John: Chapter 18
Let’s begin by reading (John 18:1-11).
(Verse 1)(NKJV) He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden
I am going to quote from the John MacArthur Study Bible for this. “(Brook Kidron): “Brook” signifies that it was an intermittent stream that was dry most of the year, but became a torrent during seasonal rains. This stream ran through the Kidron Valley between the temple mount on the E of Jerusalem and the Mt. of Olives further to the E. (a garden) On the slopes of the Mt. of Olives, named for ever present olive groves, were many gardens. Matthew 26:36 and Mark 14:32 call this particular garden “Gethsemane,” which means “oil press.” “
(Verse 3)(NKJV) “a detachment (Roman cohort) of troops” A “detachment or cohort” of Roman soldiers was usually 600, or one-tenth of a “legion,” which was 6000 men. At times, it could be as little as 200 men, which may have been the case here. These were likely sent because a fight to arrest Jesus was expected.
(Verses 3,12,18,22) “officers from the chief priests” We last saw these “officers,” who were sent from the chief priests (primarily Sadducees) and Pharisees, being sent to arrest Jesus in John Chapter 7. The “officers” (Gr: “hupertes“) were somewhat like police for the Temple. (Also see: Jn 19:6, Acts 5:22,26)
(Verse 4) “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him”
Clearly pointing to the deity of Jesus. Jesus, in His omniscience, knew ahead of time everything that was coming to pass.
(Verse 4) “went forth” Knowing what was about to occur, Jesus could have gone into hiding, instead however, He “went forth” to meet them. He didn’t even wait for them to get to Him.
(Verses 4 & 7) “Whom seek ye?” Jesus asked this question twice. He likely wanted them to clearly state that they came to arrest “Him,” and no one else. We will see why in verses 8 and 9.
***Note: Many things in these final chapters of John have details missing that are found in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). However, to keep this study from growing too large, we will only “briefly” mention these details. One example is found here, where it is said that Judas “kissed” Jesus to show the detachment and officers who it was they came to arrest (Mt 26:48-49)(Mk 14:44-45)(Lk 22:47-48).
(Verse 6)(NASB) “So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.”
As with other places that we have mentioned previously in (Jn 8:24)(Jn 13:19), the “He” in “I am He” here is not found in the original Greek. In other words, Jesus’ response was “I AM.” Of course, “I AM” is the name for God (Ex 3:14), and Jesus has used it over and over in this book: i.e. the 7 great I AM statements (Jn 6:35)(Jn 8:12)(Jn 10:7,9)(Jn 10:11,14)(Jn 11:25)(Jn 14:6)(Jn 15:1,5).
At the mention of His name (“I AM”), the arresting crowd “fell backwards” onto the ground.
***Note: This verse, along with a few others is sometimes used by some within the Pentecostal movement to support the practice of people falling backwards to the ground when “touched” by an “anointed pastor or person” (often called “slain in the spirit”). Neither this verse, nor the others, support this practice. You can find more on this here: https://jesusalive.cc/christians-fall-when-touched.
(Verses 8-9) “if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: (9) That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.”
Jesus twice asked, “Whom seek ye? Now, we see why. Jesus had prophesied in the previous chapter (Jn 17:12) that “none of the disciples would be lost” (except for Judas Iscariot). He is fulfilling this prophecy here by protecting them. Put another way, He is saying: “If you are seeking me, then let the disciples go.”
(Verse 10) “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.”
In (Lk 22:38), before going with Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane, we see the disciples say to Him, “Lord, behold, here are two swords,” and Jesus replied, “It is enough.” Obviously, Peter had one of these swords, and he used it here. It seems clear that Peter was aiming for the middle of the servant’s head, but missed and only got his right ear.
***Note: Only in John do we learn that Peter wielded the sword, and that the name of the servant was Malchus.
(Verse 11) “Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath” Jesus tells Peter to put His sword away, and after that says “for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Mt 26:52). In (Lk 22:51), we learn that Jesus healed the servants ear.
(Verse 11) “the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” This “cup” is referring to the suffering and wrath Jesus was about to endure. In the synoptics, we learn that Jesus (in His omniscience) prayed 3 different times in the Garden before the soldiers came, asking the Father to “let this cup pass from me” (see: Mt 26:36-44). (He followed that by praying, “but not my will, but your will be done.”)
***Note: The word “cup” is used in a number of places in the Bible in conjunction with “suffering” and “God’s wrath” (Ps 11:6)(Ps 77:8)(Ezek 23:31-34)(Isa 51:17)(Jer 25:15)(Mt 20:22-23)(Rev 14:10)(Rev 16:19).
Next, let’s read (Jn 18:12-27).
(Verses 12-13) “And led Him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year.”
Jesus was arrested and bound, and taken to Annas. Annas had been the High Priest from 6 – 15 A.D., however, he was deposed by the predecessor to Pilate, who was named Valerius Gratus. Annas’ son-in-law Caiaphas was made High Priest in his place. However, since the position of High Priest appears to have been a lifetime appointment (Num 35:25,28)(Josh 20:6), most Jews likely viewed Annas as the “true” High Priest.
(Verse 14)(NASB) “Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.” This occurred in (Jn 11:49-52).
This “prophecy” by Caiaphas was now coming to pass. It is also worth noting that since Caiaphas said these words, he is certainly not going to give Jesus a fair trial.
(Verses 15-16) “And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace (courtyard) of the high priest.”
While unnamed, almost all scholars agree that the “other (another) disciple” was John himself. We do not know how, but John appears to have had some sort of relationship with Annas. Because of this, he was able to follow Jesus as they took Him into the courtyard of Annas. Peter was not allowed in, but John used his connection to get Peter inside.
(Verse 17)(NASB) “Then the slave-girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” “
It is interesting to note here that the slave-girl said to Peter “you are not ALSO one of this man’s disciples, are you?” This certainly sounds like she already knew that John was a disciple. So, why was she only calling out Peter?
(Verse 17) “I am not” This was the first of three denials Peter would make, denying any relationship with Jesus. Remember, Jesus prophesied Peter would deny Him 3 times in (Mt 26:33-35)(Mk 14:29-31)(Lk 22:33-34)(Jn 13:37-38). This prophecy would be fulfilled shortly.
(Verse 19) “The high priest (Annas) then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine.”
Since Annas was not “officially” the High Priest (likely called “High Priest” out of respect), why was this “trial” even happening? The thought is that Annas was seeking to find things in Jesus’ “doctrine” which could be forwarded to Caiaphas, so that Caiaphas (who had the power) could use it convict Him.
Under Jewish law, this questioning of Jesus was illegal, because a Jew could not be questioned until charges were first brought by witnesses (Deut 17:6)(Deut 19:15)(Mt 18:15-20).
(Verses 20-21)(NASB) “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. (21) Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said.”
Jesus clearly knows that He is being questioned illegally. In these verses, he is pointing out that everything He said was out in the open, where everyone could hear Him. Therefore, He is asking for “witnesses” to be brought forward who could “bring charges” against Him for what He said.
(Verse 22) “And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so?”
This was also an “illegal” act. A person on trial could not be punished in any way until convicted. It also seems clear that they were frustrated by the words of Jesus, and resorted to violence out of anger. They had not gotten the words they hoped to use against Jesus from Him. They forwarded Him to Caiaphas (verse 24).
(Verses 25-27) “And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not. (26) One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him? (27) Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.
In these verses, we see the second (verse 25) and third (verse 27) denials by Peter of having a relationship with Jesus. After these denials, the “rooster crowed,” just as Jesus prophesied. John leaves many details out here which are found in the synoptics. I must list a few.
1. In (Mt 26:72), we are told that Peter denied knowing Jesus the second time with an “oath,” and the third time (Mt 26:74)(Mk 14:71) with “cursing and swearing.”
2. In (Mt 26:75)(Lk 22:62), we are told that Peter “went out, and wept bitterly” after He had denied Jesus the third time, and the “rooster crowed.” (Also see: Mk 14:72)
3. In (Lk 22:60-61), we are told that after the rooster crowed, Jesus “turned and looked at Peter.” Can you IMAGINE how that must have felt to Peter??
Finally, let’s read (Jn 18:28-40).
(Verse 28)(NASB) “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium.”
*** It is important to note that John chooses not to include the whole trial with Caiaphas in his Gospel. He jumps right from Jesus’ “trial” with Annas to Jesus’ first Roman trial with Pilate. The trial with Caiaphas can be found in (Mt 26:57-68)(Mk 14:53-65). It should also be noted that only John mentions the “trial” with Annas.
The “Praetorium” (governor’s headquarters). This was the official residence for the Roman governor while he was in Jerusalem. The governor’s primary residence was in Caesarea (See: Acts 23:35). Pilate was likely in his residence in Jerusalem at this time to insure that the large crowds in town for the Passover feast caused no problems.
(Verse 28) “it was early” Most likely during what was called the “4th watch,” which was from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. Around 6 a.m. seems probable.
(Verse 28)(NASB) “and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.
This seems confusing since Jesus and the disciples are said to have eaten the Passover meal the night before (Mt 26:17-29)(Mk 14:12-25)(Lk 22:7-22). However, the Passover celebration lasted for 7 days, and there were a number of different meals during this time.
According to Jewish law, if a Jew was exposed to “leaven,” they could not take part in the Passover celebration. They were to rid their homes of leaven before this celebration (Ex 12:15,19). Since Passover was a Jewish celebration, a Gentile residence would likely still have leaven in it, and therefore, entering that residence would defile a Jew.
(Verses 29-30) “Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? (30)(NASB) They answered and said to him, “If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.”
Because they would not go in to see Pilate, he came out to them. The first step for putting a man on trial was to hear the formal charges brought against him. Pilate was doing this here.
We learn from parallel accounts in the synopics that during this time the “chief priests and elders” (Mt 27:2) had been saying “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King” (Lk 23:2).
In saying this, they were trying to convince Pilate that Jesus had said not to pay taxes to Caesar (He actually said the opposite: See Lk 20:20-26), and that He had proclaimed Himself to be a “king” because He wanted to take control, and overthrow the Roman government.
(Verse 31) “Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law.”
Pilate seems to recognize that the charges the Jewish leaders were bringing against Jesus were false, and that Jesus had not broken any Roman law. Since He hadn’t, Pilate says to the Jewish leaders, in essence, “If you feel He has broken your law, then you try Him.”
(Verse 31) “The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death”
The Jewish leaders had previously accused Jesus “blasphemy” several times (Jn 5:17-18)(Jn 8:58-59)(Jn 10:30-33), and wanted to stone Him for it (this was the penalty for “blasphemy” under Jewish law: Lev 24:16). However, they could not carry out that sentence since Roman law forbid the Jews from putting a man to death. Since the Jews wanted to murder Jesus, they had to convince Pilate to do it.
(Verse 32) “That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.”
Jesus had previously prophesied that He would be murdered by crucifixion (“lifted up” – Jn 3:14, Jn 8:28, Jn 12:32-33). Because “it was not lawful” for the Jews to put a man to death, this prevented them from stoning Jesus, and assured that the prophesies that Jesus made about how He would die would come true.
(Verse 33)(NASB) “Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
As we said in verse 31, Pilate seemed to recognize that the Jewish leaders were upset with Jesus because He had broken “Jewish law,” and that no “Roman law” had been broken. However, when the Jewish leaders said that they wanted to “put Jesus to death” for breaking Jewish law, we see that Pilate “entered again into the Praetorium.” He likely wanted to know why they wanted to kill Jesus. Pilate then asked Jesus this question.
This was the first question Pilate asked Jesus. According to a number of sources, the “You” in this phrase is emphatic. In other words, “Are YOU the King of the Jews?” This implies that Jesus did not look like a “king” to Pilate, let alone a man who was trying to overthrow Rome.
(Verse 34) “Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?”
Jesus responded to Pilate’s question by asking this question. He likely asked this because He wanted to know if Pilate was asking because of what the Jewish leaders were accusing Him of, or if Pilate really wanted to know if Jesus was the “King of the Jews.”
(Verse 35) “Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?”
Pilate’s response seems to indicate that Pilate is asking because of what the Jewish leaders had said. He is saying, in effect, “I am not a Jew! It isn’t me who is saying this about you, it is your own people that brought you to me! I don’t know Jewish law, so what law are they accusing you of breaking that is worthy of death?”
(Verses 36 & 37)(NASB) “Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (37) Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king.” “
Jesus confesses here that He is indeed a king, but that “His kingdom” was not on Earth.
It is interesting to note that Pilate responds to Jesus’ comment in verse 36 with basically the same question he asked in verse 33: “Are you a king then?” However, this time Pilate truly seems to want to know if Jesus is a “king,” as opposed to his asking the first time because of what the Jewish leaders had said. And this time, Jesus gives Pilate an answer instead of asking him another question.
(Verses 37-38) “Thou sayest (You say correctly) that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. (38) Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews.”
How many people throughout history have asked the question, “What is truth?” Pilate asks this question to the only man who has ever lived that actually could give an answer, and he walks away before giving Jesus a chance to answer.
Of course, we know from other places in the Bible that the answer to Pilate’s question is that all things pertaining to God, and the “essential doctrines” of Christianity are called “truth.” For example, God’s Word is called truth (Jn 17:17)(2 Tim 2:15)(Ps 119:160)(1 Kin 17:24), Jesus is called truth (Jn 14:6)(Jn 1:14)(Eph 4:21), the Holy Spirit is called truth (Jn 15:26)(Jn 16:13), and God is called truth (Deut 32:4)(Ps 31:5)(Isa 65:16).
(Verse 39)(NASB) “But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?”
There was an odd “custom” that every year during the Passover celebration, the Roman governor (Mt 27:15) would “release unto the people a prisoner.”
(Verse 40) “Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.”
In addition to Barabbas being a “robber,” we are told in (Mt 27:16) that he was a “notorious prisoner,” who had been thrown in prison for “insurrection” and “murder” (Lk 23:19,25)(Mk 15:7)(Acts 3:14). Many scholars believe that he may have been a leader in the Jewish resistance against the Roman government.
Pilate gave the people a choice between Barabbas and Jesus (Mt 27:17,21). (Mt 27:20) says that “the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death” (Also see: Mk 15:11). We see them doing this in (Mt 27:21-23). Pilate gave into their demands, and ordered Jesus to be crucified (Mt 27:24-26)(Mk 15:15)(Lk 23:23-25)(Jn 19:15-16) (even though he knew Jesus was innocent: Mt 27:18-19,23, Mk 15:10,14, Lk 23:13-15,22, Verse 38, Jn 19:4,6).
Interestingly, the name “Barabbas” is Aramaic, and means “Son of Abba,” translated as “son of the father.” This being the case, it would mean the people were given a choice between “the son of the father” and “the son of the Father (God).”