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Bible Commentaries
John 18

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

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Verse 1

150. Jesus prays in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1)

It must have been getting towards midnight by the time Jesus and his disciples reached the Garden of Gethsemane. Then, taking Peter, James and John with him, Jesus moved to a spot where they could be alone. He was filled with anguish and horror as he saw clearly what his death would mean. The three friends could do little to lessen his anguish except stay awake in sympathy with him. He had to battle against the temptation to avoid the suffering that lay ahead, but the battle was one he had to fight and win alone (Mark 14:32-34; Luke 22:39-40).

The ‘cup’ of suffering that caused Jesus such distress was not just physical suffering, great though that was. Above all it was the inner agony as the sinless one, God’s Son, took upon himself the sin of his human creatures and bore God’s wrath on their behalf (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:9; 1 Peter 2:24). It was an experience no one else could know, for no one else had Jesus’ sinlessness or shared his relationship with the Father. Jesus had a real human will, and when he considered the ordeal that lay ahead, a conflict arose within him. As he fought against the temptation to avoid the cross, his agony of mind was so intense that he perspired what appeared to be blood. But he won the battle, and determined that he would willingly submit to whatever his Father would have him go through (Mark 14:35-36; Luke 22:41-44).

Perhaps the reason why the disciples were unable to stay awake was not simply that they were over-tired, but that they were unable to withstand the satanic forces at work in the garden. Jesus saw their weakness and urged them to be alert and pray for strength, because they too were going to be put to the test. They would face the temptation to deny Jesus in order to save themselves (Mark 14:37-40; Luke 22:45-46).

Jesus, by contrast, would give himself without reservation, in order to save others. The decisive victory he won in the garden enabled him to meet his betrayal, trial and death with renewed courage and assurance (Mark 14:41-42).

Verses 2-11

151. The arrest of Jesus (Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-11)

In the strength of the victory won at Gethsemane, Jesus went to meet his enemies. Judas knew the garden, for Jesus had often met there with his apostles. In the middle of the night, Judas took a group of temple guards and Roman soldiers to seize Jesus. By working under the cover of darkness, he kept the operation hidden from any who were likely to be sympathizers with Jesus. But Jesus needed no supporters to defend him, and Judas needed no force to arrest him. The armed men who came with Judas fell to the ground when they met Jesus, but he surrendered himself to them. He requested only that they not harm his friends (Matthew 26:47-50; Luke 22:47-48; John 18:2-9).

The apostles, however, wanted to fight. Jesus told them that if they practised violence they would suffer violence. Moreover, if Jesus wanted defenders he could draw upon supernatural forces (Matthew 26:51-56a; Luke 22:49-53; John 18:10-11). A scuffle apparently broke out and the apostles all fled. The soldiers managed to grab a young man who had followed Jesus to the garden, but he escaped (Matthew 26:56b; Mark 14:51-52).

From early Christian times the common belief has been that the young man of this story was Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark. It appears that his family home was the house of the upper room (where Jesus had just come from) and that it became a common meeting place for the apostles in the early days of the church (see Mark 14:14-15; Acts 1:12-14; Acts 2:1; Acts 12:12).

Verses 12-27

152. At the high priest’s house (Matthew 26:57-75; Mark 14:53-72; Luke 22:54-65; John 18:12-27)

Annas and his son-in-law Caiaphas apparently lived in the same house. Annas had been the previous high priest and, though replaced by Caiaphas, was still well respected and influential. Jesus’ captors took him to Annas first, while Peter and John, who had followed at a distance, waited in the courtyard. By now it was well past midnight and into the early hours of the morning (John 18:12-18; Luke 22:54).

When Annas asked Jesus questions about his teaching, Jesus replied that it was known to all. He had no need to testify on his own behalf (contrary to Jewish law) when many other witnesses could be called in. After being ill-treated for giving an honest and unanswerable reply, he was sent to Caiaphas (John 18:19-24).

Caiaphas had called the Sanhedrin together, determined to condemn Jesus without delay, even though it was illegal for the Sanhedrin to meet at night to judge an offence that carried the death sentence. The Jewish leaders’ whole purpose was to get some statement from Jesus that they could use to charge him with blasphemy and so condemn him to death (Matthew 26:57-63; Mark 14:53-61). They were soon satisfied when Jesus said he was the Messiah, the Son of God and the Son of man, and he was on the way to receiving the glorious kingdom given him by God (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62; see earlier section, ‘Jesus and the Kingdom’). With an outburst of violent abuse the Jewish leaders condemned him as worthy of death (Matthew 26:65-68; Mark 14:63-65).

While Jesus was before Caiaphas and the other Jewish leaders inside the building, Peter sat in the courtyard, waiting anxiously. When a servant girl recognized him as a follower of Jesus, he denied any association with him (Matthew 26:69-70; Luke 22:55-57). A little later another person recognized him and told the people standing by, but again he disowned Jesus, this time with an oath (Matthew 26:71-72; Luke 22:58).

About an hour later some of the bystanders approached Peter again, convinced he was a follower of Jesus, but Peter’s denial was even stronger than before. The crowing of a cock indicated to all that daylight was approaching. It also reminded Peter of his folly in boasting that he could never fail. Just then Jesus happened to see Peter in the courtyard, and as their eyes met Peter was overcome with grief and went away weeping bitterly (Matthew 26:73-75; cf. v. 31-35; Luke 22:59-62; cf. v. 31-34).

Verses 28-38

155. Before Pilate and Herod (Matthew 27:11-14; Mark 15:2-5; Luke 23:1-12; John 18:28-38)

Pilate, the governor of the area, usually lived in the provincial capital Caesarea, but he came to Jerusalem during Jewish festivals to help maintain order. His official residence and administration centre in Jerusalem was called the praetorium. The Jewish leaders, wanting to have Jesus dealt with and out of the way before the festival started, took him to Pilate early in the morning (Luke 23:1; John 18:28-29).

The Jews had charged Jesus with blasphemy for calling himself the Son of God, but when they took him to Pilate they twisted the charge. They emphasized not that he claimed to be God but that he claimed to be above Caesar. They suggested he was a political rebel trying to lead a messianic uprising that would overthrow Roman rule and set up an independent Jewish state (Luke 23:2). Pilate tried to dismiss the case, but the Jews would not drop their charges (John 18:30-32).

Jesus then gave Pilate the true picture. He explained that his kingdom was not concerned with political power, and had nothing to do with national uprisings. It was a spiritual kingdom and it was based on truth. Pilate did not grasp the full meaning of Jesus’ explanation, but he understood enough to be convinced that Jesus was not a political rebel. He suspected that the Jews had handed him over for judgment because they were jealous of his religious following (Matthew 27:11-14,Matthew 27:18; Luke 23:3-5; John 18:33-38).

When Pilate learnt that Jesus was from Galilee, which was not under his control, he tried to avoid the issue by sending Jesus to the Galilean governor Herod, who also was in Jerusalem for the festival (Luke 23:6-7). But Jesus refused to speak to Herod, and made no attempt to defend himself against the false accusations the Jewish leaders made against him. After mocking him cruelly, Herod sent him back to Pilate (Luke 23:8-12).

Verses 39-40

156. Jesus before the people (Matthew 27:15-31; Mark 15:6-20; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:39-16)

Although assured that Jesus was innocent, Pilate felt it wise to give the Jews some satisfaction; for by this time a crowd had gathered and he did not want a riot to break out. He therefore offered to punish Jesus by flogging, and consider the matter finished (Luke 23:13-16).

But the people yelled for Jesus to be crucified. Pilate did not want the situation to get out of control, so made another offer. He agreed to accept the Jews’ accusation of Jesus’ guilt, but he offered to give Jesus the special pardon reserved for one criminal each Passover season (Matthew 27:15-18).

By this time the priests scattered throughout the crowd had the people under their power. They quickly spread the word that the prisoner they wanted released was not Jesus, but Barabbas, a rebel who had once taken a leading part in a local anti-Rome uprising (see Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19). Pilate, unaware of the influence of the priests in the crowd and thinking that Jesus had widespread support, agreed to allow the crowd to choose between the two, no doubt thinking they would choose Jesus. As he waited for them to make their choice, his wife sent him a warning not to condemn Jesus (Matthew 27:19-20).

If supporters of Jesus were in the crowd, they were a minority. People in general were more likely to support a nationalist like Barabbas. Finally, they succeeded in having Barabbas released and Jesus condemned to be crucified. They accepted responsibility for this decision and called down God’s judgment upon them and their children if they were wrong (a judgment that possibly fell on them with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70). Jesus was then taken and flogged as the first step towards crucifixion (Matthew 27:21-26; Luke 23:18-25; John 18:39-40; John 19:1).

While some soldiers were preparing for the execution, those in Pilate’s palace cruelly made fun of Jesus. They mocked him as ‘king’ by putting some old soldiers clothes on him for a royal robe and thorns on his head for a crown. They hit him over the head with a stick that was supposed to be his sceptre, and spat in his face and punched him as mock signs of homage (Matthew 27:27-31; John 19:2-3).

Pilate showed this pitiful figure to the crowd, apparently hoping it might make them feel ashamed and change their minds; but it only increased their hatred (John 19:4-6). Pilate became more uneasy when he heard that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Maybe, thought Pilate, this man was one of the gods. He became even more anxious to set Jesus free when Jesus told him that God would hold him responsible for the way he used his authority. Pilate was guilty for condemning a man he knew was innocent, but Caiaphas and the other Jews who handed Jesus over to him were more guilty (John 19:7-11).

Again Pilate tried to release Jesus, but the Jews reminded him that he himself could be in danger if he released a person guilty of treason. This disturbed Pilate further, and after a final offer that the Jews rejected, he handed Jesus over to be crucified. The Jews’ declaration of loyalty to Caesar demonstrated their hypocrisy and confirmed their rejection of God (John 19:12-16).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on John 18". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/john-18.html. 2005.
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