John 18


John 18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered.  2 And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples.


When Jesus finished speaking these words in John 13-17, they went out, which indicates His entire discourse and prayer happened in the upper room. It makes sense that Jesus would have said all these things in the quietness of the upper room instead of outside in the noisy city.


The Brook Kidron, which is translated flowing in winter, was a valley located on the eastern slope of Jerusalem. The brook only had water in it during the rainy season and was usually dry during the summertime. The brook begins north of Jerusalem and winds it way down into the Dead Sea. There are several Old Testament events associated with this valley. For example:


·        David crossed this brook when he was fleeing from his son Absalom (2 Sam. 15:23).

·        King Asa, Josiah, and Hezekiah had pagan idols and objects destroyed in the valley (1 Kgs. 15:13; 23:4; 2 Chr. 29:16; 30; 14).

·        Nehemiah inspected the walls of Jerusalem by night from this valley (Neh. 2:15).

·        This valley was also known as the graves of the common people (2 Kgs. 23:6; Jer. 26:23; 31:40).


After they crossed this valley, they went to the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt. 26:36; Mk. 14:32). Luke’s account adds that Jesus taught in the temple in the daylight during this week, but He went out to the mountain of Olives by night, which is close to the Garden of Gethsemane (Lk. 21:37; 22:39). Judas had been part of that gathering until that night, so He knew where to find Jesus to betray Him. John’s account only briefly mentions the garden and does not record how Jesus went into the garden and prayed three times or the agony He was going through, which caused Him to sweat drops like blood. It does not cover how Jesus was strengthened by an angel or how His disciples kept falling asleep (Mt. 26:36ff; Mk. 14:32ff; Lk. 22:39ff).


John 18:3 Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.


Judas was leading a detachment of troops, which consisted of about 600 Roman soldiers. Most likely, not all 600 men were there. There was also a group of temple guards that went with them. They were obviously expecting to have to search them out and fight them since they had lanterns, torches, and weapons.


John 18:4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, "Whom are you seeking?"  5 They answered Him, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus said to them, "I am He." And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them.  6 Now when He said to them, "I am He," they drew back and fell to the ground.  7 Then He asked them again, "Whom are you seeking?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth."  8 Jesus answered, "I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,"  9 that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, "Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none."


John’s account does not record the betrayal kiss of Judas, but it does give us additional information the other accounts do not. We learned back in John 13 that Jesus already knew Judas was going to portray Him, and He was not surprised by this group of men that came to arrest Him. While these men came to seek Jesus out and possibly fight His men, Jesus approached them and took control of the situation.


Jesus knew what these men wanted, but He asked them, “Whom are you seeking?” They said they were looking for Jesus. Now if Jesus had wanted to live another day, He could have run and hid, or He could have lied about whom He was. Instead, He boldly proclaimed “I am He.” The Word “He” is not in the original Greek, so Jesus is saying that He is the “I am” just as He claimed in John 8:58, which expresses His Deity.


We do not know how many soldiers where there, but Jesus’ boldness caused them to move backwards and fall to the ground. Some have suggested that a miracle caused this to happen. If it was a miracle, the Bible does not give us that detail. Again, Jesus asked them who they were looking for, and their answer was the same. For a second time, Jesus tell them that He is the “I am.”


He tells them He is willing to go with them voluntarily, but He wants them to let His apostles go so His saying would be fulfilled that He mentioned in His prayer (Jn. 17:12). Jesus example teaches us a great lesson. Jesus prayer in John 17 included several things including protecting His apostles. Jesus did pray to God and expect Him to do it all with no action on His part because He understood that action is required on our part, which why Jesus was asking for His apostles to be let go. By the providence of God, this prayer was answered.


We need to realize that sometimes our prayers to God require action on our part. For instance, if we pray for a job so we can make more money, we cannot just sit at home and expect a job to come to us. No, we must actively seek a job and trust that God will help us find the best job for us.


John 18:10 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 the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?"


Peter claimed earlier that He was willing to go to His death for Jesus, and Peter is proving his commitment. He pulled out his sword and cut of the high priest’s servant’s right ear. John is the only one that records both Peter’s name and the name of the servant. Although Peter’s actions were genuine, he did not understand what was going on because he was thinking of physical things. Peter’s actions remind me of what Jesus had told Him earlier: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Mt. 16:23).


Jesus’ kingdom would not be won this way because His kingdom was not of this world (Jn. 18:36). As Paul wrote: “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). If Jesus had wanted to reign as a King on the earth, He could have called an army of almost 82,000 angels and all His disciples to fight for Him (Mt. 26:53). Jesus’ kingdom was a spiritual one, and it would be won by Him drinking the cup of agony that His Father had given Him. Those who claim there is still a future earthly kingdom have misunderstood these plain passages that teach the kingdom is not physical but spiritual.


John 18:12 Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him.  13 And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year.  14 Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.


Even though Jesus gave Himself up voluntarily, these Gentile men bound Him, which fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy (Mt. 20:19). Again, we do not know how many troops were there, but apparently this was an important arrest because the Captain was there. While Jesus was being bound, His disciples forsook Him and fled (Mk. 14:50).


Only John’s account mentions that Jesus was taken to Annas. Annas had been the high priest before, but he had been removed from that position by the Roman government. However, he still had great influence and many considered him as a high priest, which is why we find both Caiaphas and Annas being called high priest (Jn. 18:13, 19; Lk. 3:2). Lanely explains it this way:


According to the Mosaic law, the High Priest was the most important member of the believing community because he was the only one authorized by God to offer sacrifices for the sins of the community on the Day of Atonement (Exo. 30:10; Lev 16).  This office was held by a descendant of Aaron and was passed on from father to son (cf.  Exo. 28:1; Num. 18:1; 20:25-28).  During King Herod's rule, however, the traditional pattern was often ignored as Herod arbitrarily dismissed and replaced the High Priest (Josephus Antiquities 15.51).  From then on, and continuing during Roman rule, the office ceased to be lifelong and hereditary.  The office of High Priest became wholly dependent on political authority.  But because the office of High Priest was lifelong, the High Priest retained a good measure of power and prestige among the Jewish population even after removal from office.  This provides some background for the situation reflected in John 18:13 where two men are regarded as having the authority of the High Priest.  Annas was appointed as High Priest in A.D. 6 by Quirinius, governor of Syria, and was deposed nine years later by Valerius Gratus, prefect of Judea (Josephus Antiquities 18.26, 34, 95).  Annas was succeeded by Ishmael ben Phiabia I (about A.D. 15-16) and then by Annas' son Eleazar (about A.D. 16-17).  Following the term of Simon, son of Kamithos (A.D. 17-18), Joseph Caiaphas, who had married the daughter of Annas, was appointed to the office in A.D. 18 by Valerius Gratus.  Caiaphas held the office until A.D. 36, when both Pilate and Caiaphas were removed from their respective offices by Lucius Vitellius, governor of Syria (Josephus Antiquities 18.89, 95) (J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel of John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), p. 318).


When John wrote that Caiaphas was high priest that year, he is pointing out that he was the high priest during the year our Lord was put to death. This is the same Caiaphas who spoke prophetically about Jesus’ death earlier (Jn. 11:49-51).  


John 18:15 And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest.  16 But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in.  17 Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, "You are not also one of this Man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not."  18 Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself.


Jesus’ disciples scattered at His arrest, but Matthew tells us that Peter followed Jesus from afar (Mt. 26:58). Who is this other unnamed disciple that rejoined Jesus who was known by the high priest? Most believe that it was John. Since he was known by the high priest, he was allowed to enter where Jesus was taken, but Peter remained outside the door.


Then John, presumably, who was known to be a disciple of Jesus spoke to the girl guarding the door so Peter could come in. We are not told what caused this servant girl to assume that Peter was also a disciple of Jesus, but I see at least two possibilities. First, just being a friend of Johns who wanted to see what was happening with Jesus would have caused her to think he was a disciple. Second, it is possible his Galilean accent caused her to assume he was disciple (Mk. 14:70). While her assumption was correct, Peter quickly denied it.


It was in the middle of the night and it had started getting cold, so a fire was made and Peter warmed himself by the fire with the servants and officers.


John 18:19 The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine.  20 Jesus answered him, "I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing.  21 "Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said."  22 And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, "Do You answer the high priest like that?"  23 Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?"  24 Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.


The place Jesus was taken to is believed to be the home of Annas and Caiaphas. John is the only one that records that Jesus was brought before Annas first and what took place during this event. Before we go any further, we need to understand a few things about Jewish trials.


Mr. Walker writes:


First, the individual was to be considered innocent until proven guilty.  Second, the individual was not even to face trial until the evidence of witnesses could be stated and confirmed.  Third, an individual could not be called on to incriminate himself.  The case had to be established by witnesses.  This understanding will help us when we see the response that Jesus' answer brings (Denton Lectures Electronic Version, Gospel of John).


This background information will bring more clarity to our text. First, Annas wants to know about Jesus’ and His disciples’ doctrine. Since Jesus was the one on trial, He only answered for Himself. His answer was simple because He had not kept His doctrine secret. He had taught it openly around the Jews and any of them could tell Annas what His doctrine was. Jesus appeals to the fact that there should be witnesses if he is going to be accused of something.


One of the officers did not like Jesus’ response, so he struck Him with the palm of his hand across His face. This was the usually response if someone was speaking against the high priest (Acts 23:1-5). However, Jesus did not deserve this form of rebuke because all He was doing was defending Himself and demanding what the Law of Moses called for. So, Jesus demanded for witnesses to be brought forth to prove that He had spoken evil for being struck in the face. If there was a response to Jesus” demands, we are not told. We only know that Jesus was sent to Caiaphas next. Now, this does not mean that He had to go a long way, but most likely He was just taken to another part of the palace.


John’s account does not record what happened when Jesus went before Caiaphas, but the synoptic Gospels do (Mt. 26:57-68; Mk. 14:53-65; Lk. 22:66-71). They record how false witnesses were brought forth. This whole trial was illegal, but these opposing Jews were desperate to kill Jesus, and this was also prophesied in Psalms 2:1-3.


John 18:25 Now Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. Therefore they said to him, "You are not also 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 him whose ear Peter cut off, said, "Did I not see you in the garden with Him?"  27 Peter then denied again; and immediately a rooster crowed.   


Peter has already denied Jesus once, and Mark’s account tells us that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed twice (Mk. 14:72). When Peter, heard the roster crow the first time, it seems that Peter would realize that he was doing exactly what Jesus said he would do, but it did not stop him. When we examine all four accounts, we learn that there were multiple people asking Peter if he was a disciple of Jesus, which caused him to deny Jesus two more times. The last person that asked him was an eyewitness that had seen Peter in the garden, yet Peter still denied it, and Matthew’s account says that he cursed and swore that he was not a disciple (Mt. 26:74).Cursing and swearing here does not carry the same meaning as what we think of today. Instead, it means to swear an oath. It would be similar to someone saying, “I promise you I am telling you the truth, and if I lying let God strike me with lightening right now.”


When Peter denied Jesus for a third time the rooster crowed a second time. Luke’s account gives us some additional information:


Luke 22:61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times."  62 So Peter went out and wept bitterly.


If it was not bad enough that Peter denied Jesus three times and then heard the rooster crow this second time; He also did it while Jesus was near. I can only imagine how guilty Peter felt as Jesus turned and looked at him. We can only imagine what expression Jesus had on His face. Peter realized at that moment what Jesus had said to him earlier, and it caused him to leave and weep bitterly.


These events teach us a couple of lessons:


  1. We cannot follow Jesus from afar and hang around the fire with the world and think that we will stand firm in the faith.
  2. Even faithful Christians like Peter can fall from God’s grace if we do not stay close to Jesus.


John 18:28 Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.


The Jews decided that Jesus must die, but they could not legally kill anyone without Roman consent, which is why they were bringing him to Pilate at the Praetorium.

What is a Praetorium? Thayer explains:


1) "head-quarters" in a Roman camp, the tent of the commander-in-chief 2) the palace in which the governor or procurator of a province resided, to which use the Romans were accustomed to appropriate the palaces already existing, and formerly dwelt in by kings or princes; at Jerusalem it was a magnificent palace which Herod the Great had built for himself, and which the Roman procurators seemed to have occupied whenever they came from Caesarea to Jerusalem to transact public business.


The Jews had no problem violating multiple laws of God in convicting Jesus to death, yet they were still concerned about defiling themselves by entering a Gentile area.


One thing challenging about the verse is that the Jews did not want to defile themselves so they could eat the Passover. On the surface, this would suggest that Passover had not occurred yet. However, we know that Jesus and His disciples partook of the Passover meal the day before (Mt. 26:18; Mk. 14:14). So, how do we make sense of the Jews indicating the Passover had not taken place? Well, there have been several explanations given. Note the following explanations I have adapted from Wayne Jackson’s article, “Did Jesus eat the Passover Supper?”


1. Some claim the meal Jesus and His disciples ate was not the Passover, but this contradicts what the Bible teaches.

2. Some have suggested that they ate the Passover a day early and that it was acceptable because Jesus had the authority to do so. This explanation does not work because Jesus made sure that He kept the Law of Moses, and He did not change it; He fulfilled it.

3. Some claim that these opposing Jews were so busy trying to find Jesus that they did not eat the Passover on the right day, so they were going to eat it the next day.

4. Some claim that Jesus and these other Jews were using different calendars to determine when the Passover occurred.


While number 3 and 4 may be plausible, I believe the best explanation is that the word “Passover” can be used to describe the Pascal lamb itself (Mk. 14:12; Lk. 22:7; 1 Cor. 5:7), a meal that was eaten on the 14th of Nisan (Mt. 26:18-19; Lk. 22:8, 13; Heb. 11:28), and it is also used to refer to the eight day period that included eating the Passover meal and the feast of unleavened bread (Ezek: 45:21; Lk. 22:1, 7; Acts 12:3-4). This explanation has the most evidence and many respectable scholars hold this view.


So these Jews were not referring to the Passover meal that prepared the day before, but to the feast of the unleavened bread. If they allowed themselves to be defiled, they would not be able to participate in it.   


John 18:29 Pilate then went out to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this Man?"  30 They answered and said to him, "If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you."  31 Then Pilate said to them, "You take Him and judge Him according to your law." Therefore the Jews said to him, "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,"  32 that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.


Pilate wants to know what the accusation is against Jesus, and the Jews tell him He is an evildoer. When Pilate realized they were accusing Him of things to do with their law, he told them take care of the matter themselves, but they wanted Jesus dead, which only Pilate could grant under Roman law. Since Roman law would not allow the Jews to put Jesus to death, He would have to die by crucifixion, which is exactly how Jesus said He would be put to death (Jn. 12:32; Mt. 30:18-19).


Luke’s account records more accusations the Jews made such as Jesus was perverting the nation, not paying His taxes, and that He claiming to be a king (Lk. 23:1-2). Luke’s account also records how Pilate sent Jesus to Herod first, but Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate (Lk. 23:6-12).


John 18:33 Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?"  34 Jesus answered him, "Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?"  35 Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You 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 fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here."  37 Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."   


Since the Jews claimed Jesus was calling Himself a king, Pilate wanted to know if this was true. At first, Jesus wanted to know if this was Pilate’s question or the Jews. Pilate confirmed that it was a question from the Jews, so Jesus affirmed that He is a king. However, His kingdom was not a physical one, it was a spiritual one. He explains that if He was interested in establishing a physical kingdom, His servants would fight and He would have been delivered from the Jews.


Jesus was not scared to proclaim the truth no matter what the consequences may be, and we should learn to follow His example. Just as Jesus said, He came to bear witness to the truth. Those who are willing to believe that truth will take heed to what Jesus said.


John 18:38 Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, "I find no fault in Him at all.  39 " But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?"  40 Then they all cried again, saying, "Not this Man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a robber.


Pilate asked a great question, but our text does not indicate that he wanted to know the answer. It would be great if every person asked this question and then listened to the answer found in the Word of God (Jn. 8:32-33; 14:6; 17:17).


Pilate could not find a valid reason to kill Jesus and even his wife had sent word to him not to have anything to do with this man because she had suffered many things in dream because of Him (Mt. 27:19). So, Pilate did his best to let Jesus go. For instance, he hoped the Jews might let Jesus go if he gave them a choice of releasing Barabbas, a known criminal, or Jesus. Once again, we see the term Passover used to describe the feast of the unleavened bread. Proof for this comes from the other Gospel accounts, which state that this custom of releasing a prisoner occurs on the feast (Mt. 27:15; Mk: 15:6; Lk. 23:17). To Pilate’s surprise, the Jews choose Barabbas to be released who was a robber and a murderer (Mk. 15:7).


I can imagine how relived Barabbas was that Jesus was going to take his place and had given him another chance at life. The same thing can be said for all us because Jesus died on the cross and He bore the weight of our sin so we can have chance at eternal life. We only have one life to live, so we need to make the best of it and live it for God.