John 18:1-11-Jesus takes the disciples to the garden of Gethsemane. They cross a ravine that was on the east side of Jerusalem…between the city and the Mount of Olives. Jesus had often taken His disciples to this garden before; and now, Judas knew where to find them. Judas guides a group of Roman soldiers, along with officers from the Jewish officials. They were carrying weapons…ready for a fight.
The group that came to arrest Jesus was composed of Roman soldiers, Jewish servants and an apostate apostle (v. 3). John will make it clear that both Jew and Gentile are guilty of the death of the Son of God. Jesus is about to die for the life of the world, and the whole world needs it. The Jewish forces that were sent were the same as those sent to arrest Jesus once before (7:32, 45-46). They were not a police force as such but “court servants at the disposal of the Sanhedrin when necessary for police purposes” (Brown 1994:1:249). The detachment of soldiers (speira) refers to a cohort, a group of 600 soldiers under a military tribune (chiliarchos, vv. 3, 12; NIV, commander). The entire cohort would not have been deployed on this mission, but there would have been a significant force. The festivals in Jerusalem were always politically volatile, and after the welcome Jesus had received there was good reason to expect trouble—or so it would have seemed to the Roman and Jewish authorities who understood Jesus so poorly. They bring torches and lanterns to search for the Light of the World; they bring weapons against the Prince of Peace (Hendriksen 1953:378).
Jesus knew that this was all a part of God’s sovereign plan…so He calmly approached them and asked who they were looking for. When they said, “Jesus the Nazarene,” He responded, “I am.” Perhaps expecting a sudden attack by the disciples, they all fell back to the ground in a stance prepared to fight. Jesus again asked them whom they were looking for. They replied the same as the first time…and so did He…”I am”.
They say they are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus responds, I am he (v. 5, ego eimi). Here the most humble and human of Jesus’ names is juxtaposed with the most exalted and divine. The two together are the cross hairs that target Jesus’ identity: he is the human being from an insignificant, small town in Galilee who is also God. Jesus’ self-identification has been at the heart of this Gospel, and this public act of identification produces dramatic effects. When he uses the divine I AM they drew back and fell to the ground (v. 6). People falling to the ground in the presence of God are mentioned elsewhere (for example, Ezek 1:28; Dan 10:9; Rev 1:17), but here the ones falling are his enemies rather than his worshipers. This reaction is closer to that of Pharaoh, who fell down as though dead when Moses said the name of God, as told by Artapanus, a pre-Christian Jewish apologist (Eusebius Preparation for the Gospel 9.27; Talbert 1992:233). This reaction is a reflection not of their hearts, but of Jesus’ majesty. Here is a little preview of the moment in the future when every knee will bow to Jesus (Phil 2:10) and all things be brought into subjection to him (1 Cor 15:27; Phil 3:21), even those who do not own allegiance to him and thus for whom this submission is hell.
Jesus puts the question to them again (v. 7). The impression given by this passage is that they have been completely neutralized and that he must allow the events to proceed and give them permission to take him (cf. Talbert 1992:234).
He then told them that since they had Him, they should let the disciples leave. The verb tense is an order, not a request. He is issuing orders to those who have been ordered to arrest Him. Who’s really in control, here? God is…He always was, He is, and He always will be. But Peter, impetuous as he was, suddenly decided to protect Jesus…so he drew his sword and attacked a slave. He cuts off the right ear of Malchus, the slave of the high priest. There are several suggestions as to why Peter only got the right ear of Malchus…Peter was left-handed; or, he attacked from behind; or, the man tried to duck the blow, but didn’t move quite far enough; or, he had bad aim. At any rate, Jesus quickly stops him and tells him that this must take place…so that Scripture will be fulfilled.
John 18:12-23-Jesus is arrested and taken before Annas (father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest). Peter and John were following them. John was allowed to enter the court of the high priest…and brought Peter with him as far as the outside door.
They took Jesus first to Annas, probably the most respected and powerful of the Jewish authorities at that time. He had held the office of high priest earlier (A.D. 6-15), and his influence continued through his son-in-law Caiaphas, the current high priest (v. 13) and through his five sons, who had also been high priest for various lengths of time (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 18.2.1-2; 20.9.1; cf. Chilton 1992:257). Annas was the head of a dynasty, which probably accounts for John’s reference to him as high priest (vv. 15-16, 19, 22, cf. Acts 4:6), even though John is clear that Caiaphas is the one holding that office at the time (vv. 13, 24).
There seem to be both historical and theological reasons why John includes this scene of Jesus’ questioning before Annas. John mentions “another disciple” who is “known to the high priest” (v. 15) and his household (vv. 16, 26). As with the references to the Beloved Disciple, this is most likely a reference to himself. Like the Beloved Disciple, this other disciple is unnamed, closely associated with Peter and characterized as having special knowledge. It is unclear whether John is saying that he knew the high priest personally or that he knew just some in his household. He is not described as speaking to Annas himself, but he does have personal knowledge of the servants. Perhaps he had contacts through marketing fish, though in that society this would not itself imply limited social contact (cf. Brown 1970:823; Carson 1991:582).
There was a slave-girl who was an attendant at the door. As she watched Peter she thought that she recognized him and asked him if he was one of Jesus’ disciples. He replied, “I am not” (17). During this same time, the high priest was questioning Jesus about His teachings and His disciples…perhaps He was wondering if Jesus was leading them to rise up in a rebellion and how many there were. Jesus responds by saying that nothing has changed. They are well aware of what He has been teaching. One of the officers took offense to the response of Jesus and struck Him. Jesus told him that if He had said anything incorrect then, tell Him what it was…if not, then why did he hit Him?
Prayer: Lord, I don’t enjoy reading this record of Your betrayal. Please, don’t let me betray You…even in the smallest degree. Help me to be faithful to You both in my public life and in my private life. Please forgive me for being judgmental of others who struggle with their faithfulness.