Below you will find the manuscript that i went into the pulpit with yesterday. As ever, when delivery time comes things change and so the final outcome of delivery is always different. Having said that, i will say that because i delivered this sermon in the narrative format (for those unfamiliar with the term, a narrative sermon is delivered as a personal retelling of a character involved in the actual story), the delivery was substantially different. In case you have trouble figuring it out, i told the story from the point of view of the ‘other disciple’ that John writes about.
In narrative sermons, the preacher must write as though they are/were actually present when the event occured. That is the reason for the type of language you will see. Also, several liberties are taken (and therefore naturally forgiven by the congregation) so that the story can move forward. Much of the story itself has been culled and pieced together from many different sources such as commentaries, etc. I will also tell you that in the final delivery i did not mention any portion of the reference to the prophet Zechariah, but later in the sermon did add a piece about being new wineskins for new wine. I was able to get through the sermon without looking at my notes (except where quotes were involved) so the final product really does not read like what you see below. I pray however, that your heart will be challenged anyway.
Who Are You Looking For?
Narrative Sermon for Sunday, March 25, 2011
Entrance: … Through here? Where am I going? This way? … Oh, I think I took a wrong turn… Wow, look at this building! Maybe not as nice as the temple, but it accomplishes God’s work.
Oh, hi, good morning. I must admit I feel a little out of place this morning. These clothes are not at all what I’m used to. I was told that if I want to fit in, I should find clothes more suited for the time. And this…, why would anyone where this… thing. You know when I come from we have something like this, but we call it a noose. I cannot wait to get home and put on my robe and cloak, and my sandals.
I am also fascinated by all these marvels you have here. I was told that the word you use to describe these things is technology. This little thing by my ear amplifies my voice, so I do not have to yell. It is so marvelous.
I suppose I could go on about these things all day, but that is not why I am here today. I think there is one downside to the all the technology you have today though. It is good for amplifying those instruments… Yeah that music. Did you hear that? That was great! If only we had that in my time. Amen. Yes, the downside: I was told that your society today is consumed with being entertained. I was told that some of you even schedule your days around these things called television programs. Well I have not fully grasped that concept yet, but I decided if you enjoy entertainment, what better way to address you this morning than to tell you a story. A story that, as long as live I will never forget.
The events of the story will become clear enough as I speak, but if you need hard evidence of what I have to say, four people, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, wrote down what I will be telling you. As it turns out, some people even collected the writings into what I was told you call the Bible. Regardless, I appreciate the version of the story that my friend John wrote, because the details he included are different from the other guys, and you can find his version in John 18:1-26.
Now before you get the wrong idea about me, it should be enough to say that John told me he would be writing about what happened on the night Jesus was arrested. Personally, I find it interesting how John’s mind works, because I told him, “You better not mention my name. I do not want anyone to know I was even there.” So what does he do? Well, he does not mention my name, but he does say “another disciple.” It bothers me a bit, but I guess it is too late to change it now.
The story I want to tell you though is how I remember the events. It remains so vivid in my mind. It was the time of the Passover; that was our Jewish traditional time of year to commemorate the night that God delivered our fathers from slavery in Egypt. Me and the other disciples had already eaten our Passover meal with Jesus when Jesus decided he wanted to go for a walk down to the Garden. We knew what He was talking about so we all went with Him. It was such a great night. The moon was full and shining bright and there was the gentlest of breezes blowing.
We walked down the road and found the Garden. I remember we had to cross a little bridge over the Kidron, this little brook that ran through the area. As soon as we got to the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus told us to wait while He went to pray. I am not sure why John did not write about it, maybe he did not want us to look bad, but the reality was that we had fallen asleep. So when Jesus came back, he woke us up and told us we needed to go.
We had only walked a few steps when we heard a rattling sound. It is remarkable how sound travels so uninterrupted when everything is so still. The rattling got closer and closer until we rounded a bend in the path and there, before our very eyes stood Judas. I never even saw him leave. When did he go? I guess I was so caught up in everything else I completely missed it. Well, there he was. But he was not alone. He had soldiers with him. If only it were that simple right? It was not like Judas had brought a small handful of soldiers. No. You know we have this word in the Greek language, ‘speira,’ which means a military cohort; the equivalent of six hundred soldiers. That is what Judas had brought with him. Six hundred soldiers to arrest one man.
I must admit though that I found it all a little funny. In the moment I even remember chuckling a little bit; That many soldiers for one man. Well, the whole situation was almost comical, really. Let me explain. Here were six hundred soldiers with lanterns, torches, and weapons. I can only guess that they were expecting to have to search for Jesus in the bushes or maybe in a rocky outcrop or something. And that is what made me chuckle, because Jesus walked right up to them and said, “Who are you looking for?” The commander in charge said that they were looking for “Jesus of Nazareth,” and Jesus just looked at them and told them, “I am He.”
You know it is an interesting thing when something like this happens. Me and the other disciples looked at each other in amazement. Jesus just used the same description for Himself that God used when He spoke to our great prophet Moses. It was quite a spectacle to see six hundred soldiers step back, almost in unison, and fall on their faces before Jesus.
You know thinking back on it just now, the whole scene in the Garden of Gethsemane is rather interesting. This scene itself is a redemption story of sorts. Think back to the Torah. In the Torah, in Genesis, Adam and Eve are deceived in the Garden of Eden and tricked into given the authority over the earth to Satan. After their sin, they hide, and God has to search for them. But here, hmm, here, because Jesus never sinned, He did not need to hide. He even walked willingly out of the Garden, he was not forced out.
Anyway, getting back to the story. Of course the soldiers didn’t stay down very long. The soldiers got right back up and got close to Jesus to arrest him. I really do not know why so many came, but Jesus just stood there, looked at them, and then told the soldiers, “If I am the one you are looking for, let my disciples go.” The way Jesus said this though was not a question. He was commanding them, commanding an army that we would think he had no authority to command; He was commanding them to let us all go. But how does that work? I remember clearly the old prophet Zechariah writing something like, “Strike the shepherd, and the flock will be scattered.” But John says that the Shepherd is the one who disperses them, so are they really scattered then? Of course Zechariah did mention something about 2/3 of the flock being scattered and 1/3 remaining intact. I do not know. I will have to wrestle with that a bit. But Jesus did say a few weeks before His arrest that, “Those who You gave Me, I have lost none.” Looking back now, some of that makes sense.
I apologize. I am rambling in my thoughts too much. Let me tell you a little about Peter. I love Peter. He was so cool. He did not always think through the actions he was doing before he did them, but to be fair, what happened next is arguably one of the bravest things I have ever seen. Here is this one man; he pulls out his sword and cuts off one of the soldiers ears. I thought the soldier was a dead man. I really do not know how Peter did not kill him. But brave Peter, there he stood ready to take on the entire army of soldiers that stood before us. If you were there, you might have laughed, it looked so funny.
Anyway, for whatever reason they tied Jesus up and took Him away. I can remember vividly just standing there as they led Him away. I stood there stunned as the words Jesus had said hit me like a rock between the eyes. At supper just a little while before he had said, “The hour has come when the Son of Man will be glorified. A little while, and you will not see Me.” Now He was going.
Me and Peter lucked out though. We followed the crowd and it turns out the first place they went was to the house of Annus. I knew his son-in-law Caiaphas quite well so the people around the courtyard knew who I was, and I was able to talk them into letting me and Peter see what was going on.
I want to let you know that I am proud to be a Jew. I like my heritage and stand firm on the foundations of faith our fathers and grandfathers have laid all the way back to our father Abraham. But what happened next sickens me to this day. It is one of the greatest mockeries (fake spit) of a trial I have ever been witness to.
Our law specifically says, let me read it for you, “Criminal processes can neither commence nor terminate, but during the course of the day. If the person be acquitted, the sentence may be pronounced during that day; but, if he be condemned, the sentence cannot be pronounced till the next day. But no kind of judgment is to be executed, either on the eve of the Sabbath, or the eve of any festival.” That might not make sense to you so let me explain. This law says that a trial cannot start or end during the night. It must take place during the daylight hours. If someone is innocent, they are released immediately. If they are guilty, the sentencing can only take place the next day. On top of all of that, this law says that no trial can take place during the night before the Sabbath, or during any festivals.
Now you understand what I mean. Jesus was arrested on the eve of the Sabbath, during a festival, at night, and His trial went through the night. If there was ever a case where it should have been tossed out or dismissed, it should have been this one.
Not only that, they brought Him to Annus first. He was not a judge. You know, I bet the only reason they brought Jesus to Annus first was because He owned most of the trading tables in the temple that Jesus had turned over. He was mad. Jesus had made him look like a fool in front of everybody in the temple. I bet Annus just wanted to laugh in Jesus’ face because now Jesus was captured. In fact, you could see the glint in Annus’ eyes that in the end, wealth and power had won.
Well the mockery (fake spit) of a trial kept going and it just went from bad to worse. Annus had his fun with Jesus and then sent Jesus to Caiaphas. I could only watch in stunned disbelief as the High Priest made an even greater mockery (fake spit) of our proud justice system. Caiaphas should have known that our law also states that a prisoner is not allowed to respond to any questioning. Other witnesses must be brought in to give the defense.
Jesus knew this. He even told the High Priest, “Why are you asking Me? Ask those who have heard what I said.” I guess one of the soldiers did not like the way Jesus answered the High Priest because he wound up, and he slapped Jesus across the face. See what I mean by mockery (fake spit). They were announcing Jesus as guilty, and He hadn’t even been to the judge yet. Well Jesus must have known what was going on because he just asked, “If I have spoken the truth, why are you hitting Me?”
I better stop talking about this mockery (fake spit) before I get too riled up and start causing a disturbance here.
Let me get back to Peter for a minute. Again, John is quite critical of the actions of Peter on that night. And I have read some of what you people have had to say about Peter, and I am here to tell you that you have the wrong idea about him. Listen to me, Peter was the bravest man I ever knew. And I pray that after today you might have a better view of him.
I wrote this down so I would not mess this up: The reality is that it was the real Peter who protested his loyalty in the upper room; it was the real Peter who drew his lonely sword in the moonlight in the Garden; it was the real Peter who followed Jesus, because he could not allow Jesus to go alone. But it was not the real Peter who cracked under the pressure when he denied his Lord. And that is the Peter that Jesus could see.
Sure Peter denied Jesus three times, but remember this: He was the only one who tried to help. Peter failed in a situation that the other disciples did not even try to face. He failed, not because he was a coward, but because he was brave (Barclay). I am ashamed at my actions that night, because even I did not try to help. Even I did not try to defend my Lord.
Well the night progressed and this mockery (fake spit) moved on to Pilate’s house… (be sure to draw out the last few words as a new thought comes into mind)
Whoa! Hang on just a moment. I just thought of something…
I need to go back to the story in the Garden for just a bit, because something just occurred to me, and I never really thought about it until now…
Let me try to describe what I am processing right now…
When we were in the Garden everything seemed normal. We had gone to that Garden so many times, and Jesus often just went off by Himself to pray. What never even occurred to me until right now is that when Jesus came back, He looked like a wreck. Luke mentioned something about that. He said that, “Being in agony, Jesus prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground” (Lk 22:44).
I can truly tell you that I have never seen anyone in agony who did not cry, or even weep. That night Jesus had tear stains all over his face. You could see it in the moonlight. But that wasn’t it. He also had streaks running down his face from the sweat that Luke said was “like” blood.
Hmm… the first markings Jesus got on that night were His own fault. There would be a lot more before the night was through, but the first evidence of red stains on His robe were not from any beatings He got, but from the anguish of what He knew had to be done.
Can you imagine what the soldiers saw when they met Jesus? A blood and tear stained face? That is what these people coming to arrest Jesus saw.
And that is when Jesus asked the question of the hour: Who are you looking for?
You almost expect the answer they gave: “We’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth.”
But now that I think about it, that does not explain why Jesus would bother asking the same question over again: Who are you looking for?
I can understand why the soldiers responded the way they did after the first time. But the way Jesus asked the question the second time, it has to make someone stop and think.
Let me tell you what I mean.
The soldier’s first response was that they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth. I do not know if Jesus thought they misunderstood his question but He was quick to respond, “No, no, no, no, no. You misunderstood me. Who are you looking for? (asked sympathetically)
He cut straight to the heart. He was so good at doing this, getting passed the exterior appearances and the façade, the masks that people wear. He touches people at the core of who they are, at their heart. It was as if Jesus expected the response the first time around, and asked again to make the soldiers think about their response.
I am really going to have to take that question to heart. That is a question for me, here and now. Even though I was with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane that day, I did not understand it. I mean truly, fully understand the question Jesus was asking.
Those soldiers were looking for the same thing I was. They were Jewish citizens just like I am. Who they were looking for was exactly who I was looking for. At the heart of who we are, with an ancestry built on faith in God, we were looking for the Messiah. We were looking for the coming of the King.
The Messiah was expected to live and reign forever; He is the ultimate Deliverer; The Savior from sin. The Messiah was expected to come and take over all the kingdoms in the earthly realm and establish a heavenly kingdom, one that would last forever. The Messiah was supposed to deliver us from the oppression of the Romans.
Yet the question still remains: Who are you looking for?
What if I asked you that question this morning: Who are you looking for?
Are you looking for a Jesus that will fulfill all your wants and desires?
Are you looking for a Jesus that will validate your self-pity?
Are you looking for a Jesus who is some sort of warm-fuzzy?
Are you looking for a Jesus who will just fill a void?
Your society has a problem with thinking you can pick and choose who you want Jesus to be. Some of you want to be able to control Jesus. (Tozer, A.W. The Knowledge of the Holy. New York, NY: Harper Collins, pg. 8.)
Some of you here probably know who Jesus is. You might have even spent a long part of your life knowing Him. But remember, I spent three years in His very presence, and even my view of Him wasn’t complete. Some of you have spent so much of your life knowing Jesus that you have been caught up in the historical view of Him that your ancestors had. That was the very problem that my Jewish people had. They thought they had all the answers about who the Messiah would be. And because they would not submit themselves to the way God was doing things, they missed the Messiah when He came. They were not prepared to accept that God was doing a new thing, through Jesus Christ. Are you the same way? Are you so caught up in tradition that you cannot see God doing a new thing? Because “We’ve never done it that way?” Because it is too uncomfortable?
Allow me to read for you something one of the writers of your time wrote:
“I refer to the loss of the concept of majesty from the popular religious mind. The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping people…. The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.” (Tozer, A.W. The Knowledge of the Holy. New York, NY: Harper Collins, vii.)
But there are also some of you here who may not know who Jesus is. Maybe you have heard his name, but have never encountered Him.
On my way here I saw a machine down the street a little way. It is a machine you call a Coke machine. You put a little bit of money in and then you have a selection of beverages to choose from. Well Jesus isn’t a Coke machine – You can’t just throw in a few small prayers and expect to have a selection for the type of Jesus you want.
Jesus is not a Coke machine. But the reality is that just as much as you are searching for something or someone to fill the void, Jesus is looking for you. When you pray that first prayer asking Him to be Lord of your life, you will encounter The Advocate; The Resurrection and the Life; The Shepherd; The Rock; The Living Water; The Alpha and Omega; The Lion of the Tribe of Judah; The Way, The Truth and the Life; The Bright and Morning Star; The King of Kings; and The Lord of Lords. There are so many names describing who Jesus is. And when you call on Jesus you get the whole package. You do not have to pick and choose, you get all of Him.
You know what, I’m going to stop right there and talk to you just as Jason.
If you’ve had a wrong view of God, take the opportunity to repent and begin the process of gaining a right view of who He is and His holiness.
If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, but feel Him pulling at your heart strings this morning, don’t delay. Invite Him into your heart.
I’m going to ask the people at the back to play a song. As it’s playing, take time to reflect on the question, “Who Am I Looking For?”
If you would like someone to pray with you, I’ve asked a few people to be available to pray with you. And I will be available as well.