Mumford and Sons, the British Folk Rock band, has always been a favourite of mine. If you’re a good twenty or thirty ‘something’, you’d probably know these words:
“Well I don’t even know if I believe
I don’t even know if I believe
I don’t even know if I wanna believe
Everything you’re trying to say to me
Say something, say something,
Something like you love me”.
Mumford, like all good musicians, wears his heart on his sleeve… He isn’t sure if he believes (in God). Mumford isn’t sure if he wants to believe. He seems to want the truth. He doesn’t want to guess. No, Mumford wants God (if there is one!) to say something, something like you love me.
Now, I don’t think Mumford is the only one who feels like this. Have you ever felt that way?
- “Do I even believe?” “Should I even believe?” “I come to church, I’m part of a growth group, I tell people I believe, but do I really believe?”
- Or “I want to believe!” “But I don’t know what I’m believing in” “I’m confused, I don’t seem to understand”.
- Or “I do believe” “But I need something” “I need more” “In the midst of my struggle, in the must of my weaknesses-I need to know God’s there” “I need to know he really loves me!”
- Or “I can’t be bothered believing” “It’s too hard and too complicated” “Is it really worth believing?” “Will it benefit me if I believe?”
- Or even “I don’t want to believe” “I will not believe” “No way, never”.
The heart is complex, isn’t it? Doubt, dissatisfaction, apathy, unbelief, hostility-they can all creep right on in! And if you feel that, or when you do feel that-please know that you’re not alone. And you’re not alone here, at MPC. Messy and complex heart conditions has been and is always a real issue for God’s people.
So what fixes the heart? Well that’s where John’s gospel comes in…
Across the next two weeks-as we look at Jesus’ arrest, his death, and his resurrection, John writes so that our hearts might truly believe. That we might know, with certainty, that Jesus is who he says he is. That we might know, with certainty, that Jesus did what he said he’d do. John aims to mend the heart, to cause it to believe, to grow its trust and its love for Christ.
And today, in Chapter 18, John shows us three hearts (three other people’s hearts) in an attempt to fix our own. John shows us three hearts in an attempt to fix our own.
1. THE HEART OF JESUS
First, John shows us Jesus’ heart.
1a. A familiar garden
The story starts in the garden.
1 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.
Now, this garden isn’t like something we’d see in our backyard, a big open garden. No, it’s more like a ‘closed’ or ‘walled’ garden with a specific entry and exit, one way in and one way out. But like most garden’s in the Bible, there’s an intruder.
2 Now Judas, who was handing him over, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas came to the garden, guiding a military unit of soldiers and some officials from the Chief Priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns, and weapons.
There’s an intruder. But notice that Jesus didn’t hide from him. He didn’t look for an unknown location, he didn’t change his meeting habits. No, he goes into the garden which the intruder knew about. It seems like Jesus is cornering himself, giving himself over to the intruder… and his military unit (most likely numbering 600 men
1b. He goes out to his enemies
And so what’s Jesus’ do? Does he run? Does he hide? Is there back door to this garden? No… Jesus goes out of the garden.
4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, goes out and asks them, “Who is it you want?”
Jesus goes out. He goes out. He gives himself up, even though he knows what’s ahead…
Now I know that most of you drive, and a few of you have gotten your ‘learners’ and ‘p-plates’ lately… So during the floods, you would have heard or seen the ads “If it’s flooded-forget it!”. And it’s good advice-when you see a threat, you turn the other way! It’s sensible, it’s what you do!
But notice here, Jesus doesn’t really do that. Despite knowing the danger that’s ahead of him… he moves toward it. Despite knowing what was ahead… the spitting, the slapping, the whipping, the abuse and shame, the thorns, the nails, the cross… despite knowing what was ahead, he gives himself up.
1c. He floors his captors
In fact, notice that he gives himself up, even when he has the power not too. Look at verse 5:
“Who is it you want?” 5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.). 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
This is an extraordinary scene, isn’t it? Judas, standing with six hundred men, are all literally “bowled over” and “fall to the ground” by two words: “I am”.
This man’s not from Nazareth, he’s not from these parts, no he’s from God, he is God. But despite being God, the Son of God, Jesus gives himself up, no one takes his life from him-not even a roman army.
1d. He stays put
So what’s Jesus do next? Does he just step over his enemies? Does he just walk on by? Does he just leave them as they lie on the ground?
No, Jesus’ stays where he is… and says “Hey guys, who is it you want again?”. You can imagine the soldiers putting their helmets on straight and regathering themselves. “Is it safe?” “Is the coast clear?” This is hilarious… Jesus is clearly more powerful, yet he gives himself up.
1e. To set his people free
But why? Why is he doing this? Why is God the Son, turning himself in? John tells us…
7 Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said. 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9 [And then John comments… ] This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”
You see, despite knowing all and being able to squash all, Jesus gives himself up to protect his disciples.
Just think about it: Why go to a familiar garden? Why a garden that has only one entry and exit? Why go out to meet your enemies? Why flatten your captors? Why stay put when you could run? Why give yourself in when you’re God? It’s because Jesus’ heart is for his people. Jesus’ heart is set on going to the cross to protect his disciples…
Here, John is reminding us of the metaphor Jesus’ used a few chapters earlier… Jesus Christ is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep-and he will lose no one whom the Father has given him, never. Jesus is the good shepherd… He yards the sheep, he sees the threat, he leaves the pen, and he gives himself to the wolves… the shepherd does all this so that he might not lose a single sheep.
I mean, he won’t even let Peter defend him…
11 Jesus commands Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
Jesus will lay down his own life for his people, no one will stop him, his heart is set. His heart was and is for his people.
1f. Do you know that Jesus’ heart was and is ‘for you’?
Do you know that? Do you know that Jesus’ heart was and is for you? Do you know that? You see, Jesus went to the cross for you, so that he might not lose you. Jesus went to the cross to protect you, to keep you safe-from the powers of darkness, safe from death, safe from the punishment of sin, from the wrath of God-to give you eternal security forever. Jesus went to the cross to protect you, to bring you to himself, to make known God to you, and so that you might live and bathe in the love of God forever. The temporary safety of the disciples stands as a reminder to us that there is eternal security in Christ because his heart is so clearly ‘for you’.
So believe, receive Christ, depend on him.
2. THE HEART OF PETER
John show us Jesus’ heart. It’s set on laying his life down… but in the following scenes, John also shows us another heart-the confused heart of Peter.
2a. The Courtyard
The story moves from the garden to the courtyard.
15 [After Jesus is arrested… ] Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in. 17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.”
Whilst Peter (and an unnamed disciple) follow behind Jesus, they’re met by a servant girl (who would make the perfect bouncer at any club!)-“You’re not with that bloke are you?” “You’re not with him as well?”. And to our shock, Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers, reveals part of his heart: “I am not” He replies. “I am not” “I am not his disciple”. It’s kinda shocking isn’t it? Surely, this is just a lie? Surely, Peter’s just saying what he needs to say in order to get in? Surely, this is just a harmless bending of the truth?
2b. Standing around the fire
Well, Peter’s next actions continue to expose him…
18 It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
After just denying his relationship with Jesus, Peter “stands” around a fire. On one level, this seems harmless! It’s cold! But notice who does he stand with? He stands with Jesus’ enemies-with the servants and the officials who’ve just arrested Jesus. Peter is further exposed… just as Judas stood with Jesus’ enemies, now Peter also stands with them. What’s going on here!?
2c. Peter denies everything
And even (in v19-24) after Jesus’ is questioned, slapped, and led away in shackles… even after Jesus’ denies nothing, Peter continues to deny everything.
25 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” 26 One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” 27 Again Peter denied it…
Jesus says “I am” “I am” “I am”, but here Peter says “I am not”. The one who declared:
68 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…
… is now saying “I am not” “I do not belong to him” “I shall not go to him” “I am not one of his sheep”.
Sadly, it’s as if a child, says to their Mum or Dad: “I am not yours”.
Surely, John’s got the wrong Peter? Surely, this isn’t what really happens!? This isn’t the Peter we all know… This isn’t the Peter we’ve come to love… The Peter we know has a heart for Jesus! He has heart to follow Jesus… What’s going on!? What’s wrong with his heart?
2d. Because only the good shepherd lays down his life
The answer is in verse 27.
27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.
What’s wrong with Peter’s heart is that he has misunderstood Jesus. John’s reference to a crowing rooster is meant to take us back to an earlier conversation between Jesus and Peter. Take a listen:
33 “Where I [Jesus] am going [that is the cross], you cannot come… 36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” 37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
Peter has misunderstood Jesus. Peter wants to follow Jesus, Peter wants to lay down his life for Jesus, but Peter doesn’t get that he actually can’t. It’s not just that he doesn’t follow Jesus, it’s that he can’t follow Jesus… Because Jesus’ won’t let him.
And Jesus won’t let him… because only Jesus’ can lay down his life… Peter can’t follow Jesus “until Jesus dies for him”.
In his heart of hearts, Peter has misunderstood that you do not lay down your life for Jesus, he lays down his life for you. It’s not until Jesus dies for you, that you can follow him. It’s not until Jesus dies, that you can have a heart which truly beats for him…
Because this isn’t the end of the story of Peter’s heart… After Jesus’ death, Peter will declare his love for Jesus. Here, he denies Jesus around a fire. But later (in chapter 21), Peter will declare his love for Jesus around yet another warm and cosy fire.
2e. Do you know that Jesus’ died for you, so that you could follow him?
And so Peter’s misunderstood heart, should be a constant reminder to you and I, that we don’t lay down our lives for Jesus, he lays down his life for us. It’s a reminder that it’s not primarily about our love for him, it’s about his love for us. It’s not about our service, it’s not about our giving, or our laying down, or the strength of our following… Whilst we must love, and we must serve, and we must give, lay down and follow-it’s actually completely about him: who loved us and gave himself for us. John’s showing us that it’s about ‘Christ for us’, notx ‘us for Christ’. So, come to Jesus and believe! Know full well, that it is more about his heart for you, than your heart for him.
3. THE HEART OF THE WORLD
John shows us Jesus’ heart, he reveals Peter’s heart, and finally, John gives us window into heart of our world.
3a. Driven by the stomach
The story moves from the courtyard to the palace.
28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.
John gives us the first hint into our world’s heart: they’re driven by their stomachs. You see, this palace was occupied by the Roman Governor, Pontus Pilate. It was a place for Romans, not for Jews. To a Jew, it was a place of uncleanliness… So Jew’s desire to “avoid ceremonial uncleanness… because they wanted to eat the Passover” shows us what’s really important: a religious feast on food. They want to eat, so they’re not wasting time by becoming unclean. No Pilate will come to us, to hurry up and get this trial over and done with!
3b. They’re deceitful
And as Pilate meets them outside, we see more of our world’s heart-they’re utterly deceitful.
29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” 30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
Whilst everything is going according to Jesus’ plan, we can’t say the same about religious leaders. You see, Pilate sees straight through them… they have no charges against Jesus… so he tells them to use their own laws. But, they know that they have no right to kill anyone… The religious leaders know the word, they know the command, they know the “thou shall not murder”… And yet they plead for Pilate to come to their aid… They’re set on murdering Jesus, and they’ll lie to get it done.
3c. He is no threat
In fact, they want Pilate to murder Jesus, even though Jesus is no real threat.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” 35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
Whilst the religious leaders want him dead, Jesus reminds Pilate that he’s really no threat-his Kingdom is “not of this world”. Jesus’ isn’t forming an army, he’s not rallying the troops, he’s not overthrowing Rome, he’s not defending himself… quite the opposite actually. He’s come to speak the truth! Verse 37:
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
To which, again, we see the heart of our world… as Pilate cynically replies…
38a “What is truth?”
Even Pilate’s heart, as much as the Jewish leaders, is filled with cynicism and unbelief. The Jews are concerned about man made religion. Pilate is concerned about philosophy.
3e. Reject Jesus
Ultimately, their hearts reject Jesus.
With this Pilate went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39
But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” 40
They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.
Despite having no evidence and no charges… despite having no real reason to reject him… they yell “No, not him!” “No, not him!” “Give us a terrorist.” Give us Barabbas.”
Their hearts are set against Jesus-they will not receive him, they will not listen to him, they will not believe in him. They reject him. The chief priests and the officials, through means of Pilate, are determined to lead Jesus’ to his death.
And it is at this part of the story where John’s metaphor changes… The shepherd becomes the sacrificial lamb.
The good shepherd who lays down his life is now led to the altar as the sacrificial lamb. He is the passover lamb so that his people, even those (like Barabbas) who are not his people, go free.
3f. Where’s your heart?
Sadly, this is the heart of the world. It comes up with all sorts of reasons to reject Jesus… It uses religious duty… It uses philosophy… It uses a whole wave of reasons… It’s not simply apathetic to Jesus, it’s cynical and hostile to Jesus. It’s filled with every kind of evil
And so the heart of the world, should confront us… it should confront any one of us who isn’t yet a follower of Jesus… because it begs the question:
- Are you ignoring Jesus’ voice?
- Are you standing with Jesus’ enemies?
- Are you calling for another? Give me someone else!
- Are you rejecting him?
And if you’re heart of hearts does identify with that of Pilate, the chief priests, and the officials… if you see anything of them in you… please know, again that Jesus Christ went out ‘for you’. Jesus turned himself in ‘for you’. Jesus drank the cup of God’s anger ‘for you’. Jesus laid down his life ‘for you’. Jesus was led to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb ‘for you’. All so that you might know God, believe in him, and join the flock who get to eat in eternal pastures. Believe. Soften your hearts to Christ, listen to him, receive him, go on receiving him-today.
If that’s you, have a chat to someone here today. Fill in a welcome form and let us know that you’re here to check out Christ. Sign up for Christianity Explored. Tell someone, “I want believe”.
John 18 mends and fixes the heart. It fixes the heart which struggles to believe, it fixes the heart which resists believing… It can mend hearts like Mumford’s and it can mend hearts like ours… by showing us the heart of Christ for his people… And what we need is to continue to see, to hear, and to receive the good shepherd our sacrificial lamb.