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Jesus Taken, and Bound, and Led Away
“Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter. Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples? He saith, I am not. And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself. The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine. Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me? Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest. And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not. One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him? Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.”
Here, within the crowded palace of the high priest, they had made a fire to warm themselves, because it was cold. What a striking revelation that is. Just a very few hours earlier, our Lord Jesus knelt in prayer in the open air of Gethsemane. There, as he prayed, he broke out into a bloody sweat. What agony he endured, what a load pressed him down, as he anticipated being made sin for us!
There are five things in this part of John’s Gospel that stand out as matters of great importance and spiritual instruction. As we follow our Savior into the palace of Caiaphas the high priest, may God the Holy Spirit, whose Word we have before us, be our Teacher.
The first thing that strikes me in this portion of Holy Scripture is the display of God’s adorable providence. Our great God rules and overrules all things, abounding toward us in all wisdom and prudence, making known to us the mystery of his will. According to his own good pleasure, he always works “all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:8-11). Nothing is more wonderful to contemplate or more comforting to remember than that. Never miss, never overlook, never lightly esteem these displays of God’s wise and good, adorable providence.
First, John reminds us that that this high priest, “Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people” (v. 14). Though Caiaphas did not know God and did not know our Savior, though he was nothing but a self-serving religious leader, God used him to proclaim as clearly as any man ever did the message of the Gospel he despised, — Substitutionary Redemption by the Sacrifice of Christ (John 11:50-52).
Next, it seems to me that the Holy Spirit inspired John to describe Peter’s denial of the Lord Jesus in such a way that we could not miss seeing that the Lord himself placed Peter in the place of temptation. No man is tempted of God; but no temptation comes without God’s decree. Our Lord Jesus told Peter how he would deny him three times that very night. Yet, Peter could not have gotten into the high priest’s palace had God not placed that disciple there who was known to the high priest (vv. 15-16). That disciple went in first, got permission for Peter to come in, and then went back to the door and told the door-keeper that Peter had permission to come into the palace.
There Peter would deny the Lord Jesus, displaying that there is no evil that is not in us, no evil we will not perform when left to ourselves, and no strength in us to resist temptation, to resist the devil, or to resist the vile passions of our depraved hearts. There the Lord Jesus would look upon his fallen disciple with the tender eyes of unfailing mercy, love, and grace. There, the Lord Jesus used the maid, the soldier, and the devil to prepare the way for him to make himself more intimately known to Peter, the object of his love (John 21:15-17). There the Lord Jesus would have Peter sifted in the sieve as wheat, that he might make him a more useful preacher and servant of God than he could otherwise be.
Third, we again see the display of our great God’s adorable providence in using the Jews to accomplish the fulfilment of the sacrificial type. According to the Levitical law (Leviticus 17:1-9), the sacrifice offered to God had to be examined by the high priest before it was offered to God. So Christ our Sacrifice was brought to the high priest before he was sacrificed. Though Caiaphas said nothing about his innocence as the spotless Lamb of God, when Caiaphas sent Him to Pilate, Pilate declared Him to be without fault (1 Peter 1:17-20).
The first thing that stands out in our text is God’s adorable providence.
When carnal reason would demand
Why this or that my God ordained,
My heart in faith, Lord, humbly bend
Before Your throne, my God and King.
When doubts disturb me and distress,
When darkness seems to block my way,
Oh give me grace on this to rest, —
That thus it seemeth good to Thee!
Be this my joy: — My Christ is Lord
And by all things performs His will.
Your providence I would adore,
And calmly, sweetly trust You still.
Second, the Spirit of God here gives us a display of the astonishing hardness of depraved hearts. We see this in the conduct of the men by whom our Lord Jesus was arrested. Some of them were Roman soldiers. Some were servants of the priests and Pharisees. Among them were Judas and the Pharisees. But in one thing they were all alike. They all saw our Savior’s divine power exhibited when they “went backward and fell to the ground.” All saw the miracle our Lord performed when he touched Malchus’ ear and healed him. Yet, all remained unmoved, cold, indifferent, insensible, and hard.
Don’t you find that astonishing? They all acted as if they had seen nothing out of the ordinary. — “They made their hearts as an adamant stone” (Zechariah 7:12). They saw these things and hardened their hearts, like Pharaoh, and went on coolly with their callous business. — “They took Jesus, bound Him, and led Him away!”
Oh, how hard the heart of man is! Nothing can break it! Nothing can penetrate it! — Nothing but omnipotent grace! Bless God, there is hope for such hard hearts!
John Trapp, quoting one of the ancient writers, said, “The adamant stone is a legendary stone thought to be the hardest of all stones, harder than flint (Ezekiel 3:9), harder than the nether millstone (Job 41:24). Fire could not burn it, or even cause it to be heated throughout. It could not be broken by a hammer. Yet, this hardest of all stones, when soaked in a goat’s blood, is melted, dissolved, and broken. So the hardest heart of the most obstinate sinner is melted, dissolved, and broken when sprinkled with the precious blood of Christ, the sinner’s Scapegoat.”
That is our hope and prayer to God for sinners. If God the Holy Spirit sprinkles their hearts with the blood of Christ, if he will apply the blood to them, they will look upon him whom we have pierced and mourn. Miracles will never penetrate fallen man’s hard heart. Acts of divine judgment will never break the heart of stone. Affliction will never break it. The law can never break it. Hell itself cannot break the rebel heart of man. But the blood of Christ can!
Third, we have before us a marvelous display of the amazing condescension of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is the Son of God, our Creator, the Sovereign of the universe, taken prisoner and led away, bound like a common malefactor. He is arraigned before wicked and unjust judges. He is insulted and treated with contempt. He had only to will his deliverance, and he would at once have been free. He had only to command the confusion of his enemies, and they would at once have been confounded.
This Man, Christ Jesus, is the Judge before whose bar Annas and Caiaphas, and all their companions must soon stand, from whom they shall receive a sentence of everlasting damnation. Yet, he condescended to be treated as a malefactor without resisting. — “They took Jesus, and bound him, and led him away” (vv. 12-13). Imagine that! When he was led away to slaughter, and bound with the sins of his people, our blessed Savior was led without the camp, to suffer without the gate (Hebrews 13:12). Isaiah tells us that he was “taken from prison and from judgment” when the Lord God “laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6-8). — Deity was arrested that guilty sinners might never be arrested by God’s law! — Like the sacrifices of old, Christ our Sacrifice was bound to the altar with cords, pinioned and manacled by cords of divine justice as a common malefactor, that common malefactors might never be! — The Lord Jesus was bound for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, that we by his bondage from chains of darkness might be set free!
Truly the love of Christ to poor sinners is “a love that passeth knowledge!” To suffer for those we love, those who are in some sense worthy of our affection, is suffering that we can understand. To submit to ill-treatment quietly, when we have no power to resist, is submission that is both graceful and wise. But to suffer voluntarily, when you have the power to prevent it, and to suffer for a people who crave your blood, unasked, unwanted, and unthanked, that is “love that passeth knowledge!”
Our Lord Jesus was led away captive and dragged before the high priest’s bar, not because he could not help himself, but because he had set his whole heart upon us from eternity. By bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, by being made sin for us, and by being punished in our stead, the Son of God was determined to ransom our souls.
He was a willing prisoner, that we might be set free. He was willingly arraigned and condemned, that we might be absolved and declared innocent. “He suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God.” — “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich.” — “He was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him!”
Substitution is the very heart of the Gospel. Our dear Savior suffered and died willingly and unresistingly, because he had come into this world as our Substitute and Surety, determined by substitutionary atonement to purchase our eternal salvation. In all things, our Lord Jesus humbled himself to be both our Substitute and our Example (1 Peter 2:21-25; Philippians 2:5-8).
Our dear Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, was our Example in his life and in his death. He said he was our Example in washing the disciples’ feet. Our Savior, by his meekness in suffering for us, made himself an Example for us to follow in suffering. And our Lord Jesus was the Example, the Standard, for all preachers to follow. Look at what he said to Caiaphas about his preaching (vv. 19-21).
“The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine. Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said.”
Faithful preachers conceal nothing. They preach the Gospel with great plainness of speech, determined to be understood. If you want to know what a faithful preacher believes, all you have to do is ask those who hear them.
Fourth, God the Spirit here sets before us an undeniable display of the abiding sinfulness that is to be found in all true believers, the corruption that yet remains in every true Christian, and will remain in us as long as we are in this world, in this body of flesh. We see this fact strikingly exemplified in the conduct of the Apostle Peter. There is Peter, that strong, faithful, believing man, forsaking his Master, and acting like a reprobate wretch! There he is running away when he ought to have stood by his Master’s side. Do you see him, ashamed to own his Lord when he ought to have confessed him? Hear him three times denying that he knew his Savior. And all this took place immediately after receiving the Lord’s’ Supper, after hearing the Savior’s last discourse, after hearing the plainest possible warnings, after hearing his Savior pray that great prayer as his High Priest that is recorded in the previous chapter, having nothing to gain by his denial!
“Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall!” — Peter’s fall is recorded in the Book of God repeatedly, because it is intended to be a lesson to us all. Saved sinners are sinners still. Our only righteousness is the righteousness of Christ. Our only hope before God is Christ. — His Obedience! — His Blood! — His Intercession! Salvation, from start to finish, is by grace alone!
The fifth thing set before us in this event is the unfailing, immutable, abounding grace of God our Savior. — “Where sin abounded grace did much more abound; That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20-21). Peter truly loved the Lord Jesus, though he often acted otherwise. So it is with you and me! Peter denied Christ three times; but the Lord Jesus has not denied Peter. So it is with you and me! The Lord Jesus restored Peter by an act of his own free grace; otherwise Peter would never have returned to him. So it is with you and me! Peter did not reap what he sowed. He was not forsaken of God. Christ, his Substitute, reaped what Peter sowed. He was forsaken of God for Peter’s sake. So it is with you and me! — We are great sinners; and our Lord Jesus Christ is a great Savior! In Him the grace of God superabounds!