Martyred? Not Yet.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 18:7 (Holman) Then He asked them again, “Who is it you’re looking for?” “Jesus the Nazarene,” they said.
Even after falling backward in confusion and disorder, the soldiers tried to arrest Jesus. They didn’t ponder what might have caused them to fall back.
They were stubborn, like the Sodomites, who though blinded continued to grope for Lot’s door; and like Pharaoh, who maintained a hard heart even after 10 plagues. Some wicked hearts are so hard that they care no more about rushing against God than if they only had to do with a fly (Calvin). People are supposed to be the most intelligent of all creatures, but often act like the most foolish.
John 18:8 “I told you I am He,” Jesus replied. “So if you’re looking for Me, let these men go.”
After repulsing His enemies, He protected His friends. Even in Gethsemane, Jesus was the Good Shepherd. Sounding more like victor than victim, Jesus secured the release of His disciples.
With overwhelming love, Jesus comforted and blessed others, though He was about to die. He cared more about others than about His own safety.
When Wishart, the Scotch preacher, was imprisoned, John Knox wanted to share his fate. Wishart knew the value of Knox to the cause and would not allow it. Choosing to suffer alone, he told Knox, “Go home to your child; one is sufficient for a sacrifice.” Wishart died a martyr, but his unselfishness let Knox live on to win the day finally.
Alfred Sadd, a missionary captured in World War II, became a comforter to his fellow prisoners. When the Japanese laid a British flag on the ground and ordered Sadd to walk on it, he walked straight toward the flag, but at the last moment stepped to his right around it. Ordered toward the flag again, he turned to his left. Compelled a third time, he lovingly picked up the flag and kissed it.
Sadd ever tried to be an encourager. Finally, the Japanese decided to shoot him and several other prisoners. As they were led to execution, the missionary constantly tried to buoy the spirits of his comrades.
As they were lined up, Sadd walked back and forth before them speaking words of cheer. When commanded to take his place in line, Sadd stepped forward a few paces so he would be the first to die. To the end, the missionary did all he could to rally the spirits of those around him.
The disciples did eventually die for Jesus, but as Peter’s denial later proved, they were not ready for martyrdom yet. He put His shield of protection around them, giving their weakness more time to grow strong. Knowing a test of loyalty at this juncture would have shipwrecked their faith, Jesus provided them physical safety to keep them from spiritual disaster.
John 18:9 This was to fulfill the words He had said: “I have not lost one of those You have given Me.”
John saw his own deliverance as a fulfillment of Jesus’ words (see 17:12). The Master felt duty-bound to protect His disciples. He still shields His own, guarding us till our work is done, till He receives us unto Himself.
Luther thought he would die at the Diet of Worms, but walked away unscathed. Remarkably, Calvin died peaceably in his bed. His enemies tried to destroy him, but their efforts were in vain.
The life of John Wycliffe was always in danger. When brought to trial before the Bishop at St. Paul’s, an advocate came to his aid. John of Gaunt, a powerful military warlord, was not a deeply religious man, but admired Wycliffe and brought his power to the reformer’s aid.
Standing before the tribunal, Wycliffe was weak and lowly. John of Gaunt, fully armed and in military dress, stood at his side. The Reformer, tired of standing, begged for a seat, but the Bishop said heretics should have no seats. Roughshod John of Gaunt immediately bellowed out an oath and said Wycliffe “shall sit when he wills.” Later, when the authorities wanted to arrest Wycliffe, John of Gaunt protected him and marched with him through the crowd to safety.
When God protects His own, nothing can strike them. If every demon aimed an arrow at the same heart, not one would hit the target if God so designed it.
John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. (The slave’s name was Malchus).
Impulsive Peter let his zeal go beyond proper bounds. Rashness is not the best base from which to launch our actions for Christ. From what we know of Peter, this deed does not surprise us, except that he aimed at Malchus not Judas. Maybe Malchus was closer.
Peter was evidently spurred to this courageous deed by the display of power he had just seen (v. 6). When Jesus’ cause was flying high, Peter rushed to the battle. But later, when things looked pessimistic, Peter denied he even knew Jesus.
Peter in Gethsemane was ready to attack 600 men, but was soon blown down by a maiden’s breath. He tried to prove his devotion with his sword, but could not do so with his tongue.
We need grace to stand true to Jesus’ cause when it is prevailing, and when losing ground. Stand for the Lord. If His cause is waxing or waning, let’s stand for the Lord, and prove our commitment with our mouth, not a sword.
John 18:11 At that, Jesus said to Peter, “Sheathe your sword! Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given Me?”
The upcoming cup was bitter, but Heaven-sent. Jesus knew it was from the Father. God leads to Gethsemane as well as to Eden. Jesus remained faithful, even to death. Loveliness marks a dedication willing to pay the ultimate price.
Nathan Hale, betrayed by his own cousin, an ardent British loyalist, said at his execution, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
Hale was captured September 21, 1776. Four years later, to the day, Benedict Arnold met with British Major John André to draw up final plans for the surrender of West Point. André was captured with these plans on his person. He loved his native Britain, and remained undaunted in his faithfulness. When given his death warrant, he set his hat on a table and said, “I am ready at any moment.”
In this same spirit, Jesus went forth, faithful to the task set before Him. Why? Because of His devotion to God, and His love for you and me.