Each year as I prepare for Easter I seek to explore some nuance in the story that perhaps I have previously overlooked, so that both the significance and the magnificence of God’s plan remains fresh and renewed for my optimal appreciation. I’m convinced that when you ask for enlightenment, you always find something in scriptures you glossed over before without little thought. This week in our study on the Gospel of John, I saw it. It was simply stated, and yet profound. In fact the whole of the Easter Passion hinges on this often overlooked recording left for us by John.
When you study the Book of John you will see that he strives to portray the importance of the Divinity of Christ. From the very first verse John makes clear that Jesus was in the beginning, that He is the Word, and continues to point out through Jesus’ own quotes that Jesus and God His Father are one. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”, he says. Throughout his ministry he drops constant signs and hints that he is indeed sent by the Father with all power to heal, deliver, and even raise the dead to life. Even his critics among the Pharisees could not deny his miracles. They simply overlooked them because they valued their position as religious leaders above reverence and aknowledgment for what was going on right before their eyes. All this leads to this profound nugget recorded in John chapter 13. We are all aware of the story. It happens at the Last Supper as Jesus washes the feet of his disciples in an act of true exempalry servantude. Just before this act, John records for us what Jesus was thinking, thus my previously overlooked passage too profound to ignore, in verse 3:
“Jesus knew that the Father had put ALL Things under His Power…”
We know and are taught that Jesus was a willing servant. Isaiah describes him as a lamb being led away for slaughter, yet without protest. We sing songs about how he could have called down Heaven, but I for one, failed to entirely grasp the internal struggle taking place betwen God of the universe and God the flesh. It is indeed dificult for us to reconcile that the creator of all things could be so easily taken captive for a cruel punishment and crucifixion. But throughout the whole process, Jesus, God incarnate, retained ALL his power, and at any time could have simply stopped the process, the abuse, the humiliation, with a single word or thought. In his sovereignty Jesus knew the planned hour had come. Jesus knew Judas was about to betray him. Jesus knew the disciples would scatter in fear. Jesus knew Peter would deny him on three occasions. Jesus never stopped being all-knowing, all-powerful God.
Would you like further proof? Back in Exodus when Moses appears before God to learn that he has been chosen to rescue the children of Israel from the hands of Pharoh, Moses asks God, “Whom shall I say has sent me (that they will believe me)?”. God responds, “tell them I Am sends you”, the I Am of the burning bush, the I Am off the Red Sea, the I Am of the Ten Commandments. Observe what happens when the temple guard comes to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gesthemanie-John, in attempting to point our the divinity of Christ, is the only Gospel writer who records this event, found in chapter 18. When the arresting officers ask if he is the Jesus of Nazareth they are seeking, Jesus replies, “I Am“. At those two uttered words, I Am, the Old Testament name of the most high God, all who were present fell to the ground! In that moment, it is God reminding us that He is in complete control of everything going on, that he is not defensseless, that at any time he could have slain them all. We know this in part because they ask him again, once they regain their senses, if he is Jesus, and Jesus replies again, I Am, but as Jesus the Lamb, and no one is knocked off their feet after the second revelation.
Earlier in John 10, Jesus, referring to his life and sacrifice, says, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the authority (all power) to lay it down and take it back up again”. Again, in his sovereignty, in his knowledge of human anatomy which he designed along with all pain and neurological receptors, he knew what he was about to endure on our behalf, and still he willingly went to the cross, not as a defenseless servant with no recourse, but as the omnipotent God of the Universe, with all power and authority. That, for me, is the Easter story in a nutshell.