John Chapter 18: Judas and the Soldiers, Peter’s Denial, So Called Trials

Dec 14th, 2009 | By | Category: John, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

John Chapter 18: Judas and the Soldiers, Peter’s Denial, So Called Trials

John 18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the where was a garden, into the which brook Cedron, he entered, and his disciples.

This verse is proof that the preceding prayer and discourse of Chapters 15-17 were uttered by Jesus before he entered the Garden of Gethsemane.

John 18:2 And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples.

As a general rule, when Jesus went to Jerusalem for feast days, he slept in the Garden of Gethsemane. He also went there in the evenings of the last week of his ministry. “And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him” (Luke 22:39). “And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives” (Luke 21:37).

John 18:3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.

A “band” was a fairly large number—more than 15 or 20. Included was a special group of soldiery that was attached to the Temple but was allotted to the Jews by the Roman ruler as permitted. In other words, those who came to apprehend Jesus were Jews, even the soldiery (John 18:12). The band, sent at the instigation of the chief priests and Pharisees, came with lanterns, torches, and weapons (swords and staves). Although a mixed group, the band consisted of a nucleus of officers assigned to police duty. Some were part of the household of Caiaphas; among these was Malchus, the high priest’s servant (John 18:10).

Previously during his ministry, Jesus had evaded the Pharisees. This time, with light at night, weapons, and numbers, the band took no chances of his escaping.

John 18:4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?

Jesus knew in advance that his time for capture had come.

John 18:5 They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.

John 18:6 As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.

When Jesus said, “I am he,” the account does not say his apprehenders “fell backward.” They first went backward and then fell. His words were like a repelling force. This dramatic scene showed that Jesus had the power to resist arrest but did not utilize that power.

By identifying himself, Jesus was protecting his followers from molestation through mistaken identity. He said, “I am he” twice (verses 5 and 8), the first time strongly with a repelling effect. The second time, which was after his apprehenders had regained their composure, he probably used a little different tone of voice, reminding them of what he had said.

John 18:7 Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth.

John 18:8 Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way:

The band’s mission was to apprehend Jesus, and Jesus purposely shielded his disciples. His prayer in Chapter 17 was that he would lose none (except Judas) because they had a ministry to perform. It was noble of Jesus to protect his disciples.

John 18:9 That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.

John 18:10 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.

Peter probably intended to decapitate Malchus, but the sword was divinely guided to cut off only the ear. Perhaps the servant’s name was given because he became a disciple later.

John 18:11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

The sword was providentially taken to the Garden of Gethsemane by the disciples to afford Jesus the opportunity of forbidding them to fight on his behalf. This incident also showed that Jesus’ servants were willing to fight for him. In other words, not only did Jesus have magnetic or charismatic powers to repel the band, but his disciples could have been allowed to resist his apprehension. To state the matter another way, he submitted willingly.

In addition, Matthew 26:53 records that Jesus could have prayed for twelve legions of angels to rescue him. Thus there were three means of defense: (1) the Father’s angels, (2) the disciples fighting for Jesus, and (3) Jesus’ personal power.

Jesus referred to the prayer he had uttered previously there in the Garden regarding the cup the Father had given him to drink (Matt. 26:39-44). He was showing his resignation, for he had prayed that, if possible, the cup would be taken from him.

John 18:12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him,

Jesus was led away bound, probably with his hands behind his back.

John 18:13 And led him away to Annas first; for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year.

Both Annas and Caiaphas were high priests at the same time (Luke 3:2). Jesus was led to Annas first to show deference, for Annas was the older of the two. High priests served for life, and for centuries there was a second high priest, an alternate, in case one was indisposed.

John 18:14 Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.

John 11:47-50 shows that the chief priests and the Pharisees had consulted together earlier in regard to Jesus. Psalm 2:2 tells us, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed.” In other words, the leadership (both religious and civil) took counsel together; that is, Caiaphas, Annas, Pilate, and Herod.

“Caiaphas … gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.” The Holy Spirit moved Caiaphas to prophetically make the statement about Jesus’ dying for the people. Saul was similarly moved, and so were Balaam and Balaam’s ass (Num. 24:15-24; 1 Sam. 10:1,6,9-13). Thus the Holy Spirit can overrule to cause a statement to come forth, even though the speakers are evil.

Caiaphas might have been moved to make the statement from the standpoint that if Jesus became too popular as a king, the Romans would clamp down on the Jews with far greater severity. Rather than have the nation suffer, Caiaphas felt it was expedient for Jesus to die. This statement was recorded for history—far into the future. The sentiment will be, “Yes, it was expedient that Jesus die lest the whole race of Adam perish.” Sometimes profound wisdom comes out of the mouth of babes.

Comment: The Sanhedrin envied Jesus and feared he would take away their prerogatives of leadership, so they went along with the suggestion of Caiaphas.

John 18:15 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 of the high priest.

“Another disciple” was John. Should some try to say “another disciple” was not John because he referred to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” we can cite John 20:2, which uses both expressions: “the other disciple, whom Jesus loved.”

In what way was he “known unto the high priest”? There was a family relationship, probably through marriage. A daughter of Zebedee might have married a kin of the high priest.

Anyway, John was allowed right into the palace, and it is important to realize that both John and Peter followed Jesus when the other apostles fled. Their action was noble. The “palace,” the personal home of Caiaphas, was near the Temple but southwest of it. The houses of Annas and Caiaphas were very close to each other, just across a courtyard.

John Mark is probably the one who lost his robe (Mark 14:51,52). Not an apostle, he was like Peter’s right-hand man for a number of years. At the close of Peter’s ministry, John Mark went over to Paul. He had been with Paul earlier but was barred for desertion. Later he was reinstated, but in the meantime, he united with Peter. Thus the Gospel of Mark is sometimes called the Gospel of Peter. Mark merely wrote what Peter dictated.

John 18:16 But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter.

There is a little pathos in regard to Peter’s standing “at the door without” while John went into the palace. By John’s speaking to “her that kept the door,” the girl might have suspected Peter was a disciple, but she obeyed John and let Peter in.

John 18:17 Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples? He saith, I am not.

“Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples?” indicates that John, as well as Peter, was known as being one of Jesus’ disciples. However, because Jesus was the focus of attention and the chief priests were so happy he was in their custody, they ignored John. This verse is Peter’s first denial.

John 18:18 And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself.

Jesus was crucified the beginning of April, a time of year when Jerusalem was quite cold— although milder than our area. When the apostles slept in the Garden of Gethsemane, they could have had a fire and bundled themselves up to withstand the coolness of the night.

Notice the setting: servants and officers were standing right there. Their presence made Peter’s test more difficult when he denied Jesus a second time (verse 25). At this point, Peter must have been something like a zombie, for he had already denied Christ once. Lesson: Peter’s experience is recorded to warn us lest we do likewise when we have a similar experience at the end of the age.

John 18:19 The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine.

The questioning was hypocritical, for the high priest knew perfectly well what Jesus had taught. He (and the others) had probably all heard Jesus’ teachings with their own ears, and they also had spies listening.

In their asking Jesus to tell “of his doctrine,” it would be like asking us to explain in short order what our beliefs are. Under such conditions of brevity, Jesus would be more apt, they thought, to state something they could use as grounds against him. Hence the motivation for asking Jesus was hypocritical and faultfinding. They wanted him to incriminate himself; then they would not need other witnesses. Someday in the future, we may be similarly confronted.

John 18:20 Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.

John 18:21 Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said.

Despite the question about the disciples (verse 19), the high priest was particularly centering his attention on Jesus, whom he and the others were trying to implicate. Jesus’ reply (verses 20 and 21) seems to suggest that the high priest viewed him something like the nominal systems view us. Those in the Truth movement are cast as being associated with a cult, a rather secret cult.

The nominal systems say, “This group has strange views. They do not vote, go to war, etc.” The implication is that we are a nefarious group. The same applied to Jesus. The high priest was suggesting that the sentiments he harbored were of a revolutionary nature—that his disciples could potentially be soldiers for his mysterious Kingdom. The insinuation was that Jesus was hiding something, but he replied in effect, “I have nothing to hide. What I have taught has been taught openly. Everyone should know my views. There are no secret doctrines.”

John 18:22 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?

Jesus’ answer (verses 20 and 21) was taken as an offense by the high priest. No matter how delicate the reply, it would have been resented by the high priest. Hence one of the officers struck Jesus.

Jesus did not want to expound about what he believed, who his disciples were, or what his doctrine was. One reason may have been that he did not want to delay matters too long, for he had to die at a particular hour and there remained certain experiences to go through.

John 18:23 Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?

Jesus gave a clever reply. By asking a question and turning the tables around, he put his opposers on the defensive. He often used this technique. Earlier he had said, “If one smites you on the cheek, turn the other cheek also” (Matt. 5:39).

Evidently, Jesus wanted the chief priests to present a legal charge for arresting him and holding a trial. His replies forced the high priest to get witnesses. In other words, Jesus wanted the chief priests to bring forth a charge that would be more recognizable by Pilate, for Jesus, knowing the Scriptures in regard to the necessity of death by crucifixion, wanted to die by Pilate’s hand.

By making them think along these channels, Jesus knew they would be better prepared to give a charge when they subsequently went to Pilate. As they saw that their answers did not work, they brought up a charge that would: treason. They later hypocritically said, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15).

Thus Jesus was forcing the chief priests to develop a charge that would be irrevocable, for he knew this was his time to die. He did not want to either slow down or speed up matters because 3 p.m. was to be the hour of his death. The trials had to be finished by early in the morning so that he could be brought to Pilate in time and the charges made. He had to die the next day from the Gentile standpoint, the same day from the Jewish standpoint.

Jesus’ reply in verse 23 was in harmony with the Scripture about his being brought to the slaughter as a lamb. He was meek, especially in the trial with Pilate; he witnessed a good confession and would not defend himself publicly. (Privately, however, he said to Pilate, “You speak the truth. My kingdom is not of this world.”)

Notice that although Jesus did not defend himself here, he did try to have the accusation clarified. We should do the same if our circumstances are similar. We can simply ask, “What is the charge?” One purpose in asking for the clarification was for the benefit of the hearers, who could then see the trumped-up nature of the charge. For example, Nicodemus might well have been in the room. Thus Jesus did speak, but he did not try to defend himself. He just wanted the charge clarified.

John 18:24 Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest.

Caiaphas was considered the determining factor, for it was he who gave the advice, “It is expedient that one man die lest a nation perish” (John 11:50 paraphrase).

John 18:25 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.

John 18:26 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?

John 18:27 Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.

Jesus had predicted that Peter would deny him thrice before “the cock crew.” Although “cock crow” was the term for a watch in the night, there may have been a simulated sound as well. It would be like the town crier or Muslims in their minarets crying the hour.

Tradition says that after repenting, Peter woke up every morning at that hour and thanked God for repentance. Anyway, Peter’s denials were certainly scarred in his mind. His repentance benefited not only him but all other Christians. As a result of his repentance and growth, his epistles became more meaningful.

Probably Peter did not remember Jesus’ prediction until the Lord looked at him. That look must have penetrated his very soul, for in that look, there would have been love and compassion as well as sternness. In addition, Jesus’ face would have been bruised at that time. He could have walked on by without looking at Peter, but despite the pressures, he took time out to show concern for Peter—and for his mother too.

John 18:28 Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.

The “hall of judgment,” which was off the Via Dolorosa, was part of Pilate’s house, or residence. It was outside on the lower level. In some pictures, Pilate is seen leaning out over a balustrade to say, “I find no fault in this man” and “Behold the man.” That probably was the case, but the charges were brought down below by the Jews. Pilate sat on both levels depending on what he was doing. On the lower level, he listened to the charges. On the upper level, he pronounced judgment.

“It was early”—shortly after 6 a.m. Jesus was led from Caiaphas to the Hall of Judgment at an early hour. The Jews did not go into the Hall of Judgment, but they had to communicate with Pilate. It was an open area, but they did not step down into the hall proper lest they get polluted for the Passover.

This is the fourth Passover in the Gospel of John. Only John’s Gospel enumerates the four Passovers, thus proving Jesus’ ministry was 3 1/2 years long. The reckoning is as follows:

6 months from October to Passover No. 1 = 1/2 year

12 months until Passover No. 2 = 1 year

12 months until Passover No. 3 = 1 year

12 months until Passover No. 4 = 1 year

Total 3 1/2 years

John 18:29 Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?

John 18:30 They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.

John 18:31 Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:

Right away Pilate wanted to brush this matter off, for he realized the Jews did not have a real charge. To say Jesus was a malefactor but not specify the charge was not convincing to Pilate.

The Jews had expected Pilate to take their word for Jesus’ “wrongdoing.”

After the Passover feast, the Jews could have put Jesus to death themselves—that is when they stoned Stephen—but they did not want to wait a week lest the matter cool off. Therefore, they said to Pilate, “It is not lawful [according to Roman law] for us to put any man to death.”

The priesthood wanted to have clean hands in regard to Jesus’ death because he was popular.

At this Passover season, the multitudes had just cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Hence the priesthood had to tread softly. As for the culpability of the priesthood, the false witnesses were brought up before the religious authorities, not the civil authorities. Two false witnesses were procured to get a religious consensus. (Under the Jewish law, two witnesses were needed to condemn a man to death.) Once the religious consensus was obtained, the matter was taken to Pilate, and another strategy was pursued to persuade the reluctant civil authorities. John 11:48 is a proof of Jesus’ popularity and the fact that it was gaining momentum. “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.”

Caiaphas pictures the pope as spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church. However, the corresponding antitypical statement about it being expedient for “one man” (the feet members) to die may not be said to the public at large but may be spoken among the religious leaders. This possibility is shown in the agreement between Salome and Herodias to get John the Baptist’s head.

John 18:32 That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.

That death was crucifixion, as mentioned in John 12:32,33, etc. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.”

When Pilate saw that he could not dismiss the matter so readily, he called Jesus in for questioning. But the delay was just putting the noose around Jesus’ neck, for the Jews would devise other ways of incriminating him.

John 18:33 Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?

Pilate called Jesus into the Judgment Hall. This audience between Jesus and Pilate was relatively private. Pilate would have been aware that Jesus was being called the Messiah and a King, for it was his responsibility to know what was going on. As custodian of the Roman Empire, he had to have eyes and ears throughout the realm. He knew Jesus was talking about a coming Kingdom and being the Messiah (or King/Emperor as the Romans would view the matter).

John 18:34 Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?

Jesus asked Pilate why he had put forth the question “Art thou the King of the Jews?” In other words, Jesus was saying, “Did others prompt you to ask this question, or are you asking yourself?” Notice Pilate’s answer in the next verse.

John 18:35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?

Pilate had to get information in order to keep a record to show his superiors in case something happened. He saw that the chief priests meant business. He wanted to shirk his responsibility and not get entangled, but that was not possible. Hence, like a judge, he needed more information. If he were questioned later and said, “I do not know,” the emperor would not have been pleased.

Jesus did not answer the original question (verse 33), but countered with a question (verse 34). When Pilate responded (verse 35), Jesus gave another answer (verse 36) and eventually answered the original question (verse 37). The point is that Jesus answered later and on his own terms.

Verses 33 and 34: One reason Jesus questioned Pilate was to test his sincerity. The question “Art thou the King of the Jews?” could have been asked from one of two motivations: (1) Pilate wanted personal information. (2) Pilate wanted information for record-keeping purposes—for the report he would have to make to Caesar. The motivation was the latter. Pilate’s tenure in office depended on how well he discharged his responsibilities, so he needed information. In making his report, he had to be aware of any threat to Rome.

Of course Jesus knew what was in Pilate’s heart, but there was a beneficial effect in asking; namely, the questioning focused attention on the real issue. For example, if one is insincere and that fact is brought to his attention, a purpose has been served. However, Pilate did have a sense of righteousness and justice in that he did not want to put Jesus to death. He could see through the envy of the chief priests, and that the charges against Jesus were trumped up, not worthy of death. But Pilate was not personally interested in Jesus’ teaching. He was trying to find out if Jesus did, in fact, consider himself to be the King of the Jews. He did not want to know if Jesus was King but if Jesus thought he was King. Pilate could also have had in mind, as Jesus seems to be saying, “If it is true that you purport to be the King of the Jews, and if your followers believe you are the King of the Jews, that might constitute a threat to Rome.” Jesus’ reply in verse 36 allayed any such suspicions.

John 18:36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

In other words, “I have men who would be very willing to give their lives unto death, but my Kingdom is not of this age, so you do not have to worry along this line. My followers would defend me if I gave the word.”

“Now is my kingdom not from hence.” This statement puzzled Pilate. “You are King of the Jews, but your Kingdom is not of this age?” The words were very confusing to Pilate—and to most Jews too.

John 18:37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest 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.

“Art thou a king then?” It was hard for Pilate to rationalize this. “You are a King, but your Kingdom is future?” Jesus admitted, “What you say is true. I am a King. I was born for this reason, and I testify unto it.” Pilate’s next response is interesting.

John 18:38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

Pilate was not very religiously inclined even to the Roman gods. He was not interested in philosophy and felt truth could not be proved one way or the other. His question “What is truth?” really signified, “End of matter.” The conversation was cut off at that point.

Pilate had no philosophical views. Evidently, some previous experiences had soured him toward religion. “What is truth?” has been a quest all down through history. Many have become discouraged in their quest for truth. Furthermore, “What is truth?” signifies that truth is relative to the believer. There were different viewpoints, but Pilate would do what he felt was right and just. And he turned around and said to the Jews, “I find in him no fault at all.”

His concept of truth was to make righteous judgments. Beyond that—that is, in regard to philosophical judgments—he was not concerned.It is interesting that Pilate did not feel Jesus’ remarks constituted a threat. He could see that Jesus’ doctrine was philosophical, not insurrectionist. Probably, too, he was impressed by Jesus.

Moreover, Pilate would have heard of Jesus’ teaching: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). Thus Pilate perceived that Jesus’ Kingdom was more theoretical and not a practical threat to the Roman Empire. Also, Pilate could see that envy was a motive of the chief priests in wanting Jesus’ death.

Q: How would John, who was not present, have received this account of Jesus’ exchange with Pilate?

A: After having a premonition or dream, Pilate’s wife warned, “Have … nothing to do with that just man” (Matt. 27:19). She subsequently, in later years, may have confided in others. Since there were believers in Herod’s and Caesar’s households, there probably also were believers in Pilate’s household who could have reported the conversation to John—perhaps a maid or even Cornelius the centurion.

John 18:39 But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

John 18:40 Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

Pilate tried to provide a way out. Since it was customary to release a prisoner at the time of Passover, he suggested that Jesus should be the one released. This way out would have allowed the chief priests to save face, and Pilate would have deemed justice done. But the chief priests wanted Barabbas released, and they moved the people accordingly (Mark 15:11).

Pilate’s reluctance to put Jesus to death is reminiscent of Herod with John the Baptist and of Darius with Daniel concerning the lions’ den. Herod did not expect John the Baptist’s head to be requested when Salome was offered a reward for dancing. Pilate did not expect Barabbas to be released when he mentioned the custom. Of course there will be some exceptions at the end of the age, but generally speaking, the civil authorities will be reluctant to prosecute the feet members. The fact that Pilate did try to dispense justice is shown by his publicly washing his hands (Matt. 27:24).

“It was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth [third—according to the Sinaitic MS] hour: and he [Pilate] saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!” (John 19:14). The “third hour” was 9 a.m. Hebrew time (all four Gospels use Jewish time). Thus Jesus was intentionally taken to Pilate early in the morning, before the public was aware and would interfere. As the Passover Lamb, Jesus was slain between the two evenings. The seven-day feast followed the “day of preparation” (the feast began at 6 p.m.). The slaying of the lamb preceded the feast.

Therefore, Jesus had to be removed from the Cross and put in the tomb before 6 p.m. In addition to John’s calling Barabbas a “robber,” Luke 23:19 refers to him as a murderer and a seditionist: “Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.”

(1986–1987 Study)

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