He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.
by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project
If you are looking for Jesus on the cross, you’ll not find Him there. He’s not in the grave, either. Your sin has been removed from your past, present, and future. The stone that has kept you in bondage has been rolled away. You have been raised up with Jesus through relationship with him. Leave the stench of the grave clothes of your past behind, and step out into the sweet aroma that is freedom into new life. He is right there with you; at the door of your soul. He has extended grace to you. Get up and walk into your new life experience. Soak yourself in it.
Have you ever considered what Jesus actually experienced in his body, mind, and spirit between the night of the last supper in the upper room with his friends and the morning of his resurrection?
Can you even begin to imagine what Jesus experienced emotionally and spiritually between those events at the end of his life as a human being? There is the moment of his betrayal. There is the moment when he prayed and sweat blood. There is that awkward moment when he caught the eye of Peter after he’d denied knowing Jesus for the third time. There was the flogging and blatant ridicule. There is the unfathomable torturous walk between Pilate’s court and Galgatha. There are his words while fixed to the cross. And there is the plea when he cries out to his Father. Of course just after he arose, there is the fond moment of his encounter with Mary, with whom he shared a bond. What Jesus must have been feeling in such experiences I cannot hardly begin to imagine. What was Jesus about to experience for those three days condemned in the heart of the earth?
There is yet another incredible significant and dramatic event rarely spoken of from John chapter 18 that deserves special attention. It falls in between Jesus praying in the garden and his arrest. It is awesome and yet perplexing to his friends at the scene.
What did it mean for Jesus? What significance does it bear for you and for me?
John 18 After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. 2 Judas, the betrayer, knew this place, because Jesus had often gone there with his disciples. 3 The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove.
4 Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked.
5 “Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied.
“I AM he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.) 6 As Jesus said “I AM he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground! John 18:1-6 (NLT)
Might it have looked a little like the following illustration?
“He’s the One.”
If you watched the illustration from The Matrix (above), then you know that Jesus did not submit to the temptation to devour and then run off the enemy, as I suppose he could have. The plan was for Jesus to stay the course, which meant he was to be seized by the enemy, willingly and obediently surrender to the divine plan of redemption as the ransom for sin… all sin… that took him to the cross.
7 Once more he asked them,“Who are you looking for?”
And again they replied, “Jesus the Nazarene.”
8 “I told you that I AM he,” Jesus said. “And since I am the one you want, let these others go.” 9 He did this to fulfill his own statement: “I did not lose a single one of those you have given me.”
10 Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. 11 But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?”
12 So the soldiers, their commanding officer, and the Temple guards arrested Jesus and tied him up. John 18:7-12 (NLT)
If you have studied this passage before, hopefully this will add to your understanding and appreciation of the drama that this event was. If you are not so familiar with this particular story, I believe will have an even greater appreciation for the humble obedience into the surrender of our Lord Jesus; to let happen what needed to happen so that you and I can be restored fully into relationship with God through His Son.
There are the perspectives of Peter and John, Malchus and Judas, that of the soldiers, and of Christ’s own perspective concerning this incredible moment in history.
I have on occasion asked folks about what happened between Jesus praying in the garden and his arrest. Responses trend toward discussions about Peter’s reaction to the troops coming for his Lord, when he pulled his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest, Caiaphas, who had given the order and for the seizure of Christ Jesus. Only one time has someone made reference to the matter of, “They all drew back and fell to the ground!” It was when I brought it up to my friend, Pastor Fran Leeman.
I told Pastor Fran that I cannot, in more than 50 years, remember a single occasion when I have heard this preached from the pulpit. Not once. On August 31st, 2014 Pastor Fran delivered a sermon that he called, Rising Above a Defeated Mentality. He spoke of the victory in relationship with this Jesus that sent “a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards” to the ground and let them lay for a bit before they rose to their feet to arrest him. (The contingent—battalion—of soldiers was numbered in the hundreds.)
Have you ever considered all that took place in this seldom-told story? The disciples had been listening to their beloved friend and leader speak of how he would be turned over the Romans and killed; that his death was absolutely necessary for the purpose of God to be fulfilled for the ascent of God’s kingdom through the rescue of all people. One follower, Peter, would offer to die in Christ’s place, and Jesus would respond to the unseen enemy, “Get behind me, Satan!” They could not comprehend why Jesus had to die.
The disciples would gather with Jesus for a meal, which only Jesus knew was for the last time before he would be led to die for the sins of all mankind. Jesus would break bread with them, and then Judas would leave to set in motion the betrayal of his Lord. Then Jesus would conduct a memorial service for himself that must have been confusing, talking again about his broken body and his blood poured out. He proceeded to wash their feet and breathe into them life-giving power in preparation for the ministry they would begin in about six weeks. That’s already quite a bit to digest and the night is just getting started.
Jesus led a movement; a civil liberty crusade as far as his followers were concerned; a rebellion as far as the governing Jewish leaders were concerned. Jesus had become a serious threat to their way and quality of life. He preached a gospel message that was considered heresy—blasphemous—that had to be stopped before there would be too many rebels to contain.
These men with Jesus had a dream. Their dream was that their people would be free from the tyranny that was brutally oppressive. Their hope was pinned on this man that they knew would one day be king. He could command the weather to obey him. He healed the sick, cast out evil spirits, and raised the dead back to life. Who would oppose Jesus? Who would dare?
Under the direction of their king, Israel would experience civil liberty, and all would bow to the name of this king. The followers of Jesus had left their careers and families to uproot and follow him for the next three years. They became poor to serve under Jesus, and with him, serve the people. They even bantered about the roles they would have in their king’s administration.
Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves. Luke 22:24-27 (NLT)
If You Are Willing
The disciples had been with Jesus for their last meal together and then went to the garden to pray. Peter, James, and John went further with Jesus. He asked them to agree with him in prayer as he walked a bit further ahead to get alone with God. Jesus knows what’s coming and there is no doubt that he is scared… terrified. His friends really don’t have any idea what it’s all about. It’s already pretty late at night. We don’t know, but perhaps Jesus hasn’t been sleeping all that well, spending hours in prayer preparing him for this moment. He might have been keeping his friends up to pray with him the days and nights leading up to this night.
There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.” Luke 22:40 (NLT)
At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation… At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.” But even as Jesus said this, a crowd approached, led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. Luke 22:45-47 (NLT)
Asleep, his friends did not hear the army approaching until it was practically on top of them. Jesus woke them up just in time. What he must have looked like to them. He experienced such torment while praying that he began to bleed from his pores. He likely looked like he’d been in a fight, drenched in sweat under the stress of tenacious prayer. At the outset of his ministry, he walked alone with God for forty days and nights fasting and praying. Here, he crammed forty days worth of prayer into a matter of hours.
He became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”
Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.
So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again.
“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. Matthew 26:37-44, Luke 22:42-44 (NLT)
So, we have this picture. The intense drama that is unfolding here is about to get a bit more confusing. So what about this contingent, or detachment, of soldiers. Other translations refer to them as a battalion of soldiers. A battalion was a tenth of a legion, which means that their were some six hundred trained, military strong, (likely) Roman soldiers on the march approaching Jesus and a few of his friends.
As these hundreds of soldiers, armed with weapons, approached, Jesus stood up front and asked their military commander, “Who are you looking for?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” the commander confidently replied.
Jesus replied, “I AM he.”
At the words “I AM he”, hundreds of armed and soldiers were pushed backwards by a great force that they could not see, and like dominoes, row by row they were knocked to the ground. Pastor Leeman taught that in the original text, Jesus merely spoke two words, “I AM”, and down they went, pinned to the ground under the weight of the Spirit of God.
There may have been enough soldiers to fill a football field. I wonder what that must have looked liked and sounded like as it echoed through the yard. What it must have looked like to the disciples. One minute they are fearing for their very lives, and the next their enemy is laying flat on their backs.
The Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land… Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.” But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt? … If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” God replied to Moses, “I AM who I AM.” Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.”
God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.
This is My eternal name, My name to remember for all generations. Exodus 3:7-11, 13-16 (NLT)
The scene I picture is that after some shock-and-awe banter going around, that things may have gotten a little quiet. I’d bet that even Jesus’s friends at this point are pretty blown away and rather speechless. There have may have been a few minutes when Jesus, with a demeanor that is humble and dignified, perhaps walked among this group of men and… I don’t know… prayed for them as if their fate was in his hands.
Jesus then asks again, “Who did you say you want?”
Squeamishly someone answers, “Umm… Jesus of Nazareth.”
Peter had seen it before. The Jesus he walked on water with was back. Peter was ready to rock and roll! Hundreds of soldiers pinned to the ground… time to take them out… beginning with Malchus and Judas (Is Judas also on his back or is he left upright on his feet for a better view of the power of the one he betrayed?). Peter whips out a sword and goes head hunting. Malchus, pinned to the ground helpless, turns his head as Peter wields a sword and clips his ear.
Jesus then tells Peter to calm down and put the sword away as he proceeds to recover the man’s ear and reattach it. Malchus’s hearing was probably better than ever.
Then, the Unthinkable…
The soldiers, having been pinned to the ground under the authority of almighty God, perhaps for several minutes, begin to realize the weight of God’s hand had lifted from them. You can hear them gathering themselves, murmuring amongst themselves about they are to do now. Are these brutes frightened?
My guess is that they are probably arrogant enough that they will do their job and try to act tough, even though they know that, to a man, Jesus is definitely unique and extraordinary; someone definitely to be reckoned with.
Then the unthinkable happens. Jesus, standing among the soldiers gives them permission to do what they have to do. He knows that it is not by their will that he will surrender to them. Jesus is surrendered to the will of the Father and from that place surrenders himself to the plan for sinners… to willingly die for them… for you and for me.
The disciples (including Judas) have to be utterly confused, spirits destroyed; desperately searching for answers. Their motivation to serve Jesus was a better life for their families and a better heritage for the generations to come as the nation of Israel; something that would not come to fruition for the better part of another two thousand years. They were devastated as they saw their hopes and dreams vanish before their eyes.
The man whom they had not only come to know and love, was the one they came to worship as their Lord and Savior. He was the Christ, their Messiah… their rescuer; their redeemer. As they considered salvation, while there may have been something eternal about it, they were just as passionate about the recovery of a nation to statehood once again.
What was Jesus doing? Who was this Jesus… this Jesus who folded up his tent and abandoned the mission? Had he betrayed his friends? Was that their train of thought?
The Cleansing Flood
Here is where things get interesting and, I suppose, intense.
This is the from the hymn, “Victory in Jesus”, that came to Pastor Fran’s mind as he prepared his sermon about the victory we have when we realize by experience who we are and what we have in relationship with Christ Jesus.
What is the “cleansing flood”? What was it for Jesus, having been made horribly filthy by our sin? What is the cleansing flood for us in relationship with Jesus? What does it mean that he plunged us to victory beneath the cleansing flood?
I have written previously that I believe that when Jesus bore our sin at the cross he felt it. He felt the pain of every victim of sin and every villain of sin. I believe he felt the shame and pain of the abused, but that he also experienced the villainous urge that was violent, murderous, raging, defiant, deviant, manipulative, heinous, lustful, greedy, covetous, gluttonous, slothful… and the list goes on. I wonder if he literally experienced the weight of the guilt of the sin of the world. I wonder if he felt as though he committed the vilest of evil sin.
In order to begin to appreciate what Jesus surrendered himself to in the garden, it is necessary to examine Scripture surrounding his experience. There are three passages I would like to take a look at:
One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.” But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. Matthew 12:38-40 (NLT)
The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared… First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. Hebrews 10:1-2, 8-10 (NLT)
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:2-4 (NKJV)
When you read these scriptures in succession there is a message being communicated about what needed to occur for man to be reconciled, redeemed, and restored into right relationship with God.
Jesus was executed and died upon that cross. The experience of crucifixion was not unique to Jesus. The crucifixion of Jews for crimes they were accused of was fairly common. Crosses were strewn along main roadways. It was brutal torment for anyone crucified, which doesn’t make the crucifixion of Jesus any less torturous. The body of Jesus was broken and his innocent blood was spilled for us.
What I believe is unique to Jesus is his experience between his crucifixion and his resurrection. What happened to the soul and spirit of Jesus while his physical body lie in the tomb?
What exactly is the cleansing flood that washes away sin… all of the worst of sin?
“I heard about his groaning”, the song says.
I believe that what the law could not do in Romans 8:3 was condemn the sin without condemning the sinner. The law would have condemned the sinner with the sin. While the body of Jesus was ravaged by the sin of mankind, I believe it was the soul and spirit of Christ that for three days and nights—which may have been a kind of eternity for Jesus—experienced the deluge of condemnation for all sin. The sin of mankind has been condemned in the person of our Savior.
What happened to Jonah after three days and nights in the great fish? The fish could no longer hold the force that was God delivering Jonah. The fish choked and coughed him up. While the person of Jesus was infected with our sin, the place of condemnation agreed with that and hell held him for three days. Once Jesus experienced the cleansing flood that is the Spirit of the living God, this Son was power-washed clean and no longer in agreement with eternal dying. At that point, the condemnation for sinners was vanquished for good for all time. As Jesus was resurrected from the heart of the earth, so were you and so was I. We were set free from the slavery of sin into the heritage that is the family and kingdom of the sovereign God of the entire universe.
Think about that!
Now, what’s the catch? The only requirement is that I divorce from my relationship with sin and enter into covenant relationship with God through the giver of mercy and grace, Jesus Christ.
Jesus, our advocate who understands the weakness of the human plight, fully realized the experience of resurrection from the vilest of sins; sins he did not actually commit, but sins he in some way experienced in the depths of his soul. He is the first to have known the cleansing flood that is the ultimate victory. Keep in mind that as Jesus experiences resurrection and vacates the tomb, he is still a man of flesh and blood. He would be for some six more weeks. From there, Jesus would be resurrected again, you might say… exalted into His rightful place as King of kings and Lord of lords.
What can you imagine the experience was for Jesus, this man of flesh, to have been bathed in the Spirit, washed clean of the sin of all mankind? What was it for him to experience victory beneath the cleansing flood? What would it mean for us?
I asked that question to Pastor Fran this past Sunday. He answered, “I don’t know but he knew we’d like it.”
The cleansing flood for Jesus was condemnation for the sin of all creation. What Jesus suffered in the experience of condemnation for sin is atonement—the ransom paid for free will gone bad—so that you and I can be reconciled into right relationship with God.
Where is the victory in that for Jesus?
The victory is in resurrection from condemnation. In his sacrifice, the law has been fulfilled. Paul wrote that the law was insufficient since it represented the miserable failure in our attempt to meet its standard. Not living up to the standard of the law carries a consequence. The consequence—“the wages of sin”—is eternal dying, meaning condemnation. But God did not create us to condemn us.
God created us to be in communion with Him. Communion between God and His creation is the intended relationship, then and now. The relationship was ruined by sin and evil. For sin and evil to be eradicated, there needed to be a mechanism for casting it out. It doesn’t just go away. It must be removed. It must be condemned. The Son of God made flesh was the mechanism to condemn evil once and for all. Jesus as a human being carried out the charge to eradicate sin and evil by condemning it to hell having himself taken it there.
Since our sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west, we can now experience right relationship with God through eternal living in a time where evil does not exist. In the time of resurrection by the grace of God in the person of Jesus Christ, we eagerly anticipate fellowship with Him and one another.
Jesus took the plunge and experienced the cleansing flood. The cleansing flood for Jesus was completed by resurrection from condemnation as a human being. Jesus was different when he would encounter Mary at the tomb. He was changed when he would meet up with his friends again. Even before ascending back to his place as God at the right at the right hand of the Father, Jesus was something transformed into newness of life.
Carefully examine this passage written by the Apostle Paul:
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. Galatians 2:16-21 (NLT)
So, what does it mean that “He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood”?
I cannot attain to the standard of the law, therefore it is impossible to be justified by it. Paul is also clarifying that while I was dead in my flesh—my selfish sin—Jesus took my sin where it needed to go to be removed. Does that mean that he became a sinner to condemn my sin? Certainly not! Jesus was an innocent soul that willing accepted and bore the consequence of my guilt and shame. But in the experience of the Savior my flesh was crucified, dead to the law, so that my soul would be redeemed into the freedom of new life. Jesus took the plunge beneath the flood of condemnation so that I would be cleansed by His blood.
I wonder if the spilling of His blood is so much more than the red stuff that came from his physical wounds on the cross. What if the spilling of the blood of Jesus was his soul poured out beneath the flood of the ultimate consequence for sin? The mandate in being crucified with Christ is that I be resurrected with Christ. Should I choose to depend on my will is to align myself with the flesh of my old man, thereby rejecting the new man, that which is reborn, sharing in the fellowship of Christ’s resurrection. That would be my futile attempt at justification through the law. Then all that Christ did for me was in vain.
In Christ’s sacrifice, having taken the plunge, I been freed from the impossible standard of the law. To cling to the standard of the law is to choose willingly all comes with it. Being crucified then resurrected with Christ, I am transformed. I am speaking for you, too.
While we can realize transformation from existing in the form of sinful man to experiencing newness of life, the greater victory from beneath the cleansing flood will be our resurrection from this earthly existence into eternal living in fellowship with our resurrected Lord.
Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39 (NLT)
Today, the Holy Spirit is given. Jesus is glorified.
Fully God in every way, Jesus now, IS the cleansing flood. He IS grace for us. He IS the One who covers us in His righteousness. He IS your I AM experience. Do you know who you are in relationship with the great I AM? Do you know? If you don’t know for certain, do you want to?
It’s your time. In relationship with Christ, take the plunge into the very best that He wants and has for you. Your sin is removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).
At the end of the day, your peace and your joy is found in the saving grace of your I AM experience. You have been plunged into victory. Soak yourself in it.
I heard an old, old story,
How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning,
Of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins
And won the victory.
I heard about His healing,
Of His cleansing power revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again
And caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, “Dear Jesus,
Come and heal my broken spirit,”
And somehow Jesus came and brought
To me the victory.
O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.