John 18:1-11


            January 17, 2004 … that is when a sixty-six-ton sperm whale died and was beached on the southwestern coast of Taiwan.  Two weeks later, authorities decided to truck the dead whale to a lab where they could do an autopsy.  It took fifty men and three lifting cranes a total of thirteen hours to hoist the whale onto a flatbed trailer.  People poured into the streets to watch the spectacle of a whale carcass being driven through their downtown.

          And that’s when it happened!  As the truck slowly crawled through the city, with crowds looking on … the whale exploded.  That’s right, the whale went ka-boom!  The insides of the whale splattered against cars, people, and local shops.  Traffic stopped for hours.  The smell was pretty much unbearable.  I betcha no saw that coming!

          And isn’t that just life is sometimes?  We’re going along, going about our own business, and then a whale explodes!  Maybe not literally, but something explodes and we’re left hurt and confused with lots of questions which begin with the simple three letter word … why?  Why did she leave me?  Why did he have to die so young?  Why did we lose so much money?  Why does our daughter continue to cause us so much pain?  Why? Why? Why?

          In our sermon series called “Witnesses to Christ”, we come today to John 18 and we meet a simple man named Malchus.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, Malchus was going about his business and before he knows it, it was if a whale exploded.  Suddenly his right ear was cut off by a fisherman from Galilee and it was lying there on the ground between his feet.  No one, especially him, saw that coming!

          The crowd gathers.  “Now Judas, who betrayed {Jesus}, also knew the place for Jesus often met with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of solider and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons” (John 18:2-3).  This “band”, this cohort were Roman soldiers.

          Roman soldiers who will also come into the picture on the next day.  That’s when they will mock Jesus, flog Jesus, and crucify Jesus.  The crowd which gathers here is a crowd of Romans, who controlled the country, chief priests who controlled the temple, and Pharisees who controlled the religion.  It was like the Supreme Court and Congress sending the FBI to arrest Jesus!

          And who’s leading this Jewish posses with so much firepower and muscle? … Judas.  And what is Judas up to?  Betrayal.  Every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we hear the words, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when he was betrayed.”  This is that night.

          The chaos commences, “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus)” (John 18:10).  Peter cuts off Malchus’s right ear.  The crowd gathers and the chaos commences.  For Malchus, that’s when the whale exploded!

          This all begs the question … has a mess suddenly appeared in your life?  Are you doing everything you can to survive?  Have you consulted the bank? changed your diet? called an attorney? Tightened your budget? gone into counseling or rehab or therapy?  Don’t give up!  Don’t ever give up!  And why? 

          Because the control is clear.  But whose control?  Christ’s.  Christ’s control is clear, very clear.  Judas, the Jews, and the Romans appear to be running things.  Let me accent that word appear.  They appear to be running things, but Christ is really the one who is in control.  How so?

          “Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward” (John 18:4).  The control is clear.  When Jesus’ enemies come, he goes out to meet them.  When Judas approaches, Christ doesn’t run.  When Peter strikes Malchus, Christ commands Peter to put his sword away.

          Listen to what Jesus says, “No one takes {my life} from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18).  Though the powers of darkness rise against him, rise against him full throttle, Christ is still in control.  Matthew’s gospel tells us that at this point, Jesus could ask his Father in heaven for more than twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53).  Twelve legions of angels?  There were 6,000 men in one Roman legion.  So do the math … 12 x 6,000 = 72,000 angels!  Christ though doesn’t need 72,000 angels because Christ is in absolute control!

          During World War II, psychologists compared ground troopers to fighter pilots.  They determined that after sixty days of continuous combat, the anxiety level of the ground troops were off the chars.  After sixty days thought, an astounding 93 percent of fighter pilots were happy and at peace.  Why?  Cause the fighter pilots had control.  They had their hands on the throttle!  Ground troops on the other hand, felt totally helpless.  They could just as easily be killed standing still or running away.  The point of this … popular wisdom tells us … “Always seek control!

          The thing is … we don’t need a war to prove it.  All we need is a backup on the interstate.  A team of German researchers found that a traffic jam triples our chances of a heart attack.  As one who use to live in Chicago … that makes sense to me.  That’s why popular wisdom tells us, “Always seek control!

          So … when the whale explodes … what do you do, what’s the plan?  Follow the popular wisdom.  “Always seek control!”  Never board a plane without a parachute.  Never leave the house without a gas mask.  Never step on a crack lest you break your mother’s back.  That’s it.  Face every exploding whale by taking control.

          There’s only one problem with popular wisdom … it doesn’t work!  Would you rather have something which does work?  Rather than seeking control … relinquish it, give it all up!  Let it go!  Let it go!  Resign as the CEO of the universe and give your entire mess to Jesus.  Christ’s control is clear!

          And his calm is contagious.  “This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: ‘Of those whom You gave me, I have lost not one’” (John 18:9).  Christ is calm because he trusts the Scriptures.  Christ’s calm is contagious!

          In a Peanuts comic strip, Lucy is struggling with her Sunday School memory verse.  Finally, she suggests that maybe it’s a verse from the “Book of Reevaluations.”  The Book of Reevaluations!

          That is the Scriptures.  The Scriptures are a book of reevaluation.  They help us reevaluate who is really in control.  John 1:29 says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  Christ is in control and he takes it all away.  John 4:14 says, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.”  Christ is in control of our aching thirst and he quenches it with his unconditional love.   John 8:12 says, “I am the light of the world.”  Christ is in control of darkness as he is the light of the world.

          You know, when parents send their children to camp or to a youth event, they have to sign a form which asks an important question … Who is the responsible party?  If little Johnny breaks an arm or little Suzie breaks out with a rash, who is the responsible party?  So a parent signs his or her name on the line.

          Christ has signed his name on the line for us.  He signed it not with a gel pen but with his holy, innocent precious blood.  When we were baptized, Jesus took full responsibility for us. When the whale explodes, Jesus is the responsible party looking after us.  Not us!  It’s his job to see us through.  Christ is the Good Shepherd, we are his sheep.  Christ is the Bridegroom and we are the bride.  Christ is the Rabbi, the teacher, and we are his students, his disciples.  We sing in one of our hymns, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness!

          One of three things is happening in our lives right now.  We are either heading for a mess, are in a mess, or we just went through a mess.  No matter what … we don’t have to become hopeless or anxious or faithless.  We can stay calm.  Why?

          Because when the whale explodes, Jesus delivers perfect peace.  He reaches out his hand and heals us.  Don’t believe me?  Then just ask a man named Malchus.  Amen.

          The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.


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