The church of God in the midst of this world, fighting the battle of faith, is always cheered in her conflict with the memory of Christ’s death. This may sound like a trite saying, something commonplace, but it is in reality the profoundest and most actual comforting truth. For this memory of Christ’s death is brought to us by means of the Word of the Cross.
And that Word of the Cross teaches us that the love of God is always manifested in this that God sent His Son to die for us when we were yet sinners, weak, godless, yea, even enemies. Amongst men no one will die for a righteous man; for a good man someone might dare to die, yet God confirms His love to us in that Christ died for us when we were yet sinners! For herein is love in the wonderful manifestation of its secret and wonderful nature, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son a propitiation for our sins.
Such is the love of God that He hands the cup of suffering to His Son in our flesh, so that He must taste death for us. It behooved God by virtue of His love and righteousness in bringing many sons to glory to perfect the author of our salvation through sufferings.
And, O glory, that is exactly what Jesus understands so perfectly in every moment of His suffering as He reads the agenda of the great Hour of the power of darkness. For thus it is here in Gethsemane. Jesus knows every detail of the suffering, and seeing it all, He “goes forth” to meet it; He is the obedient
Servant of the Lord both passively and actively in every step of the way, the via dolorosa!
That is what the glad tidings as proclaimed by John sets forth before our believing eyes in He. And Judas also, who betrayed Him, was standing with them. When therefore He said unto them: I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground. Again therefore He asked them: Whom seek ye? And they said: Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered: I told you that I am He; if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: that the word might be fulfilled which He spake, Of those whom thou hast given me I lost not one.”, where we read: “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that were coming upon Him, went forth, and saith unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered Him: Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them: I am
We emphasize that this Scripture passage is a message from Jesus to His church. It is the glad tidings of the good things first of all revealed in paradise, afterwards preached by the patriarchs and prophets, foreshadowed by the ceremonies of the law, and finally fulfilled in Christ Jesus in His suffering and death. That is the perspective that we must have and keep of this account of Jesus’ death. Here is the great tidings that Jehovah saves His people from their sins. For herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son a propitiation for our sins.
Let us try to see this in this Scripture passage.
The first element, in this passage that strikes us, is, that Jesus takes the initiative. Oh, it is true that when Judas and the band of temple police and soldiers with swords and sticks and lanterns had come to the Garden, they had thought that theirs was the initiative. They wholly willed to perform this evil work of taking Jesus captive. Judas is wholly responsible for his treacherous betrayal of the Son of Man. And he even thinks that matters are in his hand. He had given the sign of the kiss, he kissed Jesus much. He stood at the head of this band and Jesus stood at the head of the little group of disciples. But Jesus dismisses Judas for the final and last time with the heart-searching question: Friend, unto what art thou here? Then Judas had returned to the band. But the imaginary initiative was taken from Judas by Jesus in this heart-searching question that sends Judas the following morning to the remorse which ends in suicide!
Jesus nevertheless, takes the initiative.
Had Jesus not dismissed Judas a few hours earlier with the word: What thou doest, do it quickly? And had He not thus forced the issue? And had the Mediator not broken forth into glad praise in the knowledge, that now the Hour had come that the Son of Man would be glorified? . Judas’ coming here in the garden with the band was virtually upon the word of the Son of Man who prophetically, priestly and kingly performs His work in humiliation. Jesus longed for this hour with great longing; and how was He pressed! It is Jesus’ initiative. It is His alone.
Thus we read in verse 4, “Jesus therefore knowing all things that were coming upon Him went forth . . .”
Jesus went forth to meet Judas in the garden. He is simply reading off the agenda of His suffering in this great day of the Lord. He knows all things that are coming upon Him. These things, what are they? They are the mock trial, the being led to Annas, to Caiaphas, to Pilate, to Herod and then again to Pilate: it is the being spit upon and buffeted, cruelly mocked and derided, robed in a mock robe and crowned with a crown of thorns to pierce His brow. And what is more, presently to drink the cup of the wrath of almighty God against the sins of His own sheep! In this great hour Jesus takes the initiative. He is the chief captain and author of our salvation.
And in all this He is fully conscious of being the Mediator, the man Jesus of Nazareth, who saved His people from their sins!
For, to be sure, the question: Whom seekest thou? must not be understood to mean, that Jesus was in some doubt as, to whom they were seeking. He knew that they were seeking Him. He “knew all things that were coming upon Him.” Hence, this is not a question of one who is in doubt as to the hellish and avowed intention of these men. Besides, had not Judas just pointed Him out with the betraying kiss?
The question of Jesus to these men: whom seekest thou? is asked and repeated in order that they may take Him and nail Him with sinful hands () to the cross. They must hear it very clearly from His lips that He is: Jesus of Nazareth. That He is Jesus of Nazareth means that He is the one who is called out of Egypt, as the one in whom the Word of God will be fulfilled: Out of Egypt have I called my Son. For Israel is delivered out of Egypt by Jehovah who saves in His covenant faithfulness. Jesus means: Jehovah saves. In Jesus we have the God of the burning bush, visiting His people, hearing their cry in Egypt of sin and death and the powers of Hell. Whom seek ye? Jesus of Nazareth. I am He. I am the great “I am that I am” in the flesh. I am “Jehovah-saves”, “Jehovah is salvation”.
Whom seek ye? Whom do you wish to kill? What is your evil intent, you “lawless hands”?
If ye seek Me, let these go!
Here is the Messianic consciousness as it reaches out for the “Cup” from the Father’s hand that may not be taken from Him. With a steady hand He takes hold of the cup. With perfectly active obedience He takes the initiative in Messianic consciousness: and in perfectly passive obedience He will undergo the suffering of the sorrows of death. If ye seek me, let these go. These are the sheep that now must be scattered for us a “little while” After which I will again gather them as the shepherd, who has laid down His life for them. Let them go for I shall presently gather them and make them my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and unto the ends of the earth!
Ah, here is the substituting love of our covenant Jehovah. He is Christ Jesus, who is yesterday (the days of the shadows) and today (in this hour of suffering) and tomorrow (in the great congregation) the same! Hence, here is the love of God, that will not let us go. Here is the hour in which the Son of Man, Jesus (Jehovah-saves) gives His life for His people; here is the minister who gives His soul a ransom for many.
Behold, I come to do Thy will, O God. In the volume of the book it is written of Me. Thou givest me the hearing ear and the seeing eye; the body hast Thou prepared for me. Lo, I come. Jesus knowing all these things went forth to meet Judas. It was possibly by a few yards that He proceeded. But it was the difference between saving His own or losing them in eternal perdition! For all that is written in the volume of the scroll stands out in bold relief before the Mediatorial consciousness of our Savior.
Here is the firm purpose to do the will of God. Behold, the Savior of His own. He is firmly resolved to lose none of those given Him by the Father! He will surely raise them all in the last day! Such is the clear intent of Jesus. And we should notice this. Nor should we overlook the fact that the text does not speak here in the third person, but in the first person. Listen to what was in Jesus’ soul; all that is within Him groans: of all which Thou hast given me, I have lost not one. Here is the Servant of God in the “I and Thou” relationship, as really as a few moments earlier in the earnest crying and tears of Gethsemane. In unbroken strength the tension of the suffering continues in Jesus’ soul. There is no let up in this work. Loving, He loves to the end. And so Jesus here tells us through John that He was fully conscious of this purpose; nay, this purpose was the sole passion of His throbbing being when He asked the soul-searching question: Whom seek ye? For in that moment He is telling the Father: Of all whom Thou hast given me I am losing none, Father!
Behold, the lamb of God lifting up and carrying away the sin of the World!
All of the initiative is His, and His is also the perfect consciousness of being the perfect and complete Savior of His people. Whom seek ye? Jesus of Nazareth. I am He!
Need we ought besides this Glad tidings?
No, but we do need this message. And in condescending love our Savior causes this message of glad tidings to be preached to us from out of heaven. He is now finishing the work which He began to do ( ) while on earth until the day in which He was taken up to heaven. He would have us know the great love, that moved Him in that hour in Gethsemane, when He was delivered into the hands of sinful men.
How did John know that such was the glorious and saving activity in Jesus’ soul at this moment? Surely it was not telepathy. John was indeed present, but his presence of mind was not such that he could later by virtue of his memory give us a “short hand” or telepathic report of what passed on in the mind of Jesus between Him and His God. And yet we know just what Jesus’ soul was occupied with in that moment, don’t we? We know this because Jesus tells us through John. By the Holy Spirit Jesus opens the minds of His disciples, including John. And Jesus brings to mind all these things.
These things are written in our behalf. They are recorded that we might believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that believing we might have life in His name, and sing: O, love of God that will not let His own perish! And bowing the head each sings: O love of God, that will not let me go!