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Teaching series from John

Jesus' Arrest

John 18:1-11

Teaching t22493


We come now to the final events in Jesus’ first coming—His arrest, His trial(s), His crucifixion, and His resurrection. All four gospels spend a disproportionate amount of space to these events (John devotes almost 20%) in order to emphasize that this is the most important part of Jesus’ life.

This morning we look at John’s eye-witness account of Jesus’ arrest(read 18:1-11a). Most people (including many Christians) view Jesus’ arrest as the outcome of Him being outwitted by Judas (18:2), or of being overtaken by superior forces (18:3), or of just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But John gives a very different explanation.

Jesus was not outwitted. He knew what was coming (18:4; 13:21ff.), so He could have easily eluded this “trap” as He had done many times previously. He deliberately went to the garden because He knew Judas would bring the soldiers there.

Jesus was not taken against His will by superior forces. He “went forth” (18:4; exerchomai) to meet them rather than hiding or running away or just standing there. He could have easily overwhelmed them (18:6; imagine how gingerly the soldiers arrested Him; see also Matt.26:53,54). He rejected Peter’s attempts to resist (18:10,11a; eye-witness account [“the slave’s name was Malchus”]; Jesus heals Malchus [Lk.22:51]). Rather, Jesus allowed Himself to be taken.

Why did Jesus do this? Not because He was a sick masochist (“I love the pain and the shame”), or because He was a resigned fatalist (“I’m trapped in the bad karma from my previous life”). Jesus tells us why (read 18:11b). He did it because the Father asked Him to “drink this cup,” and because He freely chose to drink it. “Cup” is obviously used here in a figurative sense and is connected to His arrest. What was this “cup,” and why did Jesus’ Father ask Him to drink it?

The “cup”

Whatever it was, Jesus was deeply distressed about the prospect of drinking it (quote Matt.26:38; Lk.22:44), and He prayed three times to avoid drinking it if at all possible (Matt.26:42-44).

Most people assume Jesus was referring to the terrible mistreatment by people to which His arrest would lead—being betrayed and abandoned by His disciples, and the three humiliating and unjust trials, and the terrible scourging, and the “excruciating” agony of crucifixion.

These things may have been part of the “cup”—but they were definitely not the main part. The “cup” was an Old Testament term referring to experiencing God’s wrath (read Isa.51:17; Jer.25:15; 49:12). This was the “cup”—that Jesus who never sinned, who was completely righteous, who had always been in perfect loving communion with the Father—was being asked to experience not only the withdrawal of His Father’s love, but also the outpouring of His wrath.

Why would the Father ask Jesus to drink this “cup?” And why would Jesus voluntarily drink it? There is no rational way to react neutrally to 18:11. Either the God of the Bible is a sadistic monster and/or Jesus is a pathetic masochist, or there is some problem so desperate that only this drastic measure can rectify it (e.g., E.R. DOCTOR’S MEASURES WITH CARDIAC ARREST PATIENT). The Bible insists that it is the latter rather than the former. The desperate problem is in us, and the drastic measure required to rectify it was Jesus drinking the “cup.”

Our desperate problem is our sin—our true moral guilt before God because our rebellion against Him. If think of sin at all, we tend to think of it horizontally—hurting another human being. But sin is always primarily vertical—cosmic treason against God who is infinitely righteous and the rightful Ruler of our lives. We think of sin superficially—doing something that hurts another human. But sin is every decision in our dark hearts to ignore God, to live for ourselves rather than to love God and live for His glory. We think of the consequences of sin as psychological and sociological—feeling guilty, or hurting another person’s feelings, or losing a relationship, or even going to jail. But the main consequence of sin is God’s righteous wrath and condemnation (quote Rom.2:5).

We are aghast that God would judge nice people like us, which only shows how little we understand of what God is like and how sinful we are. The angels (who see God and us more clearly) are also aghast—but they are aghast that the God doesn’t judge us the moment we sin. They are aghast that He would be so forbearing with us. Most of all, they are aghast that He would be willing to judge His Son for us, and that His Son would voluntarily receive His Father’s judgment for us! This is the “cup” that the Father gave His Son to drink, the “cup” that the Son chose drink—for us (read Gal.3:13), because there is no other way a righteous God can forgive and accept sinful people who deserve His judgment.

Seen this way, the “cup” is the ultimate expression of God’s love (read Jn.3:16). Our situation is desperate; we deserve to perish under God’s judgment because of our sin. But God is His love wants to spare us from His judgment, so He took the ultimate drastic measure—He gave His Son to bear our judgment, to drink the “cup” for us. Because Jesus “drank our cup,” we can forever escape the “cup” of God’s judgment and be guaranteed of eternal life with God. The only condition is that we believe, that we entrust ourselves to Jesus as the One who drank our “cup.” It is a wonderful thing to make this decision. It is a wonderful thing to know that you are completely exempt from God’s judgment, complete secure in God’s love. Have you made this decision?

Now we understand why Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested. Now let’s consider what else we can learn from this event His arrest once we have believed in Him...

Responding victoriously to adversity

Jesus shows us here how to respond victoriously to adversity. He went through this ordeal with His eyes wide open to its pain and difficulty, yet He did so with confidence and with hope. How did He do this? Most Christians say (consciously or subconsciously): “He could do this because He was God—but I am not God, so it is not possible for me to do this.” But the Bible gives a very different answer to this question.

It affirms that Jesus was God, but it insists that He was God-incarnate (DEFINE), and that He went through this He as a human. He did not use His “God powers” to endure this ordeal any more than He used them to avoid it.

Rather, He trusted His Father to uphold Him through this ordeal (16:32). More specifically, He responded victoriously because of what He “knew” from His Father. Three different times in this context John notes what Jesus “knew” (show “knowing” in (18:4; 13:1,3). This “knowing” means that He understood certain predictions and promises made to Him in the Old Testament, and that He trusted this knowledge over contrary voices, thoughts and feelings.

The implication is that we can respond victoriously to adversity if we know and trust the predictions and promises God makes to us. This is why Paul says that in the midst of terrible adversity we can “overwhelmingly conquer” through Christ (quote Rom.8:37).

What did Jesus “know?” John refers to three things:

First, Jesus knew “all the things that were coming upon Him” (18:4). Many passages in the Old Testament (like Isa.42,49,50,53) predicted the sufferings that would come upon Him. Knowing beforehand that these sufferings were coming helped Him to endure them.

We know the same thing. We may not know what specific adversities are coming our way, God has told us that they are coming for all who follow Jesus. Not just the normal adversities of living in a fallen world, but additional adversities from living in a spiritually hostile world. Virtually every New Testament book makes this prediction (refer to Jn. 15:18-20; 16:33; Acts14:22; 2Tim.3:12; 1Pet.4:1). This knowledge is not meant to scare or depress us; it is meant to arm us (quote 1Pet.4:12)! “Forewarned is forearmed.” We don’t have to be like our culture, which naively expects life to be basically free of adversity. Then, when adversity strikes, the blow is harder because they didn’t expect it. Sadly, many Christians react this way. But when we know what God predicts, we expect adversity, and this knowledge is a crucial part of responding victoriously to it when it comes. But it is not enough. By itself, this could lead only to stoicism or even cynicism. We also need to know what God promises us during adversity...

Second, Jesus knew that “the Father had given all things into His hands” (13:3). This doesn’t mean that He was authorized to use His “God powers” to avoid arrest, trial, scourging and crucifixion. It means that the Father promised to sovereignly work through these events to accomplish His plan to make Jesus the Savior of the world. No one and nothing could stop the Father from doing this. This is the greatest irony in history: Jesus’ enemies (including Satan) did their utmost here to defeat God’s plan, but God worked through their very opposition to accomplish His plan! Jesus knew this promise (paraphrase Isa.52:14,15), and His trust in it enabled Him to respond not as a victim but as a Victor.

We know the same thing. Though our adversities don’t forgive people’s sins, God is still sovereign over all of them and He promises to work through all of them to accomplish His plan for us (i.e., make us more like Christ) and through us (i.e., advance the gospel) – read Rom.8:28. No one and nothing can stop God from doing this! So we can say with Joseph” You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Gen.50:20). Because of this promise, we need never be victims. But there is more...

Thirdly, Jesus knew that “He had come forth from the Father and that He was going back to the Father” (13:1,3). The Old Testament promised that after He drank the cup, He would be back in the Father’s presence, exalted forever (paraphrase Isa.53:10). Because He knew and trusted this promise, “for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb.12:2). This strengthened Him against despair so that he endured this ordeal with hope.

We know the same thing. Though we are not returning to the Father, we know that we are going to the Father. We know that after our adversities we will come into the Father’s presence forever. And as we focus on this promise and trust it, it cuts our adversities down to size (Rom.8:17,18). Like a mother in labor, we don’t enjoy our sufferings—but because we know that every suffering brings us closer to this “birth,” we do not despair and persevere in hope (Rom.8:22,25).

How are you responding to the adversity in your life (EXAMPLES)? Are you shocked, or are you ready? Do you view yourself as a victim, or are you confident in the hands of your Father? Are you hopeless, or are you “in labor?” Your answer will tell you about what “knowledge” you’re operating on. You can learn what Jesus “knew,” and you can focus on it and trust it like Jesus did. And as you do this, He will enable you through this “knowledge” to respond victoriously!


SUMMARIZE the thesis and the above three things we know.

DISCUSSION: How can we help one another stay focused on this knowledge?