John 18 is filled with incredible courage and sickening cowardice. This chapter of scripture contains testimonies about Jesus from a variety of people. Spend a few minutes reading John chapter 18 and look for these examples of courage and cowardice. As you are reading reflect on the motivations that directed each person’s testimony.
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.
Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 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.
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.
Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”
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.)
Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.
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, 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.
“You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.
He replied, “I am not.”
It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”
When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.
“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”
He denied it, saying, “I am not.”
One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.
When we as Christians move through our daily lives we are presented with opportunities to give testimony about Jesus. We can offer a courageous or cowardly testimony. Judas betrays Jesus and shows us a testimony of cowardice. Peter immediately steps up with courage (though misguided) and wants to defend Jesus by taking on a whole Roman detachment of trained soldiers with what was probably a fishing knife! What courage he has! Unfortunately, his courage is short-lived… that same night he responds with cowardice three times as people question him about his connection to Jesus. After his third denial a rooster crows and Peter flees, full of sorrow and tears (Luke 22:62).
How can we respond with courage, not cowardice, when we are faced with opportunities to testify about Jesus? Peter was empowered in his initial testimony because of Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ power, and the community of disciples that he was surrounded by. Later in Peter’s story his courage isn’t in misguided actions, but in powerful testimonies about Jesus. In his three denials he was alone, he was scared, and he wanted to hide because of the weight of the possible consequences that might come if he spoke the truth about Jesus.
When we are close to Jesus, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us, and being encouraged by a close community of Christians we are much more likely to speak out courageously! One of the big reasons that our vision at Venture includes everyone being In Community is so that we can be encouraging each other to be bold and courageous as we move through our daily lives. If you are not In Community, click here, join one of the various groups and be encouraged. For those of you who are already in a group, I would encourage you to be open and vulnerable in your group so that you can be courageous in your testimony this week.