The power of naming Himself the “I am” of Exodus 3:14 (18:6) saved the woman at the well (Jo. 4:25-29) but hard-ened these men, an example of IICorinthians 2:15,16. Re-member, “I am” was the gospel they had to believe to be saved (John 20:31). How hard were their hearts? After His name knocked them down, they still wanted to arrest Him (18:7), calling Him Jesus “of Nazareth,” the name of that despised city (John 1:45,46). That tell you anything about the hardness of men’s hearts if they don’t want to believe?
If not, consider that despite what the Roman soldiers saw at the Lord’s resurrection (Mt.28:2-4), they still took a bribe and forget it ever happened (Mt.28:11-15). If that doesn’t tell you anything about the hardness of the Christ-rejecter’s heart, consider that in the Tribulation they will know that God is sending the judgments, yet they will still refuse to submit to Him (Rev.16:9). The point? If you are vexing yourself because a friend or loved one won’t believe, keep trying, but don’t let it rob you of joy in life. Some men will just refuse to believe, no matter what you do or say.
Is John 18:8 a picture of the doctrine of substitution? The Lord was willing to let Himself be arrested and killed so sinners like the disciples (and us) can go free. On the surface it appears not, since the ransom was paid to these arresting officers, not to God to satisfy the righteous demands of His holiness. But the soldiers were following the orders of a God-ordained government, and the Lord believed in obeying the government.
At the cross, the Lord was being rightly “chastised” (Isa.53: 5), which is what you do to children when they are bad (Heb. 12:6-8). It’s what God said He’d do to Israel when they were bad (Lev.26:28). Of course, God chastened Christ be-cause we were bad. When Israel was bad, God chastened them (Jer.30:14) by letting Nebuchadnezzar conquer them. God called him “My servant” for doing this (Jer.25:9), and called the Assyrian “the rod of Mine anger” (Isa.10:5). They were nothing more than chastening tools in God’s hands—and so were the men who came to arrest the Lord. God chastised Him on the cross through them. So the Lord chose not to rebel against them, just as Israel was told to submit to chastening. They were told to “go forth” to it (Jer.38:2) just as the Lord did (John 18:4).
What the Lord was doing was setting an example for the Jews who were heading into the Tribulation that would have come if the dispensation of grace hadn’t interrupted God’s prophetic program (I Peter 2:13-15). The Jews did evil and earned the Tribulation, and so were told not to resist it, as the Lord didn’t resist His (I Pet.2:21-23).
He committed Himself “to Him that judgeth righteously” (v.23). The Father righteously judged Him for our sins. When Judas came with the mob to arrest the Lord, they were carrying out the righteous judgment of God, so He didn’t resist. When Antichrist shows up to persecute the saints, he’ll be carrying out the righteous judgment of God on Israel’s sins, so they are told not to resist.
If you’re thinking, “Tribulation Jews didn’t earn the chastening,” remember the Lord was going to hold His generation responsible for all past sins (Mt.23:35,36) because they had more light on God than any previous generation. Well, that will be true of Tribulation Jews! They’ll have the completed Bible, so God will hold them responsible, and they’d better not resist the chastening.
But it wasn’t time for the disciples to be chastened, it was time for the Lord’s chastening, so He begged their release. They couldn’t follow Him in death (John 13:36,37) at that time for He was dying for their sins, something He as their high priest had to do alone (Lev.16:17). Later in the Tribulation they can die with Him (Mt.20:23 cf. Lu.12:50).
He begged their release to deliver them eternally (John 18:9). If they were arrested at that time they might have denied Him. This is a picture of how true, saved believers will be spared persecution in the Tribulation (Rev.3:10; IIPe.2:9). The Lord taught them to pray to be delivered from the temptation to quit on the Lord (Mt.6:13; 26:41) to pray in accord with the revealed will of God.