Lesson 84: John 18:1-6 – Sanitation Symbolism

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

You're listening to Lesson 84 from the sermon series "The Gospel of John" by Pastor Ricky Kurth. When you're done, explore more sermons from this series.



The name “Cedron” (18:1) meant dark waters, suggesting that this brook was dark because it carried away the city’s sewage. That might explain why idols were tossed into it (IIKi.23:12;IIChr.30:14), to show contempt for these idols. This doesn’t sound like a brook you’d want to drink from, but the Lord may have drunk from it (Ps.110:1,7). If so, this was symbolic of the dark waters He’d have to drink from at the cross, a cup filled with the sins and idolatries of men.

The “garden” was Gethsemane (John 18:1). The Lord went here because in the past when His enemies tried to kill Him they feared the people who loved Him (Mt.21:46), so when He was ready to die, He left the people and made it easy for His enemies to arrest Him without fear of the people. “Gethsemane” means oil press, a reference to the press used to squeeze the life out of the olives that grew in this garden. As the Lord labored in prayer in this garden, the life was being squeezed out of Him (Lu.22:44 cf. Lev.17:11)

When David crossed this brook (IISam.15:22,23) he learned that a trusted friend had betrayed him (v.31), and at this same brook Judas, who had betrayed the Lord, came with his mob to arrest Him (Jo.18:2). The Lord knew that Judas knew He “ofttimes resorted thither” but didn’t avoid coming to the place, for He was ready to die. A Roman “band” (Jo.18:3) may have been six hundred men. All we know for sure is that it was “a great multitude” (Mt.26:47). He’d escaped them before (Jo.8:59; 12:36) and they were taking no chances that He might escape again. They came with torches (Jo.18:3) to find “the light of the world” (Jo.8:12).

The Lord knew “all things that should come upon Him” (Jo.18:4 cf. Mt.20:18,19, Luke 24:44; Ps.22:1-17), and not just about the physical pain (Isaiah 53:10). Yet not only did He not shy away from it, He “went forth” to meet Judas and the band (Jo.18:4). Adam hid himself in his garden, but if the Lord didn’t go forth to meet Judas, even 600 men couldn’t have taken Him (Jo.10:17,18). He didn’t shy away from wearing the crown of thorns, even though earlier He refused the crown of gold (John 6:15). He knew that Satan was the rightful king of the world, and so He couldn’t wear the crown of gold till He had paid for the right to rule the world.

When He asked who they were looking for, they didn’t say “you.” You see, they didn’t recognize the Lord even with torches, even with Judas as a guide. This is a picture of how men by nature can’t see the Lord without the gospel (IICor.4:3,4), for Judas didn’t believe the gospel.

This is similar to how in the Old Testament tabernacle, which had no windows, the presence of God in the ark could not be illuminated by natural light, but only by the light of the candlestick, a type of the Spirit.

“I am He” (Jo.18:5) was the Lord’s way of saying He was Jehovah (Ex.3:14; Deut.32:39; Isaiah 48:12). The power of this name drove His enemies backward (Jo.18:6). Any Jew seeing this would think of Psalm 35:4, a reference to Christ (v.11-19 cf. Mt.26:60; John 15:25). They would also think of Psalm 40:14, another reference to Christ (7-9), and Psalm 70:2,3, and would realize that He was their Christ. And don’t think the Jews didn’t hear about this incident. A “great multitude” of men can’t keep a secret!

Jews who saw the Lord’s enemies fall backward would also think of these descriptions of how whenever the nation of Israel sinned they too fell backward (Isaiah 1:4; 28:13; Jeremiah 7:24). This incident with the Lord is a type of Israel’s fall. If only there was some way their fall could have been avoided!

There was! The Lord died on Passover, which is always observed on the full moon. The moon is a type of the Old Testament (II Peter 1:19). If the Jews had sought the Lord by the light of the Old Testament, the light shining in a dark place, they would have found the Lord, for they testified of Him (John 5:39). They would have fallen on their face and worshipped Him. Instead they sought him by the natural light of torches and fell backward.

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