Jesus Stepped Forward

If you attended or watched our Maundy service, this post will be a continuation of a thought that I introduced at the close of the service.

I have long been fascinated with the last few days of Jesus’ life. I can’t imagine the pressure of the moment He must have felt. Let’s be honest. When we find ourselves in high-pressure moments, we often see what we’re really made of. Unfortunately, my best moments are not my most stressed moments. But in the pressure cooker of life’s most stressful moments, we see what really resides in our heart. Knowing this, the words and actions that are recorded about Jesus in His final hours before the cross have always been compelling to me. John’s Gospel holds a special place in my heart. From everything he writes, John had a deeply personal relationship with God. In addition, from the very beginning of his gospel, John had an explicit goal in his account of Jesus’ life—John sought to convey that Jesus was not only a masterful teacher with the ability to perform miraculous feats, but was in fact, God in the flesh (John 1:1). So when we come to John’s record of the arrest of Jesus, the narrative makes perfect sense.

John records the moments following the famous “last supper” …
Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. Judas, the betrayer, knew this place, because Jesus had often gone there with his disciples. —John 18:1-2 NLT
Notice that Jesus was not hiding in the olive grove, famously referred to as the garden of Gethsemene, a name which means “oil press.” The symbolism in the pressure Jesus was under probably goes without saying.

Jesus went where He often went—where Judas would have known where to find Him. Our Savior was not hiding from His destiny.
The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove.  —John 18:3 NLT
Our best research indicates that this was no small band of soldiers. This was a cohort, literally the Greek word, “speira,” which was typically considered a tenth part of a legion, so this was likely a force of 300-600 trained soldiers along with Temple guards—no small group of people.

All those soldiers sent for one man, but this was no ordinary man, as John constantly reminds us.

The religious leaders likely feared a violent uprising upon the arrest of Jesus so deemed this strong show of force necessary to curtail any insurrection from the people. But no number of soldiers would be enough when standing before the King of kings.

And now we get to the powerful part of the story…
Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him so he stepped forward to meet them. —John 18:4 NLT
Jesus came to reveal the heart of His Father and a new way of life—the way of His Father’s Kingdom. But He also came to die, and in some supernaturally sacrificial way that theologians to this day still don’t completely understand, to set us free from the power and bondage that our own selfish desires cause in our life. The Bible refers to those desires as sin. It doesn’t take long to recognize how destructive giving into our sinful desires can be.
Sin only leads to death. It is the inevitable outcome.

But God was not content to sit by and allow His beloved creation to endure the consequences of sin and death, though we deserved it.

Jesus knew the stakes of His mission.

John seems to clearly point out that Jesus knew what His mission would cost Him. If you can put yourself in John’s shoes, you get a glimpse of what He saw in Jesus. In the face of hundreds of soldiers there to arrest Him and take Him to an illegal trial, the very one that Jesus had repeatedly told His disciples would inevitably lead to His death, John saw Jesus step forward, unwavering, and unshakable, to redeem humanity.

But John’s account doesn’t stop there…
“Who are you looking for?” he asked. “Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.) As Jesus said “I am he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground! —John 18:4-6 NLT

Did you catch that? This moment is only recorded in John’s gospel. Throughout John’s gospel, He has provided us with seven other moments where Jesus reveals an aspect of His identity in “I am” statements. In this final one, Jesus sums up who He is and acknowledges that He is Jesus the Nazarene. He is Jesus, a name which when transliterated from Hebrew and Aramaic is the name Yeshua, a combination of Ya, an abbreviation of God’s name, and the verb yasha, meaning “rescue,” “deliver,” or “save.” But not only is He here to save and rescue, but He is from Nazareth. He is both God and man. He lived in a real village in a real country at a specific time in history. His humanity was essential to His identity as Jesus. It would take a sacrifice as both God and man to secure humanity’s freedom (Romans 15:12-21).

In that moment, as Jesus acknowledged that He was both God and man, the only explanation can be that as Jesus answered them, the soldiers got a glimpse of who exactly they were speaking to—the King of Glory. It was as if a small sliver of His deity was released, and they were unable to stand under the weight of His glory.

Don’t miss what John was doing.

He was helping us realize that at no point in His arrest and eventual crucifixion was Jesus ever not in control. He was always fully God. Even the soldiers who came to arrest Him were overwhelmed at the very revelation of His name.

Why is this important for us? Jesus was no victim on the cross. He was the Lord of Glory, who boldly stepped forward with authority, not to a defeat in His death but to victory—to conquer sin and death once and for all, not by force but by surrender.

As the hundreds of soldiers climb back to their feet in front of Jesus, John drives his point home.
Once more he asked them, “Who are you looking for?” And again they replied, “Jesus the Nazarene.” “I told you that I am he,” Jesus said. “And since I am the one you want, let these others go.” —John 18:7-8 NLT

Jesus gave a command. Imagine that. Soldiers who came to arrest this man are given an order by Him, and amazingly, the soldiers obey His command. Why? Because Jesus was in control. In this moment in the garden, John wants us to realize that there was no reluctance in Jesus.

He was in complete control and willingly chose to lay His life down for humanity.

For you.

Jesus stepped forward, knowing the price your freedom would cost. It would lead Him to the cross.

And upon that cross, all the mistakes and failures from the beginning and end of creation, the evil, the envy, the hatred, the violence, the wickedness, the deplorable acts that humanity does to one another collided together and did their absolute worst to Jesus.

And He took it all.

As He hung upon that cross in agonizing pain from the nails piercing His skin and struggled to breathe, the weight of His own body causing His lungs to collapse, He took it all.

He took the full force—the full force of our sin, past, present, and future.

He took it all, like no one else could.

And in some supernatural way that only God fully understands, Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, became sin for us and died what looked like a criminal’s death, but what was, in actuality, a death blow to the power of sin, not by some victim hanging there against His will but by Jesus, our Rescuer, Deliverer, and Savior.

So, when you remember the suffering of Jesus this Good Friday, don’t think of Jesus as a helpless victim hanging on that cross.

Think of Him as John saw Him in that moment in the garden, when despite knowing fully what would happen to Him, He chose to step forward into His destiny anyway.

Think of Him as He really is—our Hero.

He chose to get on that cross. He wasn’t forced to, and He could have gotten down at any moment, but He didn’t.

He endured it.
He felt it.
All of it.

And He did it all for you, not just to save you from the power of sin, though that is important, but also to reveal to you a love that surpasses our ability to comprehend—the love of God. There is no greater love than to lay one’s life down for another (John 15:13). What greater love can there be when God Himself laid His life down for people who didn’t deserve it?
He did it to show you how far He would go to have a relationship with you.

His invitation has not changed. He invites us to come and follow Him, to walk with Him, to do life with Him (Matthew 4:19).

But following Jesus is not just saying a prayer. It is a radically life-altering decision to lay down our life, to surrender our will, and to follow Jesus every day.

It is an invitation that I want to remind you of today.  

As you reflect this Good Friday, grab a journal, and take some time to invite the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Ask Him to share with you why Jesus endured all that for you. Write down what He says to you. I promise you; the voice of God is the most important voice you will ever take the time to listen for. He longs to speak to you.
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1 Comment

Tony Butler - March 29th, 2024 at 8:35am


I attended the Maundy service last night via online. The service and music was amazing!

However, your message and this follow up devotional was definitely God sent. The points you presented brought new light to my spirit the love our Father has for all humankind and the power that Jesus had to fulfill the Father's will to defeat sin, and provide a WAY for all who believe to inherit eternal life. The vivid descriptions that you highlighted from John the writer of the account clearly shows that Jesus was definitely God in the flesh, the Son of God! Thank you for all you do! Love you my brother!