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David Guzik :: Study Guide for John 18

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Jesus' Arrest and Trial

A. Betrayal and arrest in the garden.

1. (Jhn 18:1) Jesus enters the garden.

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.

a. Over the Brook Kidron: When Jesus went from the city of Jerusalem, and crossed the Brook Kidron, the brook was red from the blood of thousands of Passover lambs. This would have been a vivid reminder to Jesus of His soon sacrifice.

b. There was a garden: The last time there was a battle like this in a garden, it was the garden of Eden. Jesus enters this garden as a second Adam, ready to do battle with Satan. The first Adam waited for Satan to come to him, but this Adam takes the initiative.

2. (Jhn 18:2-6) An arresting army confronts Jesus.

And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples. Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, "Whom are you seeking?" They answered Him, "Jesus of Nazareth. " Jesus said to them, "I am He. " And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, "I am He," they drew back and fell to the ground.

a. A detachment of troops: There is only Jesus against a small army, but Jesus is mightier than this detachment of troops.

b. Whom are you seeking … I am: The soldiers come out with weapons and torches, to capture a fleeing Galilean peasant, but they are met by One who speaks as God, taking the divine I am.

c. Now when He said to them, "I am He," they drew back and fell to the ground: When Jesus declares who He is (I Am), the soldiers fall back. While it is impressive, it is still a pretty humble display of Jesus' power - after all He could have destroyed them all with fire from heaven. Jesus often shows His majesty in ways that speak of humility and weakness.

i. Jesus was born as a humble baby, yet heralded by angels. He was laid in a manger, yet announced by a star. He submitted to baptism, then heard the Divine voice of approval. He slept when He was exhausted, but awoke to calm the storm. Jesus wept at a grave, then called the dead to life. He submits to arresting troops, then declares His majesty and knocks them over. Jesus died on a cross, but in it He overcame sin and death and Satan.

3. (Jhn 18:7-11) Jesus willingly goes with the arresting army.

Then He asked them again, "Whom are you seeking?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth. " Jesus answered, "I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way," that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, "Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none. " 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. So Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?"

a. Let these go their way: Jesus was not "arrested" at all; He willingly gave Himself up so He could protect His disciples. After all, He could have just kept saying I AM and walked way!

b. Take Me, let these go is the same sacrificial love that takes Jesus to the cross for us all. In bearing our judgment for sin, He said the same thing to the Father's justice.

c. Peter, anxious to prove he would never deny Jesus, cuts off the ear of the high priest's servant. "It is exceedingly thoughtless in Peter to try to prove his faith by the sword, while he could not do so by his tongue. " (Calvin)

B. Jesus' trial before Annas; Peter's denial.

1. (Jhn 18:12-14) Jesus is lead away to Annas.

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

a. Annas was not the official High Priest; but as father-in-law to Caiaphas, he was the "power behind the throne."

2. (Jhn 18:15-18) Peter's first denial.

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. 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. 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. " 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.

a. At this point, Peter is full of contradictions. He was bold with a sword in his hand, but a coward before a servant girl.

3. (Jhn 18:19-24) Jesus stands before Annas.

The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine. 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. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said. " 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?" Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?" Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

a. The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine: Annas asks about Jesus' disciples, perhaps because of fear or jealousy. Jesus does not mention His disciples at all, protecting them to the end.

b. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them: In saying this, Jesus wasn't being uncooperative, only asserting His legal right. There was to be no formal charge until witnesses had been heard and been found to be truthful.

i. It was the High Priest's duty to call forth the witnesses first, beginning with those for the defense. These basic legal protections for the accused under Jewish law were not observed in the trial of Jesus.

4. (Jhn 18:25-27) Peter denies Jesus twice more.

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!" 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?" Peter then denied again; and immediately a rooster crowed.

a. Notice that it is not Peter's faith that fails, but his courage. After his failure he weeps bitterly, because he really does love his Lord.

C. Jesus is brought before Pilate.

1. Other gospels emphasize Jesus' trials before the Jewish Sanhedrin; John emphasizes His trial before the Roman authority - Pontius Pilate.

a. Pilate was characterized in his day as "naturally inflexible and ruthless in his conceit" and he was charged with corruption, violence, and extortion.

b. In times past he had shown great insensitivity to Jewish religious traditions and concerns, and the Jews had complained to Rome about him before.

c. The emperor Tiberius was suspicious of conspiracy, and not in any mood to tolerate any kind of disloyalty, so Pilate the governor was on thin ice.

2. (Jhn 18:28-32) Jesus is brought to Pilate.

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. Pilate then went out to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this Man?" They answered and said to him, "If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you. " 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," that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.

a. They themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled: With great irony, John exposes the hypocrisy of the priests. They will murder an innocent Jesus, yet they were afraid of ceremonial defilement.

b. You take Him and judge Him according to your law: Pilate would rather not take the case; yet the Jews want him to take it so that they can lawfully have Jesus killed.

i. The Jews may have, in part, pushed for crucifixion to bring the curse of Deuteronomy 21:22-23 upon Jesus. He did bear that curse, to redeem us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13).

c. That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled: Jesus' manner of death will also fulfill His own words (if I be lifted up, John 3:14). If the Jews had put Jesus to death, He would have been stoned, instead of crucified, and His prophecy about His death would not have been fulfilled.

3. (Jhn 18:33-35) Pilate questions, Jesus clarifies.

Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered him, "Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?" Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?"

a. Pilate's question reveals doubt. He asked, "Are You the King of the Jews?" He asked it because Jesus didn't look like a revolutionary or a criminal, the only types who would be foolish enough to claim to be the King of the Jews in the face of Rome.

b. Are you speaking for yourself: Jesus must clarify the question, because the Roman conception of king. To the Romans, "king" meant a political rival. Though Jesus was a King, He was not a political rival in the sense Pilate thought.

4. (Jhn 18:36) Jesus explains His kingdom to Pilate.

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."

a. My kingdom is not of this world: Jesus here declares the great and permanent difference between God's kingdom and the kingdoms of this world. Jesus' kingdom originates in heaven (My kingdom is not of this world). The foundation of Jesus' kingdom is peace (His servants will not fight).

b. My kingdom is not from here: Augustine observed from this verse that earthly kingdoms are based upon force, pride, the love of human praise, the desire for domination, and self interest - all displayed by Pilate and the Roman Empire.

i. Earthly kingdoms have a purpose in that they restrain wickedness and preserve order, but they are very different from God's kingdom, and should remain separate and distinct.

c. The heavenly kingdom, exemplified by Jesus and the cross, is based on love, sacrifice, humility, and righteousness - and is to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Gentiles foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23).

d. Christians must take care that they live and serve with the power demonstrated by the cross, not the power of Rome. The key to living in Jesus' kingdom is not found in trying to rule over others or things, but in being more fully ruled by God.

i. "This is the crucial point. While human politics is based on the premise that society must be changed in order to change people, in the politics of the Kingdom it is people who must be changed in order to change society. " (Charles Colson - Kingdoms In Conflict)

ii. In Jesus' day, they were conditioned to look for salvation in political solutions - we are also tempted to further the purposes of the Kingdom by the power of this world; history shows that any gains realized are greatly offset by the liabilities of a religious state.

e. My kingdom is not from here: Pilate may have been relieved at Jesus' answer that His kingdom was not of this world, because he didn't know which is the stronger of the two kingdoms.

i. The eternal King who rules over the souls of men is mightier than an external foe with powerful armies. Rome is gone, Napoleon is gone, Hitler is gone, but the Kingdom of Jesus marches on.

5. (Jhn 18:37-38) Jesus and Pilate discuss truth.

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. " 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.

a. What is truth? "It was the question of the practical politician, who attached no importance to the speculations of philosophers or the dreams of enthusiasts. If the truth was all that Jesus was concerned about, there was no need (Pilate thought) to take him seriously. " (McClymont)

b. For Pilate, soldiers and armies were truth, Rome was truth, Caesar was truth, political power was truth, but Jesus knew what truth was, while Pilate was still seeking. Why do Christians try to advance the truth of Jesus by means of the truth of Pilate?

c. I find no fault in Him at all: In this, Pilate declares Jesus "not guilty. " It's hard to say it any more plainly. Jesus, tried by a Roman governor, was declared innocent - and He still went to the cross.

6. (Jhn 18:39-40) Pilate tries to release Jesus, but the crowd cries for Barabbas.

"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?" Then they all cried again, saying, "Not this Man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a robber.

a. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews? Pilate looked for an easy way to escape a decision about Jesus, but he finds no easy escape.

b. Not this Man, but Barabbas: The crowd, whom Pilate hoped would release Jesus, instead condemned Him. Because of this, Pilate found it impossible to go against both the Jewish leaders and the crowd.

i. It is a strange, almost insane scene: a cruel, ruthless Roman governor trying to win the life of a miracle-working Jewish teacher against the efforts of both the Jewish leaders and the crowd.

ii. How could the crowd turn so quickly against Jesus? There are many possible explanations. First, many of them were probably disappointed that this Messiah who rode into Jerusalem didn't do what they wanted a Messiah to do. Second, there is a tendency in many people to tear down the very heroes they have built up; we see this in our culture today.

iii. So the crowd rejected Jesus and embraced Barabbas, whose name means "son of the father," and who was a terrorist and a murderer. If anyone should be able to say, "Jesus died for me," it was Barabbas. He knew what it was to have Jesus die on his behalf, the innocent for the guilty.

© 2000 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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