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The Gospel of John: Revealing the Invisible God 

A Bible Study by Fred Kenison

 

Chapter 18


 

 

Jesus captured and taken to the high priest

 

Summary Highlights of Chapter 18

 

 

This book is a verse-by-verse commentary.  To go to the commentary for any particular verse in Chapter 18, please click on a number below.

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

       

 

 

 

Jesus captured and taken to the high priest

 

18:1     Jesus, having said these things, went out with his disciples beyond the winter stream of Kedron, where a garden was, into which he and his disciples entered.

 

As far as John's record goes, Jesus had finished teaching his disciples, at least until after his resurrection. According to other scriptures, the garden he and his disciples entered was called Gethsemane. Smith (p. 114) writes,

"GETHSEMANE. (oil press garden--wine press). A small farm. In the Kidron valley, on the lower slope of Olivet, 850 feet from St. Stephen's Gate, and 800 feet from the closed gate, at the angle between the direct road up Olivet and that leading to the right around the hill. (Both leading to Bethany)."

 

The reference to "the winter stream of Kedron" was probably because it was rumored to only have water running during the winter.

 

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18:2     Judas, who was delivering him up, also knew the place, because Jesus was often gathered there with his disciples.

 

This place was a familiar retreat for Jesus and his disciples, including Judas. Luke 21:37 also confirms this.

"And in the daytime he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives.

 

Therefore, since Judas was familiar with his habits, it was easier for him to betray Jesus.

 

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18:3     Judas therefore having received the band [of men] and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, comes there with torches and lamps and weapons.

 

Greed led Judas to become the leader of the group formed to take Jesus captive. He had "a band of men and officers from the chief priests and

Pharisees."  Jesus had enemies at the highest realm of power in Jerusalem and Israel. Hatred can produce some strange circumstances and strange fellowships!

 

The men and officers brought torches and lamps in order to find Jesus and his disciples. They also brought weapons in case the disciples decided to defend Jesus.

 

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18:4     Therefore, Jesus knowing all things that were coming upon him, having gone forth said to them, Whom seek ye?

 

Jesus did not wait to be found, he actually delivered himself to them. What a burden it must have been for Jesus to know all the horrible things which awaited him. What dedication it took to continue to obey the calling of his heavenly father, especially when he knew what pain he would endure. He did not seek to hide himself, but openly went to them, and asked, "Whom seek ye?"

 

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18:5     They answered him, Jesus, the Nazarean. Jesus says to them, I am [he]. And Judas, who was delivering him up, also was standing with them.

 

Jesus made no attempt to hide his identity. His would be captors said who they were looking for, and he "I am he."

 

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18:6     Therefore when he said, I am [he], they went backward and fell to [the] ground.

 

His response must have come as a huge surprise. So much so that they fell over backwards. John provided no explanation about how this happened.

 

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18:7     Therefore he questioned them again. Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus the Nazarean."

 

It is difficult to imagine what went through the minds of this band who had been sent to capture Jesus. After their experience in answering his first question, they must have wondered what would happen this time when they answered.

 

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18:8     Jesus answered, I told you that I am [he]. If therefore ye seek me, suffer these to go away.

 

Jesus told them again that he was the one they sought. He also asked that they "suffer these [the disciples] to go away." Even in dire circumstances, Jesus was concerned for the safety of his disciples.

 

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18:9     That the word which he said might be fulfilled. Whom thou hast given me I lost not one of them.

 

Jesus had said earlier (John 17:12) that he "had lost none of them but the son of perdition."  Now, he was acting to make sure that word "might be fulfilled."  Might be fulfilled comes from pleeroothee, an aorist subjunctive, which means it has not yet come about. The aorist subjunctive, however, signifies the certainty that it will happen. The disciples will be allowed to leave, but at this time it had not yet occurred.

 

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18:10     Therefore, Simon Peter having a sword, drew it, and smote the bondman of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.

 

Simon Peter, the impulsive one, could have upset everything which Jesus had achieved in securing the release of the disciples. No one in this crowd would have had a higher ranking than the person Peter chose to attack. Would Jesus be able to avoid a reaction from this attack?

 

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18:11     Therefore Jesus said to Peter, Put thy sword into the sheath. The cup which the father has given me, Should I not drink it?

 

Once before Peter had spoken in an attempt to defend Jesus, and Jesus had referred to him as satan. Why a satan? Because Peter, by his attempt to persuade Jesus away from his purpose of serving The God, was joining the worldly ones who were resisting the purpose of The God in the life of Jesus. Now, Peter was again acting as a satan, attempting to keep Jesus from being taken by these men and sent to his crucifixion.

 

Jesus, however, would have no part of Peter's attempt to defend him. He turned to Peter and asked a question which was actually another rebuke. "The cup which the father has given me, should I not drink it?"  Jesus would not be deterred from obeying the Father's will, even though it meant his death. By speaking thus to Peter, Jesus was stating again his determination to be completely faithful to The God, and his purposes.

 

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18:12     Therefore the band and the chief captain and the officers of the Jews took hold of Jesus, and bound him.

 

This was no rag-tag group that was sent to take Jesus. "The band" was not identified, but it was most likely a group of soldiers. In addition, there was "the chief captain, and the Jewish officers."  This group had been trying for many months to find a way to capture Jesus, and bring him to trial according to their religious justice. Finally, they had him, and they "bound him."

 

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18:13     And first they led him away to Annas; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year.

 

This was the beginning of trying Jesus by a Roman system of law, which could be influenced by corrupt religious leaders. Organized religions are often taken over by leaders who become enamored by the power and prestige of their office. They will go to almost any length to maintain their positions of power. While Jesus never condemned common people, he had much to say about corrupt religious leaders.

 

Who was Annas, and why did the group take Jesus to him? Smith (p. 17) says he was,

"High priest for 15 years, and then deposed by Valerius Gratus; father-in-law to Caiaphas, who was high priest when Jesus was crucified [Johnxviii; Acts iv:6]. The office of high priest was judicial, in addition to the temple service, and Annas for a long period held this honored place, his term having been 20 years. Five of his sons succeeded each other to the same office, and then his son-in-law; and in all these changes he had exercised the highest judicial authority. He might have been a member of the Sanhedrin, and possibly was its president or vice-president."

 

Annas, although no longer the high priest, still wielded great authority in the judicial system of the Jews. Note carefully, that Jesus was first taken to the leader of a religion which had set up its own system of laws.

 

Some of today's large denominations have also done this. To some degree, when members have been charged with denominational miscues, they are tried, not in the judicial legal system of the country, but in the courts of that denomination. Abuse is rampant in these situations, and religious denominations are fearful foes of any government's attempt to weaken their authority. Some denominations are even large enough to challenge the laws of our own country, or influential enough to hold the feet of legal authorities to the fire.

 

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18:14     And it was Caiaphas who gave counsel to the Jews, that it is profitable for one man to perish for the people.

 

This is a brief summary of what Caiaphas had said earlier. See the previous comments on this in John 11:49-52.

 

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18:15     Now there followed Jesus, Peter and the other disciple. And that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest.

 

"The other disciple" was nowhere identified in any of the scriptures. One thing that the scriptures do tell us, however, is that this "disciple was known to the high priest."  Because of this, he was allowed "to enter into the court of the high priest with Jesus."  Perhaps this other disciple was related in some manner to a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling group of the Jews.

 

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18:16     But Peter stood at the door without. Therefore the other disciple, known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the door keeper and brought Peter in.

 

Peter was not allowed to enter the court of the high priest. However, the other disciple had enough influence with the high priest to bring Peter in.

 

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18:17     Therefore the maid, the door-keeper, says to Peter, art not thou also of the disciples of this man? Says he, I am not.

 

It is interesting to note that the maid thought that Peter was one of the disciples, but did not recognize "the other disciple" as being one of Jesus' disciples. When the maid asked if Peter were one of the disciples, Peter said, "I am not."

 

By this time, Peter may have wished he had left with the other disciples as Jesus had told them to do. He knew he was "over his head" in this situation. When faced with the maid's question, he lied, and denied any relationship with Jesus. Remember, Jesus had told Peter that he would deny him three times before the dawn when the cock crew (see Matthew 26:34; Luke 22:61; and John 13:38). This was the first time.

 

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18:18     But the bondmen and the officers, were standing, having made a fire of coals, and were warming themselves for it was cold; and Peter was standing with them and warming himself.

 

Peter had completely lost all resolve to follow Jesus, and was now seeking to distance himself. He was standing with the bondmen and the officers, the very ones who had captured Jesus. He had completely separated himself from Jesus. For all intents and purposes, he had, by his actions, gone back to the world of those who opposed everything Jesus had stood for.

 

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18:19     Therefore, the high priest questioned Jesus concerning his disciples, and concerning his teachings.

 

"Therefore" signifies a succession of events. One "therefore" leads into another event as it does here. The high priest was interested in two separate parts of Jesus' ministry. First, "concerning his disciples," and, second, "concerning his teachings."

 

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18:20     Jesus answered him, I openly spoke to the world; I always taught in the synagogue and in the temple where the Jews always come together, and in secret I spoke nothing.

 

In essence, Jesus said that if the Jews were accusing him of some secret teaching, it was not true. "I openly spoke to the world."  World comes from kosmos, meaning the inhabited world. Since Jesus only traveled a few miles from his birthplace, how could he make such an assertion? Was this referring to how his words would be spread abroad after his death? Or, was this only a figure of speech?

 

As far as the Jews were concerned, he said that he always "taught where the Jews came together in the synagogue and in the temple."  Jesus was not attempting to hide anything from anybody and therefore he always spoke openly.

 

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18:21     Why dost thou question me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; lo, they know what I said.

 

Jesus continued his defense that there was no need to question him. Instead, he said they should question those who had heard him speak. They would be able to tell what he had said.

 

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18:22     But on his saying these things, one of the officers standing by gave a blow with the palm of the hand to Jesus, saying, Thus answereth thou the high priest?

 

The officer standing by must have thought that what Jesus told the high priest was somehow out of order. Therefore, "he gave a blow with the palm of the hand to Jesus."  This was an open-handed slap, and the first part of the abuse which Jesus would suffer before he was turned over to the Romans for crucifixion.

 

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18:23     Jesus answered him, If I spoke evil bear witness concerning the evil. but if well, why striketh thou me?

 

Jesus, knowing that his future was death, and that his time had come, showed no fear of the officer who had struck him. He challenged the officer to identify what evil he had spoken against the high priest. If he could not do this, then, "Why striketh thou me?"

 

Bear in mind that Jesus is still before Annas, who was not actually the high priest.  However, because of his former status as high priest, he was still referred to as such even though he no longer held that office. This is very similar to the way we refer to an ex-president as Mr. President, even after he has left office.

 

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18:24     Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas, the high priest.

 

Annas never charged Jesus with any wrong doing, nor even censured him. Nevertheless, he "sent him bound to Caiaphas, the high priest" as though he were a dangerous criminal.

 

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18:25     Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. Therefore they said to him. Art thou also not one of his disciples: He denied, and said, I am not.

 

All the time Jesus was being questioned by Annas, Peter was standing around with the men who had taken Jesus captive. When Jesus was brought forth bound, they turned to Peter and asked, "art thou also not one of his disciples?"  They may have asked this question because Peter remained with them instead of following after Jesus when he left.

 

The not used by the others comes from mee, which leaves room for a yes or no answer. Peter used ouk, the absolute not, in his denial. Ouk is always no, or not; there is no maybe about it.

 

This the second time Peter used the absolute not in denying his association with Jesus (see verse 18:17). It is still not the dawn and Peter has already denied Jesus twice.

 

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18:26     Says one of the bondmen of the high priest, being kinsman [of him] whom Peter cut off the ear. Saw I not thee in the garden with him?

 

Some in the group still doubted him. A relative, or kinsman, of the person whose ear Peter had cut off, questioned him further. "Saw I not thee in the garden with him?"  This time, the question contained the absolute not, leaving no room for Peter to "waffle" in his answer. He must truthfully answer yes, or lie by saying no, which he did.

 

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18:27     Therefore, Peter denied again, and immediately a cock crew.

 

This was Peter's third denial, exactly as Jesus prophesied. John did not indicate Peter's reaction, but Luke 22:62 says,

"And Peter, having gone forth outside, wept bitterly."

 

In lying to save himself, he had been wrong, and he knew it.

 

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18:28     Therefore, they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the praetorium, and it was early. And they entered not into the praetorium, that they might not be defiled, but that they might eat the passover.

 

The Jews were determined to see that Jesus died. The praetorium was the headquarters of the Roman governor. The Jews did not have the authority to put anyone to death as that power resided only with the Romans who ruled Judea.

 

"It was early."  They did not wait long. The cock had crowed as they were leading Jesus away from Caiaphas, the high priest. Therefore, it must have been about the dawning of a new day. Although they did not seem to mind putting Jesus into the praetorium, they did not enter themselves "that they might not be defiled."  They were willing to have Jesus defiled, but not themselves. True religionists at work!

 

They did not want to be defiled "that they might eat the passover." Passover had already begun some days before; therefore, this must be referring to the remaining meals of the Passover week. Jesus and his disciples had already eaten the last supper, or the first of their Passover meals before he was captured.

 

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18:29     Therefore, Pilate went forth to them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?

 

The Jews must have made enough of a ruckus to rouse Pilate. One might wonder if Pilate was in a good mood after being aroused at dawn. Nevertheless, he asked the Jews, "What accusations do ye bring against this man?"  To fulfill his obligations, Pilate seemed ready to hear what the Jews had to say.

 

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18:30     They answered and said to him, If he were not an evil doer, we would not have delivered him up to thee.

 

The Jews response to Pilate's question was highly ambiguous. Pilate was the Roman governor of the province. His duty was to judge wrong-doing against the Roman law, not the religious law of the Jews. Therefore, he was not impressed when the Jews tried to pass the burden of proof to him through innuendo.

 

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18:31     Therefore, Pilate said to them, Ye take him, and judge him according to your law. Therefore said the Jews to him, It is not permitted us to put no one to death.

 

This was the last thing the Jews wanted to hear from Pilate. They did not want to judge Jesus; they simply wanted him put to death, and they lacked the authority to do so. They had to think of something fast in order to get the Romans to judge Jesus.

 

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18:32     That the word of Jesus might be fulfilled which he spoke signifying by what death he was about to die.

 

The Romans had to be convinced to take Jesus, and judge him guilty of something deserving death. The Jews would accomplish their purpose, not because of their own ingenuity, but simply that the "word of Jesus might be fulfilled."  What was that word?

 

Jesus said earlier,

"If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself. But this he said, signifying by what death he was about to die" (John 12:32-33).

 

It is now abundantly clear what Jesus meant when he talked about being lifted up. It meant his death on the cross. It had nothing to do with witnessing, or "lifting up Jesus," which is the meaning claimed by some religious groups today.

 

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18:33     Therefore, Pilate entered again into the praetorium, and called Jesus, and said to him, Art thou the king of the Jews?

 

John did not explain why Pilate came back to question Jesus, or why he asked this specific question. However, Luke 23 indicates that a multitude of the Jews said that Jesus was king of the Jews. It was upon hearing this that Pilate returned to the praetorium to question Jesus.

 

Pilate asked Jesus, "Art thou the king of the Jews?"  At this point, Pilate did not know whom to trust. The Jews frequently brought some miscreant of the Jewish faith before the Roman court.

 

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18:34     Jesus answered him, From thyself sayest thou this, or did others say [it] to thee concerning me?

 

Jesus may or may not have known that the Jews had accused him to Pilate. However, this question implies that he either knew, or he at least suspected it. "Did you assume this by yourself, or did others say it to thee concerning me?"  Jesus, being a Jew subject to the Romans, knew this would be a lethal accusation worthy of death.

 

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18:35     Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thy nation and the chief priests delivered thee up to me: what didst thou?

 

Pilate chose a circuitous response to the question. He answered, "Am I a Jew?"  The meaning was obvious: of course there were others who accused you to me; I know nothing of such matters. In fact, "Thy nation and the chief priests delivered thee up to me."

 

Jesus had the answer as to who it was that accused him of being the king of the Jews. It was not the Romans; it was the leaders of his own people who had done so. Pilate was at least curious enough to ask Jesus, "What did you do?"  How did you anger these people so much that they would accuse you of this? This question implies that Pilate was not completely taken in by the accusations of the Jews.

 

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18:36     Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my attendants would fight that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from hence.

 

Jesus told Pilate that his kingdom was not a worldly power, that he posed no threat to Pilate. Jesus further told Pilate that when he was captured, neither he nor his disciples resisted. That should be proof enough that he was not trying to establish a worldly kingdom.

 

Again he repeated, "Now my kingdom is not from hence."  Jesus used ouk, the absolute not, when he spoke to Pilate. Note carefully, however, that he qualified his statement by the use of the word "now."  By doing so, he did not rule out a future time when he would return as king of kings, and lord of lords, when he would rule over the entire world. However, for the time being, "my kingdom is not from hence."

 

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18:37     Then thou art a king? Jesus answered, Thou sayest [it], for I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I may bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is of the truth hears my voice.

 

Pilate, who was not a believer in the Jewish god, probably understood little of the spiritual truth Jesus was speaking about. He actually said he was a king, and then he confounded Pilate by stating, "For this I have been born, and for this, I have come into the world."

 

"That I might bear witness to the truth."  What truth was this? It was the truth that he had revealed to the world by being true to his calling. That calling was to demonstrate the truth about the invisible god, whom the world did not know even existed. This he had done by his deeds and his words, which as he said earlier, "were not of myself, but of my father in heaven."

 

"Everyone that is of the truth hears my voice."  Those who are of the truth are those who believe that he is the messiah sent from The God. They also believe that he has rightly represented The God to the world.

 

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18:38     Pilate says to him, What is truth? And having said this, again he went out to the Jews, and says to them, I find not any fault in him.

 

Pilate must have been exasperated. He clearly had no conception of the spiritual truth which Jesus was talking about. Whatever his thoughts about "the truth," he did come to one truth about Jesus. "Again he went out to the Jews, and says to them, I find not any fault in him."  Whatever the Jews had against this man, Pilate could not see that he had done anything wrong.

 

This was not what the Jews wanted to hear from Pilate. If Jesus were not to escape their grasp, they had to come up with another solution quickly. What they did not know, however, was that it was The God's purpose that Jesus be crucified by the Romans in order to fulfill his destiny on this earth. The Jews were destined to "win" this battle.

 

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18:39     But it is a custom to you that I should release one to you at the passover; therefore will ye that I should release to you the king of the Jews?

 

Pilate actually came up with an acceptable solution. If he did not release Jesus to the Jews, he risked a rebellion from the crowd of Jews. This would not bide well for him if word got back to Rome that the Jews had rebelled again. So, he came up with a perfect political solution. The answer was obvious: Let the Jews choose what to do with Jesus.

 

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18:40     Therefore, they all cried out again, saying, Not this one, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

 

When given a choice, the leaders of the Jews chose to release a robber, Barabbas, instead of Jesus. For centuries, this choice has been used as a reason to vilify any Jewish person as being guilty of killing Jesus. For centuries, this view was propagated by one of the largest "christian" religions. Many innocent people have died at the hands of this church, and all in the name of a loving god! Only recently has there been an apology to the Jewish people for this dastardly accusation.

 

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Summary Highlights of Chapter 18

 

# Once before Peter had spoken in an attempt to defend Jesus, and Jesus

     had referred to him as satan. Why a satan? Because Peter, by his

     attempt to persuade Jesus away from his purpose of serving The God,

     was joining the worldly ones who were resisting the purpose of The God

     in the life of Jesus. Now, Peter was again acting as a satan, attempting

     to keep Jesus from being taken by these men and sent to his

     crucifixion.

 

# While Jesus never condemned common people, he had much to say

     about corrupt religious leaders.

 

#  In essence, Jesus said that if the Jews were accusing him of some secret

     teaching, it was not true.  He said that he always "taught where the

     Jews came together in the synagogue and in the temple."  Jesus was not

     attempting to hide anything from anybody and therefore he always

     spoke openly.

 

# Annas never charged Jesus with any wrong doing, nor even censured

     him. Nevertheless, he "sent him bound to Caiaphas, the high priest" as

     though he were a dangerous criminal.

 

# The Jews were determined to see that Jesus died. They did not want to

     judge Jesus; they simply wanted him put to death, and they lacked the

     authority to do so.

 

# Pilate was the Roman governor of the province. His duty was to judge

     wrong-doing against the Roman law, not the religious law of the Jews.

     Therefore, he was not impressed when the Jews tried to pass the burden

     of proof to him through innuendo.

 

#  It is now abundantly clear what Jesus meant when he talked about

     being lifted up. It meant his death on the cross. It had nothing to do

     with witnessing, or "lifting up Jesus," which is the meaning claimed by

     some religious groups today.

 

# Again Jesus repeated, "Now my kingdom is not from hence."  Jesus

     used ouk, the absolute not, when he spoke to Pilate. Note carefully,

     however, that he qualified his statement by the use of the word "now."

     By doing so, he did not rule out a future time when he would return as

     king of kings, and lord of lords, when he would rule over the entire

     world. However, for the time being, "my kingdom is not from hence."

 

# "That I might bear witness to the truth."  What truth was this? It was

     the truth that he had revealed to the world by being true to his calling.

     That calling was to demonstrate the truth about the invisible god,

     whom the world did not know even existed. This he had done by his

     deeds and his words, which as he said earlier, "were not of myself, but

     of my father in heaven."

 

# "Everyone that is of the truth hears my voice."  Those who are of the

     truth are those who believe that he is the messiah sent from The God.

     They also believe that he has rightly represented The God to the world.

 

# Whatever the Jews had against Jesus, Pilate could not see that he had

     done anything wrong.  This was not what the Jews wanted to hear

     from Pilate. What they did not know, however, was that it was The

     God's purpose that Jesus be crucified by the Romans in order to fulfill

     his destiny on this earth. The Jews were destined to "win" this battle.

 

# When given a choice, the leaders of the Jews chose to release a robber,

     Barabbas, instead of Jesus. For centuries, this choice has been used as a

     reason to vilify any Jewish person as being guilty of killing Jesus. For

     centuries, this view was propagated by one of the largest "christian"

     religions. Many innocent people have died at the hands of this church,

     and all in the name of a loving god!

 

 

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October 2009