In these two chapters we encounter the darkest hours in the life of Christ. Betrayal. Arrest. Fraudulent charges. Bogus trial. Death.
Although these moments seem dark, they prove to be Christ’s finest hour in his work of redemption.
Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
18 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus 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 told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
- (see attached map for approximate location for events)
- At the conclusion of this disciple’s last meal with Jesus and his last prayer for his disciples, Jesus and his disciples leave the city and head to a secluded spot on the Mount of Olives. Although John does not name the exact spot, Matthew identifies it as The Garden of Gethsemane (26.36). Gethsemane literally means “oil press” and we see Jesus ‘pressed’ by the impending moments in Matthew’s gospel. John focuses on the authority and divinity of Jesus.
- In the Garden of Eden, we encounter rebellion, disobedience and separation. In the Garden of Gethsemane we see Jesus begin to repair what was broken by Adam and Eve through his submission, obedience, and redemption.
- John is the only gospel that mentions Judas being accompanied by Roman soldiers. John highlights an unlikely group participating in the arrest Jesus. Judas (a disciple), Roman soldiers (Gentiles), chief priests and Pharisees (Jews).
- In an ironic twist, those who came to arrest Jesus were greater in number and clout. The reader would naturally assume them to possess authority in this situation, yet when Jesus identifies himself, they all assume a submissive posture.
- Other gospels inform us that the disciples fled in these moments, but John remains steadfastly fixed upon Jesus as the divine protector of those who follow him.
- Peter’s act of violence is mentioned elsewhere, but John gives us the exact names of those involved. Often overlooked, the fact that these men knew each other by name had to add heaviness to an already tense encounter.
- John displays Jesus as in complete control of these events and looking forward to accomplishing his mission of atonement.
Jesus Faces Annas and Caiaphas
12 So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. 13 First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.
- John masterfully alternates between the events occurring in the home of Annus and those events occurring just outside. We should see these as happening rather simultaneously, or within the same time frame.
- Although Annas is not functioning in the official title as high priest this year, Caiaphas, his son-in-law is, we should assume him to still wield a lot of political power because Jesus is taken here first.
- Caiaphas’ statement of one man dying for the people is meant political efficiency for him, but turns out to be quite theologically prophetic.
Peter Denies Jesus
15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. 17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.
- The “another disciple” mentioned in these verses probably refers to John, himself, but we cannot be absolutely certain. This would easily explain the detailed account of the events of the betrayal as well as John’s ability to identify Peter and Malchus by name.
- Peter’s betrayal highlights Jesus’ bravery and obedience and his own cowardice in troubling times. Jesus says, “I am he.” Peter says, “I am not.”
- The phrasing of the servant girl’s question assumes a negative response.
- APP: It is more often than not easier to be disobedient, than obedient to God’s Kingdom.
The High Priest Questions Jesus
19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22 When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” 24 Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
- Annas, here referred to as the high priest, puts on somewhat of a first century “political hearing”.
- Annas attempts to shape Jesus into a teacher who has secretly been teaching blasphemy to his disciples. Jesus corrects this by responding that he has always taught openly.
- The officer’s response to Jesus shows that he has no realization of truth or who is the actual authority here.
- Jesus’ call for witnesses in verse 23, is a call to follow proper procedure under Mosaic law. This may have prompted Annas to send Jesus to the actual high priest, Caiaphas. John omits the events with Caiaphas and we resume with Jesus before Pilate.
Peter Denies Jesus Again
25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.”26 One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.
- We turn back to events happening outside of the home.
- The phrasing of the question and their proof of his being a disciple now becomes more concrete, but Peter continues to deny.
- The final verse in this section highlights the accuracy of Jesus’ earlier conversation with Peter.
Jesus Before Pilate
28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
- Verse 28 is one of the most absurd looks into the mindset of the pharisees at this time. Never mind their plot to murder Jesus, physically stepping into the home of a Gentile would render them unclean and unable to participate in the upcoming passover meal.
- Once again, John flips back and forth between events that occur inside and outside of the praetorium.
- When asked about specific charges, the Jews beat around the bush and offer no exact offense.
- Verse 32 shows Jesus’ correct again concerning that his death would be via crucifixion, a Roman method of execution, not any traditional means the Jews used.
My Kingdom Is Not of This World
33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
- The theme of Jesus as King enters the narrative at this point.
- Do not overlook Jesus’ use of the word “world” by Jesus. It is a loaded theological term in John’s gospel referring to those who prefer to live in spiritual darkness and rebellion to God’s kingdom.
- At no point does Jesus attempt to shy away from his intended purpose, but he amplifies it in his conversation with Pilate.
- Jesus came to bear witness to the truth, while the world lives in lies. Jesus came to reveal God, His Kingdom, and repair what was broken in Eden. Those within God’s Kingdom understand who Jesus is and listen to him. Because Pilate is not in God’s Kingdom, he does not understand who Jesus is and thus asks his initial question.
- Pilate’s response could be cynicism or it could be a genuine expression of a desire to do right, but the knowledge to know right in this case would be difficult.
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. 39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40 They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.
- When evaluating these verses with a theological lens, we, in effect become Barabbas. Barabbas was the first to experience the substitutionary death of Jesus (although it may not be eternal and salvific).
Jesus Delivered to Be Crucified
19 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
- The kingship of Jesus entered the story earlier, now it takes a sarcastic turn.
- This may very well be an attempt by Pilate to gain some sympathy from the crowd and avoid the sentence of execution that he can foresee.
- Whatever, the case, it would not be uncommon for Roman soldiers to disregard the life of a non-Roman citizen who was soon to be crucified. Crucifixion was a spectacle from beginning to end with the goal of deterring civic unrest and submissiveness to the Roman government.
- The crowd, agitated by the religious elite, shows no mercy to the embarrasment Jesus has become.
- Two important concepts enter the story here: 1) crucifixion and 2) Jesus as the Son of God. In their proof that Jesus was worthy of death, they Jews respond that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy and therefore deserved to die (Lev. 24.16). He equated himself to God. This panics Pilate (consider his polytheistic and mythological background) and he questions Jesus further.
- In response to Jesus’ silence, Pilate argues for an answer based upon authority. He was the political authority of the region. Or so he thinks. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Pvb. 21.1). In short, Pilate is a pawn in a bigger story.
12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.
- In these verses the Jews place Pilate in a political vice. Pilate had already come under pressure from Rome for some previous Jewish rebellions. His political career, or even his own life, were in jeopardy. Thus he consents.
So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
“They divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did these things, 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
The Death of Jesus
28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus’ Side Is Pierced
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
Jesus Is Buried
38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body.39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.