It is interesting that John, the Gospel writer, chose to sandwich the trial of Jesus (John 18:19-24) between Peter’s first and subsequent denials of Jesus. So, even as Jesus appeared before Annas the High Priest, Peter had already denied him. Before that, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas had already betrayed Jesus, despite having been Jesus’ close companion for three years. Even as Jesus was arrested, all his disciples ran away. After investing three years of his life in them, Jesus finds none of his followers faithful to him. There he was the most powerful person in creation and yet here he had no support. What aggravated the situation even more was the fact that he was being tried on unjust charges. What would you and I do if we in Jesus’ unfair position? When life is not fair, we do everything in our power to make it fair for us. At that moment, Jesus could have showed his power and called down ten legions of angels to defend himself but he did not. If he had defended himself, we will have to agree that he was justified in doing so. However, had he done so, we would still be lost in our sins. If he did not shed his blood on the cross, salvation would still be out of our reach and we would still face an eternity in Hell.
What we have here is a wonderful picture of the kind of grace and mercy that God extends to us sinners. Although Jesus was equal to God the father, he did not cling to his rights to defend himself from humiliation, shame and death. Instead, he willingly embraced his destiny because only then could all of us be reconciled with God. One commentator described love as a whole-hearted commitment to the other person’s welfare and well-being. I am sure many people have met a guy or girl who made them feel all warm and nice as they keep each other company. But what we see is that, to Jesus, love was more than a fuzzy-wuzzy warm feeling kindling in one’s heart. It was a commitment to ensure that we would go to Heaven whatever it cost him to ensure that. The world says “love your neighbours but hate your enemies” but Jesus says, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). The world says “do to others what they do to you”. So, if others hurt us it is justified for us to hurt them back. However, Jesus says “do unto others what you want them to do to you.” So if we want to be loved, we must go out and love others first. If we want people to forgive us, let us learn to forgive others first. That is why, in the Bible, we will find many instances where it teaches us, “do not be overcome by evil, instead overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21), “do not repay evil for evil and insult for insult, but with blessing…” (1 Pet 3:9). Jesus did not just teach these things to his disciples and ordered them to follow his teachings, as the world often does. Instead, he lived out his teachings as John 18 shows us.
Therefore, the question posed to us is how much are we like our Master, who gave his life for us? Do we love only those who love us? Do we care for the well-being of only those important to us? Do we only forgive those who we deem ‘worthy’ of our forgiveness? Or do we want to be like Jesus, extending grace and mercy to all who come across our path.