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Lesson 12: Jesus Lays Down His Life for His Friends *

Introduction: This week we turn our study to the last hours of Jesus' life here on earth. It was Satan's last opportunity to win the battle between good and evil. The full forces of his demonic efforts were turned on Jesus. How Jesus withstood these forces encourages and guides us in dealing with problems in our lives. More importantly, contemplating what Jesus suffered for us reveals His incredible love and care. The Passion of The Christ is in theaters in the United States right now. If you have not already seen that film, you should do so as part of your study of this week's events. Meanwhile, let's turn to the Bible to see how John reports the story!

  1. Friends

    1. When you are under extreme pressure, to whom do you turn?

      1. How important are your friends in times of trouble?

    2. Read John 18:1-3. Your "friend" meets you in a dark place. He has with him soldiers who have lights and weapons. He might have in mind arresting you. Perhaps he will have you killed. How do you react?

      1. What is your feeling about friends who betray your trust for money?

      2. What if that betrayal could get you killed?

      3. Does it make a difference if you did not trust the betrayer very much in the first place?

    3. Let's role the clock back a few hours. Read Matthew 26:36-38. What was Jesus asking of His friends?

    4. Read Matthew 26:39-41. How would you react in this situation if you were Jesus?

      1. What does Jesus' statement, "The spirit is willing, but the body is weak," tell us about His attitude towards being let down by His friends? (He is making excuses for them.)

    5. Jesus then goes away to pray for a second time. Let's read Matthew 26:42-43. How would you react if your friends twice let you down in the time of your great need?

    6. Read Matthew 26:44-45. For a third time Jesus' closest friends let Him down. Would you abandon the "mission" at this point if you were Jesus?

      1. Who is not letting Jesus down? (He keeps going back to pray to His Father in Heaven.)

      2. Verse 44 tells us that Jesus prayed the same thing He prayed in verse 42. Let's look at that prayer again. Is Jesus looking forward to His future in the next hours?

        1. What kind of attitude does Jesus have?

    7. Read John 18:4-5. Jesus is betrayed by Judas. His closest friends are unable or unwilling to support Him. For whose benefit was Jesus about to killed?

      1. When your friends turn against you or simply do not seem to care, do you help them?

        1. What is your attitude towards Jesus' disciples right now?

          1. Are we like them when others in our church are suffering terrible problems? Is it just easier to sleep?

      2. Why does John mention to us in verse 4 that Jesus knew "all that was going to happen to Him?" (Because John wants us to know that Jesus was not misled. He made a conscious decision to suffer for us. Jesus did not want to suffer. Yet He went on with it despite what was going on with His "friends.")

    8. Read John 18:7-8. Who is uppermost in the mind of Jesus? (Those "lazy, sleepy, no-account" helpers of His. His first thought is to save them!)

      1. Rate the level of Jesus' courage? (He says, "take Me, leave them alone.")

    9. Read John 18:10-11. Peter wakes up! Why was Peter sleeping in the garden yet on the attack now?

      1. Was Peter's late entry on the scene of action helping Jesus? (No. Our lesson points out that John 18:36 shows that Peter might have actually created a problem for Jesus.)

      2. Compare what Jesus said to Peter in verse 11 with His prayer in Matthew 26:42. What has happened? (Jesus now understands that this cup cannot be taken away from Him. He has determined to push ahead with God's plan.)

    10. Read John 18:15-16. Put yourself in Peter's place. What is he trying to do? Is he trying to help Jesus?

      1. Should Peter have just run away? Why hang around?

      2. We have an unnamed disciple who has friends in high places. Why would the High Priest, who despised Jesus, want to let in one of His disciples? (Two possibilities. One is that the High Priest wanted Jesus' disciple to see what was going on and thus see Jesus is a fraud. Second, is that this person was powerful enough to be entitled to enter regardless of the views of the High Priest.)

      3. Under what circumstances could this disciple even be acquainted with the High Priest? (Most commonly it is believed that the unnamed disciple is John. However, Jesus had powerful disciples in Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. These were men who had enough personal authority to be able to enter.)

    11. Read John 18:17, 25-27. Why did Peter, who was earlier willing to fight, now deny Jesus? (When Peter thought they were all together in the fight, he pulled his sword. When he is alone, he collapses under the pressure. Compare Peter with Jesus on these facts. Our goal is to stand even when our friends let us down.)

      1. Notice this is a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off. Why not say, "Hey, I cut your cousin's ear, with you it will be your throat!" (The problem was that Peter did not think Jesus was going to give Himself up. Now that Jesus had allowed himself to be captured, Peter's life was turned upside down. He no longer had his "support group.")

      2. What kind of attitude do you think Jesus had about Peter's denial? (Jesus had predicted this in John 13:37-38. I think Jesus understands Peter, but Peter is not understanding Jesus.)

  2. Enemies

    1. Read John 18:19-22. What legal argument is Jesus making? (My understanding is that Jewish law was similar to American law in this respect: a person accused of a crime was not required to testify against himself. Jesus is making a legal objection!)

      1. What does Jesus get for making a proper legal objection?

      2. Have you ever had someone who was inferior to you in terms of physical power or social status slap you in the face?

      3. If so, what was your reaction?

      4. What is special about being hit in the face? (Being hit on the head is especially annoying and insulting.)

    2. Read John 18:23. Did Jesus believe He was unjustly slapped?

    3. Jesus is sent to Pilate, the Roman Governor. Read John 18:38-40. Given Pilate's determination of the criminal charges, what should have happened to Jesus? (Pilate says Jesus is innocent. He should have been released.)

      1. What kind of a person was Barabbas? (He was an enemy of Rome. He had been part of a rebellion.)

      2. What are your feelings at this point if you are Jesus? (You are judged to be innocent. You have been abused in the trial. And now they release a real enemy of the state instead of you.)

    4. Read John 19:1-3. What do you find to be special about this abuse? (John notes that Jesus is again struck in the face. The crown of thorns is not only painful, but when the purple robe is added you can see that the people are making fun of Jesus.)

      1. Have you ever had someone who was inferior to you in social status make fun of you?

        1. If so, what was your reaction?

        2. What if you are teased about being stupid when the truth is you are a lot smarter than the person making fun of you? (That is Jesus' situation. They are making fun of His "king" status when He really is "The King." He could have destroyed them in an instant.)

        3. How do you feel if you are doing a favor for the people who are making fun of you?

    5. Read John 19:16-18. What is your reaction when the people you are trying to help physically hurt you?

    6. Let's put this picture together. Jesus is the Creator. Humans are nothing compared to Him. His friends let Him down, His enemies hit Him in the face, make fun of Him and then kill Him - all because He is doing them a favor. Are the people Jesus is helping worthy of His help?

      1. If the roles were reversed and you were Jesus, would you continue to go through with this?

    7. Friend, if you are sometimes tempted to think that Jesus is not being fair with you, consider what we have just studied. Jesus' love, faithfulness and determination is beyond our imagination. He is far more than simply fair to us. Will you respond with love to the One who first loved you?

  3. Next week: The Power of the Resurrection.
* Copr. 2004, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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