John 18:1-40

We’re in week #5 of our Can’t Believe series in which we’re looking through the Gospel of John at 7 different kinds of people who couldn’t bring themselves to believe in Jesus.

This weekend we’re going to look at someone who couldn’t believe in Jesus because he was passive: he didn’t really make a decision on it either way; just didn’t think the issue was that important.

Passivity is a general problem in human nature; one particularly bad in our culture; and particularly among males. Passivity is when you don’t direct active energy to something, even when you should. Passive people just kind of go with the flow, letting things unfold as they will.

Sometimes you’re passive about something because you just don’t place a great deal of importance on it. Many men are passive in leading their families. These same men are incredibly type-­-A about their jobs… they plan and strategize and work. But when they come home they just shift into autopilot and let their marriage and kids just kind of turn out as they will. In 20 years when their marriage falls apart they can’t figure out why. Here’s why: if you had showed the same attentiveness to your career that you did to your family you’d have been fired in a month. Some of you men show more intentionality with your fantasy football team then you do with your family. It’s surprising your marriage lasted as long as it did. The problem is not that you’re passive about everything; you’re very active in some things, you’re just passive about some of the most important things. Sometimes you are passive because it takes less courage to not make a decision than to have to make one either way. I see this a lot with guys who figure out how, functionally, to get dates with girls without ever having to ask them out. They always arrange mysterious ways for the two of you to be together. We call it the ‘sneak-­-a-­-date.’ ”Oh, look, we’re here together again.” But they don’t want to put themselves on the line to officially ask the girl out because that could lead to a rejection. She’s got to go all ”call me maybe” on you. They can’t even bring themselves to update their facebook status to ”in a relationship” until you do first. If anybody looked at how much time you spent together; how much you text message; they’d say you are dating, or that you are wanting to date her; but you don’t have the courage to call it that. You have what we call a ”friend-­-ationship.” You are passive. You’re just hoping to glide your way into success. I can tell you one thing: she don’t like it; no girl wants to marry a spineless coward. So get your backbone out of your mama’s purse and acknowledge to her what you both know you are doing.

(Uncle J.D.: Sermon within a sermon).

There are certain things in life that you have to make a decision on They’re just too important. My engagement (overwhelmed at the thought of being with me)

Throughout John 18 Jesus is going to confront the passive with the need to make a decision. To reckon with what they think about him and act on it.

And today is one of those days we’re going to give you opportunity to make a decision at the end about where you stand with Jesus by offering a chance to be baptized. Baptism is a public profession of faith… Jesus said it was to be one of the first things you should do after becoming his follower to publicly declare your decision. We’ve had a lot of people trust Christ the last few weeks. Heard of 8 last week. A college friend told me that 4 of her friends have trusted Christ in the last 4 weeks of this series. Today, you need to take the step of acknowledging it through public baptism. Maybe you trusted Christ a while ago-years ago, even-but you’ve never taken this step. You say, ”I didn’t come prepared today.” We have done this a lot; we are professionals. We have everything you’ll need-a change of clothes, towels, hair product; a changing area-we’ve thought of everything, and we are prepared for you. He’s going to do this several times in this chapter. Because so many people go through life without ever evaluating what they are doing with Jesus. It’s easier to postpone a decision like this one than to make it either way. But here’s the thing: a postponed decision can have the same effec as a no decision. For example, a lot of people get in trouble with their retirement because they just never get around to saving for it when they are young. It’s not that they ever make a decision to not save for retirement; just that not making a decision to save for retirement is, in fact, a decision to not save for retirement. It has the same result, you show up in your 60’s with nothing to retir on. So Jesus is constantly in this chapter forcing the question: where do you stand with me? To not decide for me is to decide against me. Jesus is like an exit ramp off of a highway. If you don’t choose to take him you are going to end up at the place this highway is headed.

So They answered him, (we seek) ”Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, ”I am he.” (In Greek there is no he, it’s just ”I am,”

It’s inconvenient. Yes, that is kind of the point. It’s a way of the Hebrew name of God.)

When Jesus said to them, ”I am he,” they going PUBLIC.

If you’re serious about Jesus, you don’t want to start off your Christian life by disobeying one of his first commands.

John 18:1-40

As the chapter opens, Judas has betrayed Jesus and he shows up in the Garden of Gethsemane with a group of armed soldiers.

4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, ”Whom do you seek?”

Clue #1 that this was a bad idea. The guy says his name and you get knocked on your can. ”Who you looking for?” ”Jesus.” ”I am he.” Bam, you are on your back staring up at the stars. At that point I think would have packed up and gone home. Last week we saw that his voice was so powerful it could summon dead men out of graves; today you see that his name so powerful it knocked armed soldiers to the ground. This is not someone to be trifled with.

Don’t miss the odd juxtaposition of phrases in this sentence. Jesus

So he reaches down to help them up and

So he asked them again, knew all that would happen to him, so he asked them… If Jesus knew all that was about to happen, why did he ask? Didn’t he know? Here we go. Jesus is forcing them to acknowledge what

”Whom do you seek?” And (this time) they said (much more meekly, might add), ”Jesus of Nazareth.” SIR. If it’s not too much trouble. We could come back…

8 Jesus answered, ”I told you that I am he. (Remember-the whole I spoke, ”bam,” thing)? So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: ”Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” (Something very important Jesus in how Jesus said that that we’ll come back to).

10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. Now, Peter’s kind of late to the party, because, remember, he’s been napping. So he’s grumpy and groggy and he comes in swinging. By the way, he’s not aiming for the ear. He’s not Zorro; he’s trying to turn the guy’s head into a canoe.

(The (lucky) servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, ”Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” In Luke’s account of this, he adds that Jesus then reached down, picked up the guy’s ear and re-attached it.1 Which is clue #2 that this is a bad idea. He reattaches you ear after it’s been hacked off? Imagine being Malchus: one minute you’re ear is ringing and your head throbbing in pain and you are staring at your bloody ear on the ground; the next minute he’s reattached it and you can hear again. You’re like, (feeling ear) ”Did he just put my ear back on? Does it look normal? Is it on straight? Is it the same height as the other one?”

12 So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. 13First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.

14It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. Throughout this chapter John notes how Caiaphas accidentally fulfills every part of God’s plan and prophecy. He’s trying to show you that while it looks like Caiaphas is in control it’s actually God who is in control.

19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, ”I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Nobody’s got a secret YouTube of me at a fundraiser or Loyola University saying things to an inside group I don’t want the public to know about.

So… 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22 When he had said these things one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, ”Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered him, ”If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” The restraint here is almost unbelievable… I think if I were Jesus I were Jesus I would have said, ”Is that how I answer the high priest? How dare you strike the real high priest? This whole priestly system was established to point to me, and in just a few hours I’m going to make it obsolete. And how are you going to feel when I rise from the dead and you see me coming on the clouds of glory?” And then I would have dropped an ”I am” or at least a ”truly, truly” and knocked everybody on their cans again. Which is why God probably didn’t tag me to play the role of Jesus

28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. And, of course, the irony in this… Here they are crucifying Jesus, the embodiment of goodness; God in the flesh, but they don’t wan to walk into the house of the Roman governor so as not to be defiled. The corrupting and blinding power of religion is unbelievable.

29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, ”What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, ”If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 That’s not really an answer. So Pilate said to them, ”Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, ”It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” Which is a lie. The Jews could have called a lynch mob and stoned Jesus, like they would do with Steven a few months later, and Pilate would have turned his head, but the problem was that Jesus was too popular among the people for the Jewish leaders to get away with that. They needed to be rid of Jesus but not have the people blame them for it. So they are trying to coerce Pilate into doing it. But John adds…

32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. Again, John is showing that this is all playing right into God’s plan. You see, Caiaphas also knew that the Romans would crucify Jesus, and the Jewish law said that if you died by hanging on a tree that was proof you were cursed by God. So this was a way that he could force the people conclude that Jesus was a fraud. ”See, God cursed him. He died on a tree and Deut 21:23 says that everyone who dies hanging on a tree is cursed by God. So that’s proof he’s bad.” But God’s plan all along has been for Jesus to die cursed on a tree, and Caiaphas is executing it perfectly, even if unintentionally. This is how God mocks Satan. What they intend for evil, he uses for good.

Now, Pilate is in a difficult position (don’t want to create sympathy, but at least to feel his strain). Pilate, you see, was already on thin ice as a governor. He hadn’t been in the position that long and he’d made some colossally boneheaded decisions.

For example:

When Pilate first came into office he wanted to do so with a bang, so he marched through Jerusalem in this huge parade with these large banners bearing the image of Tiberius Caesar celebrating the glory and power of Rome, and then he had those banners hung everywhere in Jerusalem, including at the Temple. Well, having anyone’s image displayed at the Temple, much less a pagan emperor, was blasphemy to the Jews, so they were enraged. Pilate agreed to meet with them in the amphitheater to discuss it. Once there, he surrounded them with soldiers and threatened to kill them. The Jews called his bluff-many of them laid down and bared their necks. Pilate caved and eventually removed the images.2 On other occasion, Pilate needed some money to for a new aqueduct so he extorted a huge amount from the Temple treasury. Robbing God’s temple to pay Pilate’s bills? Well, again, the Jews staged a protest, so Pilate sent Roman soldiers-dressed as normal citizens-to beat many of the Jewish protestors to death.3 Luke 13:1 refers to an event in which Pilate, during a ceremonial sacrifice, had killed several Galileans while they were offering their temple sacrifices so that their blood got mixed with the blood of the sacrifices.4

Well, the result of all these bonehead maneuvers was that the Jews hated him and Rome was annoyed with him. Particularly Emperor Tiberius, who had placed him on probation.5 So Pilate by this point is under a lot of pressure. He can’t handle another riot. If so, he’d lose his job. The Jewish leaders know that and they use that.6

33So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, ”Are you the King of the Jews?” 34Jesus answered, ”Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35Pilate answered, ”Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, ”My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

37 Then Pilate said to him, ”So you are a king?” Jesus answered, ”You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world-to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Notice Pilate’s reaction: 38 Pilate said to him, ”What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, ”I find no guilt in him. This guy is no threat. He has no political aspirations. He considers himself a ”spiritual” king to bears witness to eternal truth? There’s no threat to Rome in that.

39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40 They cried out again, ”Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber. Pilate knows he’s being played, so he comes up with what he thinks is a pretty ingenius solution. And under normal circumstances it would be. He appeals to a custom where they would release one Jewish political prisoner on Passover as a sign of good will.7 So Pilate gives them what he thinks is a ridiculously easy choice. And it was a ridiculously easy choice. Barabbas a terrorist and a thief. He’s harmed a lot of people, including Jews, and nobody likes him-everyone believes he deserves to die.

They have to choose between him and Jesus, the one who taught people to love their enemies and raised little girls from the dead. The people, however, incited by the Jewish leaders, call out for the release of Barabbas.

Which gives you perhaps the clearest picture anywhere in the Gospels of what this whole thing is about. Barabbas is a bad man, and a rebel. Jesus the picture of innocence. Jesus will die; Barabbas will go free.

Think about what it must have been like for Barabbas. He woke up that morning assuming he’d be dead by sundown, but that evening he is sitting down having dinner with his friends… …and this strange man, who embodied perfect goodness and virtue, is hanging on the cross in this place. We know that 3 men were scheduled to die that day. On either side of Jesus were two other thieves and robbers, just like Barabbas. Barabbas was supposed to be that one in the middle.

Scholars point out that Barabbas’ name is kind of strange. ”Bar” in Hebrew means ”son of.” ”Abbas” means ”father.” So Barabbas means ”son of a father,” or ”son of a man.” Any guy here not the son of father? You see, ”Barabbas” by his very name, represents all of us.8

Like Barabbas, we are rebels against the rule of God. Jesus, a man of perfect goodness, will die in our place. He’ll take the cross intended for us. . The gospel is about one word: substitution. The way we say it at the Summit: Jesus in my place.

This theme has been dripped through this whole chapter: You see it in vs. 8. When the soldiers came to take Jesus, Jesus said, ”If you seek me, let these men go.” (18:8) The word translated ”let these men go,” is aphiemi (a-­-FEE-­-ay-­-mee), which is the word for ”forgive.” Literally, ”forgive them” or ”release them.”9 Jesus says, ”Take me. They’ll be forgiven; they’ll go free.” You see substitution in vs. 11 in Jesus’ statement to Peter after he cuts off his ear. ”Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (18:11) The cup was an Old Testament picture of the wrath of God. When God judged someone he was making them to ”drink of the cup of his wrath.” The fury of Mt. St. Helen’s in a teacup. As it was being extended to us, Jesus stepped in the way and took it. Jesus took the cup of God’s wrath for my sin and drank it in my place. You see substitution in verse 14 in Caiphas’ prophecy that one man should die for the people and in vs. 32 when it talks about the ”kind of death” Jesus had to die. As I told you, those who hung on a tree showed that they were cursed by God. We had been cursed by God (because of our sin) but Jesus would die cursed in our place. You can see it in the mystery of how Jesus responds to Pilate. Eventually, Jesus would stand before Pilate silent (19:9).10 When you are accused in a court of law and you are silent-you make no defense-that is universally understood as a concession of guilt. Jesus, who had never done any wrong, plead guilty at his trial. Not because he was guilty, but because he was consenting to my guilt, and yours. BEHIND THE FALSE ACCUSATIONS OF PILATE AND THE RULERS OF ISRAEL WAS GOD THE FATHER, WHO WAS POINTING AT JESUS ACCUSING HIM OF MY SIN AND YOUR SIN, and he plead ”guilty as charged!” Jesus went to the cross an innocent man, but he would die a guilty one.

Because 2 Cor 5:21 says that God made him who knew no sin to become sin for us… that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Salvation is not becoming a little better or a moral improvement. It is substitution. Jesus took your sin so you could become his righteousness; he hung in your place of condemnation so you could be seated in his place of commendation. When God looks at me he doesn’t see a ”pretty good guy” he sees the perfect, righteous record of Jesus Christ because we traded records. He took mine to the cross so I could live eternally with his. Jesus in my place. Isa 53:5, He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities and the Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all. Substitution. Jesus in my place.

The one word that describes every event in this story is the word ”substitution.” You and I… we played the role of Barabbas; Jesus died in our place.

BTW, are you looking for an assurance that God will forgive you and accept you if you come to him? This whole chapter screams it. The character chosen to play you in this chapter is the worst kind of person: a rebel, murderer and extortionist. A man nobody likes: Barabbas. The ”Osama Bin Laden” of his day. That choice is intentional to show you that no matter who you are, Jesus’ death can free you.

You see God’s willingness to forgive in the severity of the beating they gave to Jesus. In John 19:1 Pilate has Jesus beaten. The Romans used a whip called the ”Cat of 9 tails.” (describe: sets in, then you pull) Historians say it was not uncommon to see one of those whip straps latch onto a man’s rib and send it flying off of his frame); we are almost certain he was at least partially disemboweled. The flaps of the whip would have sliced through his skin and shredded it like a ribbon. When they were finished Jesus would have been left as a crumpled, bloody heap. You want a measure for how wide, how high, how deep, how broad the love of God is? The cross is the measure of that love. You want to know if God loves you and can save you? Measure your answer by the greatness of the sacrifice he made for you there and the price he was willing to pay to save you. The value you place on something is shown by the price you’ll pay for it. The cross is what he was willing to pay for you. I repeat: John Owen: ”The greatest unkindness (the greatest insult) you can do to Jesus is to doubt his love for you.” The price he paid there, he paid because of your sin. To save you from your sin. Thus, you can be sure there is no sin so bad, so wickedness so great, that the blood of Jesus cannot wash it away. Your sin is great; God’s grace is greater still. Don’t insult the blood of Jesus by suggesting that your sin is too great. The point is the not the size of your sin; the point is the magnitude of his grace. He can, as the book of Hebrews says, ”save to the uttermost those who come to God through him.”

You see God’s willingness to forgive in Jesus’ aside to Peter after Peter cuts off Malchus’ ear. Again, if I were Jesus, after that stunt I would have been like, ”Let all these my disciples go… Except for him. You can take him. He’s an idiot.” But Jesus takes Peter aside and says, ”Peter, don’t worry about this. I’ve got it all under control like I said. I’m going to drink this cup for you. And I’m going to build my church around you, and make you the leader of it, you, a guy who slept when I most needed him, who impulsively slashes ears one minute and denies me to middle school-­-aged girls in the next.” These stories combine to show you that there is no one too wicked that Jesus cannot save and no one too weak or damaged for Jesus to use.

Two things are contrasted in this story: the gravity of Jesus and the levity of Pilate

”Gravity” means weight. Levity means ”weightlessness.” (It’s where we get the word ”levitate.”)

In this chapter you see Jesus showing the utmost gravity, and Pilate dismisses it with ”what is truth?” Even when he’s convinced of Jesus’ innocence, he won’t act on it. He defers, ”washing his hands of the matter,” saying ”it’s too costly to render an opinion right now. Really, his opinions about Jesus’ innocence were irrelevant because his convictions either way on the matter lacked the gravity to change his course.

And Jesus’ seriousness throughout this bothered Pilate. Pilate was afraid (19:8) plagued by a few questions: He knew of Jesus’ power (he knocked his soldier down by saying his name (you know that got talked about); Malchus’ ear-you know that got talked about).

Why does he refuse to defend himself? Why is he willing to endure the beating silently, even when he’s innocent, even when he could speak up and clear himself?11

The gravity Jesus walks through this chapter here requires some verdict, one way or the other. But Pilate isn’t courageous enough to decide for or against Jesus. He won’t join in the crucifixion or stand up to defend Jesus. He just defers; postpones the decision.

He says, ”What is truth?” What is truth, Pilate? Truth is everything. It’s not a commodity or a convenience. Truth is who stands in front of you. And he’s more than truth: it is truth and grace. Truth is incarnated in front of you and is soon going to be dismembered in front of you to save your soul! The wounds scream out for a verdict! You want to know who Pilate is today? He is the one who refuses to decisively act on the Lordship of Jesus. You’re like, ”Yeah, I’m not against Jesus. I believe in him. I guess I’m a Christian.” But he’s not Lord of your life. That’s something you’ll decide on later. You’ll come to church occasionally, be a good person, but not yet become a full-­-on disciple of Jesus. That’s for later. Right now you are more concerned with marriage and career. You have failed to make act decisively in response to the Lordship of Jesus. Make no mistake: Pilate represents you. (Not just a historical personage) Jesus said, ”He who is not for me is against me; which means that if you haven’t decisively decided for Jesus, you are still in the category, like Pilate, of those against him.” Or here’s another kind of Pilate today: a group of people who describe themselves as ”apatheists.”

Theist. Atheist. Agnostic. Apatheist: Who cares? Eterally speaking, is this not insane? This has to be the most important decision. Least logical; least sane, but where most people are.

Every once in a while, something will rattle you, like Pilate gets rattled. A funeral: Feels surreal. But what if it’s the closest to reality that you’ll ever come? Some moment of fear where you realize how fragile life is Or you have a moment of conviction Or, there are things about Jesus that intrigue you Or, you see Jesus’ power demonstrated in the life of your friends, like Malchus’ friends saw in Malchus with the whole ear thing.

And you have this moment of gravity, like Pilate had, but you sweep it away with levity. Pilate felt these impulses of fear (19:8) out of it and covered up his fear with urgent political decisions. ”These aren’t issues politicians as important as me have the luxury of dealing with.” I’ve got to save my life. It was not unbelief that sent Pilate to hell, but indifference

That’s what the philosopher Pascal said: at the end of the day it’s not unbelief that keeps people from Jesus, but indifference. My friend, do you realize how serious this is? Charles Spurgeon: ”Trifle not with Christ, whose hands and feet were nailed to the accursed tree for sinners such as you. Trifle not with his precious blood, for that is your only hope of redemption. Trifle not with the Holy Spirit, for if he should leave you to perish, your case would be hopeless. Trifle not with the gospel; what would the lost in hell not give to hear another proclamation of mercy! The devil does not trifle; he is very earnestly seeking your destruction. God and Christ and the Holy Spirit are not trifling with you, and (I am) not trifling with you either.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

Many people can’t believe simply because they don’t give this question the proper weight. This theme comes to a head in Pilate, but it appears all through the book of John: John 5:44, ”How can you believe, you who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” Glory: kabod, weight. They receive glory (give weight) to other people’s opinion but place no value on God’s opinion. Problem is not you don’t believe, the weight you give this matter is unable to move you How are you ever going to have the moral resources to believe when you care so much about what everybody else thinks and so little about what God thinks? Your addiction to the approval of people keeps you from being able to believe. John 7:17, If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. If you’re willing to follow truth wherever it leads, you’ll see whether Jesus is the truth. Pilate couldn’t know truth because he wasn’t resolved to obey truth whatever the cost, wherever it would lead. He dismissed Jesus’ claims because to obey them would have been too politically costly, something he wasn’t willing to trade. There are many people who won’t seriously consider the claims of Christ seriously because of what it will mean for their lives if they do. I once knew a Muslim girl named Carolene: ”There’s no way I could believe this because it would mean XYZ.”

You come every week… why are you here? Debt to mom?

If Jesus is who he says he is, then what he says about eternity is more important than ANYTHING else in your life. Don’t make Pilate’s mistake of taking eternal things too lightly.

Judson’s Conversion:

If you know me well, you know that Adoniram Judson is one of my heroes. Judson was the first American missionary. He would undergo persecution in Jesus’ name like few people ever have. He was the first Christian ever to go into Burma. After a painful life of ministry, which included the loss of his wife and several children, he would leave over 7000 Burmese believers.

Judson was raised in a Christian home, but when he went off to college at Brown University, he was lured away from the Christian faith by a fellow student who became a close friend, a young man named Jacob Eames. Eames was a philosopher who rejected all revealed religion, including the Bible. Eames ridiculed the God of the Bible, and Judson’s faith, already fragile, crumbled under Eames’ assaults.

He kept his loss of faith hidden from his parents until after his graduation, when on his 20th birthday-August 9, 1808-he announced that he was no longer a Christian. He had been valedictorian of Brown University, and left for New York for promising career writing for the theater there.

While in New York, Judson found little fulfillment as a playwright, and grew quickly disillusioned. But God was beginning to work in his heart. One night, while traveling through a small village, he spent the night at a local inn. The only available room was next door to a man who was dying. All night the man groaned and cried out in desperation. Judson was so tormented by the despair in the man’s cries that he could not sleep.

Judson began to wonder, ”Is this man prepared for death? That’s really all that matters now. Am I?” His philosophy taught him that death was nothing-a door into an empty pit, but that brought him little comfort listening to a man that was actually dying. At the same time he could hear the voice of his friend Jacob Eames mocking him: ”Really, Judson? You’re this weak? Are you really the valedictorian of Brown University? Spooked by a little superstitious religion?” Judson was ashamed of his fear.

But still, those groans, Judson said, oh, those groans…

The next morning, as sunlight filled his room, the sense of despair lifted and Judson felt ashamed for having given in to such weakness. He got dressed, went downstairs, and asked at the front desk about the man in the adjoining room. ”He is dead,” was the simple reply.

Judson politely asked, ”Do you know who he was?” ”Oh yes. Young man from the college in Providence. Name was Eames, Jacob Eames.”

Judson could hardly move. He didn’t leave the inn for hours. He later reflected on that moment:

”Lost. In death, Jacob Eames was lost-utterly, irrevocably lost. Lost to his friends, to the world, to the future. Lost as a puff of smoke is lost in the infinity of air. If Eames’ own views were true, neither his life nor his death had any meaning. . . . But suppose Eames had been mistaken? Suppose the Scriptures were literally true and a personal God real? . . . For that hell should open in that country inn and snatch Jacob Eames, [my] dearest friend and guide, from the next bed-this could not, simply could not, be coincidence.”12

Judson would come shortly thereafter not only to believe the gospel, but to pour the rest of his life out for the gospel, ultimately giving up everything for it. The gospel of Jesus was not a light thing; it was the weightiest reality in the universe.

Conclusion: Has the gravity of Jesus sunk into your heart? Are you prepared fo eternity?

So what are you going to do with Jesus? You have to decide. You have to give a verdict. Is he the Lord, and have you surrendered your all to him? Have you believed his message, which is that you are hopelessly lost with him, eternally lost, and that he came to do a saving work for you that you could never do on your own? That he paid a debt for you through his life and death that you must have if you are going to enter eternity with God?

If you’ve never made that decision, I invite you to make it now. • And to show it through baptism. Again: o Public profession: outward symbol. o We have everything that you need. o My friends are here. I was baptized as a baby. The Bible always presents baptism as something you do after you choose to believe in Jesus. It’s a profession of your faith. Thank God for your parents faith! (They’ll be offended). Dozens of you will come: some who have trusted Christ a long time ago but never been baptized, some who have trusted Christ recently, in this series perhaps, and never been baptized, and some who have trusted Christ today. Last time we had whole families come. Dads saying, ”We’ve never been baptized, and the whole family is going to do it today. We’ve got clothes for all of you. It’s a special time, come on. Whomever you are, just come as soon as we stand to worship. Don’t delay.

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About The Author

J.D. Greear, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, is the pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011) and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013). Two main things characterize The Summit Church: its gospel focus and sending culture. The gospel is not merely the diving board off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity, it's also the pool itself. Joy, reckless generosity, and audacious faith all come by learning more about God's extravagant love found in Christ. God has blessed the Summit Church with tremendous growth. Under J.D.'s leadership, the Summit has grown from a plateaued church of 300 to one of more than 10,000, making it one of Outreach magazine’s “top 25 fastest-growing churches in America” for several years running. J.D. has also led the Summit to further the kingdom of God by pursuing a bold vision to plant one thousand new churches by the year 2050. In the last ten years, the church has sent out more than 300 people to serve on church planting teams, both domestically and internationally. J.D. completed his Ph.D. in Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is also a faculty member, writing on the correlations between early church presentations of the gospel and Islamic theology. Having lived serving among Muslims, he has a burden to see them, as well as every nation on earth, come to know and love the salvation of God in Christ. He and his beautiful wife Veronica live in Raleigh, NC and are raising four ridiculously cute kids: Kharis, Alethia, Ryah, and Adon.

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