LORD’S DAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 19 April 2020
Sermon Text: John 18:15-32
I. The Saviour was rejected
II. The Saviour’s truth is rejected
III. The rejected Saviour died to save the rejector
As we continue following John’s Gospel, we jumped to ch. 19 for Good Friday morning message, leaving the section we’ve just read, then continued on with ch. 20 for this past Easter Sunday morning. Now, we come back to where we left, and open up Jn. 18:15 up to v. 32 and ruminate the meaning of the night of our Saviour’s agony. Especially, I’d like to focus on the Saviour who was rejected by all, literally all, people when His trial was on and up to the moment of His death on the cross. What does it mean that the Saviour was rejected? And what does His being rejected means to you and me who believe in Him, the once rejected Saviour?
Before we go on, please ask in your mind, ‘Why?’, and try to answer to that question, ‘Why?’, for a few seconds. ‘If Jesus was the Saviour, the Messiah, why did His people reject Him?’ In other words, ‘If He is the Saviour of the world, why do so many people still reject Him?’ I guess, it’s not a kind of question that could be answered in just a few seconds, but try your best to answer this question.
One thing you’re sure and can immediately answer and say, ‘yes,’ is the fact that Jesus is the Saviour and this Saviour Jesus was rejected and still is by many people. So, let’s see together why He was rejected and why it was necessary for Him to be rejected. Also, what it means to us that our Saviour was rejected.
I. THE SAVIOUR WAS REJECTED
The passage we’ve just read begins with Peter and his denial of Jesus. Everyone in the court of the high priest’s residence was against Jesus. Peter was the only one friendly to Him. Of course, there was another disciple whom the Lord loved – and we believe that was John, the author of this fourth gospel – but he was not in the court but somewhere in the house. Peter was alone in the midst of the crowd hostile toward Jesus. Even the servant girl at the door joined the crowd and interrogated Peter. Then, even Peter mingled himself with others there, numbered himself alongside the accusers of Jesus. So, there wasn’t any friend of Jesus in that court that night.
We’ve read and know that Peter denied Jesus three times, then, he walked out of the court and wept bitterly because of his denial, thus, betrayal of the Lord. So, the big picture is that the Saviour was there all alone, surrounded by His false accusers and enemies. In fact, well before the beginning of that trial, Jesus’ enemies, that is, the high priests and the scribes of the Jewish nation, had conspired and concluded to put Him to death and remove Him from the sight of the people. And Jesus the Saviour was all alone in that court.
I believe that the purpose of drawing such a vivid picture of the high priest’s court in this chapter of John’s Gospel is to help us see clearly the Saviour’s intention in this world and His object in that court. He did not come into the world to bring peace, but a sword, as Mt. 10:34 testifies. He did not come to preach a message of festive joy, but a message of repentance and imminence of judgment. He was healing the unrepentant people; He was teaching the scribes and Pharisees who were like ‘whitewashed tombs.’ The beginning of John’s Gospel portrays Jesus’ coming into the world with a picture of the true light coming upon the darkness.
So the picture of this section of Jn. 18 is the light from above is surrounded by darkness. Simply put, this specific court describes Jesus’ fundamental intention of coming into the world. This court is a miniature of where He and His Father had planned together and the Son voluntarily came to give Himself up to the hands of the sinners. No wonder why He walked toward the arresting party on the Mount of Olives earlier that night, saying to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’, then, helped them to find who He was by saying, ‘I am He.’
So, we must know that, in that hostile court and in the darkness of night, Jesus was at a right place. He came to break His enemy’s stronghold, that is, sin and death, and He came to shine His light to the darkness in order to bring His own people out of darkness of sin. That court was the place He had waited for long to be and tread! No wonder why He was so calm and relaxed there. He was even checking Peter out as He cared for him and as He was still providing training to Peter without saying any word there. If you remember Luke’s testimony in Lk. 22:61, you’d remember what Jesus did right after Peter denied the Saviour the third time. He turned and looked at Peter, and Peter remembered the Lord’s words spoken to him earlier that night, and went out and wept bitterly in repentance and faith.
Contrary to Jesus’ calm and focused heart, it seemed that the high priest and his followers were nervous and tense in their minds. An evidence of their being greatly nervous is the act of one of the high priest’s officers. He struck Jesus with his hand. It’s a kind of situation as someone does a weird act and others would look at him and say, ‘What’s that for?’ Paradoxically, the arrested and rejected Jesus was at home in that court whereas all others, including Peter, were in a strange place and situation so nervous and odd and even threatened – and I’m going to explain to you in a minute why it was a threatening situation for all false accusers there. So, Annas the high priest sent Jesus over to another Jewish official, then, over to Pontius Pilate, Roman governor.
So, let me ask this question to you: ‘Was the rejected party here in this court the Saviour? Or the rejectors of Jesus?’ Surely, Jesus was where He had been looking forward to being, while all others, all enemies of Jesus, were busy in search of a way of escape or elusion from the situation.
II. THE SAVIOUR’S TRUTH IS REJECTED
The next point I’d like you to consider with me is the Saviour’s truth rejected by the Jews. The high priest questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching. About this, three other gospels testify that he was in fact searching for witnesses who could falsely testify against Jesus. He needed two witnesses at least because the OT law required two witnesses for pronouncing capital punishment on the accused. Although many came forward before the high priest and testified falsely about Jesus, none was able to prove the Saviour sinful.
This is a clear picture of their rejection of the Saviour’s truth. Listen to Jesus in vs. 20-21, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them; they know what I said.” Interestingly, our Lord is playing with the high priest by the same law he refers to, that is, the OT law. According to the law, the accused cannot say anything in defence, but the witnesses are questioned, and they should speak ‘the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.’ If any witness falsely testifies, the exact punishment intended for the accused would be sentenced to the false witness. So, Jesus means something like this: ‘Alright, you want the truth and this is the truth that I haven’t said anything in secret, but in public I taught all things. So, you bring your witnesses against Me and I’ll see how true their testimonies are. If not, you and your false witnesses would have to face the death penalty you’ve been trying to accuse Me of.’ Moreover, by saying to the high priest, ‘Why do you ask Me?’, Jesus pointed out the high priest’s false intention.
Of course, none could accuse the Saviour of any sin, none could provide a sound testimony against Him because the Saviour was and is the living Word, the truth of God, the image of the invisible God. His truth has always been proclaimed under the bright sunlight, never in the secret of darkness. His truth was and still is taught in public squares and arenas from the world’s most read, sold and known book, that is, the Bible. There’s not a fragment of paper or papyrus which contains any secretly handed down instructions of God for a chosen few – no, not at all! There’s no secret decryption-code through which hidden secrets of the Bible might be revealed. No, none whatsoever. The truth Jesus taught and proclaimed was and is clearly open to everyone and anyone of the world. And there have been numerous accusers and false witnesses against Jesus and against God and against His Church; in their try, they’ve twisted, altered, eliminated from or added to Jesus’ plain teaching, but none has succeeded with that intention.
Then, like the case we read from the court of the Jewish high priest here in Jn. 18, the accusers become confused and self-convicted of their falsehood, then, in shame – of course, hidden from their faces – pass the accused over to someone else who might continue their ill will over the Saviour and His truth. The obvious end of that is their destruction at the judgment seat; the exact sentence they have sought against the Saviour, the death penalty, will be pronounced on them. I’m sure that they’d hear the Judge asking them a question similar to what the Jewish officer who struck Jesus absurdly, without a reason, heard from the Saviour, “If what I said is right, why do you strike Me?” (v. 23).
Considering this, I believe you can see what was going on in that court. The Saviour was in fact examining those His accusers, but not vice-versa. They sought all possible ways to reject and condemn Jesus’ truth, but instead they were rejected by the Saviour, they were condemned by the Saviour. They tried all possible ways to eliminate Jesus and His church, but Christ’s church grew and has exploded over centuries and over two millennia.
So, let me ask another question: ‘Is the Saviour’s truth rejected by the Jews and any other enemies of the Saviour? Is His truth subdued and unable to be found?’ Not at all; it’s the exact opposite; Christ’s truth is preached even now at every corner of this world – literally at every spot in the whole world, especially in this era of information technology!
III. THE REJECTED SAVIOUR DIED TO SAVE THE REJECTOR
Summing up what we’ve considered so far, it is obvious that not the Saviour, but those who reject Him, are rejected. Likewise, it is not the Saviour’s truth, but those who try to reject and nullify His truth, are rejected. Then, we could conclude and say, ‘Aha, Jesus wins and all Jesus’ accusers fail; Jesus is exalted and all Jesus-rejectors are doomed.’
But, surprisingly, such is not, never, what the Saviour intended with the proceedings in this high priest’s court of Jn. 18. Although He came into the world not to bring peace, but sword, although Jesus came as the light from above into where the darkness was, His intention was not to enjoy victory and collect some victory medals, but to bring some of His accusers and some more from the crowd of Jesus-rejectors into His light, into His truth and life. The Saviour Jesus walked into that high priest’s court, intending to save some from that gathering. Later on, He walked the streets of Jerusalem in order to call more people from those who shouted altogether, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ When He finally gave Himself up to the hands of the Roman soldiers to be hung on the tree, even on the cross, He climbed up there to be seen by numerous people from both Jews and Gentiles of that generation and of all generations after that!
If He had intended to defeat some of His mere creatures in that 1st C Jerusalem, He would’ve come down from heaven in glory upon the temple in Jerusalem and just said a word, any word, to them, and they altogether would’ve died instantly for fear of the glory of the living God. If He had thought that that would be too harsh for them, He could’ve called out not a legion, but just an angel from heaven and let him defend the Lord against the high priest’s interrogation. But Jesus our Saviour didn’t go with any of such options, but walked in and calmly spoke, thus, called His own from that crowd! And that, including Peter who denied the Saviour three times!
He has followed the exact same way in calling you and me. Jesus didn’t overpower us; He never twisted your arms from behind; but He tenderly and softly waited for you to gradually realise His love, His care, His mercy, His grace which you and I did not deserve to receive, yet, abundantly outpoured upon us. Even at our sinful moments, even with the sin of denying Him, in our life – just like Peter in that court of Jewish high priest – He waited for us to turn to Him and say, ‘Sorry,’ and He tenderly embraces us.
The rejected Saviour walked into that high priest’s court, walked out of there, and climbed up toward Calvary, and up on the cross, and died to save you and me who used to be Jesus-rejectors and to save many others who are still anti-Jesus and anti-Christianity and anti-church.
Please read together with me v. 32, the last verse of our text passage for today, where you’ll see what it is all about. V. 32, “This was to fulfil the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death He was going to die.” In this verse, you hear about ‘the kind of death’ Jesus chose and pursued all the way. This ‘kind’ of death is the death of the Saviour who will ‘draw all people to Himself,’ as Jesus said earlier in Jn. 12:32. In the following verse, that is, Jn. 12:33, the exact kind of death is mentioned. And what kind of death He meant? Jn. 12:32 again, “when I am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all people to Myself.”
Moreover, much earlier than Jn. 12 – I mean, about 800 years earlier – God spoke about the kind of the Saviour’s death and explained it in great details, that is, Isa. 53 and especially the first six verses which we’ve read earlier this morning. So, let me read those verses of Isa. 53 one more time as every verse in that chapter captures each step in our Saviour’s path into the high priest’s court and up to Calvary, and every verse of Isa. 53 describes the Saviour’s heart for sinners like you and me and all others in the world. So, let us hear and know that our once-rejected Saviour died to save the rejectors:
“Who has believed what He has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
What a gracious Saviour is Jesus! No wonder why He introduced Himself as ‘the Way, and the Truth, and the Life’ and invited us to Himself! You and I rejected Jesus, but He died to save us. So, today’s conclusion is this that you and I should continue our walk in Christ Jesus who is our life and never-ending joy. Also, for anyone and everyone in this crooked generation, look to Jesus and come to Him because Jesus is the Saviour who died to save even you who reject Him. ***