This week, our very own Pastor Tim Shutes illuminates our incredibly encouraging BIG IDEA: In the darkest hour, hope in Jesus. Why?? Because: (1.)Jesus willingly submitted to the Father and (2.) Jesus gave Himself up for you.

Citylight Manayunk | July 31, 2022 from Citylight Church on Vimeo.


Sermon Transcript



Good morning! For anyone who doesn’t know me, my name is Tim. If Citylight is your church home, I’m one of your pastors. My role this morning is a daunting one. We just read a passage from God’s written word to us. And preaching is one of the means God uses to help all of us — even the preacher – understand God’s word, and be changed by it. This is a spiritual event.


In light of that, let’s pray and ask God to open our ears to his word.


{ pray }


My wife Sarah will read a book even if there’s no action in it at all. I’ll be like “what are you reading?” and she’ll recount the name of a Pulitzer prize winning work or something and I’ll say “how is it?” and she’ll say “I don’t know, kind of slow, not much is going on yet” and I’ll look and she’s like ¾ the way through the book. I don’t understand that! I want to skip to the action..


Now if you’re reading the gospel of John, if you’re like me you might have been tempted to skip chapters 15-17, it’s a lot of dialog, not much action going on. Now of course if you did that, you’d miss some of the most rich teaching of Jesus there is, so I hope you’re more like Sarah!


In today’s passage though, we have action. The drama has been turned up. Betrayal. Accusation. Political intrigue. Injustice. Failure. Denial. A guy gets his ear chopped off. The action has picked up and we are headed toward the climax of the gospel.


Night has fallen, and everything is falling apart for this band of disciples. Jesus leads them to a familiar garden, a place of worship just at the base of the mount of olives. We know from the other gospel accounts that Jesus spent his time there in prayer pleading that the Lord would spare him from the moments about to come.


Into these intimate moments comes the betrayer. In a moment Jesus is arrested, Peter’s pulling out his sword, the disciples disperse in fear, and Jesus is bound and dragged to the High Priest’s house where a trial is attempted. There he’s followed by his lead-disciple – the one Jesus said would be the rock the church would be built upon – and that disciple lies three times, denying he ever knew Jesus. Jesus is then bound further and taken away to appear before the highest Jewish court and ultimately before the Roman governor where he would be sentenced to death by crucifixion.


It’s the beginning of the darkest hour, the trial, suffering and execution of Jesus, their beloved Rabbi, the doer of miracles, the promised savior of the world. How could it end like this?


How do you handle it when everything seems to be falling apart? The deal you’ve been working on for two years is falling through. Your marriage is stressed and starting to crack. Your finances have reached the breaking point. Your mental or physical health has taken a turn. You’re experiencing personal, spiritual or moral failure. You’re constantly burdened by a world that seems to be falling apart.


Today’s passage is good news for all of us when things are falling apart. For any of us facing a dark hour.


The big idea: In the darkest hour, hope in Jesus. Why?

  • Jesus willingly submitted to the Father
  • Jesus gave himself up for you


Jesus Willingly Submitted to the Father


When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”

(John 18:1–4 ESV)


Jesus and his disciples head out to a garden. Not just any garden, but a garden that had a lot of spiritual significance to Jesus. The Garden of Gethsemane, across the brook Kidron at the foot of the Mount of Olives – just on the outskirts of Jerusalem.


Jesus knows he’ll be betrayed tonight. How do know this? Well he’s already predicted it, but in case you forgot that by this point, John explicitly states it in verse 4


Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward.


Now if you knew someone was looking for you and wanted to come kill you, would you go somewhere familiar and expected? That’s right where Judas finds Jesus. Judas “also knew the place.”


They come for Jesus with lanterns. Maybe he’s going to be hiding. They come with swords and clubs and half an army.. maybe he’s going to spring an attack. As it turns out, Jesus steps right out and addresses them and says “Who do you seek?”


He knows everything that’s going to happen, but he doesn’t hide. He steps out and identifies himself. “Who do you seek?”


They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. (John 18:5–6 ESV)


Now I want to point out, not only did Jesus know everything that was about to happen, he had the power to stop it.


What could have possibly caused a band of Roman soldiers to fall down before a single unarmed man? They fall down when Jesus identifies himself. The ESV adds the pronoun to it, but the original Greek is simply “I am”.


This phrase is very interesting because it CAN and USUALLY does mean simply “I am he” or “it is I”. But if you know your Old Testament, you know that God’s name can also be formulated with the same two words: I am.


So is Jesus revealing that he is God here? Maybe! John repeats these words exactly three times in this passage. Jesus is God after all. This fact is not in question, the very first verse of this gospel states it as plain fact. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 ESV)


Jesus often speaks in a manner that allows for those who ‘have ears to hear’ to understand what he’s saying. What we know for sure is that Jesus could have easily stopped all that was about to happen. Two words and an entire army is stopped in their tracks. Another word and an angelic army with flaming swords could have come to his aid.


But he’s not here for conflict.


Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” (John 18:8–9 ESV)


In this dark hour, Jesus says “take me, let them go” This rag tag band of misfits had just been sleeping through the prayer time in the garden. Jesus tenderly gives himself up for them. This is what’s called foreshadowing. “Take me, not them.” Note that Peter is having nothing of this gesture. He chooses violence.


Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:10–11 ESV)


But Jesus is not here for violence. He’s here to submit to God the Father. “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” God has arranged these circumstances and now the Son of God walks in them willingly.


In the darkest hour, we can hope in Jesus because he willingly submits to the Father.


How does this apply to us? First an encouragement in your dark hour. Then a warning.


We should be encouraged by the willingness of Jesus to suffer. When you’re in a dark hour, remember that Jesus suffered willingly for your sake. When you’re suffering, remember that Jesus tenderly cares for his weak disciples. He knows all the dark hours you go through and he’s in them with you. Even if you feel like you let him down, he gives himself for you. He chose to give himself up even though he knew all things about you. He is every bit as willing today to receive you as he was then to give himself up for you. He shows us that we too can submit ourselves to the Father when we’re suffering, and understand and interpret our circumstances by his word and his grace.


Like the vast majority of you, my life has had its share of suffering. There are two acute moments for me. The first was early in my 20’s, my parents had recently divorced and I started out in ministry and pushed myself too hard in everything. I had an unexpected and weird physical health problem and then had severe anxiety set in. I was in a bit of a tailspin, I just didn’t know what was going on or how to stop it. The second was much more recent, after Clara my second oldest daughter (two at the time) passed out in a Trader Joes and appeared to not be breathing due to a Febrile Seizure – the anxiety returned.


The first season was short lived and ended somewhat miraculously when an elder and his wife at my church laid hands on me and prayed specifically for me. The second though was much more drawn out. 18 months of daily struggle. I honestly cannot tell you “how” to overcome so much as I can encourage you to endure. Christ knows what you’re going through. He’s in it with you. He suffered willingly for you.


Christ’s voluntary suffering gives us spiritual power to rejoice in our trials. This is why throughout history followers of Jesus have counted it as JOY to suffer, a means to greater identify with Jesus. When it’s all over, those with scars, the sufferers, those martyrs will say “what a joy to know my savior in his suffering.” “what a privilege to bear the same scars he bore”, to know him a little more intimately than I would without suffering, to know his comfort more deeply.


I pray when the dark hour comes, that you will know his comfort and know the joy of submitting to the Father as he submitted to the Father for your sake.


But before we move on, we have to talk about Judas.


The history of Judas is meant to be a warning to us.


Judas. Who is this man? We only know a few facts about him. He was a disciple. He as a thief. He rebuked the woman who poured out her expensive perfume on Jesus. He betrayed Jesus. He hanged himself afterward. That’s basically it.


But let’s analyze it a little so we don’t miss the warning.


Judas was a man of great spiritual privilege. How good it must have felt to be picked by Jesus to be one of the twelve. Set apart from others, hand picked out of the crowd. With Jesus he had the best teaching. He had the greatest spiritual experiences you could imagine. He saw things you wouldn’t believe with your own eyes.


I wonder if his soul panicked the first time he stole from the moneybag, but then how second nature it became over time. By the end how smoothly he rebuked the woman who poured out her expensive perfume for Jesus, not because he cared for the poor, but because he cared for money.


Now what has he done… he’s used his intimate knowledge of Jesus and his disciples to bring their enemies upon them. The slow slope in Judas’ life has led him to a moment where he had a deadly serious choice to make – align himself with the powers and principles of the world? Seek influence and power… be on the inside with the cultural movers and shakers, to be thought of as proper, cultured, reasonable, amenable, on the right side of history – or stand with Jesus.


Oh he played both sides – we know he greeted Jesus with a kiss. But when push came to shove and he had to choose, what was the price of his soul? 30 pieces of silver. Standing not with Jesus, but with his enemies.


What can we learn from Judas? I’m not going to lie – I used to think ‘not much’ – I mean like I understand I’m a sinner… but like – I’ll never be Judas right? This is the guy that Dante depicted sticking out of Satan’s mouth on the bottom rung of hell.


Hear me on this. Judas’ history is recorded as a warning. His story is meant to be a lesson.


JC Ryle writes, “From the highest degree of privilege down to the lowest depth of sin, there is but a succession of steps.”


It seems that moment by moment, misusing religious privilege seems to numb our conscience. We learn from Judas that religious advantage, religious knowledge, religious experience, proximity to leaders, all may be yours and yet you’re rotten to the core. You can bask, as Ryle says, “in the full sunshine of spiritual privileges” – and yet be found to bear no fruit, withering on the vine.


Paul Tripp says this not about Judas, but about you and me: “You see, the character of a life is not set in two or three dramatic moments, but in 10,000 little moments. The character that was formed in those little moments is what shapes how you respond to the big moments of life.”


Remember Judas when you’re tempted to be thoughtless in your spiritual life. Remember him when you allow even one sin to go unchecked in your heart. Love of money, fear of man, left unchecked, unrepented of, will ruin a professing Christian.


Nevertheless, we have hope because Jesus willingly submitted to the Father.

And second, because he gave himself up for you.


Jesus gave himself up for you


In the next scene Jesus is bound and dragged before Annas the High Priest and questioned. And John shows us, at the same time, Peter is being questioned. In these moments, John draws out a significant contrast between Jesus and Peter, meant for you and me.


John explains that Jesus was brought before the high priest – who was really like a patriarch of a high priestly family. His son in law Caiaphas is also high priest and Jesus would eventually face him at the Sanhedran.


Interestingly, just before John begins telling us about the questioning of Jesus and Peter, he recalls that:


It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. (John 18:14 ESV)


This is a huge clue for us about John’s meaning. This prophecy of Caiaphas is recorded earlier in John so we don’t have to guess about its context at all. John 11:49-52


But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11:49–52 ESV)


John is careful to let us know that Caiaphas did not say this of his own accord. He didn’t really get it. He spoke better than he knew. He thought – it would be expedient to let Jesus die to quell down the unrest and appease Rome. He’s willing to sacrifice Jesus to save his people.


John says Jesus would die for the nation, but not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.


Now he begins the narrative of Peter’s denial of Jesus with this reminder. Jesus is going to die not only for the nation of Israel, but for all of God’s people, to bring God’s scattered people into one family. He gave himself up for you.


Now with that in our minds, let’s read about the greatest failure of Jesus’ most prominent disciple.


Peter has one of the great bi polar swings in biblical history here. He’s swinging swords one moment, and cowering next to a fire lying because he’s afraid of a servant girl the next. He’s all over the place. He’s fighting this turn of events with all his heart. But he is just so off, he’s just missing it by so much.


Does that sound familiar at all?


I hope you see yourself in Peter in this passage. Peter is no Judas – he’s no enemy of Christ. Yet he fails spectacularly. He serves as a poignant contrast to the Lord.


Unlike Jesus, and a lot like you and me – Peter is not in complete control of his circumstances. Remember, Jesus renamed him from Simon to Peter because it means “rock”. How much do you think this guy was looking forward to being the rock that Jesus used to build his church? The problem was when it came to Jesus and his words, he had some selective memory.


Earlier this same evening, Jesus predicted Peter’s denial. “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times. (John 13:38)


John sandwiches the narrative of Peter’s denial of Jesus between the questioning of Jesus by the high priest. Why? So we can see both Jesus and Peter are being tested. Jesus speaks truth when questioned and denies nothing while Peter cowers before his questioners and denies everything. Jesus in our passage says “I am” three times. Peter three times says “I am not”.


This narrative is sad. Peter is a beloved disciple, one of Jesus most intimate friends. His denial highlights the suffering of Christ, showing how isolated Jesus was in his final hours.


We see here just how amazingly weak a follower of Jesus can be. Could things have been different for Peter? What if he wasn’t so self-confident? Or if instead of falling asleep he had watched and prayed with Jesus, or if in this moment he feared God more than man.


Peter shows us the futility of human efforts to turn our dark hour into light. First he tries violence. Then lying and manipulating. But he cannot control the events that are so spinning out of control and he cannot escape his own weakness and sin.


Let’s Apply This:


Are you stronger than the disciple Jesus called “the rock”? Am I? Would you have been awake in Gethsemane? Would I have boldly identified myself as his disciple? How do you respond if I suggest you and I are every bit as weak as Peter. Would you say “Surely not me?” that was Peter’s exact response when Jesus predicted his denial.


If you want to draw close to the truth of this passage, remember your great weakness apart from Christ. Elsewhere in scripture the Holy Spirit gives this encouragement to you and me:


let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12 ESV)

When you remember your weakness, you’ll be fit to understand the most important truth there is, the truth John reminds us of in the verse prior to Peter’s denial: Jesus gave himself up for you.




How does Jesus give himself up for you? How does all this suffering of Jesus help us in our weakness? How does Jesus’ death lead to God gathering up all of his scattered children?


Our passage begins with Jesus entering a garden. Our history also begins with a garden. Adam and Eve were placed in a garden and given the great dignity of tending it and caring for it. But they rebelled against God, were kicked out of the garden and sentenced to die. The long conflict filled, pain-filled sinful history of humanity began.


Jesus enters the garden, and like Adam and Eve, he was tested, but Jesus passes the test. He remains faithful to God. He willingly offers himself up to be dragged out of the garden and sentenced to death.


He drinks the cup God has prepared for him. What exactly is this cup? Jesus borrows the term from the prophet Jeremiah who describes God’s wrath against humanity’s sin as a cup filling with wine that God would one day make the nations drink. Jesus takes the cup of wrath prepared for you and prepared for me, and even though he doesn’t deserve it, he drinks it instead.


Look how he stands willingly before the high priest to be judged. This is the one the book of Hebrews refers to as the Great High Priest sacrificing himself for his people. Jesus submits himself before this mocking court knowing one day everyone in it will stand before HIS judgment seat awaiting their eternal sentence.


His death is imminent now, and it will accomplish nothing less than our salvation. Jesus walked into the garden on his way to undo the effects of the curse. He stood trial to be condemned to death, in our place, freeing us from the ultimate consequence of our sin by taking God’s cup – filled to the brim by our sin, by our failure… and drinking it in full himself until there was none left for us.


Oh Caiaphas was right! He did die for the people. For sinful, weak people like Peter, and like you and me. Our passage ends with the rooster crowing and we know this is not the last we’ll see of Peter. Along with Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial comes this great comforting thought. Jesus knew he would deny, and he still willingly drank the cup. He knew all of your sin. And he still drank the cup. He knew every failure, every weakness of yours. He still willingly drank the cup.


Hope in him, and you hope in the one who is still in complete control, yes even in our darkest hour. Hope in him, and you hope in a merciful high priest who sacrificed himself for you, even in your weakest hour. Hope in him and you give yourself to the only hope the world has, that God is still drawing all his estranged sons and daughters home and we’ll one day count all this suffering as joy.


Let’s pray.