Sermon: John 18:1-12: Showdown In The Garden

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 2:4-9,15-17

“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil… [Verse 15] The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” (Genesis 2:4-9,15-17, ESV)

New Testament Reading: John 18:1-12

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?’ 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. So he asked them again, ‘Whom do you seek?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ 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.’ 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?’ So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him.” (John 18:1–12, ESV)

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8, ESV)


Whenever I read of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (I know it is not called Gethsemane here in John, but that is what it is) I cannot help but to think also of the first garden, and of the first man who was placed there. In my mind I begin to compare and contrast the two scenes, making note of the similarities and the differences, and I think it is right that we do so.

So what do the two gardens – Eden and Gethsemane – share in in common? On the most basic level it is important for us to recognize that both were a place of testing for men who served as federal heads, or covenantal representatives.

Adam was tested in Eden, was he not? And he was tested, not as an isolated individual, but as the representative of the Covenant of Works (or Life, or Creation – whatever term you prefer). His success meant success for others, and his failure meant failure for others. His God given mission was to work and to keep that garden paradise. That involved more than cultivating the ground and keeping the weeds out, mind you. His mission was to keep the garden from evil – to protect it from intruders who’s aim was to usurp the purposes of God. Adam was to abstain from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and to eat of the tree of life. These were the terms or conditions of the covent that God made with him. It was a works based covenant. Eternal life had to be earned. Had Adam kept the terms of the covenant he would have been confirmed in life. The Spirit would have ushered him into that state of glory – that state of eternal Sabbath rest which had been offered to him by his Maker. Failure meant the entrance of death for Adam and Eve and all who would descend from them. That test took place in Eden, the garden paradise of God.

Notice that Jesus was also tested in a garden. He too was tested, not as an isolated individual, but as the federal head, or representative, of a covenant – in this case the Covent of Grace. He is the mediator or servant of that covenant. And what were the terms or conditions of the Covent of Grace? Well, like the first Adam, Christ (whom Paul calls the second Adam) was to keep God’s law in perfection. This he did in his obedient life. He broke not a single commandment. He, unlike the first Adam, was obedient from beginning to end. More than that, he also accomplished the work that God gave him to do. The first Adam was to work and keep the garden paradise of God. Jesus Christ was also to work and keep all that God had given to him. His work was to reveal the Father and to accomplish redemption for those given to him by the Father. And it is these that he is to keep to the end so that they might enter into the glorified state – the eternal Sabbath rest – which was forfeited by the first Adam, but earned by the second, who is Jesus the Christ.

So we have two Adam’s being tested in two gardens, don’t we? There are indeed similarities between the two, wouldn’t you agree? And of course there are also many differences as well. In this brief sermon I would like to compare and contrast the two Adams and the two gardens as we work our way through John 18:1-12. The reason for the comparison is so that we might better understand the work that Christ has accomplished for us. It is good that we see his work – his obedient life and his sacrificial death – not as if it were an isolated, random, and spontaneous event – but an event which has meaning only as it is understood in the context of the full scope of human history, beginning with Adam in Eden and his breaking of the Covenant of Works. Indeed this story begins even before the fall with the eternal decree of God, but that is a story for another time.

Let us the consider Adam and Christ and their garden testings. Let us consider, first of all, the settings. Secondly, the temptations. And thirdly the results of all that transpired in Eden and in Gethsemane.

The Settings

First of all, let us consider the settings.

While it is true that both Adam and Christ experienced a time of testing in a garden, those gardens were substantially different from one another, weren’t they? The first Adam was placed within the garden paradise of God. Everything in it was good, indeed very good. Sin, suffering, and death were nowhere to be found in that garden, and Adam’s task was to keep it that way. Not only was the garden itself good, but Adam and Eve were also good. They were created in a state of innocency. They had the freedom and power to will and to do that which was good and well-pleasing to God, but they were unstable, so that they might fall from that state of innocency.  To put it another way, Adam had everything going for him. The conditions were perfect – the setting ideal. He was placed within that garden paradise of God free to obey and yet free to fall.

Now contrast that with Gethsemane. Gethsemane was indeed a garden. There was in that place a concentration of trees. And I do not doubt that it was a relatively tranquil place. But that is where the similarities stop. Eden was paradise, and it was surrounded by paradise. Gethsemane was surrounded by a world hostile to the things of God. It was but one small part of a fallen world. We should remember and not forget that Christ Jesus our Lord was obedient to God, not in paradise, but in this sin-sick world – a setting dominated by sin, and suffering, and death.

Remember that Jesus the Christ was born into this world in a lowly way. He was born to lowly and despised parents. His life was threatened from the beginning. He endured hostility and mistreatment from others from beginning to end.

And he suffered, did he not? He knew what is was to hunger and thirst. He knew the pain of betrayal. He wept over the loss of loved ones. He suffered in the flesh and was indeed a man of sorrows well acquainted with grief.

And remember that he endured constant temptation. Of course he was born of a virgin and was anointed with the Spirit beyond measure. And of course the divine nature supported and upheld the human nature so that he would not sin. But we should remember that the sufferings and temptations endured by Jesus Christ according to the human nature were real sufferings and real temptations. He endured them for you and for me.

So the first Adam lived in an ideal setting, living in the paradise of God, whereas the second Adam was born into a fallen and sin-sick world, hostile to the things of God, and yet he was God’s faithful servant to the end.

The Temptations 

Let us now turn our attention to the temptation of Adam and Christ so that we can compare the two.

They look different on the surface, don’t they? For Adam temptation came by way of the subtlety of the serpent. That ancient serpent, who is the devil, slithered into the garden of God in order to tempt the man to rebel.

In the scene presented here in John 18 we see Christ in Gethsemane. And the intruders take the form, not of a serpent, but as a band of soldiers with Judas in the lead. It was Judas who slithered into Gethsemane.

Though the scenes are vastly different, the temptation that came upon Adam in Eden and upon Christ in Gethsemane were essentially the same.

First of all, see that the same force was behind both temptations. The Evil One commandeered a serpent to temp Adam in Eden, but in Gethsemane it was Judas and the band of soldiers who were the servants of their father the devil.

Do you think this way of speaking is too harsh? Should we be more charitable towards Judas and those who opposed Jesus the Christ? Is it too much to say that they were servants of their father the devil?

We should remember the words of Jesus! Concerning his disciples he said,  “‘Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.’ He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.” (John 6:70–71, ESV) And concerning those who heard his word and yet remained in unbelief he said, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires…”” (John 8:44, ESV)

This is the way that Jesus spoke of them! He sees that men and women either have God as Father, or the devil. This corresponds to what has already been said about federal, or covenantal, headship. We either have Adam as our head, or Christ. We are born into Adam. We must be reborn into Christ. Correspondingly, we are born children of the Evil One. We must be reborn children of God.

And so see that the temptation endured by Christ came from the same source as the temptation which overran Adam. The Evil One inspired both. The first came by way of a serpent, the second by way of a band of soldiers lead by Judas.

Notice, secondly, that the substance of the temptation was essentially the same. The serpent tempted Eve, and through her, Adam, to abandon God’s plan for them. Adam was tempted to ignore God’s word, to distrust God’s word, and to go his own way. He was tempted to serve himself instead of the God who made him.

Was this not also the temptation that Christ endured according to his human nature? We know that he was tempted in this way in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry, and we see that the same temptation persisted to the very end.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us more about Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane. It is from their gospels that we learn that Jesus asked his disciples to pray for him, but they fell asleep. If is from their gospels that we learn of Jesus praying to the Father saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…” (Matthew 26:39, ESV) Does this not reveal that our Lord was tempted, according to his human nature, to abandon the mission given to him by the Father and to go his own way?Was he not tempted according to the flesh to serve himself instead of the God who made him?

But what did the Christ do? He, unlike the first Adam, withstood the temptation. He submitted to God’s will. He kept God’s commands, living, not for himself, but for the Father. He served, not himself, but the God who made him, praying, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39, ESV)

That same submission is communicated in John’s gospel embedded within Jesus’ words of rebuke towards Peter. Evidently Peter still thought that the Kingdom would be won with the sword, and so he drew his and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. And Jesus rebuked Peter, saying, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11, ESV)

The point is this, Jesus Christ, the second Adam, was obedient to the Father to the end. He was ready and willing to “drink the cup that the Father [had] given [him]” to the dregs. He maintained a posture of submission before God to the point of death. This is why we call him Savior and Lord.

Notice the way that John portrays Jesus in the garden. Mathew, Mark, and Luke give us more information than John – that has already been said. John refrains from mentioning certain aspects of the story which are found in the other three gospels. Why? It was probably because the stories contained in the the synoptic gospels were well known by the time John wrote his. He, therefore, is able to be more direct and concise in his presentation of the event. And what does he hone in upon as he writes in this concise way? He highlights Jesus’ firmness and resoluteness in the face of temptation. He is presented as the vigilant one. Jesus is found standing guard. He greets the intruders with power and force.

Look at verse 5. “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.” And what did Jesus do as they came? Did he run from them? Did he hide behind his disciples? No! He, “knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’” (John 18:4, ESV) Do you notice his boldness? Do you see how proactive and vigilant he was? This is quite the opposite of what we saw from the first Adam, isn’t it? Where was he when the serpent slithered into the garden and began to tempt Eve? He was absent. He was disengaged. Negligent. But Christ, the second and faithful Adam, “came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ They answered him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am he.’” (John 18:5, ESV)

By the way, notice where Judas is now. He is with the enemies of Christ. He is no longer identified as one of the twelve, but he is with the world now. It was finally made plain and evident that he was indeed “a devil” and “of his father the devil”. He was on the wrong side in the end. May it not be so of us.

Notice that Jesus demonstrated power and control over the situation. “When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, ‘Whom do you seek?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.’” (John 18:6–8, ESV) Jesus was not a helpless victim, but a conquering King. The way to victory involved the willing sacrifice of himself, and so he went in submission to the Fathers will. His life was not taken from him; he laid it down willingly.

Brothers and sisters, both Adam and Christ were tempted. Though the temptation took a different form, the same person was behind both temptations; and the substance was essentially the same.  Both Adam and Christ were tempted to turn from the love of God to the love of self. The first Adam succumbed to temptation, Christ, the second Adam, was victoriously. He obeyed God’s law to the end. He fulfilled God’s purpose for him. He willingly suffered to the death, drinking the cup that the Father had given him to drink.

The Results

Now that we have considered the settings and the temptations, let us now briefly consider the results of Adam’s rebellion and Christ’s obedience.

Put simply, the result of Adam’s failure was death. He entered into a state of death. His relationship with God was broken. He died spiritually, and physical death would eventually come. Notice that this was true, not only of Adam, but also for Eve and for all who were born to them, including you and me. We are born in sin, under the curse of the law, alienated from God, and by nature children of wrath. This was the result of Adam’s failure – death.

But notice the result of Christ’s victory. He laid ahold of life. The grave could not hold him. He defeated sin, and suffering, and death. He, because of his obedience to the Father, earned eternal life, not only for himself, but for all given to him by the Father.

Look at verse 8: “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)

Notice that Adam lost all whom he represented; Christ lost not a single one of all he represented. He kept all that the Father had given to him, whereas Adam forfeited all. In the immediate context, this refers to the original disciples. In the context of John 17, and of the rest of scripture, this has reference to all whom the Father has given to the Son – all of the elect in every age. He earned life for all those given to him by the Father. He indeed “[laid] down [his] life for the sheep.” (John 10:15, ESV)

Application And Conclusion

Now that we have compared the two gardens and the two men who were tested as federal heads, or covenantal representatives, in those gardens, let us now consider how these things apply to us.

Should we not first of all ask, do I have Adam as my representative, do I have Christ? You are either in Adam, under that broken Covenant of Works, which brings only death, or you are in Christ, under that confirmed and fulfilled Covenant of Grace, which is the New Covenant in Christ’s blood, which brings life. The truth is that you are in, or under, or counted to, one or the other. We are into Adam, and we must be born again into Christ. To have Christ has our representative, as Lord, as Savior, we must believe in him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV)

Furthermore, I cannot help not help but notice the three figures who come to the forward in this passage – Judas, Peter, and Jesus. The first two are a negative example to us, the third a good example.

Judas sold out for the world. He betrayed the Christ because he desired wealth and power, but he was on the wrong side in the end. When Christ spoke saying, “I am he”, Judas fell with the rest of the enemies of Christ. The eleven who remained – the eleven that Judas once walked with – were protected by Christ’s word. Is this not a picture of the final judgment when the wicked will be judged by Christ’s word, and the righteous pardoned? Let us be sure to be standing with Christ, and not against him; to be sheltered by Christ, and not the recipient of his condemning word. Let us not be like Judas.

Peter was one of the eleven but he still lacked understanding. He, at this point, failed to grasp that the Kingdom of God was not of this world. He was ready to fight, but with a sword. I can’t help but think that we make the same mistakes still today as we strive in this world according to the power of the flesh. But Christ compels us to trust in him and to go the way of a servant in this time between his first and second coming. Let us not be like Peter in this regard.

And as we consider Jesus are not moved to imitate him in his obedience to the Father? He was steadfast, faithful, resolute. He was not shaken by trial and tribulation. He was not moved by the temptation, but remained in submission to the will of God to the end. May our lives resemble his to the glory of God.

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