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John 18:1-40 (web)

Jesus' Trial: Part I

Jesus Arrested

1  When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples over the brook Kidron, where was a garden, into which he and his disciples entered.
2  Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place,
for Jesus often resorted there with his disciples.
3  Judas then, having taken a detachment of soldiers and officers from the chief priests
and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.
4  Jesus therefore, knowing all the things that were happening to him,
went forth, and said to them, "Who are you looking for?"
5  They answered him, "Jesus of Nazareth."
Jesus said to them, "I AM."
Judas also, who betrayed him, was standing with them.
6  When therefore he said to them, "I AM,"
they went backward, and fell to the ground.
7  Again therefore he asked them, "Who are you looking for?"
They said, "Jesus of Nazareth."
8  Jesus answered, "I told you that I AM.
If therefore you seek me, let these go their way,"
9  that the word might be fulfilled which he spoke,
"Of those whom you have given me, I have lost none."  (John 17:12)
10  Simon Peter therefore, having a sword, drew it,
and struck the high priestís servant, and cut off his right ear.
The servantís name was Malchus.
11  Jesus therefore said to Peter, "Put the sword into its sheath.
The cup which the Father has given me, shall I not surely drink it?"

12  So the detachment, the commanding officer,
and the officers of the Jews, seized Jesus and bound him,
13  and led him to Annas first, for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year.
14  Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews
that it was expedient that one man should perish for the people.

Peter's First Denial

15  Simon Peter followed Jesus, as did another disciple.
Now that disciple was known to the high priest,
and entered in with Jesus into the court of the high priest;
16  but Peter was standing at the door outside.
So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest,
went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought in Peter.
17  Then the maid who kept the door said to Peter,
"Are you also one of this manís disciples?" He said, "I am not."
18  Now the servants and the officers were standing there,
having made a fire of coals, for it was cold.
They were warming themselves.
Peter was with them, standing and warming himself.

The Judgment of Annas

19  The high priest therefore asked Jesus about his disciples, and about his teaching.
20  Jesus answered him, "I spoke openly to the world.
I always taught in synagogues, and in the temple,
where the Jews always meet. I said nothing in secret.
21  Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them.
Behold, these know the things which I said."
22  When he had said this, one of the officers standing by slapped Jesus with his hand, saying, "Do you answer the high priest like that?"
23  Jesus answered him,
"If I have spoken evil, testify of the evil; but if well, why do you beat me?"
24  Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas, the high priest.

Peter's Second and Third Denial

25  Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself.
They said therefore to him, "You arenít also one of his disciples, are you?"
He denied it, and said, "I am not."
26  One of the servants of the high priest,
being a relative of him whose ear Peter had cut off, said,
"Didnít I see you in the garden with him?"
27  Peter therefore denied it again, and immediately the rooster crowed.

Pilate's Judgment

Pilate Questions the Jewish Leaders

28  They led Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the Praetorium.
It was early, and they themselves didnít enter into the Praetorium,
that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.
29  Pilate therefore went out to them, and said,
"What accusation do you bring against this man?"
30  They answered him,
"If this man werenít an evildoer, we wouldnít have delivered him up to you."
31  Pilate therefore said to them,
"Take him yourselves, 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 word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spoke,
signifying by what kind of death he should die.

Pilate Questions Jesus

33  Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium,
called Jesus, and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?"
34  Jesus answered him,
"Do you say this by yourself, or did others tell you about me?"
35  Pilate answered, "Iím not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests 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, then my servants would fight,
that I wouldnít 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 that I am a king.
For this reason I have been born,
and for this reason I have come into the world,
that I should testify to the truth.
Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice."
38  Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"

Pilate attempts to free him

When he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them,
"I find no basis for a charge against him.
39  But you have a custom, that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Therefore do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?"
40  Then they all shouted again, saying,
"Not this man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a robber.

Discussion Questions

What similarities so you see between the events in the garden of Gethsemane and the garden of Eden?
How would you evaluate Peter's actions in the garden?
And what might we say concerning violent actions to defend the faith?
Who was Annas and why was Jesus brought to him rather than to the high priest?
In Annas' trial, why did Jesus answer as he did?
Why was Jesus slapped?
Under what kind of circumstances should Christians expect to face similar treatment?
Concerning Peter's denials, in what sense did he deny Christ and does Matthew 10:33 apply?
Was Peter the only disciple who followed Jesus to the trial?
Concerning the Passover mentioned in verse 28, how is it that the Last Supper was the day before and yet also a Passover meal? (Mark 14:12)
Why did the Jews bring him to Pilate?
What is Pilate's attitude towards Jesus?
How is it that Jesus admitted to being King of the Jews and yet Pilate found him not guilty of treason?
What was Jesus' attitude towards Pilate?
Having found him innocent, why did Pilate not just release him?
What does the name "Barabbas" mean? How does it compare with Jesus claim about himself?
What might the choice between Jesus and Barabbas allegorically represent?


Betrayal in the Garden

There is a sort of allegorical connection between this scene and that of the events in the garden of Eden. For in the garden the serpent, the devil, pretending to be his friend, betrayed Adam who was thrown out of the garden to face judgment. So here Jesus (the last Adam - 1Cor 15:45)  is taken out of the garden to face judgment, having been betrayed in the garden by Judas, whom Jesus called a devil (John 6:70) and who pretended to be his friend. Interesting also that in both cases the betrayers themselves also ended up facing condemnation.

Interesting also if we compare Genesis 3:9,10 with John 18:4-6. For in Genesis God asks, "Where are you?" But Adam hides in fear. Whereas Jesus asks "Who are you looking for?" And it is the soldiers that fall back in fear.  A good conscience can result in fearlessness, and even invoke fear in others. Whereas a guilty conscience can produce cowardice. Jesus is the antithesis of Adam.

The WEB version translates "ego eimi" literally as "I AM" rather than "I am he", even though "he" is implied in this case. The WEB version is not completely consistent with such translations, for John 8:24 is translated "for unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins." where "he" is implied. And similarly in John 8:28. "I am he" is probably a more appropriate translation in the cases found here in John 18.


We might mistakenly identify Peter's act of violence in the garden as born of courage, but really it was born of fear and cowardice. Violent people are often cowards. Notice also that he doesn't go after a soldier but rather a servant who was probably unarmed or lightly armed. When Christians act in this manner they lose a hearing just as Peter cut off the servant's ear, cutting off his hearing. (But Jesus can make things right again). Peter hadn't prepared himself for the moment and so failed to act in the right spirit. But this also brings up a practical question today as to what extent we should go to in order to deliver other Christians from persecution. Even these days many Christians have been persecuted, imprisoned and put to death by Muslims and Communists and other groups. But should we take up arms against such groups in their defense? That generally doesn't seem to be the example Jesus set. On the other hand Jesus did recognize and submit himself to the governing authorities of whom Paul also wrote of secular authority in Romans 13 saying, "Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those who exist are ordained by God." Of course he's speaking of them acting within their legitimate realm of authority. But included in their role is that "he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him who does evil." Rom 13:4 As we read of in the Old Testament, wars often occur when a given government get's out of control doing evil and God brings another goverment to punish or replace the offending government. And perhaps Peter being zealous for the kingdom of God viewed his actions in this manner. But if so he was acting as a vigilante for the King had not given him permission to do so.


Why was he led to Annas, for Annas was not the high priest that year? Indeed here in the gospel of John we have additional material about Jesus' trial not found in the synoptics. And what of his trial by Caiaphas? John seems to skip it. What John is doing is simply supplementing the material found in the synoptics. The trial under Caiaphas was already well documented in the other gospels. John is elaborating upon what else went on. Thus this reminds us not to presume that the gospels are covering events comprehensively, a fact which skeptics often don't take into account in resolving apparent contradictions. Annas was high priest from 6AD to 15AD, but as long as he lived he was the virtual head of the priestly party in Jerusalem. Notice also he was mentioned as high priest along with Caiaphas at the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist. "in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness." Luke 3:2 And even in Acts 4 Annas is still spoken of as high priest. "It happened in the morning, that their rulers, elders, and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem.  Annas the high priest was there, with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and as many as were relatives of the high priest." Acts 4:5,6 And thus Jesus had two trials among the Jews before being sent to Pilate. But having been condemned by Annas, the judgment of Caiaphas was a foregone conclusion.

Jesus under Trial by Annas

Though there was perhaps much more which occurred at his trial, what John points out is not the basis upon which Annas condemns him, but rather he points out how Jesus reacted to persecution. The synoptics give us a clear enough picture of what the Jewish leaders were after. They simply were trying to get him to say something whereby they may accuse him. But here in Annas' trial we see that Jesus was not going to give long speechs and sermons. For they were only falsely portraying themselves as objective listeners. So also as Christians we will run into many skeptics who pretend to be open and objective, but are not really open to hearing. Such people are only looking for a basis to accuse.

The kind of persecution Jesus faced under trial is not an uncommon experience among Christians who face such from anti-Christian secular authorities or from the religious elite - whether from Jews, Muslim, or even from hostile Christian institutional authorities. The Murder of Michael Servetus is such an example.

They were fishing for an accusation, and here Jesus wisely tells them basically, "My teachings are a matter of public record." And we should be open enough as Christians to make our teachings a matter of public record, if indeed we have the courage and conviction to do so. But cults often have secret teachings which they are not upfront about.

Jesus responded reasonably, but it was taken as a contemptous insult. For those in opposition were themselves arrogant, proud, contemptuous of others. But realize that from the Jewish leader's point of view it was Jesus who was arrogant, proud, and contemptuous of them. So if you are accused of being arrogant, proud, and contemptuous of others, realize that Jesus was thought of in a similar manner by his persecutors.

Hypocrisy was a typical characteristic of the Jewish elite as Jesus had pointed out in Matthew 23 and Paul in Romans 2. But hypocrisy is driven by pride. While judging others, they failed to judge themselves. Being humilated by Jesus from their point of view, they lost their objectivity and no miracle would change their minds. They refused to hear. They were out for blood.

Therefore when we are debating ideas let us also consider whether we are being objective, or whether we are simply fighting for our pride. Jesus came to bear witness to the truth and we are supposed to be children of the truth, but truth often gets replaced by human theological dogma, lies, and slanderous accusations, even in the Christian community. And as for leaders - Don't be obsessed about being respected or else you will lose your objectivity. And don't reckon subordinates so contemptuously. Humility is the most important characteristic in leadership. It is unfortunate that leadership roles by their nature tend to attract the worst people or generate the worst in people. For we see even Moses himself, being the humblest in Israel, ended up not being allowed into the promise land because of a prideful act.

Peter's Denials

Jesus had said, "But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven." Mt 10:33  But technically Peter was not denying Christ was the Son of God. He just denied knowing him personally, which of course was a lie. But it was a lie the Jesus had foreseen and predicted. And a lie from which he knew Peter would repent and be forgiven. Though previously Peter had made the bold claim that he was willing to die with Christ, yet one's faith is not really revealed until in the darkness and under trial it is scrutinized. He had faith enough to follow Jesus into the court yard and be warmed by the fire, but not strong enough to have his faith put into the fire.

The other disciple

The other disciple whom was known by the high priest was probably John, as it was John who was present when Jesus was crucified, and John had previously referred to himself in the third person in John 13:23 also being closest to the Lord. Therefore it was John who had asked the door woman to allow Peter to enter. And when she said to Peter "Are you also one of this manís disciples?" The "also" refers to "along with John". Thus it is not as if Peter were alone. John was there not denying who he himself was. In view of this fact, Peter's actions are even more cowardly.

Timing of the Passover

Jesus had already eaten the Passover. The Last Supper was the Passover meal.
Mark 14:12  On the first day of unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the Passover, his disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make ready that you may eat the Passover?"
Luke 22:15  He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer."
(See also details of timing at The Last Supper study)
But if this is the case then what does "eat the Passover" mean in verse 28?

"Passover" has two connotations. It can refer to the passover meal which occurs in the evening of 14th Nissan till the morning of the 15th. Or it could refer to the entire week of Passover. Each day of the passover week was a special meal. And this could be the meaning in verse 28.

Pilate's Judgment

There were two reasons for bringing Jesus to Pilate, who was the secular civil authority, a Roman official. First of all at that time the Jewish leaders were not given authority by the Romans to put someone to death. Although that situation will not last long. For Stephen, the first Christian martyr will be stoned to death by the Jews. But also this gives insight into something that happened during Jesus' ministry when confronted with the proposition of having an adulteress stoned to death. For if he were to concur, the Jewish officials could have accused him before the Roman authorities. A second motivation in bringing him to the Romans was because of Jesus' popularity. By having the Romans kill him the Jewish leaders could seemingly wash their hands of the matter and feign innocence.

Pilate Questions the Jewish Leaders

I have the impression from their response to Pilate in verse 30 that they didn't expect a trial, but simply for Pilate to put Christ to death just because they brought him to him. After all wasn't Pilate just a bloodthirsty, unclean, unjust Roman official, a foreigner no better than a dog? Jesus and Pilate had this in common. They were both held in contempt by the Jewish officials. Perhaps this gives us some insight into the apparent empathy Pilate held for Christ's situation. Their reponse in verse 30 revealed contempt for Pilate as a judge. And thus Pilate angrily responded "Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law." It was lawful for them to put people to death under certain circumstances under Mosaic Law, but not under Roman law.

Pilate Questions Jesus

Though the primary charge the Jews had on him was his claim of being the Son of God, the only accusation they could come up with to have the Romans condemn him was the treasonous charge of claiming to be King of the Jews. And Jesus affirmed being King of the Jews. But this is not to say that he rejected the idea of Caesar being king of the Jews. For Jesus was King of kings and Lord of lords. Thus Caesar and through him Pilate were legitimate authority figures over the Jews in the material realm. But Jesus was over them but exercised his authority in the spiritual realm at this time until the Millenial Kingdom comes. His kingdom is not of this world at this time. And that was a misconception the disciples had as to God's timing. Indeed as we read in Revelation God will bring wrath upon the earth, sending his angels ahead of him, before establishing his kingdom. But now was not the time.

We often say that Jesus came into the world in order to die for the sins of the world. And while this is true we must also realize he came to bear witness to the truth. "For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." John 1:17 Much of his ministry involved preaching. Those who are of the truth are honest and teachable people who have been learning from God. When such people hear what Jesus has to say, his  teachings ring true for them and they come to faith in Christ. But Pilate didn't take him seriously, reckoning him only an idle dreamer

Pilate's Plan

Though finding him innocent, Pilate was more concerned for the politics of the situation rather than for justice to prevail. Nonetheless he may have felt relatively confident that Jesus would go free. He knew Jesus was a popular figure among the crowds, even though despised by the Jewish leaders. He wanted to wash he hands of the matter. Thus if he could get the crowd to decide the judgment, he figured Jesus would be set free. Surely in having them decide between a robber and a religious man they would certainly chose to save the religious man. But he was wrong.

Interesting to note also that "Barabbas" means "son of the father" and Jesus proposed that he was the Son of the Father. So in a sense the choice was between Christ and an anti-Christ, and they chose anti-Christ. Or another allegorical way to look at it is that Jesus as the only begotten Son of the Father died in place of the earthly "sons of the Father", being sinners as represented by Barabbas.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Aug 15,2020