February 25, 2019
By Tom Oostdyk
John 18:19-24 records the story. Jesus stands on trial before the Jewish leaders. He is questioned, and He defends His actions. Eventually, one of the temple guards slaps Him. Jesus continues His defense: “If I have spoken wrongly,” Jesus answered him, “give evidence about that wrong. But if rightly, why do you hit me?”
This is the same King Jesus that gave the instruction to turn the other cheek in His “Sermon on the Mount” we have been studying. So why did He resist the temple guard in His trial, but encourage His disciples to turn the other cheek?
Recall the context. The Jewish leaders were breaking their laws for trying a criminal. They arrested and tried Jesus at night and lacked the witnesses needed to effectively corroborate the charges against Him. Jesus has said nothing wrong or disrespectful and yet He is struck. He is an innocent man—without sin.
This time Jesus did not turn the other cheek. Instead, He presses the Jewish leaders to own the reality: they were about to murder the innocent, perfect Son of God.
What are we to conclude based on these two apparently contradictory situations?
While Jesus does call His followers to radical denial of their rights, there are times when Christians need to insist on their rights. We insist on our rights, not to advance our personal honor, settle scores, or set the record straight, but if it will bring God the most glory, best advance the gospel cause, or if it is the greatest way to love others.
This requires great wisdom, discerned in the context of faithful Christian friendships.
1 Peter 2:21-25 provides the motivation:
21 For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.
22 He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth; 23 when He was insulted, He did not insult in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself to the one who judges justly.
24 He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Join me in praying for a life marked by radical self-denial and radical love of enemy for the sake of King Jesus and His glorious gospel.