The Agora
Bible Commentary

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John 18

Joh 18:1

Detail in Garden of Gethsemane: Mat 26:36-46; Mar 14:32-42; Luk 22:39-46.

JESUS LEFT: Leaving the city: Heb 13:11,12.

AN OLIVE GROVE: And so he walked through the Kidron early-spring flood (Psa 18:4; 124:1-4), the vale of dark-foliaged trees -- sig mourning and distress (CJo 198) -- and into the orchard of olive trees -- Gethsemane -- to be sustained by the Holy Spirit.

HE AND HIS DISCIPLES: A great distinction between their different experiences.

Joh 18:3

WEAPONS: "Swords" (of Roman soldiers) and "clubs" (of Jewish temple guards) (Mat 26:47; Mar 14:4).

Joh 18:4

Jesus, the only and true master of the situation.

WHO IS IT YOU WANT?: Cp Joh 1:38; 20:15.

Joh 18:6

THEY DREW BACK: Instead of rushing forward to lay hands on him, the soldiers were seized with an irrational and overpowering fear, and fell to the ground (cp Psa 9:3; 27:1-3). Or, did they see the angelic glory (Luk 22:43) in Jesus' face?

AND FELL TO THE GROUND: Perhaps only Judas remains standing to face Jesus.

Joh 18:7

WHO IS IT YOU WANT?: A question we may ask ourselves. (Judas does not seem to answer.)

Joh 18:8

Their fear (v 6), and Jesus' statement (v 8), taken together, plainly imply that Jesus lays down his own life (Joh 10:15,18) -- it is not taken from him!

Joh 18:10

SIMON PETER: Was Peter trying to attack Judas, but only managing to wound a bystander?

CUTTING OFF HIS EAR: See the ct: some (like Jesus) wait, watch, pray, prepare, weigh alternatives, and (only then) act. Others (like Peter) doze off, sleep, wake suddenly, and then "cut off an ear". (Jesus heals the ear: Luk 22:51: Why no mention of healing? Because it does not fit into scheme of John's "signs"?)

THE SERVANT'S NAME WAS MALCHUS: Is Malchus actually named because he later became a follower of Jesus? So this man, we may safely assume, leaves the service of the FALSE High Priest, to enter the service of the REAL High Priest, Jesus!

Joh 18:11

See Lesson, Military and police.

Joh 18:13

ANNAS: Annas was no longer the official High Priest, but the title (and power and wealth) remained in family: 5 different sons, and finally his son-in-law Caiaphas became High Priest (from 18 to 36 AD: OP 23:262). They were a ruthless and ambitious family, who would do almost anything to maintain power (MP 332).

Two injustices here: (1) a private meeting, and (2) late at night. A night trial was illegal: Act 4:3; 5:17-19.

Joh 18:15

Vv 15-19: John intersperses account of Peter's behavior with that of Christ's (cp vv 25-27). John stood in position to observe both.

Joh 18:16

WHO WAS KNOWN TO THE HIGH PRIEST: John's family was wealthy, owning land in Galilee and Judea (Joh 19:27); they seem to have been of high social standing. Other suggestions: (a) the family of Zebedee acted as suppliers of fish to the High Priest household; (b) a possible family connection: Salome, the mother of John, was a sister of Mary, Jesus' mother (cp John 19:25 with Mark 15:40), and would have been equally related to Elizabeth, whose husband, Zechariah, was a priest (Luk 1:36).

Joh 18:17

The only instance in the Gospels where a woman was not on Jesus' side! Or is she?

ONE OF HIS DISCIPLES: John, who was there, had not sought to hide his discipleship. Open confession in ct Peter's shame and fear: Mat 10:32; Luk 12:8; ct Joh 9:22; 12:42. See Rom 1:16: "I am not ashamed", and 2Ti 1:12.

Joh 18:18

WARMING HIMSELF: Peter warmed himself by the fire of the world, but denied the living fire (cp Isa 50:11, in context of judgment -- vv 8,9 -- and smiting -- v 11).

Joh 18:19

THE HIGH PRIEST QUESTIONED JESUS: They were still trying to formulate their charges against him -- something that should have been done already. Such interrogation was strictly illegal (cp v 21).

Joh 18:20

Vv 20,21: Jesus shows a consistent regard for legal form, in requesting other witnesses. (Talmudic law did not allow questioning of the accused in order to get a confession: Dawn 42:131.)


Joh 18:22

ONE OF THE OFFICIALS NEARBY STRUCK HIM IN THE FACE: To strike a prisoner, before judgment, was also illegal (Isa 50:6; Mic 5:1). (The official cared for form only, but not for substance.)

Joh 18:23

Again, Jesus calls attention to the Law. Cp Exo 22:28 with Exo 23:1.

Joh 18:25

Cp v 15n.

Joh 18:26

Was Peter afraid especially because of his violent action against the High Priest's servant?

Joh 18:28

See Lesson, Roman trial of Jesus.

LED: Isa 53:7.

TO AVOID CEREMONIAL UNCLEANNESS: They would not enter the governor's house, because it had not been cleansed of leaven (1Co 5:7,8; Dawn 42:153). A legalistic regard for outward form, but omission of weightier matters; they should have cleansed their hearts! See Pro 30:12; Isa 66:3,4.

THE PASSOVER: The whole feast of unleavened bread and all its festive meals were designated as the "Passover": Deu 16:2; cp 2Ch 30:24; 35:8,9 (Temple 396).

Joh 18:29

PILATE: Governor of Judea, soldier of Spain, served with Germanicus in Germany. During stay in Rome, married Claudia (illegitimate daughter of Tiberius, and granddaughter of Augustus). This family connection aided him to become procurator. Always a crude and tactless man, as seen in affairs of imperial ensign, Corban money to build aqueducts, etc (HVM 116-118). But he tried Jesus' case generally with fairness, prob influenced by Claudia, who dreamed of "that righteous man" after hearing Pilate's conversation with Caiaphas of the night before. (The dream planted by an angel?) His actions at the trial of Jesus were a total reversal of his previous form: ordinarily, he was anything but a weak, indecisive man!

WHAT CHARGES ARE YOU BRINGING AGAINST THIS MAN?: This question startles them, prob because the case had been "prearranged"; and they expected no problem (see v 34n). Or, is Pilate looking for a bribe (or additional bribe) -- Mic 7:3?

Joh 18:30

They are surprised and startled by his question. The case had been "prearranged", and they had expected no problem. Why the double-cross? See background in Mat 27:19...

Joh 18:31

WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO EXECUTE ANYONE: The Jews at this time seemed to have been denied the secular power to carry out capital punishment. But was such power later returned to them (ie Act 7)?

Joh 18:32

THE KIND OF DEATH HE WAS GOING TO DIE: The Jews, if left alone and given the right, would have executed by stoning. But Romans, if involved, would crucify him: the "lifting up" of Joh 3:14; 12:32.

Joh 18:33

SUMMONED JESUS: The Jews were worried about ceremonial defilement (v 28), a matter which concerns Jesus not at all.

ARE YOU THE KING?: Pilate already knew the charges (thus proving an earlier, unrecorded interview with Jewish leaders). But he recognizes this is not the figure nor the conduct of a "real king" (ie a political "pretender").

Joh 18:34

Jesus tries to ascertain Pilate's true motive in asking.

Joh 18:35

AM I JEW?: That is, 'What do I know (or care) about all this nonsense?'

Joh 18:36

See Lesson, Military and police.

OF THIS WORLD: "Ek kosmos" = out of, or from, this order of things. 'My kingdom does not derive its power from this present order of things', but from heaven (Psa 2:8) -- something Pilate (and Caiaphas, for that matter) cannot understand. Christ received his kingly authority "out of" heaven: Luk 19:11,12; Psa 2:8; Dan 7:14,27. "He does not say that the world is not the sphere of his authority, but that his authority is not of human origin" (Hoskyns, quoted in WGos 753).

WORLD: "Kosmos": see usage in Joh 17:9,11,14; 7:4; 12:19; 10:8,11; 18:20.

Joh 18:37

YOU ARE A KING, THEN!: 'So! You ARE a king after all!'

JESUS ANSWERED, "YOU ARE RIGHT...": Jesus gives a complete and confident witness to the greatest Gentile power on earth (1Ti 6:13).

TO TESTIFY: To witness. Cp Rev 1:5; 3:14: Christ the faithful and true witness.

Joh 18:38

WHAT IS TRUTH?: Ironically, Pilate answers his own question: "Here is the man!" (Joh 19:5). Christ = truth (Joh 14:6); God's word is truth (Joh 17:17). "Truth" = covenants of promise (Gen 24:27; 32:10; Exo 34:6; Psa 31:5; 40:10,11; 69:13; 89:14; 91:4; 132:11; Mic 7:20; etc).

I FIND NO BASIS...: Pilate's first report testifies to Christ's innocence. This should have ended the whole trial.

"[Pilate] asked him, 'What is truth?' But he did not stay to get an answer. He had no earnest solicitude on the point one way or another. He was a hard-hearted practical Roman who, like another after him, 'cared for none of these things' except as they came in his way. He had evidently come to the conclusion that Jesus was a harmless person of the philosophic stamp, whom the chief priests had arrested from envy because of his influence with the people, and whom it would be wise policy on his part to discharge under the custom that had for some time prevailed of surrendering one prisoner to amnesty at the passover feast. He therefore went out to them and said, 'I find no fault in this man' " (NR).

"[Pilate] said, 'What is truth?' and immediately went out again. It is certain that this was a good question. Truth is that pearl of great price which the human understanding is in quest of; for it cannot rest but in that which is, or at least is apprehended to be, truth. But many put this question that have not patience enough to persevere in their search after truth, or not humility and sincerity enough to receive it when they have found it. It is uncertain with what design Pilate asked this question. Perhaps he spoke it as a learner, as one that began to think well of Christ. Some think he spoke it as a judge, enquiring further into the cause: 'Tell me what the truth of it is, the true state of this matter.' Others think he spoke it as a scoffer: 'Thou talkest of truth; canst thou tell what truth is, or give a definition of it?' Like men of no religion, who take a pleasure in bantering all religions, he ridicules both sides; and therefore Christ made him no reply. But though Christ would not tell Pilate what is truth, he has told his disciples, and by them has told us. '...Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me' (John 14:6)" (Henry).

Joh 18:40

BARABBAS: Who was both a rebel (Luk 23:19) and a robber (Joh 18:40).

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