dumbness of his final assent, to the glory of God and the name of Christ, and along with him every soul cast away into the blackness of that darkness for ever, that darkness that descends upon spirits, takes possession of spirits, which were once light, but have now departed from light. There will be unanimity in all creation, and never again will sin rise up a second time to disturb the peace and the state of perfect love in the regions of the divine triumph.
So we perceive that the atonement is cosmic, it affects all being therefore it cannot be limited, except as to its application to the penitent, and the believing. For in order to enjoy the benefits of Christ’s atonement, it is perfectly obvious that we too in a great act of self surrender which we call faith and repentance, we turn from our own sins, we acknowledge the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, and in an instant that righteousness becomes ours. As a justifying righteousness we enter into a great new birth, into the new creation and we begin to learn the lesson of perfect love.
So we see that the salvation of the sinner is not an end in itself, it is only the beginning of the glory of God, the first step that we take on the road back, which shall end at the throne of God, when this word shall be completely understood.
“To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I overcame, and I am sat down with my Father in His throne,” or again in the 17th chapter of John, where He so wonderfully says “That they all might be one.” That’s not the ecumenical oneness in this world, this is the eternal oneness of the redeemed in Heaven, with the eternal Father. It Is a wonderful oneness, “That they all might be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they might be one in us, that the whole creation might know, that I am thine, and thou art mine, and these are mine.” The final word must ever be, that which penetrated the soul of John the divine, when there was given to him the vision of the Revelation, “Every creature which was in heaven, and earth and under the earth heard I saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power and glory and riches and honour and blessing forever and forever”. Amen.
John ch.18.v.1 “When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.”
Simple words aren’t they? They are just a homely account of something which happened, but also affects the whole history of the world and our history now. When Jesus had spoken these words, what words? We have to go right back to the beginning of the 14th chapter of John to find out what the words were that John is referring to, they are words which was first spoken by the Lord in the upper room on the same night that He is betrayed, We have been reading of the betrayal and arrest of the Lord on that last dreadful night before that even more dreadful day, when He was lifted up upon the cross and died for the sins of the world. This is the importance of this verse before He left the upper room, and after He had broken the bread and gave to His disciples the wine saying “Take, eat; this is my body, drink ye all of this cup it is the New Testament in my blood.” He then spoke some parting words and counsel which are of infinite importance, so marvellous in there depth, “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me,” familiar words which we use at the bedsides of the sick and the dying.
Going on to the 15th chapter, the parable of the true vine and the 16th chapter with its solemn warnings, of sorrow, tragedy, and trial to come, for Christ’s people and the church right through the ages. When they rose up to go forth to the garden of Gethsemane and to the Judgment Hall leading finally to the cross, the Lord lifts up His eyes to heaven and prays in that great 17th chapter of John that prayer in which He commits Himself to the Father, and all the issue of His dying and His living again, and in particular, the protection and the preservation for all time those who had been given into His charge, we believe from the foundation of the world, that He might be their Redeemer and Saviour and bring them through all tribulation, right down the centuries until everyone of them shall land safely upon the other shore and not one of us be left behind.
When Jesus had spoken these words, the final solemn important words which lie at the basis of our redemption, of our hope and of our comfort and of all the strength we receive from God as the days go by, a light which we specially need for these dark days into which we are now passing. When Jesus had spoken these words He went forth with His disciples from the upper room through the streets of the city of Jerusalem, they were there for the Passover, a land of silence speaks at midnight. They had no proper street lighting in those days, and in the darkness they went through the city wall and, made their way down the paths which lead into the depths of that ravine. That deep cleft in the earth between the high wall and summit of Jerusalem, then the steep ascent of the Mount of Olives at the bottom of the ravine flows the brook Cedron. “They went over the brook Cedron,” now why did John the apostle make a note of that, what has the brook Cedron got to do with it? Why should John tell us He went forth over the brook Cedron into a place where there was a garden? We know from other writers that it was the garden of Gethsemane, on the accent going up to the Mount of Olives. Well he mentions it because it is of great prophetic importance, the brook Cedron was a very important river in the history of the children of Israel and there was one particular portion of that history which we shall mention. Those who know your Bibles will know how it figured largely in the history of King David. David’s son Absalom rose up against his father in a colossal rebellion which involved the whole of the country, all of the twelve tribes were descending upon Jerusalem with a mighty army to put an end to his own father’s reign that he, Absalom, might be crowned in his father’s room and stead. When tidings of this reached David he knew that if he entered the city he and all hope of Israel would be destroyed. So he gathered together his household and his faithful guards some of whom had met David during the time much earlier on in his life, when he was driven by king Saul from Israel, and had to find refuge in foreign and heathen lands, There he became the centre of a band of men gathered from all parts who were faithful to him, they were hard men wild and warlike, some had been fugitives from justice, but they became the terror of all other armies at that time because of their military prowess and warlike zeal, but few in number, they could not stand up against a mighty army which was coming down.
So David left with the people that would go with him, faithful guards, and they went down across the brook Cedron almost at the same time that Absalom was about to enter at the other side of the city, they went up the slope of the Mount of Olives. They were not safe until they had mounted that ascent and had got into open country and beyond, unto the high roads where they could make progress, and escape from that which was hanging over them. It is said that the Mount of Olives is no small obstacle for anybody fleeing in that direction from Jerusalem. It is a fairly steep ascent and hampered with the women and children and little ones and all that they were taking with them. It was a serious exercise in which they were engaged and as they went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, we read that king David wept bitterly. You will find in the Old Testament the weeping of King David, as he fled from Jerusalem as he went up the Mount of Olives.
We don’t know where the garden of Gethsemane was, there is a place marked out now with a stone there I believe on the Mount of Olives as it exists today, people go there and are told by the guides this is the garden of Gethsemane, but there’s nothing authentic about it. Anybody who ever goes to the Holy Land need to take with a large spoonful of salt, any tale which is told you about different places here and there. They will even show you the upper room where the Holy Spirit came down upon the waiting church on the day of Pentecost. Anybody who has any knowledge knows that the city which Christ knew and the apostles, is buried thirty feet below the rubbish of successive cities of Jerusalem which have been destroyed, built, destroyed again and again, because war has passed over that region so many times that the present city is built upon the heaped up rubbish of successive cities, as they have been built and fallen in there turn. So there’s nothing recognisable in Jerusalem today, even the so called Wailing Wall is simply the foundations of the outer court of the Temple, which in the days of the Romans was cast down, along with the whole of the city, so that not one stone upon another above the surface of the city then is left standing. So nobody can tell us where the Garden of Gethsemane was, it’s just as well because people make a superstition of these things, and shrine worship and all the rest of it and that is an abomination in the site of a Holy God. “Neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem,” He told the woman of Samaria, “shall men worship the Father, but the true worshippers shall worship in Spirit and in truth,”
But this much we can say, that the garden of Gethsemane was not very far from the place where David wept, despised and rejected by his people as he was forced out by them, and treated as an object of curse and contempt, as he fled from the city as good as dead. He wept, and I sometimes like to think, though the spot can never be identified, that it was at that very self same place where David wept bitterly that the Lord cast himself down upon the ground that night, “and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood, falling down to the ground, as He cried as the despised and rejected one, bearing the curse and sin of the world, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, yet not my will but thine be done.”
There it was, in that garden when He had finished his prayer, three times praying in like manner, the band of soldiers arrived, this formidable company of men coming in the dark with their lanterns, their torches, their weapons to arrest their God, and to tie the hands of the great Creator behind his back. A thing which they could not do if He had not willingly given Himself into their hands, receiving the kiss of the traitor Judas, going forth to meet those who were His foes, they were foe to Him, though He was no foe to them. This was what confronted Him on the other side of the brook Cedron, they came to take Him, but it was by His own divine appointment. He said on another occasion “this is your hour and the power of darkness,” this concerning His arrest and bringing Him before His false accusers. It was all part of the divine plan of our redemption. How then could men be working out a historical drama as it were? And doing these things to the Saviour? Like Judas who betrayed Him and Caiaphas in condemning Him, and the men arresting and binding Him? They were only carrying out the will of God, why should they be blamed? This is the question which often arises, you see the answer is plain but it’s not too simple, and in that God is the ruler of all. He is the great Governor of the nations and of all men, and in God’s government it is proper with God to use evil to punish evil, and to take the evil of men’s heart and make it an instrument for their own chastisement, and at the same time a means of carrying out His own blessed design of bringing out of evil a greater good than ever otherwise could be. This is the wisdom of God; this is the power and the sovereignty of God. Let us remember that when we talk of that strange and mysterious word predestination, that some people are terribly afraid of, and others not afraid but ought to be afraid of it. They make much of it and talk about it from platforms, and who focus and make very poor work of describing a glorious mystery of God. Let us remember that predestination works this way, it works through flesh and blood, that works through the evil of men’s hearts, and through all the goodness and wisdom of God at all times and all stages.
Divine predestination never does violence to the sacredness and integrity of the human soul, that the integrity of the human individual is preserved intact and inviolate of the mysterious sovereign foreordination of God, so that men do freely what they do, for good or ill, and yet back of it all a directing, and all embracing providence of God. Who perceiving the end from the beginning, because He Himself has foreordained the end, from the beginning and all the means leading up to the end, and yet He sets majestic wisdom doing violence to nobody, and preserving the integrity at all times of each individual human personality. Further than that we can’t go, but thus far we can go, or as necessary, we should go. We assure everybody that there is nothing in divine predestination, which does violence to them or the dispositions of their own heart.
The highest level of predestination was the Son of God in the garden, under the burden of that immense sorrow, and the Son of God upon the cross bearing the sins of the whole world, that is divine predestination, although He who was upon the cross, was party to the foreordination in the council of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, before the world began. Though this was that for which the world was created; although He knew all about it before hand. He needed not to be told, who had the whole picture of it in His heart and mind He Himself in the Old Testament had moved through the prophecy. He was the prophet of the prophets, it was His word that Isaiah spoke when he said, “He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed”.
It was Christ speaking in Isaiah, of his own death eight hundred years before it took place. This is divine predestination, although He knew all and was waiting for all, and was ready for all, “For the joy that was set before him, he endured this cross, despising the shame.”
Nevertheless there was not in that glorious predestination a relief, or abatement or a modifying of one pine of sorrow, one moment of distress, one agonising pain of soul or body, as He went forward to the work of our redemption. “He was the man of sorrows acquainted with grief,” the reality of His suffering. Let them set that not against His foreknowledge of His sufferings, but in relation to the nature of God’s sovereignty, and how He works. “He spared not his own Son, but freely, gave him up for us all.” In this matter of the creation of the whole world, an entire universe the government and control of all history, the history of mankind that God has managed from the beginning, and will to the end. In all this there is a deep mystery and a deep tragedy which only eternity will disclose.
Think ye not, that when the Lord God Almighty, the Eternal Father, “spared not His own Son but freely gave Him up for us all,” There was not likewise an agony in the heart of the Eternal Father Himself? Do you think it was with pleasure He did behold the shame and curse and suffering, laid upon the only begotten, when He cried, “Awake oh sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord, smite the shepherd and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.” Think ye not that there was not the reality of the cross in the heart of the Eternal God when this took place? And so it is that a divine predestination rends the heart of the Godhead. There must be something mysterious and tremendously holy glorious, and thanks be unto God, that it is there, because now we are sure about what the outcome will be. We know there is a sure and certain end to all history, to yours and mine, and as far as the Son of God is concerned and all His people. He will stand in the midst of them at the end of the day, and He will say, “Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition.” So when you hear about divine sovereignty, about Calvinism to use a common term about predestination, you will know now won’t you? And you'll never forget it.
King David went up the ascent, of the Mount of Olives and wept bitterly, because he was a type of the One who should follow in the same footsteps, which he had planted on that sacred soil, and would water the ground with His tears too, He was the eternal God. David wept for himself and his family, and the tragedy that overwhelmed him, and Christ wept that He may understand even if He could understand the smallest portion of the mystery, of what took place when Christ wept drops of blood. That the Son of God, suffered even as David suffered before him, because He was bearing the tragedy of a world which He loved, who had rebelled against Him? You and I amongst them and had brought down upon creation all that weight of sorrow and curse and divine displeasure, upon the righteousness and fearful holiness of Almighty God, and He Himself must bare it Who Himself set up the law in all its majesty which could not be passed by, and there in one hour it all passed. All the pain and sorrow, all the tears and sadness that sin had ever brought upon the world in one hour that passed through His soul in the garden of Gethsemane, and Luke tells us, unless that there had appeared an angel of God from heaven strengthening Him, His human frame would never have survived that burden of sorrow in the garden That intense weeping and sorrow, and agony, which was the prelude to the cross itself, And so the reality of the suffering that Christ endured, and that predestination did not spare Him one tear.
So it is you may say, in that faith which you have in our great and gracious God, when affliction comes upon you will say, well I know it must have been predestined, but the sorrow is just the same. This pose is just as agonising as I feel, this parting with loved one’s is a very real thing. I know that God has His times and seasons, a time to live and a time to die, I know it all well but it does not relieve me of pain and anguish all it did to me, it was this, It held before me a bright and glorious hope, and it was that, that helped me to dry my tears and to bare, what it pleased God to lay upon me. Because I know as a child of God by faith and by the Word, and by what I know of God, that He does nothing but what is good, nothing which is not absolutely in conformity too, and in consistency with His own nature and position. He cannot deny Himself, He cannot be other than what He is. He must at all time be good, the Almighty, be glorious and righteous.
Therefore, all that He has in view and for which He has made full provision, is bound to be worked out on those principles, whatever the outcome it will always be the highest possible that the wisdom of God could define or decree, and we are the more embolden to grasp this fact.
As we company with our blessed Lord from the upper room, having heard Him praying that most majestic of all prayers, for the preservation of His people, and for their final glory. We go out with Him through the door, and into the silent streets of Jerusalem into that dark valley of the brook Cedron. To him as it was to David, the valley of the shadow of death. Because He went through it we can say, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” But they will only comfort me, thy rod and thy staff, because thou as the shepherd of thy sheep has gone before me, and there was none to give thee thy comfort.
“If it be possible let this cup pass from me, never the less, not my will but thine be done.” Let me endure all without feeling, let me be carried through it all that the will of the eternal Father, might be accomplished in the redemption of His people, and none of them be lost but the son of perdition. I say let us company with our blessed Lord in this dark passage in this dark way, this fearsome savage road which He must press with His own blessed footprints. As He goes up the accent of the Mount of Olives, to lead His people from captivity from danger and bring them out at last into the broad planes of the divine grace of mercy and provision.
That place we now occupy through what He has done, of the forgiveness of our sins. Think of the stain of those sins you’ve committed, that we have all committed, the apathy of our souls, the forgetfulness of Christ, when we ought to have remembered how slighting we’ve passed over our reading of God’s Word today. It is His Word and there was a sacrifice though it meant so much to Him it has meant so little to us. It has perhaps not brought from us today one expression to the Lord of thankfulness, for giving His life for me. That we haven’t got a mind or a heart to feel after Him as we ought this day. Let us think of this, as the stain of our sin, of the littleness of our attainments in grace, and we ought to apply ourselves more and more than we do. To prayer and the seeking after Him and rejoicing in Him, in praising and adoring the name of our blessed Redeemer.
Somehow or other we are birds with broken wings; we haven’t attained yet. We would like at times to soar into the upper regions of heaven, and there attain to that heightened eminence and glory which God has planted in our soul. But the Lord help us our wings won’t carry us, not enough grace yet, not enough divine awe under our plumage, but one day we will be set free. One day we will soar and we'll rise to the highest limits of divine glory, and there see Him upon the throne we often have longed for and see that face, as John Bunyan says, ‘which we have come so far to behold.’ There we shall see Him, whose name is Immanuel, the Word of God, and God with us, there in noble and sweeter strains we shall praise Him for what He’s done. Amen
We again think of that tragic journey which He undertook across the brook Cedron, and up the steep accent of the Mount of Olives. Who might be pressed out of measure in that garden with our sins and our sorrows, that we might not bear that load in all eternity. We pray the Lord will open our hearts more and more to understand that sovereign and glorious grace. He has bestowed upon us. Amen
Chapter 3Arrest and Betrayal
John Chapter 18, vs.1 - 9 The subject before us is the arrest and betrayal of our Lord; the circumstances of His arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. We have not left the garden following the night of agony in which we have endeavoured to describe, “He had said to his disciples sleep on and take your rest, he that betrayeth me is at hand, arise let us be going.” It seems a contradiction on one hand, to sleep on and take your rest, while the other is “arise, and let us go forth to meet them". But the contradiction is only seeming; their sleep was to continue for another forty days, until the Holy Spirit should descend upon them at Pentecost from on high. With enlightenment they should be wakened to the full light and glory of the New Testament day.
In the meantime they must accompany Him as witnesses until the moment of His arrest, when the multitude of soldiers, and officials came into the garden at that time for Him with Judas the traitor at their head. In the accounts in the other gospels we read that Judas came forward first of all and kissed Him, and said “Hail Master.” The Lord said, “betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?” John does not describe the actual betrayal, but he tells us that Judas was there, at the end of verse 5 of chapter18 we read “Judas also which betrayed Him stood with them.” Now John does not describe the kiss of betrayal or the words of the Lord at that time, this had been fully dealt with by the earlier writers Matthew, Mark and Luke.
The purpose was to proceed from that point to matters of a very great moment indeed, so we select John’s account for our consideration. We have noted the order of events so far as the other gospels are concerned. We join the little band, the Lord and His companions in the garden, actually at the time when the kiss of betrayal had been administered. We proceed from there with those who had come to take him. In the meantime we remind ourselves according to John’s account that the events in the upper room had taken place, that the Lord’s comforting words, words of enlightenment and instruction for the guidance of His church at all subsequent times have been uttered in chapters fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen, commencing with the words, “Let not your heart be troubled, … believe also in Me, in my Fathers house are many mansions”.
Then having completed that great discourse in the upper room He proceeds to pray that great prayer of John 17.
Having completed that prayer, He goes forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, into a place where there is a garden. John does not mention Gethsemane, but we know it was Gethsemane into which He entered with His disciples. Now the brook Cedron, flows in the deep valley, on one side of Jerusalem, on one side is the Mount on which Zion is built, and on the other is the Mount of Olives. It was across this brook that King David went with his household and those men who were faithful to him, having been rejected by his own people. A vast army had been assembled, by his renegade son Absalom, who sought to seize the throne, an army which David had not the resources to meet, so while there was time he left the city of Jerusalem and fled across the brook Cedron, ascended the mount of Olives and made his escape into the open country beyond, before he could be trapped in the city, by the army of his foes,
It is significant that it was across this same brook that the Lord went and entered upon the ascent of the Mount of Olives, in the very footsteps of King David. He too was rejected by the people from being King; He too like King David lived again and returned to His throne. Came back from death and the grave and His kingdom was established but not the earthly, but upon the invisible heavenly throne of His kingdom, where now He continues to reign, and shall reign at the right hand of God until all His foes are made His footstool.
It is obvious that in the prophetic nature of events in which our Lord Jesus Christ continually moved, that the flight of David from Absalom when he was rejected from being King was designed as a type of what should take place with Christ Himself, as He followed in the very footsteps of David. With this end in view so that when He entered into Gethsemane He cast Himself down in that mysterious and dreadful agony. “If it be possible let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not what I will, but thine be done”. That all this was appointed and He knew that it was appointed, He was fulfilling the part, determined and decreed for Him to do. Nevertheless, that did not abate the smallest portion or weight, of that agony and distress, which was necessary for His soul to bear and to experience.
Now crossing the brook Cedron in the footsteps of David, He enters immediately into the garden of Gethsemane which probably laid some small way off the accent of the Mount of Olives. There was a garden which was called Gethsemane, of which its name means the oil press. There was an oil press in the garden because the olive trees were there. When the olive berries were harvested they were crushed through the oil press so as to extract the golden oil therefrom.
You would immediately consider and you would be right in doing so, that it had to be Gethsemane and nowhere else, as it had to be the brook Cedron. So it had to be Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives, for it was there that those trees grew in abundance and still do we are told. Those olive trees are a symbol of the church; Romans eleven makes that clear. Paul uses the olive tree as a parable of the covenanted mercy of God, towards Israel. First of all, the earthly Israel, and then when, they were rejected, the heavenly spiritual Israel of Jew and Gentile. We are grafted into the olive tree, which is the covenant of God’s mercy. Originally promised to Abraham and his seed, we are grafted in so we become the seed of Abraham, the inheritors of the promises, this is what Paul tells us in Romans eleven.
Now the precious oil of the Spirit is the oil of the olive, it is the Holy Spirit who is intended in this representation of the oil, the sap which arises, and the oil which is produced in the fruition of those branches through the blessing of God. So we who are grafted in are filled with the Spirit. But this precious oil of the Spirit may only come through the oil press, hence the pressure of soul which Christ endured in the Garden of Gethsemane. That through His sufferings, through the crushing of His life, His soul, there might flow out the abundance of the oil, from the heavenly Gethsemane. This is a picture which is given to us, and was the token of all His sufferings unto death. What is blood and sweat to Christ becomes thereby the spirit or life from the dead to us, The Holy Spirit comes only because our Lord Jesus Christ is glorified. He is given through the sufferings of Christ and because of those sufferings, the Holy Spirit in His fullness made available to you and to me. The blood and sweat of Gethsemane, becomes to us the oil of the spirit the oil of gladness and of the divine fullness to us.
Likewise this garden in which the betrayal and arrest took place as well as the agony, has been rightly compared right down the ages by godly men of that original garden where sin entered in to the human race. Here the Garden of Eden where man rejected God and again this garden of Gethsemane, where Christ was repudiated by man, Betrayed, taken, bound, led away to be crucified, Here God identified Himself in Christ with man’s death, and assumed man’s cursed state and condition, became despised and rejected, and entered into the long history of man’s suffering, because of sin from the Garden of Eden onwards to the end of time.
All that burden and curse which man has borne, because of his sinfulness and his repudiation of God, Christ entered into the deepest innermost meaning of it, being perfectly identified with man, and with man’s sin. “Though he knew no sin, God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Somewhere in that region of suffering, in the transference of guilt to His Holy Soul, there lies the meaning of the great agony which he endured. One of the earlier accounts we read that in the midst of His agony, “an Angel appeared unto him from Heaven strengthening him”. This ministry of Angels sent from the Father confirm upon Christ a renewal of His human or physical strength that He might not die there in the garden, as He otherwise could have done. That He might not die prematurely, but that He should have enough resource of strength, human strength, to continue just for another twelve hours, until the time of His crucifixion, and death the following day and so He endured till the end, to expiate our sins, yours and mine.
Now we proceed to verse two. “And Judas also which betrayed him, knew the place; for Jesus oftentimes resorted thither with His disciples”. This garden of Gethsemane to it our Lord Jesus Christ went throughout the days of this holy week, which concluded with His crucifixion. We read in Luke’s account in chapter 21 v. 37 that He was in Jerusalem, “In the daytime and at night He went out and abode in the mount that is called the Mount of Olives”. Now this is not meant to be that he slept rough in the open air, it means that in the garden of Gethsemane, there was not only the wine press, but there was the house, the farm house which was probably covering the whole of the mount of olives.
There were farmhouses in which men dwelt with their families and looked after the olive trees. These were enclosed in their particular field, or portion on the Mount of Olives, and undoubtedly, in one of these houses the one that was known as the house belonging to the garden of Gethsemane, He would dwell, and is just as certain as certain can be, that the young man, the unknown unnamed young man mentioned in the Gospel of Mark at the time of Christ’s arrest, ran out of the house wrapped around with a sheet. Having no other clothes on and just risen from bed wrapping a sheet around his naked body, and ran out into the garden, to do what he could undoubtedly to rescue the Saviour, and the soldier’s sought to lay hands upon him, and got hold of the sheet, he slipped out of the sheet and ran away naked in the dark, and so made good his escape. It is just as certain as certain can be that this young man was the son of the house, where the Lord was abiding during the nights of that week which lead up to the Passover and the betrayal and the crucifixion.
So that Judas was well aware where the Saviour was to be found, the authorities were afraid to arrest Him while He was in the daylight in Jerusalem, because the crowds of people, who thronged about Him, were so great that they feared a tumult would be created. “So they said not in the daytime lest there be a tumult, but at night time.” Judas said unto them I know where He will be at night-time, I can take you to the very place, and it was long enough to know He was in the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is a very a big mountain, it was extensive and there were many houses, many hiding places, many trees, one would need to know in the dark, no street lighting of any kind, would need to know where to go, and where to find the person whom they would arrest, Jesus knew all this and the Saviour placed Himself in that position that He might be betrayed, because so it was appointed.
It was designed to be that Christ was there to afford Judas his opportunity, and to surrender Himself to suffering and death, showing that He Himself was the master of His own fate. He was not the victim of circumstances; He knew He was to be betrayed. “He had given the sop to Judas, and said what thou doest, do quickly, immediately Judas went out and it was night,” night in His soul as well, it was night in every other sense. “No man, taketh my life from me says Christ,” “no man is able to lay his hands upon me, hither to because his hour was not yet come,” but now His hour was come. “This is your hour he said, and the power of darkness.” The moment had come appointed from all eternity that He should be arrested and brought to judgement. Within twelve hours of this very moment He would be upon the tree
So He was decidedly in Gethsemane for the purpose of the agony that last night, and for the subsequent betrayal and arrest. It had to be this way, so would He surrender Himself, and place Himself within the power of His enemies who had no power over Him, otherwise than what is permitted and ordained.
Now verse three proceeds to tell us “Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons”. Now by the words which are used in connection with this force, or company of men who came to arrest Him we know that it was a Roman military detachment, which had been brought in for the purpose; a description of the officers and of the detachment itself and the weapons which the men bore, we know that Roman terms were being used by John and other writers, and that this was no mere round up of Jewish rowdies which had been assembled, but a regular force of military supplied by the Roman governor, in accordance with his own instructions from Caesar. At all costs to maintain order, to prevent riots, and to see that those who moved sedition are brought to book, before they can do harm to the Roman rule. So it was represented to the Roman authorities who are in Jerusalem that this man must be arrested, or there would be trouble for Caesar.
So a Roman military detachment came along with Judas, who was their guide, for they needed a guide, and servants of the High priest and officers of the temple, were there to from the scribes and the Pharisees, in order to see that the thing was done, and that the right man was arrested. The words indicate there was a complete cohort of Roman soldiers, a display of force to meet all possibilities, for the Romans were a very careful people. They anticipated trouble, and sent a sufficient force of men to prevent any attempt which might be made at escape, or of raising a tumult on behalf of the prisoner. They sought to take, this is what verse three means. “Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the Chief priests” (that is through the mediation of the Chief priests and Pharisees, with the Roman governor) “cometh thither with the lanterns and torches and weapons”. “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth and said unto them, whom seek ye?” Notice these important words, “Jesus knowing all things that should come upon him”. He knew all things that should come upon Him, not only because He was God, and came from God, but because it was His spirit, which inspired the prophets and the writers of Holy Scriptures, and all these things, were written of Him beforehand.
He knew all things, and John the writer is very careful to tell us about this, because he would have us know, that although our Lord had laid aside his divine prerogatives and glory, that He might become true man for our redemption. Nevertheless there was through the spirit, the Holy Spirit given to Him, with out measure as man, in communication all the time of divine knowledge, of communion with the Father, His illuminated human mind was given all knowledge concerning our redemption and all that was necessary to be done. So as we read in the fortieth Psalm, verse seven, “Then said I, Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me. I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart.” So He was our perfect mediator, knowing all things that are necessary to know for our redemption, and all things He should do. The complete range, of the divine Holy will of the Father, which He should execute, and bring it to pass, nothing was hidden from Him and he knew all things. All things that should come upon Him, He went forth at the head of his little band of disciples, having already received the traitors.
Judas no doubt detached himself from the multitude, he went on ahead, I’ll show you the man, There is a company of men here, I’ll show you the one to arrest, so he went up to Him and said, “Hail Master” and kissed him, while the force of men stood there waiting, watching to perform their duty. Judas returns to them and the Saviour advances towards them, before they could come to Him, He went to them, “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth (that is went forth to them, advanced towards them) and said into them, whom seek ye?” They being Romans having received only one name that was given to them, they said Jesus of Nazareth, and this was the name by which He was known, Jesus of Nazareth?
This was the name that was given to him upon the cross, Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews. Pilate wouldn’t alter it, because he couldn’t, even if he desired, which he didn’t desire. Pilate refused to alter it, they said to Him, put rather He said I am the King of the Jews, he said, No what I have written I have written Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. What he wrote was the truth, was something in Pilate’s heart that involved him, and which he was writing?
So He came forward and said unto them, “whom seek ye?” They answered Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am He; As soon then as he had said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground.
Now this is the event which only John describes, and we must pay strict attention to it. It is not the first time the Lord uses these words, whom seek ye? They occur in the Gospel of John on at least two other important occasions. One, at the beginning, and the other at the end of the Gospel. In chapter one, the two young men John and Andrew, separate themselves from John the Baptist, and follow Jesus, when John the Baptist says, “Behold the Lamb of God”. Jesus turned, when he sees the young men following him, and says what seek ye? He said unto him Master where dwellest thou? Come and see,” Again the twentieth chapter, the day of his Resurrection, He stands there besides Mary Magdalene in the garden, she’s a weeping woman. “Why weepiest thou, whom seekest thou?”
So likewise to these who had come to betray, and to arrest He said “Whom seek ye? Whom seekest thou? Whom do ye seek? But what were blessed words to John and Andrew, and to Mary Magdalene, are also words of terrible severity and Judgement upon those who came to arrest him the garden. “Whom seek ye?” Jesus of Nazareth”. “I am He” You will notice in your bibles the He is in italics. What He really said is, “I AM,” the name of Jehovah; I AM. When he said this, they fell to the ground; they went backward and fell to the ground. This action shows two things. First, that they could have no power over Christ, except that which God permitted them to have. They had brought the whole Roman army there, and not just a section of it, a portion of a Legion, a Cohort, as if the whole mighty Roman army had been assembled from all over the world. They could not have laid a finger upon Him unless as God pleased. That when He spoke to them, I AM. His Deity flashed out like a discharge of lightening, upon their face; and they fell backwards in dismay, and rolled upon the ground. The second thing that this action showed was that their business was with Him alone, because this was part of the process, of securing the immunity of the other Apostles from arrest. There were eleven of them, with Him, they must be allowed to go their way.
This exhibition of His power prevented any attempt which they might have considered of arresting the others, who were with Him as well. Their business was with Him alone; His business was with them with what was to follow. So it is that we read in verse eight, “Jesus answered, I have told you, that I am He; If therefore you seek me, let these go their way that the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.”
Now in these words, the proof of the atonement, and the nature of the atonement for our redemption, is made clear and plain. They went backwards, now this is an Old Testament expression; they went backwards and fell to the ground. You will notice it was mentioned in our Psalm 40, verse 14. Remember, this is the Saviour speaking in prophecy, “Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul to destroy it; let them be driven backwards and put to shame that wish me evil”. “They went backward and fell to the ground”, again Isaiah 42 and verse 17, “They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods.” This expression, they shall be turned back, they shall be made to go back is a decree of God, and is an exhibition of divine sovereignty and power, hence when they went backward, and fell to the ground in the garden of Gethsemane, this was a token that Christ’s word, I AM or I AM HE, was loaded with divinity, with divine prerogative and omnipotence to repel them and to convince them that they could do nothing against this man, as it was permitted them by God. Jeremiah chapter 46, v 5, “Wherefore have I seen them dismayed and turned away back? And their mighty ones are beaten down and are fled apace, and look not back; for fear was round about, saith the LORD.” This was a description of the overthrow of Pharaoh’s army. In prophesy, Psalm 35, v 4 “Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul; Let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt.” This is Christ speaking again. “Psalm 129, v 5 “Let them all be confounded and turned back that hate Zion.” These and other scriptures can be quoted to show that John knew exactly what he was writing, when he described this thing, “They went back and fell to the ground.”
Now this is part of the truth of the nature of the atonement being declared, because the atonement for our sins to be valid and relevant and acceptable, with God, it had to be not a thing of man’s but of God’s decree and of God’s provision when it was necessary that Christ should die by the decree of God. Hence Peter says on the day of Pentecost, “Him, being delivered by the determinate council of God, and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” And if this wasn’t proof to the Jews, it is proof to us, and proof to the Church, the people of the Heavenly Zion. That our Salvation is secure in the atonement of Christ, in as much as what befell Him at the crucifixion was the will of God, and not the will of man. It wasn’t the Devil who made the sacrifice; the Devil only heaped the wood together and applied the kindling to it as it were. But it was God who placed the sacrifice upon the altar, and the savour of it, ascended into Heaven for our redemption, and then God smelled the sweet savour. He forgave our sins; He established the covenant in the death of His Son.
Then He said, let these my disciples go their way, lay not a finger upon them, it was not but what they themselves, the most of them were to endure a martyrs death later on. But as Dr. Hengstenberg says upon this point, they could not suffer for Christ, till Christ has suffered for them. It is a good thing to remember that our sufferings for Christ sake are only possible and privileged because Christ suffered for us. If we look upon our own sufferings in that light, they would be hallowed and glorious and a sweet savour to God, and we should understand better why we are burdened and why we suffer, why there is a cross for us as for Christ. They could not suffer for Christ, till Christ had suffered for them. That’s why Peter denied his Lord. He did not reach the point, where he could suffer for Christ. While his disciples all forsook him and fled, they hadn’t reached a point where they could suffer for Christ, but afterwards they did, after He had suffered for them. When he said let them go, lay not your hands upon these, that the saying might be fulfilled which he prayed, “those that thou gravest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition,” He was referring then to their temporal sense, but this is only a symbol of that spiritual safety which belongs to all His elect and redeemed people, to you and to me, He says of us constantly, let these go their way, and as Satan comes to lay his hand upon us, to prevent our ultimate salvation. The Lord says, it shall not be Satan, let these go their way don’t put your hand upon these, not upon their souls, they’re my possession, I am responsible for their welfare in time, and for their salvation through it all into eternity, “Those who thou gravest to me , I have kept, and none of them is lost.” Amen.
Chapter 4Peter Smites Malchus
John 18:11 “Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”
Peter was in the garden when the officers came to arrest the Lord, and had drawn his sword and smitten a man named Malchus, a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. In one of the other accounts the Lord replaced the ear and pronounced healing upon the man. “Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”
We read now in Matthew’s gospel chapter 26, v. 51 “And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.” 52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?”
The other two accounts of Mark and Luke do not add anything to what we already know reading Mathew and John. John does not record the miracle of the healing of Malchus’ ear. One of the reasons for this is because John had carefully limited the number of miracles which he recorded in the earthly life of our Lord before the resurrection to the exact number of seven. The perfect number which was agreeable to his purpose, to draw attention to the specially divine nature of the narrative which he was engaged upon and to have included the healing of Malchus, which had already been recorded by the other evangelists, he would have broken his rule, and there would have been an eighth miracle recorded in John’s gospel. This he did not intend to do for his further construction of the entire gospel was in a series of seven.
So he gives us the name of the high priest’s servant, Malchus, a name which means a king. He simply records that Peter drew his sword, smote the man, and sheared off his ear, which Christ healed. “He said to Peter put up thy sword into the sheaf: the cup which my father hath given me, shall I not drink it.” So we have between Matthew and John’s account, these four principle things before us, in relation to the sufferings of Christ. There is the smiting with the sword. There is the healing of the man. There is the Lord’s reference to what He could do if He would. “Thinkest thou not that I could pray to my Father and He presently send twelve legions of angels, to deliver Him from the power of this multitude, which had come to arrest Him.” There was the legions of angels, the sword, the healing, a cup which my father hath given me shall I not drink it.
These are all part of the same sequence, and build into a situation which is deliberately designed to show the voluntary nature of Christ’s sacrifice and sufferings, and how necessary to our salvation, is the fact which is here brought out that Peter seeks by human means, to defend the Lord and prevent the disaster which he sees looming ahead. But alas the Lord will not be delivered. He tells Peter to put his sword into his sheaf. He will not be defended by these means, in fact, He will not be defended at all, and so He does not omit the deed of compassion in restoring the man’s ear and healing the wound. Then His remarks to Peter in the hearing of the multitude, said “that if He would, He could pray at that moment to His Father, to send not just Peter with the sword to fight a multitude, but twelve legions of angels, that He should not be delivered into the hands of His enemies.
But He said, He would not pray that prayer because how then, could the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be, and again in John’s account, “The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it.” Now you see all the circumstances advertise the fact that He was giving Himself into the hands of His foes, although there may have been up to a thousand men there, they could not have arrested Him, they could not have bound Him, they could not have led Him away, unless He Himself had chosen to allow them to do so. He would not be defended; He would not pray that prayer which would have released all the angelic powers of heaven, to come down upon His behalf.
In the Old Testament, one angel of the Lord smote the camp of the Assyrians, so that in the morning one hundred and eighty-five thousand of them were corpses on the ground. What power would be released with twelve legions of angels? What a legion of angels is we do not know. A legion of Roman soldiers was six thousand men, twelve legions was a considerable army. How the angelic legions were enumerated we do not know, but the figure twelve is significant. He would have said twelve, not eleven, not thirteen, just twelve legions of angels, and undoubtedly the Lord in that moment so in control of Himself. His thoughts and of the whole situation, monarch of it all, dominating it all by His will and the submissiveness of His will, did not omit, the number twelve which is the sample of the twelve tribes of Israel, and in the New Testament the twelve apostles of the Lamb, symbolise the whole church of our Lord Jesus Christ, the twelve tribes of the spiritual Israel.
So for every tribe a legion of angels, His church was being defended, even though the Shepherd was being smitten, and the sheep in an earthly sense scattered, nevertheless, they were immune to any power, which this world could assemble, or that Satan could direct against them. Twelve legions of angels were there ready to intervene, as they always are so far as we are concerned, though they received no orders that night for the defence of Christ. But the hosts of God encamp around the dwellings of the just, deliverance He affords to all who on His succour trust.
So every stage of the process of justice which was afoot then, not human injustice, but divine justice, was working as we shall see at every stage of this legal process, which was then afoot, Christ was the master of His own fate. He was not suffering and He was not going to suffer as a victim in the hands of men from whom there was no escape, and who must submit therefore to His fate with resignation and fortitude, He unable to do anything else about it, but He suffered as one, under no compulsion whatever to suffer, except the compulsion of love, in a sacrifice which always was, and was designed to be a sacrifice of voluntary nature. A free and voluntary dedication of Himself to His fate, when He could by speaking a word had it otherwise.
So He says in His preliminary prayer in the 17th Chapter of John and verse 19, “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth”. By Christ sanctifying Himself there in that prayer, He means He devotes Himself to unto death, as a sacrifice for their sins, that they might be sanctified in their turn through the truth. Illustrated therefore in this act and these words of the Saviour, “Put up thy sword into the sheaf, the cup which my Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” Illustrated is the powerlessness of the foe. Whether a human foe or an infernal foe, the powerless of the foe to do anything with Christ, except what was decreed in the divine foreordination, for them to do. Now this is very important for us, we must perceive, and recognise without any question whatever in our mind, that Christ died by the will of God, and not by the will of man and not by the will of Satan. And again, the often repeated text from the seventh of Acts, in the words of Peter, on the day of Pentecost. Him, that is Christ, being delivered, that is given over to death, “Him being delivered by the determinate council and foreknowledge of God” So that great though His foes were, both the unseen foes and the seen ones, the visible and the invisible, they were powerless to do anything except what God had decreed for them to do. Therein lies the secret enshrined of our redemption, the secret of the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ. That it is a sacrifice which was efficacious, which works, which succeeds, which is effective for the purpose for which it was made. Now we have seen on a former occasion, how the act of Judas, in betraying Christ was carefully prepared and ordained by God from the beginning. Even the subject of prophecy in Zechariah, to the thirty pieces if silver that was to be paid, for the betrayal of Christ. All fixed in the foreknowledge and foreordination of God from the beginning.
Chapter 5The Binding of the Sacrifice
John 18:12 “Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him,” We are naming this by title the Binding of the Sacrifice in preparation for the offering up of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the 118th Psalm, verse27 says: “Bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar.”
On the ancient days of the offering of sacrifices upon the altar of God at the Tabernacle and later in the Temple the people would bring their offerings for sacrifice or they were provided by the authorities on the important feast days such as the day of atonement or the morning or the evening sacrifice which was sustained throughout the year in accordance of the command of God through Moses and these for animals for sacrifice were brought into the Tabernacle court or the Temple court as the case might be, and in readiness for the sacrifice they would be tied to the horns of the altar. So that when the appropriate moment came they would be taken and slain and there blood would be offered for an atonement for sin.
We have no doubt at all that the record concerning the binding of our Lord Jesus Christ by the soldiers and officers of the Temple was in accordance with the procedure which had been laid down in Heaven before the foundation of the world as part of the necessary prelude to the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. He had, when He inquired of the crowd of men who came with swords and staves to take Him, led by Judas into the garden of Gethsemane, He enquired of them whom seek ye, they said Jesus of Nazareth, He replied I am He, and they went backward and fell to the ground. You remember we dealt with that and showed that here the Lord indicates His omnipotence in the fact that He could not been taken, He could not be bound, He could not be sacrificed, except by His own will and the foreordination of the Father. Then when they rose up and came forward again He said whom seek ye? They said Jesus of Nazareth. I have told you I am He, ye seek me and let these go their way and thus He referred to the disciples who were present with Him that He only was to be touched and they were not to be interfered with in their liberty in any way that it might be fulfilled which had been spoken and written, “Of those whom though gavest me I have lost none but the son of perdition” that the scripture might be fulfilled.”
So with all these things there was the exercise of the divine sovereignty. Now we have traveled onwards from there during the last two or three weeks we have noted the betrayal, the act of Judas which again was according to the divine appointment, we have witnessed the drawing of the sword by Peter, the blow by which he cut off the ear of the servant of the High Priest and how the Lord rebukes him for his rash act, warned him not to use the sword, then touched the man’s ear and was made whole. “Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath give me, shall I not drink it.” So having performed this act of mercy and compassion and shown that no blow must be struck upon His behalf, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels that I should not be delivered into the hands of these men but how then should the scriptures be fulfilled and again put up thy sword into its sheaf the cup which my Father hath given me shall I not drink it”. He must for the purposes of our redemption be delivered into the hands of these who sought His life.
So they began then to perform their office; He was taken and was bound. John is the only one of the four evangelists who actually records this binding of the Lord in the garden. He was inspired to take close look to these details and to record what was of such special significance, he was not simply filling in the blanks that had been left by the other historians he’s doing more than that, he was recording details which have a bearing upon our salvation our redemption. This was the solemn binding of the victim ready for the altar of sacrifice. Though these men did not know it, and the disciples at that time did not know it, it was the divine appointment and we have to attend to these details to perceive. This is why it is recorded, that the death of the Lord Jesus was foreordained before the foundation of the world, as Peter says in his epistle, “who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world was manifested in these last days for thee”.
Foreordained to be a sacrifice that there should be heaped upon Him the sins of the whole world. Even as John tells us in his first epistle in chapter two “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for us only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”