Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Sermon / Homily on John 18:4

Whom Seek Ye?

by Ralph Bouma

Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? (John 18:4).

Each of us must personally ask this question. Do we seek the person of Christ or are we seeking a Jesus who would only deliver us from the consequences of sin? As we learn to understand who Jesus is, we understand that He is different from the Jesus sought by the world or by the harlot church, those who want to continue in sin that grace may abound.

One of the most fundamental principles taught by our Lord and Saviour was: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). What do we seek after? Are we seeking after the things of this life or do we seek the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ?

This however was not the reason the Lord Jesus was sought by Judas and his band of soldiers. They did not seek His perfect will, that they might come under His lordship, that they might come into His service. They sought His destruction.

Our Lord did not wait until they came to apprehend Him. His hour had come. He did not give them the honor of them taking Him by force. His speaking first established that He made no attempt to escape, but to offer Himself as a Lamb without blemish for a sin offering. Jesus was ready and willing to surrender Himself as "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

The Jews once wanted to take our Lord Jesus by force and make Him their King, but this was not the commission He had from His Father. We read in John 6:15: "When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone."

Matthew 26:47-49 shows that Judas recognized Jesus.

When Jesus asked Judas and his band, "Whom seek ye?" why did they not answer as Nathan did in 2 Samuel 12:7: "And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man."

Judas and his band were speaking with "Jesus of Nazareth," and yet they did not recognize Him any more than Mary as she wept in John 20:15: "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away." Even His loved ones did not recognize Him until He called them by name. In verse 16 Jesus said: "Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master."

We, by nature, do not see the Person of Christ. All the light of human wisdom will never rightly recognize the Person of Christ. Judas having been with Jesus throughout His ministry establishes the principle taught in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4: "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."

The natural man is as blinded for the Person of Christ as His traitor. The case scenario in our chapter fulfills what we read in John 1:4-5: "In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." It is only as we receive the light of life that we will ever truly "behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

Even John the Baptist, the very forerunner of Christ, did not recognize Him until the Holy Spirit gave Him a sign.

"And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost" (John 1:32-33).

We can be groping in the dark searching for Jesus, but until the Holy Spirit enlightens our eyes and gives us to see the Person of Christ, we will never rightly know who He is. This light that is shed upon Him by the Holy Spirit is the only means whereby we will ever rightly learn to know Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:12-14 says: "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

Jesus may be working something in our lives, but we may be groping in the dark and do not see that it is from His hands. We do not see Jesus in the mysteries, riddles and trials of our lives. Jesus said: I came not to send peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34). How often do we rightly see Jesus when He sends us a sword instead of peace, when He sends division in our families? It is only when we receive the light of the Spirit that we will understand His hand in these things, but the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God. The natural man will never discern the Lord Jesus in these trials.

When sin becomes sin indeed, then grace is grace indeed, and then Christ is Christ indeed. When professing believers have a superficial sense of sin, they have a superficial understanding of grace and faith in Christ. Only by the divine influence of the Holy Spirit on our hearts will we ever change our attitudes and turn from serving sin to serving the living God. Even the least sin must be cleansed from us.

Joseph Hart wrote in Gadsby's hymn 89:

What comfort can a Saviour bring To those who never felt their woe? A sinner is a sacred thing; The Holy Ghost hath made him so. New life from His we must receive Before our sins we rightly grieve.

Until we receive our new life from the life of Christ in us, we will never rightly grieve over sin. 2 Corinthians 4:6 says: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

Here in the Garden we see a Divine display of the power of the Word (or the nature of Jesus Christ). John 1:1-3 says: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made."

By the Word, by Jesus speaking, Judas and all his band fell backward in retreat instead of advancing to arrest the Great "I AM," when Jesus asked: "Whom seek ye?" John 18:5-6 says: "They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground."

This is a question you and I must carefully examine. Are we seeking the Person of Christ, or are we just seeking to escape the consequences of sin? Do we see sin in its real nature? Has sin become hateful to us?

Our Lord and Saviour was and is the Great "I AM" spoken of in Exodus 3:13-14: "And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you."

This is what caused Judas and his band to go backward and fall to the ground. Our Lord revealed thereby that He was much more than what He had been slanderously called "Jesus of Nazareth." He was the Great "I AM" - God manifest in the flesh.

1 Timothy 3:16 says: "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." Jesus revealed the true spirit of godliness by loving God will all of His heart, soul and mind. God manifest in the flesh distinguished Himself by His purity of heart.

In Matthew 15:19-20 Jesus talks about what happened in the fall of man. "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man."

In Jeremiah 17:9 we read: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"

When we see God manifest in the flesh, we see a Man who has a Divine nature. He does not have a heart that is deceitful and desperately wicked. Here is a Divine nature manifesting itself in a human nature.

Look what Jesus said to the Pharisees (and they were the most righteous of all) in Matthew 15:7-8: "Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me."

God manifest in the flesh is a manifestation of a pure heart. This is the mystery of godliness, a heart in a human nature that was pure.

There are those who speak of the active and the passive obedience of Christ, but our Lord and Saviour was not to just passively suffer. He willingly, actively offered Himself as a sacrifice (not unto Judas and his band) but unto God.

Ephesians 5:1-2 says: "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour." We have the admonition to walk in that Spirit of Christ. We must imitate Him.

The betrayal of Judas-together with his "band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees," who came with their "lanterns and torches and weapons," were useless against One who came to offer Himself a ransom for our sins.

See in emphasis on it being the Lord's time in John 18:10-12: "Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him."

It is awesome to see how a sinner hardened and blinded against the authority of the Word will dare to withstand and ignore the miracles just performed. Not only falling backward at the voice of the Great "I AM," but also the compassionate healing of the servant whose ear had just been cut off.

No miracle, however awesome, will ever overpower envy, which is cruel as hell. Matthew 27:17-18 says: "Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him."

Think of the miracle that was ignored because of this same envy we find recorded in Matthew 28:11-15: "Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day."

Nothing short of the miracle of the grace of God will ever change the depraved heart of man. We were the ones who crucified Christ. With our sin we have pierced Him. Outside of the Divine grace, our children's depraved hearts would never be changed. We must beseech the Lord to draw them to Him.

Even Divine judgments will not alter the human heart. Revelation 16:8-11 says: "And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds."

With dignity and calmness our Lord and Saviour gave Himself into their wicked hands to be crucified and slain. Our Lord and Saviour did not need a sword in His hand. The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, was all He needed.

This love for His own harmonizes with John 13:1: "Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end."

The Great Shepherd was not a hireling who would flee when the enemy came. John 10:11-15 says: "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep."

When our Lord said, "I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way," it was a Divine command, as we find prophesied in Psalm 105:14-15 says: "He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm."

That Divine command is in effect today. No man can ever put his hands on one of God's loved ones without restraining grace being removed. Many of God's people have suffered persecution - only by the consent of God, and not until it was God's time.

Another important principle we learn here is how Christ was to tread the winepress alone. This principle is taught by a type in Leviticus LEV 16:17a: "And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place."

See Also:

Sermons for Good Friday

Sermon Collection Based on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross

Sermons for Passion Week

Passion Week Supplement in Malankara World

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