SESSION TWENTY-FOUR: JESUS IS ARRESTED (JOHN 18)
INTRO: As a child, were you ever blamed for something you didn't do? How did you react?
- Why do the Pharisees want to take advantage of the night to arrest Jesus (see 3:19-20; 12:35; 13:30)? What is "the cup" which Jesus must drink (v. 11)?
- What do you think Peter and the other disciple hoped to do (vv. 15ff)? How do you account for the difference between Peter here (v. 17) and in the garden (v. 10)? How do Jesus' answers expose this trial as a mockery (v 23)?
- Why are the Jewish leaders rushing this trial? What reason do they give Pilate for bringing Jesus to him (vv. 33-34)? Why would Pilate take this seriously? How are Pilate's fears like those of the Jewish leaders in John 11:48?
- Have you ever tried to obey Jesus, only to be over-zealous and ending up hurting someone?
- How does the story of Peter both humble and encourage you?
- Do you see any of Pilate's qualities in yourself?
TAKEAWAY: What is your greatest takeaway from this story? What specific life changes do you need to make? How will you hold yourself accountable?
COMMENTARY: JESUS IS ARRESTED (JOHN 18)
When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.
Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
JESUS IS ARRESTED (John 18:1-11)
When the last meal was finished and when Jesus' talk (John 14-16) and his prayer (John 17) with his disciples were finished, he and his friends left the upper room. They were bound for the Garden of Gethsemane. To get there they have to leave Jerusalem by a gate, go down the steep valley and cross the brook of Kidron. There is a symbolic thing happening. All the Passover lambs were killed in the temple, and the blood of these lambs was poured on the altar as an offering to God. The number of lambs killed was astronomical. One census around 60 AD stated 256,000 lambs were slain at that particular Passover. All that blood had to go somewhere...and it did. Down a temple drain, through an underground channel and into the Kidron brook, which swelled, flooded and flowed blood red throughout the week. Jesus was crossing the flooded, bloody brook on his way to Gethsemane.
Gethsemane, located on the Mount of Olives, means "oil press." Many rich people had olive gardens on this mount (because ceremonial prohibitions disallowed the use of manure on the soil inside the city). Gethsemane was one of those gardens, and that means he had a wealthy friend (Nicodemus? Lazarus? Joseph of Arimethea?) who owned a private garden and gave Jesus and his disciples a key. Judas Iscariot must have been involved in this transaction, because he knows where Jesus will go after the supper.
There is something astonishing about the force which came out to arrest Jesus. It was a company of soldiers, together with officers from the chief priests and Pharisees. The officers were the temple police--a private force that kept order in the temple. The Sanhedrin also had their own protective police force. So these officers were Jewish not Roman. However, there was a band of Roman soldiers present too. A "band" (spiera) has three meanings: 1) a Roman cohort (600 men) or 2) a cohort of auxiliary soldiers (1000 men comprised of 240 cavalry and 760 infantry) or 3) a detachment of 200 men called a "maniple." Even if we take the smallest number (200), that's quite a lot of Roman soldiers, plus temple police plus Pharisees. Easily hundreds of armed men to arrest Jesus! It's a compliment to Jesus and His Power. The Pharisees were well aware of his "force."
So let's look at Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Essentially there are five qualities worth noting:
- The COURAGE of Jesus. At Passover time, it was full moon and that meant a lot of light. And yet the enemies of Jesus came looking for him with torches and lamps. Why? Because they thought they'd have to search the shrubs, trees and caves for him. Instead, Jesus walked out and gave himself up.
- The AUTHORITY of Jesus. There he was: one single, lonely, unarmed figure. Up against hundreds of armed men skillful in arrest and killing. Yet when they met Jesus they retreated and fell to the ground.
- That JESUS CHOSE TO DIE. He could've fought his enemies. He could've called down an angelic force to slay them. But he did not. He helped his enemies to arrest him. He chose to die.
- It shows HIS PROTECTIVE LOVE. It was not for himself that took thought; it was for his friends. "Here I am," he said, "I (not them) are the one you're looking for."
- It shows UTTER OBEDIENCE. It was God's Will for this moment to happen. It was Jesus' cup to drink Jesus was faithful to the point of death.
JESUS BEFORE ANNAS (JOHN 18:12-14, 19-24)
Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people...Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
For the sake of keeping the narrative continuous we will take together the two passages which deal with the trial before the former high priest Annas.
Only John tells us that Jesus was brought before Annas and that's significant from a theological perspective. Jesus is going to become the HIGH PRIEST after he's exalted back into Heaven. Hebrews speaks at length to this matter (chapters 7-10) but summarizes it at the end of chapter 5:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 5:14-16)
To understand this passage you have to know about Annas the High Priest, for he was a notorious character. No one is known more in contemporary Jewish history than Annas. No one was more successful either. He was high priest from AD 6 - 15. Four of his sons held the position of high priest. Caiaphas, the current high priest, was his son-in-law. It's literally a dynasty of high priests. In previous times of Jewish history, the high priestly position was a lifetime appointment but when Rome came to rule they found that practice and tradition prone to bribery and corruption. In its place was a bidding war (to the man most willing to toe the line with Roman authority). The family of Annas was very wealthy thanks to its long friendship with Rome...and Annas was the power behind it all.
It was Annas who set up the sacrificial selling system in the Court of the Gentiles. No sacrificial animal or bird could have a blemish and his inspectors pretty much insured that all outside animals and birds had something wrong. That meant worshippers had to buy their sacrifices in the Court of Gentiles...and they charged high prices (with cuts to Annas and likely to Rome itself). The "Bazaars of Annas" made the guy rich. It's also what got Jesus mad on the previous Monday of Passover Week. He took a whip to this type of extortion.
Annas wanted to see Jesus before anyone else. He wanted to see the man who attacked his financial interests. What Jesus did hit Annas where it really hurt: in his pocketbook. Annas wanted to be the first to gloat.
In reality this was a mockery of justice. It was an essential regulation of the Jewish law that a prisoner must be asked no question which would incriminate him. Annas violated the principles of Jewish justice when he questioned Jesus. It was precisely of this that Jesus reminded him, and said: "Don't ask me questions. Ask those who heard me." He was saying don't examine me (that's illegal) but examine the witnesses (legal). That's when one of the officers slapped Jesus, and he replied that if he had done something wrong simply for stating the law, why was he hit?
Jesus had no hope for justice. He was condemned before he was ever tried.
THE HERO AND THE COWARD (John 18:15-18, 25-27)
Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in. “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.”
It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself...Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.”
One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.
In this interesting story lies a terrible paradox where a hero can be a coward.
When the other disciples fled at Jesus' arrest, Peter stood up to the police force. He grabbed a sword and cut off the ear of one of the Roman soldiers (obviously Peter was more adept at fishing than fighting!). Then he followed Jesus back into Jerusalem with "another disciple." Just who is the "other disciple?" Could it be Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea? Both of these men had connections to the high priest (Nicodemus was part of the Sanhedrin). Some have suggested it might be Judas Iscariot himself (whom John refuses now to name after his betrayal), but its doubtful Peter would've had much to do with Judas after his betrayal of Jesus. The traditional view is its John. So how could John be so well known to the Jewish high priest? There are two possibilities: First, an early historical view argues that John was born into a priestly family, that he wore the "petalos" (a narrow gold ring inscribed "Holiness is the Lord") which the high priest wore on his forehead. It's possible John is kin to Caiaphas. The second view is easier to accept. John's father ran a flourishing fish business in Galilee (Mark 1:20). One of the great Galilean industries was salt fish (which kept longer than unsalted fish). Salt was like gold in that day. Very rare and highly valued. John's dad was the one who supplied the high priest with salt fish. It's why John's well known to the high priest and his servants.
So what about this idea of a "cock crowing" after Peter denies Jesus a third time? There are some difficulties with this idea. According to Jewish ritual law, it was illegal to keep a rooster in the Holy City, although its possible this law wasn't always enforced. The other problem is a rooster doesn't always crow at dawn. With that said, the Romans did have a certain military practice . They divided the night into four watches: 6-9 p.m. (first watch), 9 p.m. to midnight (second watch), midnight to 3 a.m. (third watch) and 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. (fourth watch). After the third watch, the guard was changed using a trumpet call at 3 a.m. This call on the trump was called alektorophonia in the Greek or literally "cockcrow." It could be argued that Jesus told Peter that before the 3 a.m. guard change (and trumpet call) he'd would deny him three times.
In John 13 we dealt with the severity of denying Jesus (really disowning him). This is a legal statement involving witnesses, when a person stated "three times" his intents or promises. In this case, Peter was literally breaking his rabbinical ties with Jesus. He was saying that he was no longer a disciple of Jesus. This is no small matter. It's why Jesus will take Peter back to the scene of the crime in chapter 21 when he asks him (three time) "Do you love me?" It's called Peter's "reinstatement." And you can't have a reinstatement without an uninstallation. Peter was removing himself from his rabbi, for whatever reason (disillusionment, fear, disgust, regret, apathy).
Judas betrayed Jesus, which was bad enough. But Peter actually disowned him. I'll let you decide which one is the bigger crime.
In the end, it's quite a night. And its only just beginning.
We'll pick up the trial and crucifixion of Jesus in our next session on John 19 (including 18:28-40).
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