Jesus gets his day in court, at night
Jesus under arrest1When Jesus finished his prayer, he led his disciples into an olive grove on the other side of the Kidron Valley.
2Judas, who betrayed Jesus, knew exactly where they were going because Jesus often took his disciples there to talk with them. 3So Judas went there, leading an armed detachment of soldiers along with some Temple police sent by Jerusalem’s top Jewish priests and Pharisees. They carried torches and lanterns to light the night.
4Jesus knew what was going on and what was about to happen. But he stepped forward and asked, “Who are you looking for?” 5They said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said, “I am that man.” Judas, the betrayer, was standing right there.
6When Jesus told the group, “I am that man,” they instantly backed up and fell. 7Jesus repeated himself, asking, “Who are you looking for?” And again they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
8Jesus said, “Well I already told you that’s me. So, if I’m the one you’re looking for, let these other men go.”
9This fulfilled the prediction he made earlier, “I didn’t lose a single one you had given me.”
Peter draws blood10Simon Peter whipped out the sword he carried. He took a swing at Malchus, a servant of the high priest, slicing off the man’s right ear.
11Jesus told Peter, “Sheath that sword of yours. Don’t I have to drink the cup of death the Father gave me?” 12So the detachment of soldiers led by an officer and accompanied by the Jewish Temple police arrested Jesus and tied him up.
Retired high priest interrogates Jesus13They took him to the home of the high priest’s father-in-law, Annas. Caiaphas was the high priest that year. 14Caiaphas was the man who told Jewish leaders earlier, “Don’t you realize it’s better for one man to die, so he can save an entire nation from dying?”
15Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. That other disciple was someone the high priest knew, so he was allowed into the courtyard where Jesus was being held. 16Peter stayed outside the courtyard, by the entrance. The other disciple who knew the high priest went over to the servant girl who was standing guard at the door. He talked with her and then brought Peter into the courtyard with him.
17The servant girl who stood watch at the front door asked Peter, “You’re not one of that man’s disciples are you?” Peter told her, “No, I’m not.” 18Temple police and household servants waiting in the courtyard built a charcoal fire. It was cold waiting outside, so they warmed themselves by the fire. Peter stepped over there to warm himself, too.
High priest interrogates Jesus19The high priest started interrogating Jesus, asking who his disciples were and what he had been teaching them. 20Jesus answered, “I’ve been open to everyone about what I teach. I’ve been teaching in the synagogues and in the Temple, where Jews gather for worship. I don’t have any secret teachings. 21Why are you interrogating me? Ask the people who have heard me. Let them tell you what I said.”
22When Jesus said that, one of the Temple policemen standing there slapped him in the face and said, “Is that any way to answer the high priest?”
23Jesus answered, “If I said something wrong, tell me what it is. But if what I said was true, why did you hit me?”
24Annas sent him, still tied, to the High Priest Caiaphas.
Peter chickens out25Simon Peter was still standing by the fire warming himself when someone came up to him with a question: “You aren’t one of his disciples, are you?” Peter said, “No I’m not.” 26One of the servants of the high priest was related to the man who managed to get his ear cut off by Peter. He told Peter, “I saw you there in the garden with him. Am I wrong about that?” 27Peter denied it one more time. That’s when a rooster started crowing.
Pilate’s turn to interrogate Jesus28It was early in the morning when they left the home of Caiaphas and took Jesus to the governor’s headquarters. They didn’t go into the building because that would have defiled them and they wouldn’t have been able to eat the Passover meal that evening. 29Pilate came outside his headquarters and said, “What do you have against this man? What’s the charge?”
30They said, “We brought him to you because he’s breaking the law. We wouldn’t bring you an innocent man.”
31Pilate told them, “Handle this case yourself, then. Judge him by your own law.” The Jews answered him, “We can’t. It’s illegal for us to execute someone.” 32This fulfilled Jesus’ prediction about how they would kill him.
Pilate: “Do I look like a Jew?”33Pilate went back inside his headquarters and called for Jesus. Pilate asked him, “Are you king of the Jews?”
34Jesus said, “Is this your question, or is it a question someone told you to ask me?” 35Pilate said, “Do I look like a Jew? It’s your own people and your top priests who arrested you and brought you here to me. Here’s my question. What did you do?”
Jesus has no kingdom here36Jesus told him, “My kingdom doesn’t exist anywhere in this world. If it did, my people would have fought the Jews so I wouldn’t have gotten arrested. But the fact is, my kingdom isn’t here.”
37Pilate said to him, “Well then, you are a king, right?” Jesus answered him, “You’re the one who’s saying I’m a king. I was born into this world to tell the truth. Everyone who chases the truth listens to what I have to say.” 38Pilate said, “Whatever. Who knows what truth is anyhow?” Pilate went back outside and told the Jews, “I don’t see any evidence to back your accusation against this man. 39You’ve got a custom that calls for me to release a Jewish prisoner at Passover. Would you like me to release the king of the Jews?”
40They yelled, “Not him! Free Barabbas!” Barabbas was a thief.
The Gospel of Luke, traditionally credited to a physician named Luke, is the only Gospel that adds a healthcare note. “Jesus said, ‘Stop! We’re not doing this.’ Then he touched the slave’s ear and healed it” (Luke 22:51).
Annas had been the high priest a couple of decades earlier, from AD 6-15. His family monopolized the top Jewish job for a quarter of a century. Annas or one of his relatives held the job from AD 17-41. Roman governors appointed the high priests.
The writer is referring to Annas and describing him as a high priest even though he is only a former high priest. We do the same when we refer to a former senator as “senator” out of respect for his past service.
See note for John 19:9.
It’s unclear why some Jews taught that they would become ritually defiled by going into the home of a non-Jew. Some scholars speculate that this rule developed because some Gentiles buried their babies in or near the area of their house. Jewish law taught that anyone who enters a place where someone lies dead will remain ritually unclean for seven days (Numbers 19:14). During that time, they can’t worship God or celebrate religious holidays such as Passover.
Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of the province of Judea in what is now an area that includes Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. He ruled the region for a decade, from AD 26-36.
To review why Judas may have betrayed Jesus, see the relevant discussion questions in John 13.
A detachment of Roman soldiers along with Temple police and some of Jerusalem’s top Jewish priests and Pharisees walked over onto the slopes of the Mount of Olives to arrest Jesus. He stepped up to them and asked who they were looking for. When they said Jesus of Nazareth he replied, “I am that man” (18:5). Oddly, “they instantly backed up and fell.” Did they trip over watermelons? What would make them fall like that?
Don’t you think it odd that Peter had the courage to whip out his sword in the face of Roman soldiers and Temple police (18:10), yet a little later didn’t have the courage to admit he was a follower of Jesus (18:25)? Why the change?
It also seems odd that John would leave Malchus, a servant of the high priest (18:10), walking around with a chopped off ear. Luke 22:51 has Jesus reattaching the ear. I mean, if you’re going to report Peter whacked the guy’s ear off, why not report Jesus reattaching it?
The high priest, Caiaphas, who was running the interrogation of Jesus, had earlier expressed a desire to kill him: “Don’t you realize it’s better for one man to die, so he can save an entire nation from dying?” (18:14). Why do you think he would say something like that? What did he mean?
Peter gets into the courtyard of the high priest, thanks to help from another disciple, who had connections. “The other disciple who knew the high priest went over to the servant girl who was standing guard at the door. He talked with her and then brought Peter into the courtyard with him” (18:16). Many scholars speculate the “other disciple” was the one they also speculate wrote this Gospel: John. Why do you think some people would find that an odd guess? And how do you think scholars might defend that guess?
As John reports the flow of events, Jesus said this just a few hours before Peter denied knowing him: “Three times you’re going to deny you even know me. The rooster won’t crow in the morning until you do that” (13:38). That statement had to have made an incredible impression on Peter. What do you think are some of the feelings rushing through Peter on Friday morning when the rooster crowed?
What do you think most people feel when they read the story of Peter telling people he didn’t know who Jesus was (26:69-75)? Do they think less of him? Do they pity him? Do they relate to him?
When the top Jewish leaders sentenced Jesus to execution, they had to clear it with the Roman governor, Pilate (18:31). How do you think they would have felt about having to clear their executions with the occupying forces?
When Pilate asked if Jesus was king of the Jews, Jesus answered, “You’re the one who’s saying I’m a king” (18:37). In Matthew, Jesus answered, “You said it” (Matthew 26:64; 27:11). Either response is odd, it seems. Bible translators aren’t sure what to do with it. One translation: “It is as you say” (NASB). Another: “Those are your words” (NCV). What do you think Jesus meant in the quote?
“During the religious festival of Passover, the governor had developed a custom of releasing one prisoner. He would release whichever prisoner the crowd of people wanted most” (18:39; Matthew 27:15). This was apparently a goodwill gesture to keep the Jews happy despite being occupied by the Roman Empire. Doesn’t that seem odd? Why would anyone think that releasing a prisoner would improve political relationships—especially a prisoner who happens to be a murderer?
Explain this. Jewish crowds welcome Jesus as a hero on Palm Sunday. Five days later, early Friday morning, a group of Jews orchestrate his execution. Why the sudden change?
LIFE APPLICATION. All the disciples ran away when Jesus got arrested, just as he predicted (16:32). At the end of the story, Jesus forgives them, as well as his executioners. Without giving any names, how have you seen people react when they felt abandoned by people they counted on most?
LIFE APPLICATION. There are times in life when we mess up big time, like Peter did when he refused to stand by the Son of God who was on trial for his life. Jesus had to stand by himself before Jewish priests, top Jewish leaders, the Roman governor, and a Jewish ruler. Peter felt miserable about what he did. When we experience something comparable to what Peter may have felt—the shame and perhaps an emptiness of spirit—how do we come back from that?