We've just gotten through Easter this year -- Praise be to the risen lord! We heard again the old, old stories from the various gospel accounts. We sang the old, old hymns that we forget we've memorized until the first notes are played. And as looked-forward-to as all that is, if you're like me, after 5 church services over 4 days my eyes started to glaze over a little bit. My bible study group was covering John 18 and 19 at the same time.
My own obsinance got in the way. "I already know this," I self-righteously proclaimed. "Let's move on to something new." THANK GOD the Holy Spirit didn't leave me at that point. Instead, He gently took my hand and said, "Have you ever seen this part, here?" He opened my eyes. And I was floored once again by the goodness of my Savior.
Have you ever noticed how much Christ protects His disciples throughout the awful night of his arrest and trials? John records Jesus' prayer in chapter 17. It's filled with Christ's pleas that the disciples be protected: their souls, their unity, their mission. "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one" (Jn 17:15) Then... THEN our Lord puts that protection into action throughout the rest of the night, even in the face of his own suffering!
The first place Christ protects them is when the mob arrives in the Garden to arrest Him. He asks the crowd to specifically name who they are after: "Who is it you want?" "Jesus of Nazareth" (Jn 18:4-5). He wanted everyone around to state exactly who they were looking for... so they couldn't decide to grab the disciples as well. He asks them again in verse 7. He identifies Himself as the man they are looking for both times. There is no room for confusion as to which man it is that is to be arrested.
Then, secondly, Christ asks that the followers be released. "If you are looking for me, then let these men go" (Jn 18:8). John tells us that this happened to fulfill what Christ prayed back in chapter 17: "I have not lost one of those you gave me." The disciples flee to safety.
Christ's intentional protection of His own doesn't stop there. Once our Lord is tied and dragged off to the home of Annas, the former high priest, He covers them again. Annas "questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching" (Jn 18:19). Jesus evades answering the question by stating that his ministry has always been public and that Annas should call witnesses who heard him preach (Jn 18:20). Jesus does not volunteer information about his followers. Matthew tells us that "Jesus remained silent" when questioned (Matt 26:63).
The thing that blows me away about this is that Christ was suffering so much. He was bound and beaten, struck and crucified. Yet, He wasn't concerned about Himself. He remained calm and dignified throughout his trials. He even had the strength of mind to add another layer of protection over those He loved most. Even then!
The disciples didn't recognize this protection. Poor Peter... he thought he had to protect the Lord with his sword. He didn't realize that the Lord was already protecting him.
How often is my selfish heart the same as Peter's! How often do I fail to recognize that Christ has covered me with all the protection I need! Instead, I throw up walls around my heart. I speak harsh words and defensive actions that push others out. I try to avoid situations that could cause pain to myself. But that never works. All I end up doing is... well... cutting someone's ear off... or cutting their heart deeply with a double edged sword that hurts myself.
How much better to respond as Christ! Dignified, calm, submissive. I can't always control my situation, but I can always control my response. I can have confidence in Christ's protection over my tender heart and trust that no matter what happens, I remain His. No matter what.
I challenge you to look at your own heart today. Where are you trying to defend yourself? Where are you resisting Christ's protection? The more I learn about Christ, the more I realize I still have to grow...
(I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my friend Susan who inspired many of these thoughts yesterday during Lecture on this scripture.)