Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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JOHN - Chapter 18

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John 18

Supplemental Commentary:


2.  The Passion and Death of Jesus  18-19

18, 1-11:  Jesus Arrested.  Cf. Matt. 26, 47-56; Mark 14, 43-52; Luke 22, 47-53.  The Synoptics record the Agony, which is omitted by John.    1.  After the above discourse, our Lord and His Apostles left the cenacle.  Cedron means "muddy."  It can be called a torrent, although its bed is dry except in the rainy season.  We know the name of the garden, Gethsemani, from Matthew and Mark.    2.  Cf. Luke 21, 37; 22, 39.  This may have been the lodging of our Lord and the Apostles during the feasts.  Thus it would be known to Judas.    3.  Cohort here probably means a "group."  The danger of popular interference (Mark 14, 2) may have required a large number of soldiers.  The arrest was made officially by the attendants of the High Priest.    4.  Cf. 13, 3.  The Greek text reads "that were coming upon him."  Our Lord made it clear that He could not be taken against His will.    5 f.  In His manner or aspect there was something awe-inspiring, which caused them to draw back and fall to the ground.  Perhaps only those nearest Him and ready to apprehend Him were thus affected.    7-9.  It would seem that the officials also had in mind the arrest of the disciples.  Note (17, 12) our Lord's solicitude for His Apostles.  There the danger is moral; here, physical; but both are provided for in God's care.    10 f.  John's acquaintance with the name of Malchus shows his familiarity with the scene.  What John especially shows is that our Lord offers Himself freely.

18, 12-27:  Peter's Denial.  Cf. Matt. 26, 57-75; Mark 14, 53-72; Luke 22, 54-62.  John again adds to the Synoptic narrative those details which answer his purpose.    12.  John alone records that Jesus was bound at the garden.  The Tribune, in Greek chiliarch, was the commander of a thousand.    13.  Cf. Luke 3, 2; Acts 4, 6.  Though no longer High Priest, Annas wielded great authority, and was deeply involved in this effort against our Lord.  Who was high priest: cf. 11, 49 ff.

There has been question whether 15-23 describe a trial before Annas or before Caiphas.  (a) Most ancient interpreters take 24 to imply that all that precedes it took place before Annas, and that no action before Caiphas is noticed by John.  The present examination but little resembles the trial before Caiphas in the Synoptics.  (b) Several modern interpreters place 24 after 14, taking 15-23 entire as a trial before Caiphas.  These hold that John would hardly omit altogether the trial at which Christ was condemned.  (c) Still others, but with less probability, would read "had sent" for sent in 24.  Whatever the correct explanation, John evidently aimed at no complete account of our Lord's judicial examination.  The ground had been adequately covered by the Synoptics.

15.  Another disciple: with St. Augustine, some commentators now doubt that this was John the Evangelist.  Courtyard: the better houses had both a forecourt and an inner court; the latter is meant here.  Annas and Caiphas may have occupied sections of the same residence.  This would easily explain 18 and 25.    16.  At the door from the street to the forecourt, the cautious portress had probably refused Peter admission.    17.  Peter's first denial.  The "maid" of the Synoptics is here called the portress.  There is some precipitation in Peter's answer; he is thinking only of his personal danger.    18.  The night was well advanced, and, at this time of the year, could be very cold.    19-23.  If this high priest is Annas, John is relating a preliminary examination omitted by the Synoptics.    20 f.  Our Lord appeals to the law governing a Jewish trial: cf. Num. 35, 30; Deut. 17, 6; 19, 15; 3 Kgs. 21, 10-14.  He exonerates His disciples.    22 f.  His answer to this unjust blow, given with either hand or rod, is again an appeal to the Law.    24.  If the above scene was before Annas, our Lord's appeal for justice may have resulted in His being turned over to Caiphas, the official High Priest.    25-27.  The second and third denials of Peter.  Points of apparent divergence from the Synoptic account are probably due to the Evangelists' variance in the details they select, and also to their manner of stating the substance of a saying rather than its precise words.    25.  It is supposed that Peter is still in the place where he was at v.17; thus our Lord, in passing from Annas to Caiphas, had not left the building.    26 f.  The Synoptics suppose a lapse of time between the second and third denials.

18, 28-40:  Jesus before Pilate.  Cf. Matt. 27, 2.11-25; Mark 15, 1-15; Luke 23, 1-25.  Throughout the scene John shows our Lord preserving a majestic dignity.  The Synoptics present more details of His sufferings.    28.  Praetorium: the residence of the Roman procurator in Jerusalem.  Its location is disputed.  It was early: probably soon after 6 A.M.  Defiled: cf. Acts 10, 28; 11, 3.  A gentile home was "unclean" because of the possibility of dead being buried there.

This verse is of great importance for the chronology of the Passion.  (a) "To eat the passover" means to eat the paschal lamb; cf. 13, 1.29; 19, 14.  The day would then be the 14th Nisan.  (b) Such a trial and execution were hardly possible on the 15th Nisan, a day of sabbatical rest.  (c) The method of computing the day of the month from the new moon admitted of variation.  Hence it is quite possible that for Galilean pilgrims Thursday was the 14th, while for the Jews of the city Friday was the 14th Nisan.  John would follow the official date in relating a motive based upon it.

29.  Pilate, as procurator, was Rome's fiscal and judicial agent in Judea.    30.  A criminal: a vague reply, more out of anxiety to win their purpose than out of insolence.  Their real motive would have no force.    31.  Pilate's reply reveals an impatience fully in keeping with what we know of his feelings toward the Jews.  Under the Roman provincial system, the Sanhedrin had power to judge according to Jewish Law.  Pilate may have suspected their real purpose, and therefore chided them: at least, he provoked an open declaration of their intention.    32.  Cf. 3, 14; 8, 28; 12, 32; Matt. 20, 19 and parallels.  Crucifixion was a gentile method of execution.  Stoning was a Jewish penalty for blasphemy; cf. Lev. 24, 10-16.  But our Lord had foretold that He would die on a cross.    33.  Seeing Pilate unwilling to do their bidding, the Jews advanced their political motive.  Cf. Luke 23, 2.    34.  Our Lord's answer implies a distinction.  If the question originated with Pilate, it would involve kingship in the temporal sense; if it came from the Jews, it might have the Messianic meaning.    35.  Am I a Jew? therefore he knew nothing of the Messianic king.  What hast thou done? shows that he had no suspicion that Christ pretended to temporal kingship, but was merely investigating an accusation.    36.  Our Lord cannot be a temporal king of the Jews, or they would not have surrendered Him.    37.  Bear witness to the truth: to reveal the truth and to have it accepted; cf. 1, 9; 3, 11; 9, 5; etc.  Everyone who is of the truth: those who have accepted His word; cf. 3, 19-21; 8, 47; etc.    38.  What is truth?  Pilate shared the speculative skepticism of Rome, that uncertainty of mind which was born of the current philosophies, Stoicism, Epicureanism, etc.  Convinced that there is no danger in his prisoner, Pilate again seeks to throw the case back upon the accusers.  Went outside again supposes Mark 15, 8; Luke 23, 4 f.    39 f.  The designation King of the Jews may have been a recognition of their Messianic hope.  In this pretext for a release Pilate shows his weakness; he could not rightly speak of releasing one not yet convicted.

Confraternity Bible:

Jesus Arrested  1 After saying these things, Jesus went forth with his disciples beyond the torrent of Cedron, where there was a garden into which he and his disciples entered.  2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, since Jesus had often met there together with his disciples.  3 Judas, then, taking the cohort, and attendants from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, and torches, and weapons.

4 Jesus therefore knowing all that was to come upon him, went forth and said to them, "Whom do you seek?"  5 They answered him, "Jesus of Nazareth."  Jesus said to them, "I am he."  Now Judas, who betrayed him, was also standing with them.  6 When, therefore, he said to them, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground.  7 So he asked them again, "Whom do you seek?"  And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth."  8 Jesus answered, "I have told you that I am he.  If, therefore, you seek me, let these go their way."  9 That the word which he said might be fulfilled, "Of those whom thou hast given me, I have not lost one."

10 Simon Peter therefore, having a sword, drew it and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.  Now the servant's name was Malchus.  11 Jesus therefore said to Peter, "Put up thy sword into the scabbard.  Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?"

12 The cohort therefore and the tribune and the attendants of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him.  13 And they brought him to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiphas, who was the high priest that year.  14 Now it was Caiphas who had given the counsel to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.

Peter's Denial  15 But Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple.  Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest.  16 But Peter was standing outside at the gate.  So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the portress, and brought Peter in.

17 The maid, who was portress, said therefore to Peter, "Art thou also one of this man's disciples?"  He said, "I am not."  18 Now the servants and attendants were standing at a coal fire and warming themselves, for it was cold.  And Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

19 The high priest therefore questioned Jesus concerning his disciples, and concerning his teaching.  20 Jesus answered him, "I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in the synagogue and in the temple, where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing.  21 Why dost thou question me?  Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; behold, these know what I have said."

22 Now when he had said these things, one of the attendants who was standing by struck Jesus a blow, saying, "Is that the way thou dost answer the high priest?"  23 Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken ill, bear witness to the evil; but if well, why dost thou strike me?"

24 And Annas sent him bound to Caiphas, the high priest.

25 But Simon Peter was standing and warming himself.  They therefore said to him, "Art thou also one of his disciples?"  He denied it, and said, "I am not."  26 One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter had cut off, said, "Did I not see thee in the garden with him?"  27 Again, therefore, Peter denied it; and at that moment a cock crowed.

Jesus before Pilate  28 They therefore led Jesus from Caiphas to the praetorium.  Now it was early morning, and they themselves did not enter the praetorium, that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover.

29 Pilate therefore went outside to them, and said, "What accusation do you bring against this man?"  30 They said to him in answer, "If he were not a criminal we should not have handed him over to thee."  31 Pilate therefore said to them, "Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law."  The Jews, then, said to him, "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death."  32 This was in fulfillment of what Jesus had said, indicating the manner of his death.

33 Pilate therefore again entered into the praetorium, and he summoned Jesus, and said to him, "Art thou the king of the Jews?"  34 Jesus answered, "Dost thou say this of thyself, or have others told thee of me?"  35 Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew?  Thy own people and the chief priests have delivered thee to me.  What hast thou done?"  36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world.  If my kingdom were of this world, my followers would have fought that I might not be delivered to the Jews.  But, as it is, my kingdom is not from here."  37 Pilate therefore said to him, "Thou art then a king?"  Jesus answered, "Thou sayest it; I am a king.  This is why I was born, and why I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice."  38 Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"

And when he had said this, he went outside to the Jews again, and said to them, "I find no guilt in him.  39 But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover.  Do you wish, therefore, that I release to you the king of the Jews?"  40 They all therefore cried out again, "Not this man, but Barabbas!"  Now Barabbas was a robber.