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John 18:1-18 NIVUK

1 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. 4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’ 5 ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘I am he,’ Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they said. 8 Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.’ 9 This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: ‘I have not lost one of those you gave me.’ 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’ 12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people. 15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant-girl on duty there and brought Peter in. 17 ‘You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?’ she asked Peter.He replied, ‘I am not.’ 18 It was cold, and the servants and officials stood round a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.


Familiarity – Breeds contempt – extensive knowledge of or close association with someone or something leads to a loss of respect for them or it. Might sound a bit harsh, what do you think? We all experience it in some form or another from time to time…. It might be within the context of our home. Bored with what we are looking at and decide to change it. It may be a little change, paint the walls, or a huge change i.e. knock some walls down or even, go the whole hog and move house. I wonder if the same could be said about our relationships or our jobs. The contempt may not be hugely defining but we still may be tempted to change things. Some of us may be able to think about other areas of our lives where familiarity causes us to be a little less enthusiastic, and dare I say it, even with CHURCH?

For society, Easter and today in particular, Good Friday, are familiarities that may be, well, maybe they do not invoke contempt per se but the knowledge and following of them is not how we experience it.

Their familiarity is in Easter Eggs, the bunny and the associated paraphernalia. Even to the extent of insisting on having roast lamb. I’ve experienced someone of no faith at all, none, get shirty with me when I suggested they didn’t actually need to have Lamb at Easter. “Nowt as strange as folk”

In a way, society’s contempt in the face of their familiarity with a view of Easter and Good Friday especially, is they do not see it as a religious adherence or, they don’t know they do what they do, because of a pagan festival. They may not realise it but the fact that our word “Easter” has been appropriated from the pagan word for the spring goddess Eostre “OOSTRA” is of no consequence to them. It’s simply just about the chocolate and the extra days off. Could be the same for us?

But familiarity might even mean that we as christians are susceptible to contempt. However, what this familiarity does not mean is, there is nothing to learn. That there is nothing new that may come out of this day. And if we read the verses again we see, the disciples and Jesus have just spent time together, doing what they would have done so many times in the past, at the Last Supper. The moment of celebration of God’s salvation for the people of Israel from Pharaohs Egypt. This would have been pretty familiar to them. I mean they had been doing it the same way for quite a while now. But today everything changed. This Friday nothing was as it had been.

Familiar difference

Jesus and disciples came from a familiar place. The meal they had shared was something they knew all about. As children they would have shared the very same thing year in and year out. They would have been a part of it, learned their history through it and known why they were participating in this celebration. Does that sound…dare I say rather familiar? Years of doing the same over and over again? However now, there must have been a bit of the unfamiliar when Jesus began to speak of a new covenant, his body and his blood. An experience, familiar, but now beginning to feel a little different. Their expectations would have been, we are going to do something we have done so many times before. We will do what is normal, expected and we know what it’s all about, we know what to say and do… But they were about to learn something new. Something that would change their lives forever.

And the different in the familiar was going to continue… let’s read some more verses.

v 1-2a When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.

2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.

Now we know the outcome here. We know the circumstances that are about to unfold but listen to the words again.

v 1-2a When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.

2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.

In the very place where they were at ease. The place where they expect rest, safety, to be themselves. In a place where nothing would disturb them something was about to happen.

GOD IN THE FAMILIAR was about to change things? Now you might wonder well wasn’t it Judas, the guards, the authorities that were doing the changing. And to look at it being blind to faith and God’s spirit, you would not see it any other way. “The little guy gets stuffed by the man” or “wrong place wrong time” but that is the ignorance of familiarity, without faith. Knowing the story without really knowing.

However can we also be blind at times? Over familiar with the normal, the expected. Can we not see God in the familiar, our familiar at Home, work, on our street, in our relationships, within church.

Not see what the Holy Spirit is doing in our family, friends, colleagues, within HG’s. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic a situation or end point, but it still doesn’t mean nothing can or will happen in the familiarity of our lives.

Today tells us that… this is exactly what can happen. Something different… in the familiar and that difference…. is God.

Different familiar

We’ve had a familiar difference. How about a different familiar? Peter is the archetypal human in most of the New Testament. He gets a bad press but for a reason. I like him because he is very, very, very normal – and dare I say very familiar? I can recognise myself in him, you may identify with another disciple but Peter is a lesson for all of us in the vagaries of our very human reactions and emotions.

How does Peter respond to this difference in the familiar? How does he react to what is now not what he expected. Does he do the same as Jesus? Does he rest in the knowledge that God is in this unusual event they’re experiencing at the end of an interesting day – Well of course not. Don’t be silly Peter is well, just Peter. v10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, (what he was doing with a sword is for another time) drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear.

This is not an unfamiliar place for Peter. Already been here hasn’t he – we heard a few weeks ago in Mark 8 where Jesus informs the disciples that He must die and… Peter does what he does best and is not dissimilar to these events. Peter intervenes and with his human understanding makes a mess of it. “Get behind me satan” is the thanks he gets. Peter can’t do the difference God makes in the familiar so he reacts as many of us might do. Fear, misunderstanding, emotionally …you fill in the rest.

But fear, not our hope, in any unfamiliar place is not in ourselves or our reaction but in God’s difference in the unfamiliar. God uses his wisdom, strength and understanding to do something about the unfamiliar of what’s happening.

1 Corinthians 1:27 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.


Isaiah 55:8-9
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Peter is confused and uncomfortable. First he lashes out at the unfamiliar and makes a very human play to stop it all from happening. He thinks if he rails against, fights the change, it will stop and go back to normal again. Back to the way it was, or the way he expects. Peter thinks that what he believes is right is what is right and he is going to use the means he has to prevent the difference and go back to the familiar.

We know we do this. It may not be to the degree of raising arms against anyone and lopping off a body part. But, just in case, if you do own something sharp and pointy I’ll like to know. We don’t like change too much. We’re not comfortable with the difference are we? Think about the last thing in church that made you upset. The last thing that made you angry? I want to ask if that was because something was different, unexpected? It might not have been but if it was I wonder if it really wasn’t about the difference but about the fear of the unfamiliar?

Good Friday is the unfamiliar. It is the difference in the midst of the expected. It should never breed contempt in us. Never be expected to be something we just do… just because this is what we do it. The last supper was a “ we just do it” situation for the disciples. The garden rest was something they knew all too well. Yet the unfamiliar was about to happen.

Creatures of habit

This sums up Good Friday for me… the difference between what we might think is normal, expected, right and proper and what God does in the face of our fear of the familiar not being as familiar as we want it to be.

Creatures of habit are we. The habit of avoiding what is in front of our eyes so we don’t have to change the safety of our comfortable. Our usual. Those easy things that we insist should always be. The only thing about Good Friday that never changes is God himself. Each year we celebrate something that was in fact very very different but is always strangely familiar.

Familiar – An old, trusted and normal celebration… Different – A new covenant with us
Familiar – Our reaction to change – Different – Jesus’ obedience to God in that change
Familiar – God’s love shown towards humankind… Different – God beaten, abused and dying on the cross.

Our expectations are to have the same again. We might look out for that familiar every time. But Good Friday is about God doing something unexpected and very different. About God’s love being shown in a real, raw and meaningful way.

Good Friday is about what the world does not know or understand, as they take their extra days off and say thank you… As they collect as many easter eggs as they can and scoff away, as they celebrate in ignorance of the truly amazing difference God can make to their lives.

At the moment none of us can do it as it’s always been. We are forced to face a Good Friday that is unfamiliar. We cannot avoid this difference but it’s the unforced need for the familiar when we do return, which will make what we expect from God very very different indeed.