Jesus’ Weakness is Power and Turns His Followers’ Weakness into Power (John 18:18-27)

John’s juxtaposing Peter’s vehement denials with Jesus’ gentle defiance heightens the contrast between human power and divine power. In this passage we will see that Jesus’ weakness brings power to his people.

Jesus brings down the mighty and exalts the weak (18-24)

Notes: [v. 18] Night proceedings were illegal, though they have no doubt found some legal loophole that permits it.

[v. 19] They question Jesus about two things: (1) his disciples and (2) his teaching. This reveals that they’re playing both sides of the fence. They question him about his theology which means their primary concern is obviously (based on this) theological. Yet they will (and presumably have) presented this case to Pilate as being primarily political.

[v. 20-21] Jesus says nothing about his disciples (probably out of the same motivation as in v. 9). Jesus points out that he has always been open about his teachings. Even his private teachings to his disciples were further unpackings of his public teachings or were later proclaimed publicly. The Jewish leaders didn’t need to question Jesus’ disciples; they could just ask anyone who had heard him at any time.

[v. 22-23] The striking of Jesus demonstrates how emotionally involved and committed they are to these course of action. It probably also shows their desperation. If Jesus was being obstinate or violating the law or simply being inappropriate or disrespectful, then they should have brought charges of contempt against him.

[v. 24] Annas had been deposed by the Roman government and so was not legally the high priest but it appears he still wielded much power and may actually have been the one in charge. Annas sends Jesus to the reigning high priest, Caiaphas, however, because it is from him that the legal accusation and request for prosecution must come.

Application: This is in keeping with what we have heard from these leaders before: They want Jesus out of the way because he is a threat to the status quo in which they hold power (see 11:48). The rich and powerful, then and now, manipulate the weak and poor for their own ends. This last election, regardless of what side you were on, was largely about this, or at least was perceived like this. Nothing has changed nor will it change until all things are set straight at our Lord’s return.

But Jesus has come to defeat all principalities and powers and he made a show of them openly as Paul wrote, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:15) This is the nature of God, to exalt the lowly and bring down the exalted. The Psalmist sang, “He raises the poor out of the dust, And lifts the needy out of the ash heap, That He may seat him with princes— With the princes of His people.” (Psalm 113:7–8)

Jesus will return as a benevolent king to make right the injustices done against his people. He has come to establish a kingdom of peace and righteousness where he rules because he has earned the right to rule through his humble service (Mark 10:45; Phil. 2:9).

While these men and others will resort to anything, even the murder of the righteous Son of God, to hold on to power, Jesus shows us a better way. He heals until he is physically exhausted, he teaches until he is physically exhausted, he has nowhere to lay his head and must rely on the kindness of some wealthy women who follow him in order to survive.

In so doing, Jesus shows us what leadership is like in the kingdom of heaven. It is stooping down to serve, not sitting down to be served. It is giving of oneself not taking for oneself. It is loving others as yourself, even those who are unlovable, it is not loving those who love and serve you.

Jesus turns the weakness of his people into strength (25-27)

Notes: [25] The scene switches back to the fire. John keeps putting Peter’s denials in the flow of the trial narrative to highlight the contrast between Jesus’ refusal to deny anything before his accusers with Peter’s cowering before his accusers.

[26-27] John doesn’t give the extra details such as Peter’s cursing because his purpose is to emphasize the fulfillment of Jesus’ words from (13:36) and Peter’s inability to follow Jesus until Jesus has died for him (Fenton, 182 cited in Carson, PNTC, 587).

Application: The Holy Spirit does not lead John to record Peter’s failings to belittle Peter but to highlight the power of God who takes even weak servants and makes them mighty. Jesus’ own triumph brings triumph to his people.

This is Why Paul says, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” (1 Corinthians 1:26–29)

John records Peter’s denials so that when we see him preaching on Pentecost and we hear of the power and see three thousand come to faith we will know it wasn’t because Peter had some hidden talent as an orator but because Jesus put his power on Peter and enabled him to do mighty works for the Kingdom through God’s power.

John records Peter’s denials so that when we see him healing a lame man and then giving glory to God we will know this is not a false humility he demonstrates but a humility that comes from having known the shame of weakness but was emboldened not by his own power but because he had seen the transforming power of God that raises up the weakest to make them strong.

John records Peter’s denials so that when we see him and his fellow disciples beaten and imprisoned and still rejoicing because he is counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus we will know that these are not some fanatics who are delusional and don’t understand what is happening to them but so we will know that these are men who hold onto the world to come so much that they realize the insignificance of everything in this world, including their own lives.

John records Peter’s denials so that when we see our own weakness we will not look to ourselves or to anything in this world for strength, so that when we see our own foolishness we will not look to anything in this world for wisdom, so that when we see our own insignificance in this world, we will not look to it for meaning or significance.

John records Peter’s denials so that when we see our own weakness or foolishness or insignificance we will look to Jesus alone who make the weak strong, who makes the foolish wise, who makes those of us who are nothing to be something to bring to nothing those who are something.

So that no living thing may glory in God’s presence but glory in Jesus alone.

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About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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