An Easy Arrest – John 18:1-11

James “Whitey” Bulger was a Boston crime boss, whose story has been told in books, documentary form and at least one major film, Black Mass starring Johnny Depp. Watch the trailer here:

One of the many crazy things about Bulgar’s story is his ability to avoid arrest. He cooperated with the FBI for a very long time and eventually ran from the law – some sixteen years as a fugitive, most of that while on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.

Some people will do almost anything to stay out of prison, even if they deserve it.

With Jesus, though he was by no means a criminal, it was very different. Here is the story as John presents it,

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 

All of these people come to get Jesus. The word used for “a band” of soldiers would usually number in the hundreds. So how does Jesus respond?

Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 

The reaction of the organized mob is fascinating and probably indicates something supernatural at work.

When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 

Jesus is still rather determined to make himself known.

So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 

And just in case future disciples would misunderstand, we get this detail.

10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Jesus went to the cross willingly. We might even say intentionally. It was part of God’s plan. There is, however, an example here for us. Should our faith ever get us into trouble, we need not avoid that trouble at all costs. We follow Jesus, not men like Whitey Bulger.

Such suffering or trials may be part of God’s plan for us. We are not criminals who need to run from justice. We may even need to face injustice with willing hearts and bodies ready to suffer harm. The history of martyrs for the faith is long and growing. It’s one way many have had to follow Jesus and there will be many more as we wait for Christ’s return.

John 17 – Verse by Verse

John Pic

This chapter gives us the longest recorded prayer of Jesus. In it he prays for himself (and God’s glory),for his disciples and their security without him. He closes praying for the (then future) church and its ongoing unity.

John 17.pdf     

John 17.mp3

Here is a link to the livestream video:

A Prayer Prompted by John 17

Father in Heaven,

We join with Jesus in praying for your glory, knowing that this may mean our own suffering as we share in the sufferings of Christ.

We also pray that you would keep us and all of those believers we know connected to yourself.  We have seen many walk away over the years so we pray for security and stability in our faith.

We also pray for unity in the church.  Help us to work toward unity based on your word – on the teaching that the apostles gave us from you. Help us to enjoy unity found in the shared life of the Father and the Son.  And let us express that unity in mission to an unbelieving world.

Finally help us do whatever it takes to be united with our brothers and sisters in Christ here and now.

And we pray these things to you Father, along with Jesus Christ your Son.


Eternal life – John 17:3

In John 17:3, as Jesus prays, he says,

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

What Christ is saying is that the eternal life that we receive by faith in him is more or less defined by the new relationship that we have with the Father and the Son.  We know God and his Son Jesus Christ, and that in in itself somehow is eternal life. This life needs to be understood as both a quantity and a quality of life.

First of all, eternal life can be described everlasting or never-ending or using some other such term that means it will just keep on going and will not stop.  I emphasize this point first because I sometimes hear Christians focus on eternal life as a quality of life as opposed to a quantity of life.  I understand why.  It is possible to misunderstand eternal life as being much like the life we have now, complete with its troubles and our imperfections, just without end.  That is surely not what Jesus means.  But if we say it is a quality of life rather than a quantity, then we are not doing justice to the term eternal, for which Jesus could have substituted some other term unrelated to time (most excellent or super wonderful?) Why confuse us by calling it “eternal” if he didn’t mean for time to be involved at all? 

So this seems to be a false dichotomy.  It is not an either/or situation; it is a both/and.  God is eternal; that is one of his attributes, but we are not, since we are created beings.  He can, however, give us life everlasting if he wishes, and he does if the Bible is to be believed.  This life is acquired by an intimate connection with him, facilitated by the Holy Spirit who regenerates us and gives us new life in Christ.            

Second, we must speak of this new life as qualitatively different from the mere earthly life we were born with.  We have come to know the only true God and Jesus Christ, his Son, the One sent here for our salvation.  Prior to this we did not know God at all.  We may have known of him, in a fact-knowing kind of way.  We may have believed that there was a God in a less personal way. This is often true of people who later come to know God personally.  They come to believe in God in the abstract on the way to a personal faith.  It was certainly true in my case.  But to know God personally and to know him as our Father is a very different thing indeed. 

If we really know God and his Son Jesus Christ, we can no longer live as if that does not matter. We need to bask in the warmth of their fellowship. We need to learn from their wisdom and rejoice in their love. Life can never be the same. Eternal life is ours and this life lived in the very presence and power of God will never end.