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Gospel of John

Chapter Eighteen



The discourse, which concluded with the “Lord’s Prayer,” in chapters 13-17 was delivered in Jerusalem. In this chapter Jesus is seen leaving the city and walking eastward toward the Mount of Olives. The Gospel of John is unlike the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) in the presentation of Jesus Christ. In the other gospel records, the emphasis is upon the humanity and suffering of Christ. In John the emphasis is upon the Deity of Christ and His glory. John does not cover the agony of Christ in the garden. John does not record His praying and His extreme suffering, as in the other gospels. Rather he emphasizes the glory and Deity of Christ.

This chapter will also cover the arrest of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, His three trials—one before Annas (a pre-trial hearing), one before Caiaphas the high priest (actually not covered, but skipped) and one before Pilate, the Roman governor. Previously, when officials attempted to arrest Jesus, He would always supernaturally elude them—because it was not yet “His hour or time.” This chapter will also reveal the brashness, the weakness and instability of the Apostle Peter—a major lesson to all “dedicated” and “bold” Christians today.

John 18:1, 2

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. And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples.

Jesus travels to the Garden of Gethsemane after crossing the brook Kidron. Brook Kidron was no more than a stream, which flowed in the winter time. It is a deep ravine that begins north of Jerusalem near the foot of Mount Scopus; turns south to separate the east side of the city from the Mount of Olives (2 Samuel 15:23); and then continues in a southeast direction to the Dead Sea. Today it rarely carries water, since its bed has been filled in with occupational debris and the rubble of various battles.

In antiquity, the spring of Gihon (Jerusalem’s only known natural source of water—gushing forth an extra amount of water from its natural cave once or twice a day as the dry season ends, four or five times daily after a rainy winter) filled the brook, and it contributed to plush gardens and orchards along the skirts of the valley (2 Kings 23:4; Jeremiah 31:40). This brook was diverted to fill the Pool of Siloam and was enclosed to secure a water source for the city during the reign of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:3, 4).

Gethsemane was a well-known garden to all His disciples, and to the betrayer—Judas Iscariot. The exact location of the Garden of Gethsemane is not known for certain except that it is a “place” on the Mount of Olives located east of the brook Kidron. It must have been a fairly extensive area because the main body of disciples sat there while Peter, James and John went farther up the hill with Jesus; and then Jesus went even farther into the olive grove to pray.

John 18:3-9

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. 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.”

Judas approaches Jesus in the company of a “detachment” (Gk. speira—a tenth part of a legion, approximately 500 men) of troops and “officers” (Jewish officials) representing the chief priests and the Pharisees. Talk about “separation of church and state!” (A topic for another day, but suffice it to say that America’s Founding Fathers saw this concept as only to limit the state from establishing a state-religion—not to rule out God’s Word or prayer from participation in all levels of government and education. In other words, they meant to keep the State out of the Church, not the Church out of the State.)

This motley group came fortified with sufficient light and weaponry. The lights represent man’s attempt to “shed light” on the “Light of the World, and the weapons represent man’s endeavor to “shackle” or to “control” omnipotent (all-powerful) God. Both represent man’s pitiful insufficiency.

Why so many troops? The Bible gives no answer. It is speculated that it was felt that such a number was necessary in order to overcome the One who in the past had accomplished so many powerful miracles, or to create a sufficient trap for the One who had always eluded them before. This was unnecessary because Jesus, being God and omniscient (all-knowing), knew they were approaching Him. He went forward to meet them, which demonstrated His willingness to eventually end up on the cross for you and for me.

Jesus immediately asks them whom they were seeking. They replied “Jesus of Nazareth,” purposely not recognizing Jesus as the Christ—the Messiah. The next few words uttered by Jesus are powerful in the original (Greek) language. His reply was, “I AM.” The pronoun “He” is not in the original, but was added for “clarification” by the translators. By simply stating “I AM,” one of the names of Jehovah, He was stating that He was not only Jesus of Nazareth but also that He was God. This floored them, literally—they “fell to the ground.”

Again He asks them, “Whom are you seeking?” To which they replied the same, “Jesus of Nazareth.” And again He answers the same, “I AM.” Then He requested that they release His disciples, since it was He whom they sought—this in order to fulfill the words in His previous prayer that of those the Father gave Him none would be lost (John 17:12).

John 18:10, 11

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?”

Simon Peter, who before declared his loyalty to Christ stating that he would lay down his life for Him (vs. 13:37), in a moment of brashness draws his sword and strikes out at the high priest’s servant named Malchus. Several Bible commentators believe that Peter was endeavoring to slay Malchus but missed his head because (1) although he may have been a good fisherman he was a poor swordsman or (2) a supernatural force redirected his blow. No one knows.

What is known is that in the Gospel of Luke it is recorded that Jesus immediately instructed Peter to cease his aggression and then healed Malchus’ ear by touching it (Luke 22:51). It is assumed that Jesus in this case picked up Malchus’ ear and placed it back on his head although He could have just as well simply touched the remaining stub on his head and a new ear would have grown instantly into place.

Peter may have been recalling the words of Jesus when previously He had said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) If so, Peter had missed the point. At that time Jesus was using a sword as a figure of speech to convey the meaning that those who would follow Him would essentially experience great hardship in this world of evil—with family, friends and countrymen.

There is a time for a Christian to use the sword, but that time comes only during war time as the Christian participates as a member of his nation’s armed forces and in a conflict involving national interest (Romans 13:1-4). It may also be argued that any Christian has the right to physically defend himself. This may be argued from the passage found in Luke 22:36-38. On the other hand this passage may only indicate that the incident with Peter and the sword was planned ahead by Jesus Christ who wills and knows (see the preface remarks of chapter 17) all things before they happen. The healing of Malchus’ ear may have indeed convinced the throng of soldiers and officers around Jesus to heed His request in letting His disciples go.

There is one Sword that the believer should always carry and be skilled in using. Note the following scriptures:

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)

For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. (Revelation 1:16)

Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. . . . And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

(Revelation 19:15, 21)

One if not the most important responsibility a believer has in this life is to know the Word of God—Bible doctrine. There is no excuse, rhyme or reason not to do so. The magnificent Word of God, canonized by the power of God into 66 written books and combined into one volume, explains God’s purpose and plan for mankind, His love for His creation and man’s guarantee of eternal life.

Additionally, for the believer it is the spiritual food that will bring him from infancy into adulthood. It will give him both peace and joy in expectation and confidence and courage in application. Yet so many Bibles lay collecting dust on bookshelves or within drawers out of sight and out of mind. Think about it!

After Jesus heals Malchus’ ear, He then states, “Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” Here He speaks of the cross and the suffering that He will soon readily face for all of mankind. J. Vernon McGee in his Thru the Bible commentary has an excellent commentary regarding this portion of Scripture, as follows:

There are several “cups” mentioned in the Scriptures. There is the cup of salvation: “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord” (Ps. 116:13). Then there is the cup of consolation: “. . . neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother” (Jer. 16:7). Also there is the cup of joy: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” (Ps. 23:5). This cup which our Lord was to drink was given Him by the Father. It was a dreadful cup, and Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, “. . . O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me . . .” (Matt. 26:39). This is the cup of judgment He bore for us on the cross. Everyone who turns his back on Jesus Christ must drink that cup of judgment himself. Jesus drank it for us although it was totally repulsive to Him. Remember that He was perfect humanity, absolutely sinless, and yet He drank the hated cup because it was the cup of your sin and my sin. There is still another cup, the cup of judgment which is yet to come on this world. I believe the seven vials or bowls of wrath, which are to be poured upon the wicked as described in Revelation are the fulfillment of this. “Upon the wicked He shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup” (Ps. 11:6). This is the cup of His anger. “For thus saith the LORD God of Israel unto me; Take the wine cup of this fury at My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it” (Jer. 25:15).

Notice again what our Lord says to Peter, “put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” It is not, “He is the judge, and I’m going to drink it by command,” but, “Shall I not drink this cup My Father gives Me?” There is no willingness higher than that. Let us not get the idea that the Savior did this reluctantly. Hebrews 12:2 says, “. . . who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

John 18:12-14

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.

Finally after many previous attempts the religious leaders of the day were able to have Jesus arrested. All other efforts to seize Him had failed, because “it was not His time.” Now, He went willingly. They really did not need to bind Him. Now He was the submissive “Lamb of God” who freely would be slaughtered on the cross of Calvary in order to pay for the sins of the world—so that all mankind through faith in “Him and His payment” may be saved (granted eternal life).

He is first taken to the previous high priest, Annas, the father-in-law to the residing high priest, Caiaphas. It is not clear why Jesus was delivered initially to Annas, and it is only in this gospel that it’s recorded. Some Bible expositors bring out that secular history records that Annas was the real power behind the office of high priest. Even though the Roman government had accepted Caiaphas, it was Annas who had orchestrated the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Annas was a clever, a brilliant and a truly satanic high priest. He was a skilled politician who knew how to manipulate the Roman government. Caiaphas may have been the instrument who had advised that “one man should die for the people, but it is believed that Annas was the engine that empowered him to make this decision.

At this point it should be mentioned that contrary to claims, the Jewish people were as a whole not responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Roman church has for century labeled the Jewish people as “Christ-killers.” They were no more responsible for the death of Christ than any American today is responsible for past slavery. If fault must be found, it lies at the doorstep of the religious elite of the day. It is always religion that becomes Satan’s primary means of attacking God. And what is religion? It is man attempting through his own merits and works to achieve heaven and the approbation (approval) of God. Throughout God’s Word only two avenues to God are presented. One is by works, and the other is by grace. One emanates from the evil depths of Satan’s cunning mind, and the other from the loving heart of God. One leads to hell; the other to heaven. Man always has the choice of one or the other.

John 18:15-18

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.

It is believed that the other disciple mentioned in this passage was the Apostle John. He apparently was known in the area and had enough influence to be admitted into the courtyard. John also used his position to gain access for Peter, who took up his position at the fire at which others were attempting to keep themselves warm. The picture this presents has often been the sermon topic for many ministers as they have colorfully portrayed Peter warming himself at the fire of Christ’s enemies.

What is significant is that it was here that Peter made his first denial of Jesus Christ. The other gospels inform us that the young girl who was the doorkeeper noticed Peter and determined him to be a Galilean because his speech betrayed him. After all, Peter was always one who had to talk and boast of his abilities. He was a rather rough-hewed fisherman who apparently was never short of words. When the young maiden asked Peter if he was also a disciple of Jesus Christ, he quickly denied it.

Christians often look down upon Peter for denying Jesus Christ. After all, how could such a blessed person do such a dastardly and cowardly thing? Peter had walked beside Jesus for so long, he had been exposed to the numerous miracles that Jesus performed and he had sat at Jesus’ feet and routinely been saturated with the Love of God. If anyone should have had the bravery to standup for Jesus, it should have been the only man apart from the Son of God who had walked on water, even if it was only for a brief time (Matthew 14:29). But instead of “standing tall” for his Savior, Peter executed the first part of his triune-denial of Jesus Christ.

Christians should be thankful to God for this insight into Peter’s character and actions. Instead of looking down on him the believer should be grateful that God has permitted exposure to this record of Peter, which was recorded in all the gospels. Why? Because it assures all who believe on Jesus Christ that no matter how deep they may slide back into degradation and sin God will still bring them to the place of forgiveness, peace, joy and service. Remember that God’s way is one of love and grace. Man never comes to God. He can’t! God must and has come to man. He did so through Christ for salvation, and He does so through the Spirit for sanctification.

John 18:19-24

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.

Here is what first may be called a “religious trial.” It takes place before Annas, who holds a pre-trial assessment of Jesus Christ. Actually, the religious trials to which Jesus was subjected were illegal under Mosaic Law. A trial was not to begin nor end at night. Furthermore, a trial was not to begin and end on the same day. During a trial a prisoner was not to be hit who had not yet been proven guilty. All these illegalities took place at this pre-trial “trial.”

The following commentary by William MacDonald in his Believer’s Bible Commentary is most appropriate for this passage. It follows:

It is not clear whether the high priest here is Annas or Caiaphas. If it was Annas, as seems most likely, he was probably called high priest out of courtesy because he once held this office. The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His teachings, as if these posed a threat to the Mosaic Law and the Roman government. It is obvious that these people had no real case against the Lord, and so they were trying to make one up. Jesus answered him that His ministry had been carried on openly. He had nothing to hide. He had taught in the presence of the Jews, both in synagogues and in the temple. There was no secrecy.

This was a challenge to bring forth some of the Jews who had listened to Him. Let them bring charges against Him. If He had done or said something wrong, let the witnesses be produced. The challenge obviously irritated the Jews. It left them without a case. And so they resorted to abuse. One of the officers slapped Jesus for speaking to the high priest like that. With perfect poise and unanswerable logic, the Savior showed the unfairness of their position. They could not accuse Him of speaking evil; yet they struck Him for telling the truth.

The preceding verses describe the questioning before Annas. The trial before Caiaphas is not described by John. It fits in between 18:24 and 18:28.

John 18:25-27

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.

The narrative now turns back to the Apostle Peter. As he continues to warm himself by the fire, he is asked by one of his “fire-companions” if he is a disciple of Jesus. He emphatically denies that he is one. Then, a little later, a relative of Malchus (the one whose ear was cut off by Peter) again suggested that Peter was linked to Jesus. From Matthew and Mark we learn that Peter’s response to him was quite vehement. In fact he resorted to cursing as he strongly denied that he was associated with Christ. Upon his third denial of Christ the rooster crowed. From Luke we learn that at that moment Jesus turned and looked straight at Peter. Peter then recalled that Jesus had previously predicted that he would deny his Savior and, according to the other gospels, Peter went out into the night and wept bitterly.

J. Vernon McGee in his Thru the Bible commentary has the following cogent remarks:

Why is it that Simon Peter, who did a deed as dastardly as Judas, could make his way back to the Lord? Because he was a child of God, and it broke his heart to know what he had done. A child of God may get far from God, but God is never far from him. You may be dead to God, but God is never dead to you. He is always there and He is always available. The Lord never said to Peter, “I’m sorry, but because you failed Me, I just can’t use you anymore.” No, He appeared personally to Peter after His resurrection, and He elected Peter to preach the first sermon on the Day of Pentecost. There has never been a sermon like it! Thank God for a Savior and a Lord like that. He will always take you back!

John 18:28-36

Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium [judgment hall], 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. 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?” 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.”

Here is seen the hypocrisy of the religious elite. Because they were about to “eat the Passover” they were unwilling to defile themselves by entering the Praetorium (judgment hall), yet they thought nothing of plotting the murder of Jesus. It would have been a tragedy for them to enter a Gentile establishment, but murder was a mere trifle. The expression “that they might eat the Passover” most likely meant the feast that followed the Passover. The Passover itself had been held on the previous night.

They had just tried Jesus in their illegal court and now, because it was only through a civilian court that a person could be put to death, they transferred Him to the civil court under Pilate, the Roman Governor. Even though Pilate cared little for Jerusalem and spent most of his time in Caesarea, a beautiful seacoast community, he was responsible for keeping order at this time of year when the Jews gathered from all over the world. That was the reason he was in Jerusalem.

Pilate gave in to the religious elite, went out to them and asked them to state the charge against Christ. They were bold and quite dishonest as they said, in effect, that they had already tried Jesus and found Him guilty. All they wanted Pilate to do was pronounce the death penalty for Jesus. At this, Pilate suggested that since they had already tried Jesus they should also pronounce sentence on Him in accordance with Mosaic Law.

But under their present subjugation to Rome it would have been illegal and a crime against Rome for the Jews to put Jesus to death; therefore, they needed Pilate and the Roman court for this. They were freely admitting that they were not an independent nation. They had been taken over by the Roman Empire and civil government had been taken out of their hands. It is notable that previously (John 8:33) these religious officials arrogantly stated, “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man.” John states that this fulfilled what Jesus had prophesied to His disciples—that the religious elite would condemn Him to death and would deliver Him to the Gentiles to carry out this end. In Matthew 20:19 and John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32 and 34 Jesus had predicted that not only would He be delivered up to the Gentiles but that His death would come by crucifixion. If the Jews could have put Him to death it would have been by stoning Him. Only the Romans used crucifixion, an excruciatingly painful means of killing a person. In Psalm 22 it was prophesized that the Messiah would die by crucifixion.

Pilate goes back in and conducts a private interview with Christ. He looks for an appropriate charge for which he could order the death sentence. He first wants to know if Jesus proclaimed Himself as the King of the Jews, thereby supplanting Rome’s authority over the Jews. Jesus replies with a question. Jesus asked Pilate from where he received such evidence—from personal experience or from others. Pilate replied, “Am I a Jew,” to imply that he was too important to be troubled by such local matters. He confirms that the charge was presented by the Jews through the office of their high priest.

Pilate then again addressed Jesus and asked Him what crime He had committed. To this Jesus admits that He is indeed a King, but not the kind of king the Jews accused Him of being—and certainly not a king that would threaten the authority of Rome. Jesus informs Pilate that His Kingdom is not of this world (system). If that was the case, His followers would have taken up arms and defended Him. Yet one day—soon—Jesus will return to this earth and set up His Kingdom for one thousand years.

John 18:37-40

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. 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.

Keying on the words Jesus had just spoken, Pilate then asked, “Are You a king then?” Jesus tells Pilate, in effect, yes! But He goes on further and declares that His Kingdom is one of truth. He states that His purpose for coming into the world was to establish and bear witness to “the truth.” What truth? The truth of God, of His Son and of the Holy Spirit. The truth of sin, of judgment and of salvation. The truth of this world, of man and of God’s love and grace for man. Jesus came to establish a called-out assembly based on truth and which would one day reign with Christ upon the earth. He, in fact, assures Pilate that everyone who is “of the truth” hears the voice of Christ. It is also accurate to say that anyone who honestly desires truth will hear the voice of Jesus Christ and will understand what Christ has done for him—and will by faith alone trust in Jesus Christ alone for his personal salvation.

All Pilate could say in return was, “What is truth,” thereby revealing his cynicism regarding the issue of truth and his personal philosophy, which was relativism—that truth is relative and not absolute. This is more prevalent today than in Pilate’s day. It is an easy approach to life. It allows one to justify just about anything a person wishes to believe or do. It accepts all religions, all moral philosophies, all activities—good, bad or ugly—or none at all. It is a totally self-serving and truth-rejecting system of thought.

Anyway, at this point in time, Pilate finds no fault with Jesus for which Jesus should be put to death. He relays this to the Jewish religious elite outside. And then he seizes upon a tradition, and presents it to the populace, that would allow him to release Christ if they would ask him to do so. During the Passover the Jews could ask the governor to release one prisoner from the fangs of death, and Pilate thought that they would surely opt to release Jesus since the case against Him was far inferior to the cases against all other prisoners who were relegated to death. He was wrong. Instead they choose Barabbas, a robber. The wicked heart of man preferred a bandit over the Creator—and still Jesus Christ in love and grace went to the cross to pay the penalty-price for the sins of the very persons who sent Him there.