Summary: #4 in series, about John’s initial fleeing from the Garden but returning to Jesus’ cross, and how love overcame his fears.
John 18:25-27 – Were You There #4 - Flawed Follower (John the Apostle)
Today we are continuing our Were You There series, looking at and learning from some of the characters who watched Jesus die that lonely Friday so many years ago. We looked at the religious leaders, who carried out the rules of the day with showing any love or compassion towards Jesus. We saw Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, break free from the traditions of people to find the Lord behind them. And we saw Simon of Cyrene, who helped bear the burden of the cross for Jesus, as we are all called to do. Today we are looking at John the disciple, who is an example for all of us who aren’t perfect. Let’s read John 18:25-27.
We know that John came to the cross, along with several female disciples, including Jesus’ mother, Mary. Apparently Joseph had already died by the time his adopted son became a preacher, and so, who was left to take care of Mary? Normally, that responsibility would have fallen on one of Jesus’ brothers or sisters, but none was around. So Jesus asked John to assume care for Mary.
Of all the 12 disciples, only John was at the cross when Jesus died. Only John showed loyalty to Jesus in the last few hours of the man’s life. It makes me think of a story I read. I guess there was an elderly woman from the United States, who wanted to visit England, the home of her ancestors, before she died. So, she went to the Federal Office and asked for a passport.
"You must first take the loyalty oath," the passport clerk said. "Raise your right hand, please."
The senior citizen raised her right hand as the clerk asked, "Do you swear to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, domestic or foreign?"
The sweet old face paled and the voice trembled as she responded, "Well, I guess so, but... will I have help, or will I have to do it all by myself?"
John was like that. He would stand by Jesus, even if he was all alone. This message could very well be all about John’s unwavering faith… if not for a verse in Matthew 26. Describing the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Judas led the religious leaders and the Roman soldiers to betray Jesus, v56 says, “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.” All. That would include John.
Now, no-one would have ever questioned John’s loyalty to Jesus. When Jesus called him, 3 years before, John, along with his brother James, left his nets and followed the Lord. At one point, there was opposition to what Jesus was doing, and a town did not welcome Him. John and James asked if they should call down fire from heaven to teach the unbelievers a lesson in faith. And the 3 disciples closest to Jesus were Peter, James and John. John was a loyal follower of the Lord.
But yet, when things got a little scary for him, for all of them, they ran away. They hid. They left. Now, on a scale of 1 to 12, John would do pretty well. We’ll say 1 represents Judas. Judas betrayed the Lord, turning Him over to the authorities. He was the worst. We don’t know how most of the disciples felt, except that they fled. We’ll number them 2 to 10.
Number 11 is Peter. Peter and another disciple followed Jesus into the courtyard, keeping tabs on their Lord but from a distance. But Peter eventually denied the Lord – “I don’t even know the man!” – so he still doesn’t score as high as they get.
So we’ll give John the highest on a scale of 1-12. He fled, but possibly was the disciples that followed Jesus as recorded in John 18. Plus, big bonus points for being there with Jesus on the Friday afternoon. Now, what’s funny about this scale is that some people really gauge their spiritual lives this way. Better than some person, but not as good as someone else. Not the best saint, but not the worst sinner. Somewhere in between.
Well, all the disciples – from poor Judas at 1, to Peter at 11, to John at 12 – they all fled. It doesn’t matter who was better – they all fled. In the same way, we all have sinned. Every one of us has missed the mark, missed the point, loved ourselves too much, wanted our own way, thumbed our nose and stuck out our tongue at God, said that we would live life our way, thank you very much… it’s what we mean when we say the word “sin”. Every one of us. Like John, some of us maybe clean up better than others, like Judas. Sometimes our sin isn’t as obvious as the next fellow’s. But the point is still true. Each one of us needs to be forgiven. Each of us needs to reach out. Each of us needs to crawl our way back to the One whose heart we broke.