A Friend's Love (John 21:1-25)


John 21:1-25; Key Verse: Jn 21:16,17

"Do you love me?"

How does a friend love? How does Jesus--the friend of sinners (Mt 11:19)--love?

Last week we considered the ABCD or the four ways/goals regarding what it means to follow Jesus. To be a Christ follower requires:

  • Accountability. Gather Nathans to call us to be accountable (Heb 3:13). Being a Nathan to others (2 Tim 2:2).
  • Basic Christianity: Love God (Dt 6:5). Live for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). Jesus is Lord (1 Cor 12:3).
  • Conformity to Christ (Rom 8:29) in church, community, campus, college, city, country, cosmos.
  • Developing a whole life mission statement/a singular life goal and passion (Phil 3:10, 14; Ac 20:24).

To expand on what following Jesus practically looks like, each Christian needs to intentionally and continually:

  • Connect to God: Worship.
  • Connect to Church: Nurture (in community).
  • Connect to the World: Witness.
  • Connect to Culture: Contextualization.

A true friend. Jn 21:1-25 is the epilogue of John's Gospel. It shows how Jesus was a true friend to his disciples, particularly to Peter. To Jesus friendship is surely a core value. His disciples regarded Jesus as Teacher and Lord and rightly so (Jn 13:13). But Jesus regarded them as his friends. He said, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends..." (Jn 15:15).

What is a friend? Derek Kidner, a renowned OT scholar, says in his commentary on Proverbs that two qualities of friends are candor and constancy. Candor means to be honest and transparent, while constancy refers to faithfulness. Tim Keller says, "Friends always let you in (candor), but never let you down (constancy)." Just as God was a friend to Abraham, Jesus was a true friend for he allowed his friends into his very heart during the Upper Room Discourse in John 13-17. Even when his friends let him down by abandoning him to die alone, Jesus was also still there for his friends, as today's text shows.

How does Jesus, our Friend, love his friends?

  1. He takes the initiative (Jn 21:1-5).
  2. He helps his friends to succeed/blesses them (Jn 21:6-8).
  3. He eats with friends/shares intimacy/reassures them (Jn 21:9-14).
  4. He confronts in love (Jn 21:15-17).
  5. He prophesies/invites (Jn 21:18-19).
  6. He answers questions (Jn 21:20-25).

Our Christian life does not end with salvation but continues with discipleship. John's Gospel could have ended in Jn 20:30-31 when John explicitly states why he wrote his gospel account: that we might believe who Jesus truly is on account of the miraculous signs that were recorded. But John not only wants to write about the way of salvation through faith in the Son. He writes one more chapter to show that our Christian life does not end with salvation, but that is is only the beginning point, which is to be inevitably followed by the way of discipleship. It is discipleship through friendship and love. Let us see how Jesus, a true friend, loves his friends.

1. A friend takes the initiative (Jn 21:1-5)

Failure. The disciples had failed as disciples. In particular, Peter failed big time, by denying Jesus three times (Jn 18:15-18, 25-27). Now seven of them were together by the Sea of Tiberias (Jn 21:1-2). What would they now do with their lives? Peter said, "I'm going out to fish," and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing (Jn 21:3). They were at the end of their rope. They were at the end of themselves. They had hit rock bottom. Have you?

Ben's story. This account perfectly described my life prior to coming to Jesus in 1980. I should have felt triumphant since I succeeded in become a M.D. and coming to the U.S. against all odds. Though I looked like a victor outwardly, yet inwardly I felt empty and defeated by life, and by a sense of meaninglessness and lostness. Gen 1:2 aptly described my true inner self. When I began studying the Bible with a UBF missionary (John Lee) I felt God visiting me. When he did, I knew the darkness and selfishness of my life. More than anything else, I knew that I had lived my entire life forsaking the God who created me and loved me. I felt doomed and distressed, helpless and hopeless. What I knew I deserved was punishment and banishment. I was convinced that I deserved David's fate after he had committed adultery and murder, which was that he had to live out the devastating consequences of his sin by experiencing one horrific family disaster after another. Yet God visited me in my hopelessness and helplessness with tenderness and kindness. It was nothing but pure grace and pure light that dawned upon my dark soul.

Jesus visits his friends. Perhaps this was the moment of the disciples' despair over their utter failure. They failed as a disciple. They now failed as fishermen. They failed as a man. They had no where to go but downward. Jn 21:4-5 says, "Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, 'Friends, haven’t you any fish?' 'No,' they answered." Jesus took the initiative to visit his friends at the lowest point of their lives.

2. A friend helps his friends to succeed/blesses them (Jn 21:6-8)

"Rewarded" for being bad. In the world you reward those who are good, and you punish those who are bad. The disciples were bad disciples. They abandoned their master at the worst possible moment. They knew they were bad. They knew they deserved retribution. But what did Jesus, their friend do? "He said, 'Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.' When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish" (Jn 21:6). Though they had failed to catch any fish (Jn 21:3), Jesus helped them to succeed where they had failed. In short, Jesus "rewarded" them for being bad disciples. Jesus showed them exactly what the grace of God is like: To receive an undeserved and unearned blessing.

Free yet reverent. When Peter realized that it was Jesus who blessed them with a great catch of fish, his dead heart was opened and he lost all of his inhibitions, while maintaining his awesome reverence (Jn 21:7). Jesus is our God who does not treat us as our sins deserve. Ps 103:10 says, "he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities." One of the greatest errors of the church is perhaps to treat others "according to their sins." The church may be so afraid of sin, such that they think they can control and manage the sin in people's lives by trying to dictate behavior, such as what they can and cannot do, or how they should and should not behave or dress, etc. The Bible clearly does not advocate anarchy. But it does not advocate behavioral control either. No set of rules, no matter how wonderful, can ever change and transform a sinner's heart. Only the grace of Jesus can.

3. A friend eats with friends/reassures them/shares intimacy (Jn 21:9-14).

A surreal eternal picture of sublime never ending love. Jn 21:9-14 is like a surreal eternal picture of sublime never ending love, fellowship and friendship. "When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread" (Jn 21:9). It is like a warm welcoming home party that would soften and comfort the heart of anyone who comes. In the days of his flesh, Jesus washes his disciples' feet (Jn 13:1-17). Now, as their risen Lord, he serves them still (Jn 21:13): he meets their tiredness after a night of toil with a hot breakfast. They can begin to eat what he has cooked while some of the fish they have just caught are prepared (Jn 21:10-11).

Stunned silence. It is almost as if the disciples were reluctant to come, even as they were eager to be with him. Jesus must spell out the invitation, "Come and have breakfast" (Jn 21:12a). Jn 21:12b says, "None of the disciples dared ask him, 'Who are you?' They knew it was the Lord." Why would the disciples even want to ask him who he was if they knew who he was? Also, why did John say that they did not dare ask him? The disciples already knew that it is the Lord (Jn 21:7). Yet they were still so uneasy, so hesitant, so uncertain, that they apparently longed to ask him, in effect, "Is it really you, Lord?", yet dared not do so. Perhaps they were still grappling with the strangenes of a crucified and resurrected Messiah. Perhaps, they were confounded by Jesus' exuberant sentiment of love expressed toward them, while realizing that they had only underperformed even by their own standards.

Reassurance. "Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish" (Jn 21:13). Here, Jesus reassures them, meets their physical needs, serves them as he did before his passion. Jesus welcomed and loved them as beloved victors and conquerors, even though the stark reality was that they had stumbled and failed in every possible and conceivable way.

4. A friend confronts in love (Jn 21:15-17).

Agape and phileo. The meaning of this part hinges upon the usage of two synonyms for love: agape and phileo. In terms of interpretation, when twon synonyms are placed in close proximity in context, a difference in meaning, however slight, is emphasized. When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, Jesus used agape, a word for love that signified total commitment. Peter responded with phileo, a word for love that signified his love for Jesus, but not necessarily his total commitment. This was not because Peter was reluctant to express that greater love, but because he had been disobedient and denied the Lord in the past. He was, perhaps, now reluctant to make a claim of supreme devotion when, in the past, his life did not support such a claim. Jesus pressed home to Peter the need for unswerving devotion by repeatedly asking Peter if he loved him supremely. The essential message here is that Jesus demands total commitment from His followers. Their love for him must place Him above their love for all else. Jesus confronted Peter with love because He wanted Peter to lead the apostles (Mt 16:18). But in order for Peter to be an effective shepherd, his overwhelming drive must exemplify supreme love for his Lord (Dt 6:5; Mt 22:37; Mk 12:30). [The MacArthur Study Bible, NASB, 2006, p 1594.]

Love supremely and exclusively. “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” (Jn 21:15a) Jesus wanted Peter to love Him so supremely as to forsake all that he was familiar with and be exclusively devoted to being a fisher of men (Mt 4:19; Mk 1:17; Lk 5:10). How did Peter respond? “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs” (Jn 21:15b). "Feed/tend my lambs" conveys the idea of being devoted to the Lord's service as an undershepherd who cares for His flock (1 Pet 5:1-4). The word has the idea of constantly feeding and nourishing the sheep. This served as a reminder that the primary duty of the messenger of Jesus Christ is to teach the Word of God (2 Tim 4:2). Acts 1-12 records Peter's obedience to this commission.

Lord, search my heart. The third time He asked Peter, Jesus used Peter's word for love (phileo) that signified something less than total devotion, questioning even that level of love Peter thought he was safe in claiming. The lessons driven home to Peter grieved his heart, so that he sought for a proper understanding of his heart, not by what he said or had done, but based on the Lord's omniscience. The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep" (Jn 21:17).

Speak the truth in love. Jesus is indeed our Friend who speaks the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Often when we speak the truth, our love is lacking. Or when we are loving others, we are afraid to speak the truth, because we think the truth will offend them. Tim Keller rightly says that when we speak the truth without love, we are not speaking the truth. Or when we love without speaking the truth, we are not loving. Jesus loved Peter with the truth, for Jesus is full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14).

5. A friend prophesies/invites (Jn 21:18-19).

6. A friend answers questions (Jn 21:20-25).

In this epilogue, John shows us Jesus who is the everlasting and unfailing friend and lover of his disciples. Jesus is the God who we might not be able to conceive of. Jesus is indeed a true faithful friend who never let his friends down. Jesus is such a friend to each of his children. We can only joyfully sing along with gratitude, "What a friend we have in Jesus." When we realize that we have such a friend, our heart leaps to follow him all our days.


Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1991. V. Epilogue (Jn 21:1-25). 665-686.

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West Loop's Flexible Internship (John 21:19, 22): Follow Me


John 21:18-25; Key Verse: Jn 21:19b, 22b

"Then he (Jesus) said to him (Peter), 'Follow me!'” "You must follow me."

Twice Jesus said to Peter, "Follow me": First, at the outset three years earlier (Mt 4:19; Mk 1:17); second, after his Passion (Jn 21:19, 22). To Peter, following Jesus involved martyrdom (Jn 21:18-19). To John, following Jesus involved living to a ripe old age and writing John's Gospel (Jn 21:22-23). Following Jesus took quite different paths for both of Jesus' disciples.

How do we Christians follow Jesus today? Let me propose a flexible internship program initiated at the level of a local church community, such as West Loop Church, which may help us lay the ground work for a Christ follower to follow Jesus all the days of our lives.

West Loop’s Flexible Internship/Mentorship Project/Plan/Proposal/Program for Adult Christians

Goal (A B C D):

    • Basic: Love God (Dt 6:5). Glorify God (1 Cor 10:31). If you do not do these, you are doing squat.
    • Conformity to Christ (Rom 8:29). Live out the beauty of Christ and the love of God through our daily interactions with people--both in church and in the world (Ps 27:4; Isa 33:17; 1 Jn 4:8, 16).
    • Accountability 1: Gather “Nathans” around you (Heb 3:13; 10:24; Prov 27:17).
    • Accountability 2: Be a Nathan to others (2 Tim 2:2).
    • Develop an entire life mission statement/life goal as a Christian (Phil 3:14; Ac 20:24).
    • (This mentorship is for the benefit and well being of the church, not for building up our church.)

Duration: Tailored to the intern (3 months, 6 months, 1 year, other).

Qualifications: Willingness. Voluntary. Open heart. A spirit of adventure.

Frequency of meeting: Once weekly (or more) according to the schedule and availability of the intern.

“Basic” Christianity:

      • Orthodoxy (believing / head / cognition)
      • Orthopraxy (doing / will / volition)
      • Orthopathy (“feeling” / heart / emotion).
    1. Supernatural transformation (1 Pet 1:23; 2 Cor 3:18): by grace, by faith, by the work of God, not man.
    2. God’s unchanging love (Jer 31:3) in spite of our sins/depravity (cf. a punitive God).
    3. Gospel/Grace of God (Ac 20:24; Eph 2:8-9). We can never earn/deserve grace (Gen 6:5; Isa 64:6; Jer 17:9). Grace always involves substitution/a great exchange (2 Cor 5:21).
    4. The Bible is about Jesus (Jn 5:39; Lk 24:27, 44; Ac 10:43; 20:27).
    5. The sovereignty of God (Ps 115:3; 135:6; Jn 3:8; Rom 8:28; Gen 50:20).
    6. The Trinity (Mt 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14).
    7. Life (Jn 10:10; 1:4; 14:6) and eternal life (Jn 17:3; 3:15-16).
    8. (Gospel-driven) Sanctification (Phil 2:12-13; 1 Pet 4:11; 2 Pet 1:5ff).
    9. Freedom (Gal 5:1; 2 Cor 3:17; Jn 8:31-32).
    10. Rest (Mt 11:28-30).
    11. Unity (Jn 17:21-23; Eph 4:3).
    12. Hope (1 Pet 1:3-4; 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 22:4).

Third Space/Safe Place Small Group/ Outreach:

    • Anyone can come and feel safe to ask/say anything (B.L.E.S.S. others).
    • Pray for/bring friends to talk/chat/discuss without being contentious, argumentative, dismissive, condescending, critical, but embracing, welcoming, listening, understanding.

Bible Study:

    • Preferably based on the intern’s preferred texts/topics/themes of interest.
    • John 13-17 to focus on the heart of Christ, the heart of God, the work of the Holy Spirit.

Christian Leadership:

    • Humble servanthood (Mk 10:42-45; Mt 20:25-28; 1 Pet 5:1-4), not lording over others.
    • Friendship (Jn 15:15) and intimacy (Gen 18:17).


    • Based on the particular interest of the intern.
(This internship proposal came about through Ben, Rhoel and Keith Lage. A few weeks ago, I asked Rhoel about starting an informal and flexible yet intentional intern program at West Loop. Two weeks ago, Rhoel asked Keith, who agreed to be a WL intern. It took me quite by surprise, since to me it was just a proposal. But by the grace of God, we are doing so by God's help and the leading of the Spirit.)

The Christian life is an ongoing journey and adventure in this world of following Jesus who called us. This mentorship/internship is a proposal of how following Jesus may be a real and exciting shared experience with other Christ followers. Following Jesus was never meant as an imposition or a burden. Rather, it is intended that the one who responds to Jesus' call is the one who will live life to the full (Jn 10:10b) and experience a peace that only Jesus is able to give (Jn 14:27).

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Before Believing Vs. After Believing (John 20:1-31)


John 20:1-31; Key Verse: Jn 20:31

"...that you may believe...and...have life in his name."

Questions: What is the difference between before and after one believes? Are you truly a believer?

Last week, from Jn 19:1-42, we examined Pilate's words of mockery and ridicule when he said of Jesus, "Behold, the man" (Jn 19:5). After being flogged, spit at, struck in the face, and humiliated, Jesus appeared like a beaten man, yet he was a real man, in contrast to counterfeit men like Pilate and the religious leaders. Jesus the man, had supreme power but abnegated it (he had nothing to prove), while counterfeit men, who were conferred with power, embellished it and abused it to cause the death of Jesus, which is the greatest injustice ever perpetrated by man. When we behold the man Jesus Christ who died brutally in our place, strangely our hearts are warmed and inclined toward the God who loves us at great cost to himself. Today's text, Jn 20:1-31 records what happened after Jesus rose from the dead.

Jesus promises the believer a life that is abundant and full (Jn 10:10b). In Jn 20:1-29, we meet those who are transitioning from before believing into true believers: Mary Magdalene, the disciples, and Thomas. Let us consider the process of believing in two parts:

I. Before Believing (Jn 20:1-15; 19; 24-25): The dawning light is approaching.

    1. Clueless from not understanding Scripture (Peter and John): Before believing, Scripture will not be understood (Jn 20:9).
    2. Sorrow (Mary): Before believing, our "attachments" blind us from seeing Jesus (Jn 20:14).
    3. Fear (the disciples): Before believing, our undying desire to be the "greatest" binds us in fear (Jn 20:19).
    4. Doubt (Thomas): Before believing, our skepticism and unreasonable demands keep us in doubt (Jn 20:25).
    (Transition) The process of believing (Jn 20:16; 19-20; 26-27): Meeting Jesus who rose from the dead.

    II. After Believing (Jn 20:17-18; 21-23; 28-31): Your grief will turn to joy (Jn 16:20).
      1. Purpose: After believing, sorrow and despondency is transformed to excitement and purpose (Jn 20:17-18).
      2. Peace: After believing, fear vanishes and is replaced by a peace that passes understanding (Phil 4:7).
      3. Commissioning/Calling: After believing, we have the conviction of receiving a commissioning from Jesus (Jn 20:21).
      4. Confession: After believing we confess from our hearts that Jesus is our Lord and God (Jn 20:28).
      5. Blessedness: After believing, we experience the blessedness of being accepted by God in spite of ourselves (Jn 20:29).
      6. Life: After believing, we live the life that is truly life (Jn 20:31; 10:10b).
      I. Before Believing (Jn 20:1-15; 19; 24-25)

      Grave clothes present but no body. Mary, along with other women (Mt 28:1; Mk 16:1-2; Lk 24:1), went to the tomb early Sun morning with the intention of anointing Jesus' dead body (Mk 16:1; Lk 24:1). When she saw the stone removed from the entrance she assumed that it was stolen by grave robbers (cf. Mt 28:11-15), a common crime. She ran to tell Peter and John (Jn 20:1-2), who themselves ran to the tomb with John outrunning Peter probably because he was younger (Jn 20:3-4). John looked in and saw the strips of linen lying there but hesitated to go in, while Peter went in and saw the strips of linen as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head, with the cloth folded up by itself, separate from the linen (Jn 20:5-7). Jesus' resurrection body apparently passed through his grave-clothes, in much the same way that he later appeared in a locked room (Jn 20:19, 26). The neat appearance of what was observed was not the scene of a body being stolen. The fact that two men saw it (Jn 20:8) makes their evidence admissible in a Jewish court (Dt 19:15).

      Clueless: The disciples saw the empty tomb and could not understand Scripture. When John finally went into the tomb to look, he saw (the neat linen grave clothes with no body) and believed (Jn 20:8). What he and Peter believed was not that Jesus had risen from the dead (Jn 20:9), but that the linen grave clothes were there without the corpse, and that the tomb was empty. That they did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead (Jn 20:9) proves that the disciples did not fabricate a story to fit their preconceived notions of what was predicted. Rather, they were confronted with certain facts, which they were initially unable to relate to Scripture. Only later, aided by the Spirit (Jn 14:26; 16:13), were they able to do so. Before meeting Jesus and without the Spirit's illumination, even the privileged disciples who spent three years with Jesus were unable to understand what the Scripture plainly said. Before believing, Scripture will not be understood.

      Sorrow: Crying over her loss. The disciples went back to where they were staying (Jn 20:10), but "Mary stood outside the tomb crying" (Jn 20:11). While weeping, she bent over and looked into the tomb and "saw two angels in white seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot" (Jn 20:12). When asked why she was crying, she said, “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him” (Jn 20:13). "At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus" (Jn 20:14). Jesus asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him” (Jn 20:15). Jesus' two rhetorical questions suggests that it was a mild rebuke for she had no reason to cry, and that she should reflect on the kind of Messiah she was expecting. Is she looking for a dead or living Messiah? Mary's sorrow and tears over losing good Jesus blinded her from recognizing Jesus. Jesus also said, “Do not hold on to me..." (Jn 20:17a). Before believing, our "attachments" blind us from seeing Jesus. What might you not want to let go of? Past sin? Past practices, traditions, experiences?

      Fear. On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19) Why were the disciples filled with fear? It was because their human hopes were unfulfilled. Their nationalistic hope was that Jesus would have redeemed Israel (Lk 24:21; Ac 1:5). Their personal hope was to be the greatest (Mt 18:1; Mk 9:34; Lk 22:24). Before believing, our undying desire to be the greatest, binds us in fear--the fear that others will have a bigger piece of the pie.

      Doubt. Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (Jn 20:24-25). In his previous appearances (Jn 11:16; 14:5) Thomas has been less a doubter than a loyal but pessimistic and perhaps somewhat obtuse disciple (which may be why I like him!). Despite the excited testimony of all the other 10 disciples, Thomas remains unconvinced. He demands not only a palpable sign but the most personal and concrete evidence that the person whom he knew had been killed in a specific fashion had indeed been raised from the dead. Before believing, our skepticism and unreasonable demands keeps us in doubt and limbo.

      (Transition) The Process of Believing (Jn 20:16; 19-20; 26-28)

      Hearing our shepherd's voice. Jesus said to her, Mary.” Whatever the cause of her blindness, the single word "Mary," spoken as Jesus had always uttered it, was enough to remove it, and Mary recognizes the voice of Jesus (Jn 10:3-4). Anguish and despair are instantly swallowed up by astonishment and delight. She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

      Knowing that Jesus has indeed risen from the dead. On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord (Jn 20:19-20).

      Being loved and embraced in spite of our unreasonable demands. A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:26-28)

      II. After Believing (Jn 20:17-18; 21-23; 28-31)

      What happens after one believes? What are the results of being a believer? Jesus said, "your grief will turn to joy" (Jn 16:20).

      Purpose. Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her (Jn 20:17-18). When blinded by her sorrow, Mary was crying and weeping over losing good Jesus, and desperate to cling to her past recollection of Jesus. But after believing that Jesus has indeed risen from the dead, life and excitement replaced her sorrow. Jesus became a man of sorrows and carried her sorrows (Isa 53:3-4), so that she can be a woman of joy and purpose. By believing, she was transformed from a woman of sorrow to a woman of purpose with a clear excited testimony, "I have seen the Lord!" After believing, sorrow is transformed to joy and purpose.

      Peace. Twice, Jesus said, "Peace be with you" (Jn 20:19,21). The Hebrew is "shalom aleichem." This was surely a welcomed greeting from Jesus, since the disciples may have expected a rebuke for having abandoned him at the time of his arrest, trial and crucifixion. "Shalom" has the comprehensive meaning of completeness, wholeness, security, peace, both with God and people. Before the cross, Jesus had promised to give to his disciples his peace (Jn 14:27; 16:33). Now after his resurrection from the dead, Jesus fulfills his promise. When they saw that Jesus has indeed risen from the dead, they rejoiced (Jn 20:20). After believing, fear is replaced with a peace that passes understanding (Phil 4:7). In contrast, living with anxiety is like living as an unbeliever.

      Commissioning/Calling. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (Jn 20:21-23). Each of the Four Gospels includes a commission from the risen Jesus (Mt 28:18-20; Mk 16:15-18; Lk 24:44-53). These verses serve as the Johannine "Great Commission."

      • Jesus, the Sent One (Jn 3:16-17) has now become the Sender, commissioning his followers to serve as his messengers and representatives (Jn 17:18). All three persons of the Godhead are involved in this commissioning: as the Father sent Jesus, so Jesus sends his disciples (Jn 20:21b), equipping them with the Holy Spirit (Jn 20:22). Our key verse, Jn 20:31 explains that Christians are commissioned not just to help people to believe, but to understand that by believing they may have and live the life that God intended for them, a life that is abundant and full.
      • When Jesus breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit,” it is best understood as a foretaste of what would happen when the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost (Ac 2:1-4). This does not mean that the Holy Spirit had no presence in the disciples’ lives prior to this point. The gift of the Holy Spirit suggests that He is essential for the performance of the task given to the disciples.
      • Forgiving sins (Jn 20:23) is not that individual Christians or churches have authority on their own to forgive or not forgive people, but rather that as the church proclaims the gospel message of forgiveness of sins in the power of the Holy Spirit, it proclaims that those who believe in Jesus have their sins forgiven, and that those who do not believe in him do not have their sins forgiven.
      How do you know that you are truly a believer? After believing, one has the conviction of receiving a commissioning from Jesus. Are you living randomly without much thought or reflection, or are you living your life in an intentional way because you have received a royal commissioning?

      Confession. When Thomas felt Jesus' love and embrace of his unreasonable demand and skepticism (Jn 20:27), he was so overcome with awe and reverence that he immediately uttered his confession: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28) The speed with which Thomas' pessimistic unbelief was transformed into joyful faith is consistent with the experience of the other witnesses (Jn 20:16, 20). This is probably the clearest and simplest confession of the deity of Christ to be found in the NT. The two highest words, "Lord" (Gk. Kyrios; and used in the Greek translation of the OT for the divine name "Yahweh"), and "God" (Gk. Theos) are used together and addressed to Jesus in recognition of His glory. Thomas’s statement is a clear confession of his newly found faith in Jesus as his Lord and God. John’s entire purpose in writing this book is that all readers come to confess Jesus as their Lord and God in the same way that Thomas did. Jesus accepts this worship without hesitation. After believing we confess from our hearts that Jesus is our Lord and God.

BlessednessThen Jesus told him, Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (Jn 20:29; also 1 Pet 1:8-9). The first part is a confirmation and commendation of Thomas' faith; it is not depreciated, but rather his step of faith that led to his unrestrained confession. The second part is a beatitude, where Jesus pronounces a blessing on the coming-to-faith of those who cannot see but who will believe through the word of believers (Jn 17:20).. John's Gospel reports only one other beatitude (Jn 13:17), and like most beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12), both strike a note of admonition. The word "blessed" (makarios) does not simply declare "happy" to those who meet the conditions, but pronounces them accepted by God. After believing, we experience the blessedness of being accepted/approved by God in spite of ourselves.

Life. "Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (Jn 20:30-31). Here John states plainly that he composed his book with one explicit purpose--that you may believe. In these verses, John’s purpose statement and conclusion of the Gospel rehearse the major themes of the Gospel:
  • the Christ (Jn 1:41).
  • Son of God (Jn 1:34).
  • believe (Jn 1:1:12-13).
  • life (Jn 1:4; 3:15-16; 6:35; 11:25; 14:6; 17:3).
John's primary purpose is evangelism. This not only expresses the purpose of the book, but is the shortest summary of Johannine theology. The stated goal "that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God" is interpreted by some commentators to mean that John the Evangelist intends by his book to establish the faith of Christians, rather than to bring non-Christians to faith. But other commentators argue that John's primary purpose is evangelism. Surely, both views are "right." Throughout the history of the church this Gospel has served not only as a means for reaching unbelievers but as a means for instructing, edifying and comforting believers.

The greatest sign. It is possible that (miraculous) signs refers only to the miracles reported in John 2-12. But John placed his conclusion here eight chapters later, and after the farewell Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17) and after Jesus' arrest, trial, death and resurrection (John 18-20). This suggests that the greatest sign of them all is the death, resurrection and exaltation of the incarnate Word, the significance of which has been carefully set forth in the farewell discourse.

Believing is not an end in itself. John writes his Gospel so that we may believe certain propositional truths, especially the truth about who Jesus is (Jn 20:31). But such faith is not an end in itself. It is directed toward the goal of personal, eschatological salvation: "that by believing you may have life in his name" As has been so throughout church history, this is still the purpose of this book today, and at the heart of the Christian mission (Jn 20:21).

After believing (in who Jesus is and what Jesus did on the Cross), we live and experience the life that is truly life.

Conclusion: Before believing, Peter and John were clueless, Mary was sorrowful, the disciples were fearful and Thomas was a doubter. But after meeting Jesus personally and believing, their lives were transformed forever. Their grief was turned to joy. As a result of meeting the risen Jesus, they began to live the life that is truly life. As a result of meeting Jesus, they became believers whose lives can never ever be the same again. Are you a believer?


  1. On Sun morning, why did Mary go to the tomb (Mk 16:1; Lk 24:1)? What did she notice (Jn 20:1; Mt 28:2)? Do (Jn 20:2a)? Conclude (Jn 20:2b; Mt 28:11-15)? What did Peter and John do? See (Jn 20:3-7)? Believe? Not understand (Jn 20:8-9; Lk 24:26-27, 44-47)? What do you learn about the disciples (Jn 20:19)?
  2. Why did Mary stay at the tomb (Jn 20:10-13, 15b)? Not recognize Jesus (Jn 20:14)? What is implied by Jesus' question (Jn 20:15a)? How did Mary recognize Jesus (Jn 20:16)? What does Jesus' message mean (Jn 20:17; 1:14; 17:5)? How was Mary changed (Jn 20:18)?
  3. What does Jesus' appearance to his disciples behind locked doors tell about him (Jn 20:19, 26; 21:9; Lk 24:39; 41-43; 1 Cor 15:42-44)? Why did he show them his hands and side (Jn 20:20a)? How did they respond (Jn 20:20b)?
  4. How was his greeting more than a greeting (Jn 20:19b, 21a; 14:26; 16:33; Rom 5:1; Eph 2:14-17)? What did Jesus commission them to do (Jn 20:21b-23; 17:18; Mt 28:19-20; Lk 24:47)? How might this Johannine "Great Commission" be the mission of the church?
  5. What was Thomas' "unreasonable" demand (Jn 20:24-25)? How did Jesus comply and instruct him (Jn 20:26-27; 2 Tim 2:13)? What is the meaning of Thomas' confession (Jn 20:28; 1:1, 18)? Who are the blessed (Jn 20:29; 1 Pet 1:8; 2 Cor 5:7)?
  6. From John's purpose statement (Jn 20:30-31), what are the signs? The major themes in John's Gospel (Jn 1:12-13, 41, 49; 3:16; 17:3)? What might be the greatest sign of all?


Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1991. IV. Jesus' Self-Disclosure in His Cross and Exaltation (Jn 13:1-20:31), F. The Resurrection of Jesus (Jn 20:1-31). 631-663.

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A Real Man Vs. Counterfeit Men (John 19:1-42)


John 19:1-42; Key Verse: Jn 19:5b, 14b

"Behold the man!" "Behold your king!"

What is a real man like? Why and for whom did Jesus die? This sober text that covers Jesus' trial, crucifixion, death and burial can be divided into three parts:
  1. Who Jesus is (Jn 19:1-16, 19-22): Man and King.
  2. How Jesus died and Why (Jn 19:17-42): The King crucified, pierced and buried. He died for God.
  3. What Jesus accomplished: Life through his death (Jn 1:4; 6:35; 11:25; 14:6).
Who is your king? Is your heart aligned toward Jesus' kingdom or the kingdom of the world? Last week, from Jn 18:1-40, Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (Jn 18:36). This means that Jesus is a king whose kingdom is not of this world, which suggests that at present we are in the kingdom of this world. Thus, we need to ask ourselves, "Who is my king? Whose kingdom is my heart aligned toward?" In Jn 19:1-42, we want to think about Jesus the king, who is also a man.

A difference between John's gospel and the three synoptic gospels. Indeed, Jesus is the King of kings (Rev 17:14; 19:16). But John's gospel does not feature the kingdom of God, nor focus on Christ's claim to be the king—until chap 18 and 19. Matthew, Mark and Luke from the very beginning of their gospels describe Jesus proclaiming the kingdom of God, with the miracles of Christ as signs of the kingdom breaking-in to history, and the parables (absent from John's gospel) as parables of the kingdom. The kingdom of God are declared boldly over the first three gospels. But John mentions the words "king" and "kingdom" only six times before chap 18. Then the words "king" and "kingdom" explode on the page 16 times in two chapters. The arrest and trial of Jesus before Pilate is full of regal language: "my kingdom is not of this world" (18:36); "so you are a king?" (18:37); "shall I crucify your king?" (19:15); "we have no king but Caesar" (19:15). Jn 19:1-42 continues the theme of Jesus' kingship that began in Jn 18:1-40.

A real man vs. counterfeit men. Just what kind of man is Jesus? Pilate says, "Here is the man!" (Jn 19:5b) Jesus is the man who symbolizes what a man should be. When King David blessed his son Solomon, he said, "Be strong, and show yourself a man" (1 Ki 2:2, ESV). In this chapter, let us consider what a real man is like, and what counterfeit men, such as Pilate, the religious leaders and the soldiers, are like. Reading through John 19, the following is observed:

  1. Humility. Jesus did not retaliate when abused and humiliated (Jn 19:1-7; Isa 53:7).
  2. Abnegation of power. Jesus did not use his power to manipulate the situation (Jn 19:8-16; Mt 26:53).
  3. Obedient. Jesus obeyed unto death, even death on a cross (Jn 19:17-24; 10:17-18; Phil 2:8).
  4. Love. Jesus cared for others in spite of his personal agony (Jn 19:25-27).
  5. Purpose. Jesus completed his life mission (Jn 19:28-30; 17:4).
  6. Transcendent. Jesus' entire life and death fulfilled Scripture (Jn 19:31-37).
  7. Empowering. Jesus inspired, transformed, emboldened others with his death (Jn 19:38-42).

In contrast to Jesus the man, counterfeit men (and women) are the opposite.

  1. Hubris. Counterfeit men, like the soldiers, put others down. They are violent. They mock, humiliate, hurt others.
  2. Abuse of power. Counterfeit men, like both Pilate and the religious leaders, use their God assigned authority to achieve their own political and religious agenda.
  3. Disobedient. Counterfeit men live in rebellion against God and against the truth.
  4. Selfish. Counterfeit men care for themselves.
  5. Selfish. Counterfeit men live for their own agenda, like both Pilate and the Jews.
  6. Selfish. Counterfeit men live in denial and in opposition to Scripture.
  7. Dis-empowering. In death, counterfeit men brings relief to others because they can no longer do 1-6 above.
I. Who Jesus is (Jn 19:1-16, 19-22): Man and King.

1. Humility vs. hubris. A true man is humble. A counterfeit man has to stick his nose in the air while looking down on others. Though Jesus is the King above all kings, yet he is the humblest among all men. Humility is not to think less of yourself. It is to think of yourself less--or not at all. Every man's sinful default is to process all of our emotions and experiences through our ego. The meaning of hubris in Greek was precisely the refusal to be humbled by what should have been humbling. Some have commented that no American president can fully admit that his war or his policies are wrong...ever. That is in the secular world of politics. But Popes or Protestant clergy have also not been known for apologizing.

The center of pride and sin is "I." No matter how long we have been Christians, or how much we have prayed, repented, read the Bible, prepared Bible studies, preached sermons, taught the Bible, our sinful default is still gravitating toward pride. Jesus the true Man did not need to stick out his ego; he knew who he was and who his Father is who loved him. He did not need to retaliate against counterfeit men in order to prove himself. In contrast, counterfeit men, like the soldiers (Jn 19:1-3), need to put others down in order to feel good about themselves.

2. Abuse of power vs. abnegation of power. Pilate and the Jewish leaders blatantly abused their positions of power, both in politics and religion. After he was flogged, Pilate presented Jesus to the people and said to them, "Here is the man!" (Jn 19:5) Jesus looked weak, helpless, pathetic and completely worn and broken. Why did Pilate do this? It was his deliberate attempt to mock and ridicule the Jewish leaders for accusing Jesus of sedition and insurrection against Rome. It is Pilate's jab at the Jews, as though he was saying, "You're saying that this guy is capable of challenging the power of Rome?" The Jews retorted, "he claimed to be the Son of God" (Jn 19:7). Pilate became afraid, likely because he had just flogged the Son of God. Though he was a powerful man, any little thing brought fear to him. Still he lived with the illusion of his own power and said, "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" (Jn 19:10) Jesus answered, You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above" (Jn 19:11). Pilate had the illusion of power and abused it. Jesus had ultimate power but abnegated it. A real man does not have to display his power, while counterfeit men abuse their power over others.

Those who think they have power live in fear. Pilate thought he could use his political skills and his position of authority as governor to do the right thing and have Jesus released (Jn 19:13-15). But the Jews won the day when they manipulated Pilate by accusing him of no friend of Caesar if he let Jesus go (Jn 19:12b). This scared Pilate for he did not want Caesar to think that he let a terrorist go. Counterfeit men who use their power over others, are invariably afraid of those above them in power.

Those who abuse their power deny God himself. The Jews who were determined to use any available means to have Jesus crucified uttered the worst possible blasphemy a Jew could utter. When Pilate asked, "Shall I crucify your king?" the chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar" (Jn 19:15). They not only reject Jesus' messianic claims, the also abandon Israel's messianic hope as a matter of principle and ultimately disown the kingship of God himself. It is like saying, "We have no God but money (or family or career, etc)."

Living in the illusion of their own control. Pilate, the Jewish leaders and the Roman soldiers all acted as though they were in control of what was happening when Pilate handed Jesus over to the soldiers in accordance with the Jewish leader's manipulation, and to satisfy their demands (Jn 19:16). It seemed that they had the power, authority and determinative control to do what they wanted. Yet in doing so, they were fulfilling the very purpose of God, foreordained from eternity (Acts 4:27-28). They lived in the illusion of their own power and control. Though the single true man was seemingly at the mercy of the many counterfeit men, yet they were but pawns in fulfilling his purpose.

II. How Jesus died and Why (Jn 19:17-42): Crucified, Pierced and Buried, Jesus died for God

Dying in the worst possible way. The crucifixion and death of Jesus is the climax of the greatest of all human injustices and tragedies in the attempt of man to eliminate the light and perpetuate the darkness. The horrific excruciating torture of crucifixion is the most terrible of punishments that always leads to a slow death (Jn 19:17-18).

Two godless men unwittingly serve as prophets of the King they execute. In the back and forth childish banter between Pilate and the Jewish religious leaders, Pilate had the final say and "won" (Jn 19:19-22).

  1. The charge on which Jesus was eventually found guilty was sedition (Jn 18:33).
  2. The wording is Pilate's last act of revenge on the Jews. He had already taunted the Jews with Jesus' kingship (Jn 19:14-15). Here at the crucifixion of Jesus he does so again by snickering at their powerless status before the might of Rome by declaring this wretched victim as their king. Pilate's prior powerlessness before their manipulation (Jn 19:12), surely contributed to his unyielding insistence that the wording remain as he prepared it. The Jews felt the sting of Pilate's savage irony and wanted to change the sign, which Pilate refused. Pilate's firmness is not motivated by principle and strength of character, but by the hurt obstinacy and bitter rage of a man who felt manipulated by others to do what he knew was wrong, which was to condemn an innocent man to death. His motivation was simply to humiliate those who humiliated him. Though Pilate seemed like a powerful man, he was nothing but a petty counterfeit man.
  3. Pilate's malice served God's ends. The two men most actively and immediately responsible for Jesus' death were Caiaphas (Jn 11:49-52) and Pilate. They thought they were acting autonomously according to their own power and authority. But they were unwittingly furthering God's redemptive purposes by unwittingly serving as prophets of the King they execute (Jn 11:50; 19:19, 22).
The King is declared to the world. "The Crucified One is the true king, the kingliest king of all; because it is he who is stretched on the cross, he turns an obscene instrument of torture into a throne of glory and 'reigns from the tree.'" (Bruce, F.F.) "JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS" was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek (Jn 19:19-20). Aramaic was the language most widely understood by the Jewish population of Palestine; Latin was the official language of the Roman occupying force; and Greek was the “international language” of the empire, understood by both Jews and Gentiles. The trilingual nature of the inscription thus ensured the widest possible awareness of the official reason why Jesus was being crucified.

Mundane men value money above life. Jn 19:23-24 fulfills Ps 22:18.

A true man loves others in death. There is a contrast between the soldiers who carry out their barbaric task and cooly profit from the exercise (Jn 19:24) with the women (Jn 19:25) who wait in faithful devotion to the one whose death they can still understand only as tragedy. As he was dying, Jesus displays his care for his mother as both she and the beloved disciple are passing through their darkest hour (Jn 19:26-27), on their way to full Christian faith. Even in death, Jesus kept the biblical injunction to honor one's parents (Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16)); he made provision for his mother, who was almost certainly widowed and probably in her late 40s or early 50s, with little or no personal income.

Finishing well. Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (Jn 19:18-20). Jesus' knowledge that "all was now completed/finished" is the awareness that all the steps that had brought him to this point of pain and impending death were in the design of his heavenly Father, and death itself was imminent. The drink offered Jesus is not the "wine mixed with myrrh" (Mk 15:23). That was a sedative designed to dull the agony and Jesus refused it. Here, far from being a sedative it would prolong life and therefore prolong pain. This Jesus received, so that he might have enough strength to utter his final words, “It is finished.”

Fulfilling Scripture to the very end. Jesus saying "I am thirsty" if regarded as fulfilling Ps 69:21, which says, "They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst." John wants to make his readers understand that every part of Jesus' passion was not only in the Father's plan of redemption but a consequence of the Son's direct obedience to it (Jn 10:17-18). How would Jesus complete/finish his work? The completion of Jesus' work is necessarily the fulfillment of Scripture and the performance of the Father's will. Jesus' cry, “I am thirsty” is the final instance of his active, self-conscious obedience that is tied to “It is finished.” Jesus' perfect obedience unto death in all its intricate detail is the perfect completion of the whole Scripture.

Jesus destroyed death by his death. The cry “It is finished” denotes carrying out of a task and bears the overtones of fulfilling one's religious obligations. Jesus completed his task on earth in order to bring his Father glory (Jn 17:4). With that Jesus bowed his head and "gave up his spirit" (Jn 19:30b; Lk 23:46). This suggests the voluntary nature of his self-sacrifice. No one took his life from him; he had the authority to lay it down of his own accord (Jn 10:17,18), the culminating act of filial obedience (Jn 8:29; 14:31). S.W. Gandy wrote one of the best summaries of the significance of Jesus' death, which is here paraphrased:

Jesus in hell laid lwo;
Jesus made sin, he sin overthrew;
Bowed to the grave, destroyed it so,
And death, by dying, slew.

One day all will look upon the One who was pierced. Breaking the legs was done to hasten the death of the one crucified (Jn 19:31-32). But since Jesus was already dead the soldiers did not break his legs (Jn 19:33; Ps 34:20; Exo 12:46; Num 9:12). Instead, a soldier pierced Jesus' side with a spear which brought forth a sudden flow of blood and water (Jn 19:34; Zech 12:10). John recorded these events to testify how the death of Jesus fulfilled Scripture (Jn 19:35-37). One day, every eye will look upon the One who was pierced (Rev 1:7), either in deep contrition or grim despair.

Jesus was buried by two rich notable men. Jn 19:38-42 records that Jesus was buried by two wealthy and notable members of the Sanhedrin: Joseph of Arimathea (Lk 23:50-51) and Nicodemus (Jn 3:1-15; 7:50-52, which fulfilled another Scripture, Isa 53:9: "He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death."

Dying well is to die for others. Henri Nouwen wrote a short reflection on dying well: "We will all die one day. That is one of the few things we can be sure of. But will we die well? That is less certain. Dying well means dying for others, making our lives fruitful for those we leave behind. The big question, therefore, is not "What can I still do in the years I have left to live?" but "How can I prepare myself for my death so that my life can continue to bear fruit in the generations that will follow me?"


Jesus died well because through dying he sent his Spirit of Love to his friends, who with that Holy Spirit could live better lives. Can we also send the Spirit of Love to our friends when we leave them? Or are we too worried about what we can still do? Dying can become our greatest gift if we prepare ourselves to die well."

Jesus died for God. Why did Jesus die? Yes, Jesus died for our sins (1 Cor 15:3; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:3; 1 Pet 3:18). But ultimately Jesus died for God. Jesus was able to die well because he had the joy of his Father set before his mind's eye (Heb 12:2). Jesus said, "I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me" (Jn 14:31), and "I always do what pleases him" (Jn 8:29). The fact that Jesus died for God has tremendous and far-reaching consequences and implications. If we love people for people, we will soon become disappointed. But if we love people out of love for Jesus, it will not matter if others spit at us in response to us loving them. So much wounding happens in the church because when Christians love others they expect some kind of adequate reciprocation. At the very least they expect faithfulness, loyalty and gratitude from those they loved. Yes, people should respond in faithfulness, loyalty and gratitude. But if we are upset when they do not respond according to our expectations, we have sinned by failing to display the unchanging love of God for sinners. Thus, we eventually hurt those we love, because our love was motivated and conditioned by them. However, when Jesus loved and obeyed unto death, he did so 100% out of love for God. So Jesus could love when he was spit at, struck on the head again and again, flogged until his flesh became minced meat, crucified and cursed both by men and by God. Appreciating that Jesus died for God will transform our lives and the way we love others, including our own family. God will enable and empower us to love, even when faced with disappointment, wounding, even betrayal.

III. What Jesus accomplished: Life through his death (Jn 1:4; 6:35; 11:25; 14:6).

Jesus is life (Jn 1:4), the bread of life (Jn 6:35), the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25) and Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6). Briefly, Jesus died to give life to those who are dead. The "painful" paradoxical principle of life is stated in all four Gospels; it is that life always comes through death (Mt 16:25; Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24; Jn 12:25). By dying, we live. When we try our best to live, we die a slow death. By trying to rise up, we fall down. By falling, we rise. By ascending, we descend. By descending, we ascend. Jesus fell to the lowest depths and rose to the highest heights. Only in Christ and through his death of death, does any man experience the abundant life that is truly life (Jn 10:10).

Are you a true man? Or are you still influenced by "smart" counterfeit men like Pilate and the religious leaders? Do you know and experience within the very depth of your soul why Jesus died? If you do, God will enable you to be a true man and a true woman, who lives and experiences the life that God intended for you to live.


  1. Why did Pilate have Jesus flogged (Jn 19:1, 4-6, 10, 12a, 14; 18:38)? [Mt 27:26; Mk 15:15] Why did the soldiers abuse Jesus (Jn 19:2-3)? Why did Pilate say, "Here is the man! Here is your king" (Jn 19:5, 14)? What is the irony of his words? [Jn 1:14; 17:5]
  2. Why was Pilate afraid (Jn 19:7-8)? [Mt 27:19] Why was Jesus silent (Jn 19:9; Isa 53:7; 1 Pet 2:22-23)? [Mk 14:61; 15:5] What did Jesus teach Pilate about power, sovereignty and responsibility (Jn 19:10-11; Gen 50:20; Ac 4:27-28)? Who is "more" guilty (Jn 11:49-52; 18:2, 14, 28)? Is Pilate exonerated?
  3. How did the Jewish leader's manipulate Pilate to their will (Jn 19:6, 7, 12b, 15-16; 18:30-31, 33, 39-40)? How were they blaspheming (Jn 19;15b)? [Jdg 8:23; 1 Sam 8:7] What does this show about them (Jn 18:28; 19:31)? How did Pilate have the last word (Jn 19:19-22)?
  4. What was crucifixion like (Jn 19:16-18, 23-24)? [Isa 53:12] How did the Jews and Pilate inadvertently fulfill God's will (Jn 19:19-20)? [Mt 27:37; Mk 15:26; Lk 23:38] What do you learn from Jesus on the cross (Jn 19:23-24, 25-27, 28-30; 4:34; 9:4; 10:17-18)? [Ps 22:15-18; Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34; Heb 1:3; 9:11-12, 25-28] Who killed Jesus (Jn 19:15, 16, 18, 33-34; 1:10-11; 3:19; 9:29; 10:17-18; 14:31)?
  5. What is significant about Jesus being pierced (Jn 19:32-37; Zech 12:10)? Buried by Joseph and Nicodemus (Jn 19:38-42; Isa 53:9)?


Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1991. IV. Jesus' Self-Disclosure in His Cross and Exaltation (Jn 13:1-20:31), D. The Trial and Passion of Jesus (Jn 18:1-19:42). 596-631.

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My Kingdom Is Not Of This World (John 18:1-40)


John 18:1-40; Key Verse: Jn 18:36a

"Jesus said, 'My kingdom is not of this world...'"

Overview of John 18:1-40:
  1. The Kingdom of The World (Jn 18:1-32, 39-40; 19:1-42): Injustice. Darkness. Perishing.
  • Betrayal (Jn 18:1-3).
  • Arrest (Jn 18:4-12).
  • Trial (Jn 18:13-14; 19-24; 28-32).
  • Cowardice (Jn 18:15-18; 25-27).
  • Compromise (Jn 18:39-40).
  • Condemnation (Jn 19:1-16).
  • Crucifixion (Jn 19:17-42).
  • Jesus' Kingdom is Not of This World (Jn 18:33-38): Righteousness. Light. Eternal.
    • Kingship (Jn 18:33-36).
    • Truth (Jn 18:37-38).

    In his book, "Kingdom Life in a Fallen World: Living Out the Sermon on the Mount," Sinclair Ferguson said, “The kingdom is the rule and reign of God, the expression of his gracious sovereign will. To belong to the kingdom of God is to belong to the people among whom the reign of God has already begun.”

    Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (Jn 18:36). Here Jesus is acknowledging at least five things:

    1. he is a king.
    2. he has a kingdom.
    3. his kingdom is not of this world.
    4. he came not to fight but to testify to the truth.
    5. he came to bring us back to his kingdom.

    I. The Kingdom of The World (Jn 18:1-32, 39-40): Darkness and Injustice

    Jesus' kingdom is different from the kingdom of this world where we live. What might characterize the kingdom of this world? Though these categories overlap, Chuck Swindoll suggests that the world system is committed to at least four major objectives, which can be summarized in four words:

    1. Fortune (money, money, money)
    2. Fame (superiority, significance, somebody)
    3. Power (politics, honor, control)
    4. Pleasure (lust, flesh, sensuality)

    They may be represented by the various characters in today's text.

    1. Money. Judas betrayed Jesus for money (Mk 14:10-11; Jn 12:5-6; 13:29; Mt 27:3, 5). Judas was attached to the kingdom of this world through his love of money (1 Tim 6:10). Judas had the best shepherd, pastor, mentor, preacher, theologian, Bible expositor, friend, leader, counselor ever. He had the best Christian experience of any man in history. Yet he did not become a Christian. He could not hear the good news of the kingdom of God (Mk 1:15). His attachment to the kingdom of this world prevented him from grasping or understanding that Jesus' kingdom is not of this world.

    Check each month where your money goes to. Is money bad or evil? Are there no rich people among godly believers? It is not the acquisition of money per se that is evil, but what we think and feel about it and how we use our money that reveals whether or not we are part of the kingdom of this world. The deceitfulness of wealth causes us to have a thorny heart soil that is not able to bear fruit of the kingdom of God when the seed of the gospel is planted (Mt 13:22; Mk 4:19). To check your heart about money, check each month how much and where your money goes to.

    2. Lust. The soldiers (Jn 18:3, 12) who represent the common working people participated in Jesus' arrest because it was their job. They worked to get paid. With their money, they provided for their family and spent their money on their pleasures (Tit 3:3; Jas 4:3). When Solomon denied himself no pleasure, he was not happy but felt that everything was meaningless and a chasing after the wind (Eccl 2:1-3, 10-11). "Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich" (Prov 21:17). Like the love of money, the lusts and indiscriminate desires of our hearts close our hearts to the gospel of the kingdom (Mk 4:19). If our primary motivation in life is to indulge our lusts and pleasures, then we are still part of the kingdom of this world, and we become objects of God's wrath (Eph 2:1-3).

    What is your heart's delight? What do you lust for?

    3a. Politics (political). Pilate may be the representative of the political powers of the world. Because of his political maneuvering, he does not know or care when he is lying and when he is telling the truth. Everything he says and does is out of expediency. Truth is never a consideration (Jn 18:37). Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent, for he was a victim of a Sanhedrin plot (Jn 18:38). His curt and cynical response, "What is truth?" shows that he is convinced there is no answer, or more likely that the does not want or care to hear it. He is not among those whom the Father has given to the Son. His incessant desire for political advantage is the evidence that he is a part of the perishing kingdom of this world.

    3b. Politics, part 2 (religious). We might naively think that politics happens only in the world. But the sad reality is that politics also happens in religion and in religious institutions. It happened in the Jewish synagogues. It happens also in church. The chief priests and the Pharisees wanted to rid themselves of Jesus purely for political reasons. They felt that Jesus threatened their religious ecclesiastical authority. The high priest(s), Annas and Caiaphas, perhaps represent the worst of religious politics (Jn 18:13-14, 24; Jn 11:50; Lk 3:2; Ac 4:6).

    If you are a Christian, are you tempted to "play politics" in the world, or even in church, in the name of serving God?

    4. Somebody. We might never imagine that Peter, Jesus' top disciple, would deny him, not once, but three times (Jn 18:15-18; 25-27). Denial is a betrayal of sorts. Why did Peter faithfully follow Jesus to the courtyard and yet betray him? It was because his hope, which is representative of the hopes of all of Jesus' disciples (Lk 24:27; Acts 1:3), was still attached to the kingdom of this world. They wanted to be "somebody" in the earthly church kingdom they assumed Jesus would establish.

    If you are a Christian, what is your real hope?

    II. Jesus' Kingdom is Not of This World (Jn 18:33-38)

    All the characters in John 18 reveal how they were inadvertently sucked into the kingdom of this world. But Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (Jn 18:36). From Jesus, we learn that:

    1. Jesus is a king. Who is your king?
    2. Jesus has a kingdom. Does Jesus' kingdom reign over you?
    3. Jesus' kingdom is not of this world. Are you in the world but not of the world?
    4. Jesus came not to fight but to testify to the truth. Are you fighting or testifying?
    5. Jesus came to bring us back to his kingdom. How does he do that?

    1. Jesus is a king (Jn 18:33, 37). Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920; Reformed theologian and prime minister of the Netherlands, 1901-1905), famously said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, "Mine!” Regardless of whether or not we accept Jesus as king, he is, and it will be ultimately revealed to all that he is (Phil 2:9-11).

    Who is your king?

    2. Jesus has a kingdom (Jn 18:36). It is an eternal kingdom (Dan 2:44; 7:14, 27; Rev 11:15).

    Does Jesus' kingship, kingdom and eternity reign over you?

    3. Jesus' kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36). 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” (Jn 18:36). The world is in darkness and will categorically resist and reject the light (Jn 1:5; 3:19). The kingships of this world preserve themselves by force and violence. Jesus' kingdom which is not of this world is no threat to Rome's interests.

    How are you managing the tension of living in the world, yet not being a part of it?

    4. Jesus came not to fight but to testify to the truth (Jn 18:36,37). Jesus having described his kingdom negatively (Jn 18:36), now defines his kingly mission positively. “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” (Jn 18:37). To be a king was the reason he was born, the reason he came into the world, which refers to the incarnation--his move from the glory he shared with the Father in his presence (Jn 17:5) to his manifestation in this fallen world to manifest something of that glory (Jn 1:14). What was his purpose in coming as a king? It was not to use force to conquer as kings of this world do, but "to testify to the truth." This suggests that his kingdom is the kingdom of truth, and the way Jesus exercises his saving kingship is virtually indistinguishable from his testifying to the truth.

    What is the truth Jesus is testifying to? It is to be understood in more of the intellectual sense. It is nothing less than the self-disclosure of God in his Son, who is the truth (Jn 14:6).

    5. Jesus came to bring us back to his kingdom (Jn 18:37). How? Disclosing the truth of God, of salvation and of judgment (Jn 16:8-11), was the principal way of making subjects, of exercising his saving kingship. Only those who are rightly related to God, to the truth itself, can grasp Jesus' witness to the truth (Jn 3:16-21).

    To give us the kingdom Jesus had to lose it. Ultimately, Jesus is able to bring us back to his kingdom only when he loses it himself on the cross. To give us the kingdom, he had to lose it. To give us life, he had to die. To give us peace, he had to be abandoned. To give us joy, he had to be stricken with sorrow. For our grief to be turned to joy, his joy of the Father's presence had to be turned to grief by being forsaken by his Father.

    Who is your king and where is your kingdom aligned?


    1. After Jesus finished praying, where did he go (Jn 18:1; Mt 26:36; Mk 14:32; Lk 22:39)? How was Judas instrumental in Jesus' arrest (Jn 18:2-3; Lk 21:37; 22:39, 48)? Why did Judas betray Jesus? Who collaborated to arrest Jesus (Jn 18:3)?
    2. What did Jesus know (Jn 18:4; 13:1, 3)? What did he do and why (Jn 18:4-9)? Why did the arresting soldiers fall back (Jn 18:6; 7:45-46)? Who was Jesus protecting (Jn 18:8; 17:12; 10:28; 6:39, 44)? How (Jn 10:11, 15, 17-18, 28)?
    3. Why did Peter strike the high priest's servant (Jn 18:10; Mt 26:51-52; Mk 14:47; Lk 22:49-51)? What is the cup Jesus must drink (Jn 18:11; 12:28-28; Mt 26:39, 42; Mk 14:36; Ps 75:8; Isa 51:17, 22; Jer 25:15; Eze 23:31-34; Rev 14:10; 16:19)?
    4. Why was Jesus bound and brought first to Annas (Jn 18:12-14, 19)? Who are Annas and Caiaphas (Jn 11:49-52; 18:24; Lk 3:2; Ac 4:6)?
    5. Why did Peter follow Jesus into the courtyard and then deny knowing him three times (Jn 18:15-18; 25-27)? What do you learn about Peter?
    6. Why did the high priest question Jesus about his disciples and his teaching (Jn 18:19)? What did Jesus' answer mean (Jn 18:20-21)? After being stuck, how did Jesus respond and why (Jn 18:22-23)? What was wrong with the entire legal proceedings of the high priest (Jn 18:19-24)?
    7. What do you learn about the Jews who did not want to be ceremonially unclean (Jn 18:28; 2 Chron 30:21)? How did Pilate began the legal Roman proceedings (Jn 18:29)? Why might the Jews be "upset" (Jn 18:30-31, 3, 12, 24)? How was God fulfilling his will in the midst of such injustice (Jn 18:32; 3:14, 8:28; 12:32-33; cf. Ac 7:59)?
    8. What is the charge against Jesus (Jn 18:33-34; 19:3, 12, 15, 19)? The nature of Jesus' kingship (Jn 18:35-38; Dan 2:44; 7:14, 27; Rev 11:15)? How does it compare with the kingdom of this world (Jn 18:36; cf. Mt 26:53 [12x6,000x185,000])? Who is Jesus and why did he come to the world (Jn 18:37; 1:14, 17; 8:32; 14:6)? What was Pilate's verdict (Jn 18:38)? What do you learn about him (Jn 18:38-40)?


    Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1991. IV. Jesus' Self-Disclosure in His Cross and Exaltation (Jn 13:1-20:31), D. The Trial and Passion of Jesus (Jn 18:1-19:42). 571-596.

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