In the following article you will find a brief commentary on John 18-21 that goes along with our Riverside Church Two Year Bible Reading Plan (Volume 1 & Volume 2). This plan will allow you to read the New Testament and Psalms once every year and the Old Testament once every two years.
The Mercy of God
We’ve just concluded the Farewell Discourse, and now the Passion account. Of course, the story of Jesus’ death in our place is the great story of God’s mercy for sinners deserving judgment. The wrath against our sin was placed upon Jesus, and his righteousness is placed upon believing sinners. Amazing grace!
The glory of God, from our human perspective, shines brightest at the point of his mercy. We see in his radical demonstrations of mercy the brilliance of his glory. And in these chapters, there are a number of displays of mercy in addition to the larger expression of the cross itself.
First, the chapters begin with Peter denying Jesus three times. The sequence of events is familiar: Peter’s boisterous and vehement promises of faithfulness (13:37), the prediction of denial (13:38), denial three times, the nature of the denials themselves as emphatic denial and disassociation, all followed by and sealed with the sign of the rooster crowing. As painful and disgraceful as it all is, the forgiveness and three-fold restoration recorded at the end of these chapters is equally and more glorious. The mercy of God meets and trumps our sin. His love is greater than our greatest failures.
Second, the healing of the guard’s ear is one of the details we are prone to pass over quickly. Nonetheless, it is another glorious point of mercy. Here is a man that is a part of a system that will corruptly condemn, persecute, torture and execute our Lord. And in that inaugural moment Jesus shows his love and mercy in healing the guard’s ear. Peter cuts it off in zeal; Jesus mercy overrides Peter’s misplaced zeal. And John, just to remind us that every person matters, provides for us the name of the guard, Malchus.
What a contrast. Peter’s zeal falsely promises loyalty to Jesus; that same zeal mutilates a man’s ear. Jesus dies to pay for our sin and to heal us in our brokenness, and Peter becomes a trophy of God’s grace. Amazing grace!