Sermon on John 18:19-21 | The Evangelistic Style of Jesus

Jesus Christ

The Evangelistic Style of Jesus (John 18:19-21)

We need to remember that evangelism is an important part of our Christian life. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who wins souls is wise” (Prov 11:30). Jesus told his first disciples, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt 4:19). “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (Js 5:19-20).

Jesus knew that the reason he was on this earth was to save the lost. “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk 19:10). “He said to them, ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth” (Mk 1:38).

Since Jesus spent his life evangelizing, he stands as a good example for our doing evangelism.

This morning, we want to examine Jesus’ testimony before Anna, the rightful high priest. Annas was the ruling patriarch of the leading Jewish political family. He had been the high priest, but had been deposed by the Romans. One received the appointment of high priest for life. So, when Annas was deposed, the Jews still considered him the rightful high priest—hence this trial before him. Annas was known as a cold, hard, unprincipled man.

Annas asked Jesus about his disciples and his doctrine.

The question about Jesus’ disciples may have something to do with the Jews’ fear of a conspiracy. The Jews were afraid that Jesus was getting up a following to undo the Jewish religion. This may also have something to do with the false prophet in Deuteronomy 13:1-10. The Deuteronomy text speaks of the false prophet’s enticing his friends to follow a foreign God. The penalty for such was death.

The question about Jesus’ doctrine probably has to do with this claim to be divine. In John 19:7, the Jews told Pilate that Jesus ought to die because he claimed to be the Son of God.

In answering Annas, Jesus teaches us some important things about evangelism. Let’s study what Jesus says.

Jesus Spoke Openly, v 20

The idea in the Greek term for “openly” means to hold nothing back, to conceal nothing, to be outspoken. Jesus elaborates on this point when he says, “In secret I have said nothing.” He’s telling Annas, “I haven’t been enticing my disciples to believe something I haven’t said publicly.” There were times that Jesus taught the disciples privately, of course, but everything he taught in private he publicly.

There were times that Jesus spoke when it would have been in his best interest to keep quiet. When Jesus said he was the bread that came down from heaven, the Jews complained about him (Jn 6:41), and many of his disciples stopped following him (Jn 6:66). When Jesus claimed to be eternal, the Jews tried to stone Jesus but he escaped (Jn 8:59). When Jesus taught in the synagogue at Nazareth, those in the synagogue were filled with wrath and wanted to throw him over a cliff but he passed through their midst (Lk 4:16-30).

Even though Jesus’ message was unpopular, he still spoke openly. What a lesson for us! Even if what we say is unpopular, we still need to speak it! This is what Paul told Timothy: “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:20). Look, we may anger our family, but we must still speak the truth. We may lose friends, but we still need to speak openly.

Jesus did not gloss over what people needed to hear. Paul as like Jesus in that regard: “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you” (Acts 20:20).

We might be tempted to gloss over what people need, but we dare not. Those who are divorced need to understand what Jesus said on that subject. Those who have been baptized but not baptized according ot Scripture need to understand what the Bible really says. Those who are living in sin need to understand what God has revealed about their sin.

Jesus spoke openly. We need to speak his truths openly. Do you speak Jesus’ truths openly?

Jesus Spoke Where the People Were, v 20

Jesus told Annas, “I always taught in the synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet.”

Jesus went to the people; he did not expect the people to come to him.

Jesus’ great commission was for the apostles to go to sinners. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt 28:19). “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).

The early Christians went to where the people were. When the apostles were arrested by the high priest, an angel of the Lord released them, and they entered the temple, where the people were assembled and taught (Acts 5:21). The Angel of the Lord instructed Philip about where to find the Ethiopian eunuch; Philip went to him (Acts 8:26-40). When Paul was in Athens, he went to the synagogue to teach the Jews and Gentile worshipers, and he went to the marketplace to teach those who were there (Acts 17:17).

Too many times, we expect people to come to us. We think all that we need to do to preach the gospel is put a sign up in front of the church building and people will flock to us. A few decades ago, that would work, but it works no more. An elder actually told me one time, “People know where the church is. If they want to know more, they’ll come.” If we are to win people to Jesus Christ, we must go to them and teach them the gospel.

Are you going where the people are and taking the Gospel with you?

Jesus Spoke so People Could Understand, v 21

Jesus told Annas, “Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.”

It was against Jewish law to question the accused. All testimony had to come from witnesses. Maimonides, the Jewish medieval scholar, wrote, “Our true law does not inflict the penalty of death upon a sinner by his own confession.” Jesus says, “Abide by the law. Don’t question me. Question witnesses; let them answer.”

The reason that Jesus could tell Annas to question those who heard him was that he taught them so that they could understand. As you read the Gospels, you learn that the people understood what Jesus taught. When Jesus finished the Sermon on the Mount, the people were astonished, “for He taught them as one having authority, not as the scribes” (Matt 7:28-29). If the people didn’t understand Jesus, why were they astonished at his teaching? When Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus said about being born again, he explained himself (Jn 3:3ff). When Jesus taught in Jerusalem, the people said, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” (Jn 7:15). They understood what he taught or they could not have been surprised at how well he taught.

When we teach people the gospel, we need to make sure that we teach them so that they can understand. An elder must be “able to teach” (1 Tim 3:2). If one is able to teach, he will teach so that others can understand him.

If we teach someone the gospel, but he does not understand what we’ve taught, what good have we done? He’s not going to obey God, because he doesn’t understand what God wants from him. He’s going to walk away thinking that the Bible is too complicated to understand; he’s not going to study the Bible because he thinks he cannot understand it.

Do you teach the gospel so that others can understand it?

Do you understand the gospel? Have you obeyed the gospel you understand?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.

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