Saturday, May 27th

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John 18

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This chapter ‘fills in’ some more details not found in other narratives. It is the time of betrayal and the start of the final hours of the Lord on this earth.

Verses 1&2

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

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

In chapter 17 we read some of the very last words of instruction and encouragement given by Jesus to His disciples. Now, the moment arrived for Him to be betrayed, and He took His disciples to His usual respite place, a garden near the Cedron brook. The brook only had water flowing during flooding or winter (this we know from the meaning of ‘Cedron brook’), but we do not know for certain if they had to cross a dry river bed or the water at this time. However, it was April, so it is reasonable to conclude that the river bed was dry.

The word cheimarros actually translates as ‘winter-flowing’. The name ‘Cedron’ (Kedrōn/Kidron) underlines this fact, because it is the name of a torrent of water that flowed from outside Jerusalem, down the Kidron valley under the mount of Olives, and into the Dead Sea. Thus, ‘Cedron’ was the name of the torrent and not the garden. The garden must have been on the lower part of the mount of Olives. Was the ‘garden’ tended as a garden, or was it just a pleasant place to rest? As the Mount was covered with olive trees, the garden was probably tended AS a garden. The words “into the which he entered” imply a walled garden or one with some kind of perimeter fence or shrubs.

The group sat down and perhaps talked some more, but their rest was interrupted by Judas Iscariot and a band of Temple soldiers who had been sent from Jerusalem. Judas guessed rightly where Jesus was, for they had been there often when Jesus wanted to rest quietly.

Verses 3-6

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

  2. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?

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

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

Judas guided the Jewish Temple soldiers (NOT Roman soldiers) led by their officers over the brook and towards the garden. Lanterns and torches gave light, and thus we know it was fairly late at night. In this text ‘lanterns’ may have meant ‘torches’, as the word, phanos, could refer to an object carrying oil, but also a torch, consisting of strips of wood bound together, the resin content acting like oil. This is more likely because a lantern holding a wick and oil would need replenishing too often, so a separate container (angeion) for extra oil was needed. It is unlikely that this company of men would have bothered with such added baggage – their aim was to get Jesus quickly in the dark, to avoid a commotion from the usual crowds, so they would have moved swiftly with torches of bound wood strips, which burned for longer.

Shamefully, the soldiers carried weapons (swords, spears and maybe heavy wooden truncheons), to arrest a man known everywhere for His peaceful ways! On the other hand, they did not know how His disciples would react (as one did), or if they might have to fight off onlookers.

Jesus, of course, knew what they had come for and walked towards them, asking who they were looking for. He saw Judas standing at their side. Someone answered “Jesus of Nazareth”. Calmly, Jesus replied “I am he”. The actual response was “I am”, which is itself interesting for it means “I am present” but is also a repeat of God’s state of self-existence: “I AM”. Perhaps I make too much of this... but it is interesting.

Even more interesting is the fact that as soon as He said “I am” all the men who came after Him moved away from Him involuntarily, reversing their direction, before falling backwards onto their backs. It is very interesting because the same feature can be found in many charismatic meetings when people are touched on their heads by the preacher. In their case, the falling backwards is a sign of anti-Christ dealings and is caused by occult means (Satan).

The other possibility is that the men all fell backwards because they dared to arrest the Son of God, Whose mere power of His presence threw them down on the ground. Whichever is the cause, it was a sign of the men’s wickedness, for men who acknowledge God’s/Jesus’ divinity fall forwards onto their faces, not backwards. (For more on this phenomenon, see my various articles on charismaticism). It is also possible that Jesus wanted them to link His Name with what just happened to them.

Verses 7-9

  1. Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth.

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

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

One can only imagine the terror those soldiers felt, especially as neither Jesus, nor His disciples, had touched them! They evidently got back up again. Jesus repeated His question – who are you looking for? They again replied (possibly with less aggression) “Jesus of Nazareth”.

Jesus said that He had already told them He was standing before them, and then He asked that they would let His disciples go free. After all, their business was with him, not them. And, the prophecy said that not one of His men would be lost. The soldiers must have been more than willing to oblige, after being forced to the ground on their backs by what was, to them, an unknown force somehow coming from Jesus.

Verses 10-14

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him,

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

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

It is often said by ignorant Christians that we have no right to be violent towards anyone for any reason, and may not carry weapons. It is even an excuse not to go to war. Yet, the same ones are more than happy for police or soldiers to protect them, using reasonable force! It was customary for Jews to carry swords, and even Jesus told the disciples to carry them. A machaira could be a big butcher’s knife, almost like a machete, or it could be a curved bladed sword (as many Arabs used to use) for a slicing movement (often from a horse), or a straight pointed one for thrusting into bodies, or just a smallish sword carried for protection.

Simon Peter drew his sword and we may reasonably guess that he had a sword with a curved blade, for it had a cutting edge rather than a point – he cut off the right ear of one of the arresting group. Though Jesus had no problem on a previous occasion with disciples having swords for self-defence, on this occasion Peter mistook what to do. The ear belonged to Malchus, the servant of the current High Priest, Caiaphas. Jesus commanded Peter to put his sword back into its sheath, saying that it was time for Him to undergo His prophesied end of life. It was something only He could bring about.

Remarkably, the soldiers did not arrest Peter. The most likely reason was that Jesus miraculously replaced the ear, healing Malchus instantly. Even so, they tied Jesus’ arms and led Him down the garden, back over the river bed, and onto the track leading to Jerusalem a short distance away. When they reached the Temple confines, Jesus was handed over to Annas, the father-in-law of the High Priest. (Annas was a former High-Priest, put out of office by the Procurator Valerius Gratus, but retaining immense influence over Jewish affairs). The text reminds us that it was Caiaphas who had earlier said that it was better for one man (Jesus) to die, than for the whole of Israel to die at the hands of Romans, if they did not quell what they thought would be a national uprising if Jesus became physical king).

Verses 15-18

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Peter and another disciple followed the arresting soldiers from afar. The unnamed ‘other’ disciple was known to the High Priest and so was able to enter the palace with Jesus. Peter, however, remained outside until the ‘other’ disciple came back to clear his entry with the young woman in charge of the door.

The woman immediately recognised Peter and said ‘Aren’t you one of Jesus’ disciples?’ Peter, afraid, replied “I am not”! Just inside the doorway was a group of servants and Temple officers standing around an open fire, because it was early morning and still cold. Peter, hoping not to be further identified, stood with them, warming his hands.

Verses 19-21

  1. The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine.

  2. 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.

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

The High Priest came to see Jesus when he was refreshed by a night’s sleep, whereas Jesus had been awake all night. Pretending to be interested, and thinking himself to be clever, the pompous High Priest began to question Jesus about His ministry and His disciples. Jesus replied as every modern day preacher and Bible teacher should respond – He cut out the nonsense and hidden hatred and went ‘straight to the heart’. Jesus was blunt – His ministry was well-known, He had preached in the Temple and in synagogues, where plenty of Jews attended, so everything He said and did was well-documented and known openly; there were no secrets!

Jesus asked ‘Why are you asking me this inane question? Ask all those who heard me – they know what I said’. We can legitimately read between the lines, for Jesus was mocking the High Priest who had already received many reports from his spies about what Jesus said and did. If you are a preacher or wish to witness to others, do not be distracted by this kind of stupid questioning by attempting to answer their annoying questions, which only serve to increase their feeling of power.

Atheists in particular love to make stupid remarks or to ask stupid questions of Christians, which have already been answered many times, not just by scripture, but also by God’s men before us. The aim of these unbelievers (including within the churches) is just to tie you in knots and to prevent a clear retort. To put it in common parlance, just hit them between the eyes and walk away! They have no interest in your reply or in truth. If they honestly wanted answers, then we are obliged to answer them. But, not otherwise.

Verses 22-24

  1. 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?

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

  3. Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest

When Jesus, King of kings, answered the High Priest, one of the Temple officers slapped Him across the face for daring to answer his master in such a way. What? With truth? What an historical and eternal blunder – to hit the Son of God!

This is the retort of most haters of God: they attack rather than discuss, and their only response to truth is violence or the law! See how atheists today try to destroy Christians who dare to question or criticise homosexuals and Islam! There is no discussion of the actual facts, just a clamp-down using law as a weapon.

Jesus rightly asked why the man had struck Him, when He had said nothing wrong. A small note tells us that Annas had Jesus bound and sent to the High Priest. Not because Jesus was a physical threat, but just to show the supposed power of the Sanhedrin.

Many rulers throughout history resort to naked power: this abuse conveys bluntly that those rulers may have raw power, but they have no authority! We see this today in all Western countries, as well as in those countries terrorised by Islam. If they had true authority, the people would accept their rule and agree with what they do. But, as they have no such authority they degenerate into issuing unfair laws.

Verses 25-27

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.

Meanwhile, Peter continued to warm himself, his mind probably reeling from the recognition of the maiden, but wanting to know the fate of His Master. Others soon recognised him and asked if he was one of Jesus’ disciples. Again, Peter replied “I am not”. A little later another man, a servant and family/tribal friend of Malchus, asked if he had seen Peter with Jesus in the garden. Peter again said he did not know Jesus. Immediately, the cock crowed, and Peter was devastated by his own disloyalty and frailty! He was the one who said he would die for Jesus; now, here he was, cowering like a coward, denying the Lord he had previously acknowledged to be the Messiah, Son of God!

Would YOU be stronger? Do you shake your head at Peter’s fear? Why? He was in the power-house of Israel’s rule. Where Jesus was about to be beaten to within an inch of His mortal life. He was surrounded by snarling, wicked men. Are you SURE you would have reacted more strongly? I doubt it, yet a stronger witness in the face of actual and real danger is what we must strive for, even if we miss the mark.

Verses 28-30

  1. 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.

  2. Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?

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

It was still early morning and guards led Jesus from the portico to the judgment hall (the praitōrion – of Latin origin) of the palace. Though the palace in which the High Priest lived, it was used as a central headquarters by Roman rulers and by the Roman soldiers. The Roman governor owned the right to live in the palace, so the High Priest was allowed a privilege to stay there. In reality it seems the Roman ruler actually lived in Herod’s palace across the other side of Jerusalem. Pilate is known to have lived in the castle of Antonia (usually identified as Herod’s palace), occupied by the Roman garrison.

The Jews and leaders did not enter the judgment hall, “lest they should be defiled”, “but that they might eat the passover”. Did not Jesus eat the Passover the night before, after which He sent Judas to do his foul deed? It is likely that the reference is to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which comes immediately after the Passover Feast. However, this is unclear. Whilst they wanted to murder Jesus, they did not wish to be ritually tainted by being part of any judgment (A futile thing to do for they had already been forming their judgment over the past three years. It is called hypocrisy).

Pilate came into the hall and asked why the Jews had brought Jesus to him. As if trying to unintentionally hide their shame, they did not answer directly, but objected that if Jesus was not a criminal, they would not have brought Him. Thus, they avoided the question, no doubt annoying the Roman ruler, who was quite astute. The Jews used the word “malefactor” to describe Jesus – thus calling Him someone who did evil, kakopoios. This was a direct lie, as they already knew! Jesus did nothing in His life to be called ‘evil’. Today, homosexuals call Christian ‘evil’ for defying and rejecting their wickedness. In so doing they project onto Christians the very thing they are themselves guilty of. And they use the same kind of underhanded and foul tactics used by the Pharisees, demanding a legal end to the One Who told only the truth.

Verses 31-34

  1. 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:

  2. That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.

  3. Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?

  4. Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?

Pilate saw through their scheming and told the Jews to judge Jesus according to their own religious laws. Only then did the Jews ‘cut to the chase’ – they could not do so, because they demanded the death penalty, and the Jews were not allowed to make such a judgment. Once again, the hapless Pharisees fulfilled prophecy, victims of their own sins!

Pilate then entered the hall again, calling Jesus to approach him. he asked a direct question: “Art thou the King of the Jews?” You might think this was just a mockery, but Pilate did not care who was the king... so long as he obeyed Roman rule! Any Jewish king was just a puppet, used to control the excesses of zealous Jews.

Verses 35-37

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Jesus did not just say “Yes”, but asked Pilate why he asked the question – was it his own, or was he primed by the Pharisees? Possibly, this annoyed Pilate, but we do not really get this from the text. Pilate answered that he was not a Jew, and the rulers of the Jews had brought Him to be judged by Rome. So, “what hast thou done?” Note that he had to ask the question because the Pharisees had not yet made accusations against Him.

Jesus’ answer should have been enough for Pilate to throw the case out. Jesus told him that His kingdom was not of this world. In itself this answered the question “Are you King of the Jews?” If he was a king of the Jews in the physical sense then His followers would rise up and fight (as did many false Messiahs during that time). But, as His kingdom was not earthly, His followers did not rise up and cause trouble.

Pilate asked “Art thou a king then?” Jesus; answer is often abused by unbelievers. Jesus, in His answer, admitted He WAS a king. ‘You say I am a king’ and “to this end was I born”. That was a direct affirmation that He was indeed King of the Jews, but in a spiritual sense. As king He came to witness to God’s truth, and everyone who believed (was elect: they were “of the truth”) listened to what He said. For Pilate this was just Jewish mythology and not a threat to the relative peacefulness of Israel under his rule. For this reason Pilate was not that interested.

Verses 38-40

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

Pilate asked Jesus “What is truth?” He asked this as a Roman, rather than as a seeker of God. He was familiar with Roman multi-god realities and so asked Jesus what were the objective facts about Jesus’ claim that proved His kingship. But, his question was just a throw-away line for he did not wait for an answer. He had heard enough and went out to the Pharisees to tell them he found no fault with Jesus.

Possibly, seeing their faces and anger, he gave them a life-line. He said they had a custom, to release one prisoner at Passover. Did they want him to release the King of the Jews? Then, the satanic wickedness of the Jews took over and they cried out ‘No! Release Barabbas!’. Barabbas was a robber who attacked people for their money and goods. So, he was also violent. Films often depict him as a freedom fighter against Rome, but there is no actual evidence of this. A robber did not care who was ruling; his only aim was to get rich by attacking and robbing people.

© May 2015