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��JOHN 18

JOHN 18

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus Betrayal and Arrest in Gethsemane Arrest, Trial, Crucifixion Burial of Jesus The Arrest of Jesus The Arrest of Jesus
    (18:1-19:42)    
18:1-11 18:1-11 18:1-11 18:1-4 18:1-9
      18:5a  
      18:5b  
      18:5c-7a  
      18:7b  
      18:8-9  
      18:10-11 18:10-11
Jesus Before the High Priest Before the High Priest   Jesus Before Annas Jesus Before Annas and Caiaphas, Peter disowns Him
18:12-14 18:12-14 18:12-14 18:12-14 18:12-14
Peter's Denial of Jesus Peter Denies Jesus   Peter Denies Jesus  
18:15-18 18:15-18 18:15-18 18:15-17a 18:15-18
      18:17b  
      18:18  
The High Priest Questions Jesus Jesus Questioned by the High Priest   The High Priest Questions Jesus  
18:19-24 18:19-24 18:19-24 18:19-21 18:19-24
      18:22  
      18:23  
      18:24  
Peter Denies Jesus Again Peter Denies Twice More   Peter Denies Jesus Again  
18:25-27 18:25-27 18:25-27 18:25a 18:25-27
      18:25b  
      18:26  
      18:27  
Jesus Before Pilate In Pilate's Court   Jesus Before Pilate Jesus Before Pilate
18:28-38a 18:28-38 18:28-32 18:28-29 18:28-32
      18:30  
      18:31a  
      18:31b-32  
    18:33-38a 18:33 18:33-19:3
      18:34  
      18:35  
      18:36  
      18:37a  
      18:37b  
      18:38a  
Jesus Sentenced to Die Taking the Place of Barabbas   Jesus is Sentenced to Die  
(18:38b-19:16c)     (18:38b-19:16a)  
18:38b-19:7   18:38b-19:7 18:38b-39  
  18:39-40      
      18:40-19:3  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph, etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO 18:1-40

A. John omits Jesus' agony in Gethsemane (although John 17 may be parallel). This was apparently because he is emphasizing the dynamic character of Jesus which was in control of all circumstances. He Himself laid down His life (cf. John 10:11,15,17,18).

 

B. The order of events of this chapter is somewhat different from the Synoptic Gospels. This discrepancy seems to be attributable to

1. the nature of the eyewitness accounts

2. the author's theological purposes

 

C.  John is very different from the Synoptic Gospels. Why and how are questions that scholarship cannot answer. The best discussion I have seen on this issue is in Gordon Fee, Douglas Stuart, How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth, where it gives several theories. Apparently the Gospel authors, under inspiration, had the freedom to

1. select from

2. adapt

3. rearrange

the words and works of Jesus. I do not think they could make up words and works, but could adapt them for their evangelistic purposes to help reveal Jesus to different people groups. Remember the Gospels are not western histories (i.e., cause and effect and chronological), but eastern histories. They are not biographies, but evangelistic tracts.

D. A good reference book on this chapter, as far as the legalities of Jesus' trials (cf., Sanhedrin, 4:1), is A. N. Sherwin-White's Roman Society and Roman Law in the NT.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

�JOHN 18:1-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JOHN 18:1-11
 1
When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. 2Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. 3Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, "Whom do you seek?" 5They answered Him, "Jesus the Nazarene." He said to them, "I am He." And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. 6So when He said to them, "I am He," they drew back and fell to the ground. 7Therefore He again asked them, "Whom do you seek?" And they said, "Jesus the Nazarene." 8Jesus answered, "I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go their way," 9to fulfill the word which He spoke, "Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one." 10Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave's name was Malchus. 11So Jesus said to Peter, "Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?"

18:1 "the ravine of the Kidron" The term "ravine" meant "winter-brook" or "wadi." "Kidron" (BDB 871) meant

  1. of cedars
  2. black

This was a wadi that was completely dry in the summer time but ran during the winter season. It was the place where the blood of the sacrifices from Mt. Moriah were drained. This may be the source of the description "black." It was between the temple mount and the Mount of Olives (cf. LXX 2 Samuel 15:23; 2 Kgs. 23:4,6,12; 2 Chr. 15:16; 29:16; 30:14; Jer. 31:40).

There is a Greek manuscript variant at this point:

  1. "of the cedars" (kedrōn) in MSS אc, B, C, L and several other uncial manuscripts
  2. "of the cedar" (kedrou) in MSS א*, D, and W
  3. "of Kidron" (kedrōn) in MSS A and S

The United Bible Society's fourth edition uses #3.

▣ "a garden" This chapter completely omits Jesus' agony in Gethsemane, but it does place the event of the arrest in a garden. This was a favorite resting place of Jesus (cf. John 18:2; Luke 22:39). Jesus apparently slept here during the last week of His life (cf. Luke 21:37).

Gardens were not allowed in Jerusalem because the necessary fertilizer made it unclean. Many wealthy persons, therefore, owned vineyards, orchards, etc. on the Mount of Olives.

18:2 This is another editorial comment by John.

▣ "Judas" There is so much speculation about Judas and his motives. He is mentioned and vilified often in John's Gospel (cf. John 6:70-71; 12:4; 13:2,26,27; 18:2,3,5). The modern play "Jesus Christ Superstar" depicts him as a faithful, but disillusioned, follower who tried to force Jesus into fulfilling the role of the OT Jewish Messiah—this is, to overthrow the Romans, punish the wicked, and set up Jerusalem as the capital of the world. However, John depicts his motives as greed and satanically inspired.

The main problem is the theological issue of God's sovereignty and human free will. Did God or Jesus manipulate Judas? Is Judas responsible for his acts if Satan controlled him or God predestined and caused him to betray Jesus? The Bible does not address these questions directly. God is in control of history; He knows future events, but mankind is responsible for choices and actions. God is fair, not manipulative.

There is a new book that tries to defend Judas—Judas Betrayer or Friend of Jesus? by William Klassen, Fortress Press, 1996. I do not agree with this book because it depreciates John's testimony about Judas, but it is very interesting and thought provoking.

Special Topic: Election/Predestination and the Need for a Theological Balance

18:3
NASB   "the Roman cohort"
NKJV   "a detachment of troops"
NRSV, REB   "a detachment of soldiers"
TEV   "a group of Roman soldiers"
NJB   "the cohort"
Peshitta   "a company of soldiers"

This refers to a Roman military unit, which is a tenth of a legion and could have up to 600 men stationed in the Fortress Antonio, next to the Temple (cf. Acts 21:31,33). It is improbable that this large of a group was called on. The Romans were prepared for the riots in Jerusalem during these festival times. They would have taken the necessary precautions by transferring troops from Caesarea by the Sea. The Romans were involved in Jesus' trial because the Jews wanted to have Jesus crucified. This usually took several days; they could only do this with the Roman government's permission and cooperation.

▣ "and officers from the chief priests" The Levitical Temple police accompanied the Roman garrison. They had already failed to arrest Jesus once (cf. John 7:32,45).

▣ "weapons" The swords were carried by Roman soldiers, and the clubs were carried by the Temple police (cf. Matt. 26:43; Mark 14:43; Luke 22:52).

18:4 "So Jesus, knowing all the things" This is a strong emphasis on Jesus' own knowledge and control of His arrest, trials, and crucifixion (cf. John 10:11,15,17,18). It was not by accident that Jesus was crucified (cf. Mark 10:45; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28). This theme is characteristic of John's Gospel and may be why he does not record Jesus' Gethsemane conflict.

18:5
NASB, NJB, Peshitta   "Jesus the Nazarene"
NKJV, NRSV, TEV, REB   "Jesus of Nazareth"

There has been some discussion about the etymology of the term "Nazarene." It is possible that it may mean (1) Nazarene; (2) Nazarite (cf. Numbers 6); or (3) from Nazareth. NT usage (cf. Matt. 2:23) confirms #3. Some have even linked the Hebrew consonants nzr to the Messianic title "Branch" (nezer, cf. Isa. 11:1; 14:19; 60:21).

Special Topic: Jesus the Nazarene

▣ "I am He" This is literally "I am," Hebrew VERB "to be," which the Jews would relate to YHWH, the Covenant name of God (cf. Exod. 3:14 and Isa. 41:4). Jesus makes this awesome assertion of deity in the same stark grammatical way (ego eimi) in John 4:26; 8:24, 28, 58 and 13:19. It is repeated three times in this context for emphasis (cf. John 18:6, 8). This grammatical structure is different from Jesus' famous "I Am. . ." statements.

Special Topic: Names for Deity, D.

▣ "and Judas also who was betraying Him, was standing with them" This is another editorial comment by the eyewitness author of the Gospel, John.

18:6 "they drew back and fell to the ground" John recorded this to emphasize Jesus' dynamic character and presence.

This does not imply reverence (bowing before someone), but fear.

This cannot be used as a proof-text for being "slain in the Spirit"!

18:7 "Therefore He again asked them" Possibly, Jesus was drawing attention to Himself and away from the disciples. This seems to fit the immediate context of John 18:8.

18:8 "if" This is a FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE; they were seeking Him.

▣ "let these go their way" This is an AORIST ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. It is the fulfillment of a prophecy from Zech. 13:7 (cf. Matt 26:31; John 16:32).

18:9 "to fulfill the word which He spoke" This seems to be a reference to John 16:32, but John 17:12 is quoted.

18:10 "Simon Peter, then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear" Peter was not aiming for his ear, but his head! This shows Peter's willingness to die on Jesus' behalf. Peter's action may have come from a misunderstanding of Jesus' statement in Luke 22:36-38. Luke 22:51 informs us that Jesus healed the man's ear with a touch.

▣ "the slaves' name was Malchus" Only John mentions his name in this editorial comment. This shows an eyewitness account. The author of John was in the garden!

18:11 "the cup" This is a metaphor used in the OT as a symbol of person's destiny, usually in a negative sense (cf. Ps. 11:6; 60:3; 75:8; Isa. 51:17,22; Jer. 25:15,16,27-28).

The grammatical form of Jesus' questions expects a "yes" answer. Peter is acting again as someone who knows what is best to do (cf. Matt. 16:22; John 13:8).

The use of "cup" here is so different from the use of "cup" in the Synoptic accounts of Jesus' agony in Gethsemane. For John, Jesus is in complete control of events! John presents Jesus as confident, not fearful (cf. John 18:4; 13:1,11)!

�JOHN 18:12-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JOHN 18:12-14
 12So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him, 13and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.

18:12
NASB   "the Roman cohort and the commander"
NKJV   "the detachment of troops and the captain"
NRSV   "the soldiers, their officer"
TEV   "the Roman soldiers with their commanding officer"
NJB   "the cohort and its tribune"
REB   "the troops and their commander"
Peshitta   "the soldiers and the captains"

The names of Roman military units are taken from the number of the full complement of troops involved.

  1. cohort ‒ refers to a unit of up to 600 men (cf. John 18:3)
  2. the commander ‒ is from the number 1,000 (chiliarch, i.e., Acts 21:31; 22:24; 23:10; 24:7)

These titles say nothing about how large or small the military unit was that arrested Jesus. In Palestine #2 simply meant the leader of a small group of soldiers.

▣ "the Jews" See Special Topic: Jews

▣ "bound Him" This does not imply they were especially afraid of Jesus, but it seems to have been the normal procedures (cf. John 18:24).

18:13 "led Him to Annas first" There is much discussion about the order of these trials before Annas and Caiaphas. The Synoptics never mention a meeting with Annas. John 18:24 seems to be a footnote in John, but it is an integral part of the Synoptic accounts of Jesus' trials (cf. Matt 26:57; Mark 14:53).

In the OT the high priesthood was for life and each person had to be of the lineage of Aaron. However, the Romans had turned this office into a political plum, purchased by a Levitical family. The high priest controlled and operated the merchandising in the Court of the Women. Jesus' cleansing of the Temple angered this family.

According to Flavius Josephus, Annas was the High Priest from A.D. 6-14. He was appointed by Quirinius, governor of Syria and removed by Valerius Gratus. His relatives (5 sons and 1 grandson) succeeded him. Caiaphas (A.D. 18-36), his son-in-law (cf. John 18:13), was his immediate successor. Annas was the real power behind the office. John depicts him as the first person to whom Jesus is taken (cf. John 18:13,19-22).

18:14 This is another editorial comment by John, as are John 18:15 and 18.

▣ "Caiaphas " John's major concern with Caiaphas was that he had unknowingly prophesied about Jesus' death (cf. John 11:50). He was Annas' son-in-law and was High Priest from A.D. 18-36. See note at John 11:49.

�JOHN 18:15-18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JOHN 18:15-18
 15Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, 16but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in. 17Then the slave-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." 18Now the slaves and the officers were standing there, having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter was also with them, standing and warming himself.

18:15 "Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple" There has been much discussion as to the identity of this other disciple.

  1. The traditional theory has been that it is the Apostle John because of a similar phrase used of him in John 20:2,3,4,8. Also, another possible connection is with John 19:25, which names John's mother, who could possibly be a sister of Mary, which means he may have been a Levite and, therefore, from a priestly family (cf. Polycarp's testimony).
  2. This may have been a local unnamed follower like Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea because of their association with the high priest and his family (cf. John 18:15-16).

▣ "Now that disciple was known to the high priest" This is a very strong term for "acquaintance" and seems to mean a "close friend" (cf. Luke 2:44 and 23:49). If John, this may relate to his fishing business which would have involved his family in regularly bringing fish to Jerusalem.

18:17 "the slave-girl who kept the door said to Peter, 'You are not also one of this man's disciples, are you'" This grammatical form, like John 18:25, expects a "no" answer. It shows the contempt of those involved by not using Jesus' name. She may have asked this because of

  1. Peter's connection with John
  2. Peter's Galilean accent

▣ "I am not" Peter may have been prepared to die for Jesus, but he was not prepared to truthfully answer the question of a slave girl! In the Synoptic Gospels these three denials are placed together, but in John they are separated by the questioning of Jesus by Annas (cf. John 18:24).

Peter's "I am" statement is the exact opposite of Jesus' "I am" statement" (cf. John 18:5).

18:18 This story is told with such vivid eyewitness details. Both John 18:18 and 25 have two PERIPHRASTIC IMPERFECTS.

�JOHN 18:19-24

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JOHN 18:19-24
 19The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His teaching. 20Jesus answered him, "I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. 21Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said." 22When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, "Is that the way You answer the high priest?" 23Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?" 24So Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

18:19 "The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His teaching" This refers to Annas, not Caiaphas. Annas was the power behind the throne. He reigned from A.D. 6 to 15. He was immediately followed by his son-in-law and later his five sons and a grandson. Annas, who owned the commercial rights in the temple area, was probably anxious to interrogate the one who cleansed the Temple (possibly twice). It is interesting that Annas was concerned about Jesus' disciples as well as His teachings.

18:20 It is certainly true that Jesus taught publicly. However, it is also true that many of His teachings were veiled to the public (cf. Mark 4:10-12). The real issue was spiritual blindness on the part of His hearers.

Jesus' words and methods of teaching are recorded differently between the Synoptic Gospels and John. The Synoptics have no "I Am. . ." statements. Jesus teaches in parables; John records no parables. It seems to me that the differences may be explained by the Synoptics recording the public teachings of Jesus and John recording the private sessions.

▣ "spoke openly" See Special Topic: Boldness

18:21 "Why do you question Me" In John 18:20 Jesus asserts the public nature of His teaching ministry. Jesus was pointing out to Annas that his questions were illegal according to Jewish law and also were public knowledge.

18:22 "the officers standing nearby struck Jesus saying" This term originally meant "to slap" or "beat with a rod." It came to mean "a slap with the open hand." This is an allusion to Isa. 50:6. Jesus asserts that if He had done anything wrong, accuse Him; otherwise, why was He being hit?

18:23 "If. . .if" These are two FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCES which are assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. Here the first one is a literary way to accent a false reality. Jesus is challenging Annas to bring forth his evidence.

18:24 The order of these trials is reversed in the Synoptic Gospels.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JOHN 18:25-27
   25Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, "You are not also one of His disciples, are you?" He denied it, and said, "I am not." 26One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, "Did I not see you in the garden with Him?" 27Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed.

18:26 "One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said" There is some discrepancy among the four Gospels as to who asked the questions of Peter.

  1. in Mark, it is a maid who asked the first question (cf. Mark 14:69)
  2. in Matthew it is another servant girl (cf. Matt. 26:71)
  3. in Luke 22:58 it is a man
  4. in John a slave/servant of the High Priest

It is obvious from the historical setting that one person asked the question around the fire and the others joined in (cf. John 18:18).

18:26 "Did I not see you in the garden with Him" Unlike the first two questions in John 18:17 and 25, this grammatical form expects a "yes" answer.

18:27 "Peter then denied it again" We understand from Mark 14:71 and Matt. 26:74 that Peter denied it by cursing and swearing.

▣ "immediately a rooster crowed" The chronology of events from all four Gospels implies this occurred between 12:00 and 3:00 o'clock in the morning. The Jews did not allow chickens inside the city limits of Jerusalem so it must have been a Roman rooster.

Luke 22:61 asserts at this point that Jesus looked at Peter. It is assumed that Annas and Caiaphas lived in the same house and the guards were moving Jesus from His meeting with Annas to His meeting with Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. It was in this movement when Jesus looked at Peter. This is all conjecture because we do not have enough historical information to be dogmatic about the sequence of events of these night trials.

�JOHN 18:28-32

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JOHN 18:28-32
 28Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. 29Therefore Pilate went out to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this Man?" 30They answered and said to him, "If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you." 31So Pilate said to them, "Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law." The Jews said to him, "We are not permitted to put anyone to death," 32to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die.

18:28
NASB, NKJV, JB, Peshitta   "to the Praetorium"
NRSV   "to Pilate's headquarters"
TEV   "to the governor's palace"
REB   "into the governor's headquarters"

This is a Latin term referring to the Roman governor's official residence when they were in Jerusalem. This may have been the fortress Antonio, which was next to the Temple or Herod the Great's palace.

Special Topic: Praetorian Guard

▣ "it was early" We know from Roman records that Roman officials in Palestine met for court at daybreak. Apparently, it was right at dawn when the Sanhedrin met to give some semblance of credibility and legality to the illegal night trials. They immediately took Jesus to Pilate.

▣ "they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled" By entering a Gentile's residence they would have been defiled for the Passover meal. It is ironical that they were so squeamish about ceremonial items, but had no qualms about illegally putting a man to death.

This verse is the center of a controversy over an apparent historical discrepancy between the Synoptic Gospels, which assert that Jesus ate the Passover meal with His disciples (cf. Matt. 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:1), and John, which asserts that this took place the day before (Thursday), the preparation day of the traditional Passover feast. The renowned Roman Catholic Johannine scholar, Raymond Brown, makes these comments in the Jerome Biblical Commentary:

"If the chronicle of events as reported in the Syn tradition is to be preferred invariably to that of Jn from the standpoint of 'historicity,' the following passage—the report of a witness who certainly knew the Syn tradition—presents some insoluble difficulties. If, on the other hand, we recognize that the eyewitness testimony from which Jn has been formed is often closer to the factual events than the schematic Syn outline, the passage becomes more understandable" (p. 458).

There is also some possibility of two different dates to observe the Passover, on Thursday and on Friday. There is also the added problem that the term "Passover" can be used of the one-day feast and the eight-day festival (Passover combined with Unleavened Bread, cf. Exodus 12).

▣ "might eat the Passover" There are still problems over the exact date of the Last Supper. The Synoptic Gospels seem to imply it was the Passover meal, but John states it was the day before the official Passover meal (cf. John 19:14 and this verse). The answer may be in

  1. the fact that the term "passover" can refer to the week, the meal, or the special Sabbath
  2. the fact that some Jewish separatist groups (i.e., Essenes) follow a lunar calendar from the intertestamental book of Jubilees
  3. the fact that John's "double meanings" present Jesus as the Passover lamb (1:29), which was slain the day before the Passover

Special Topic: Passover

18:29 God used Pilate's personality much like He used Pharaoh's in Exodus. He was appointed procurator of Judea in A.D. 26 by the Emperor Tiberius. He replaced Valerius Gratus (who removed Annas as High Priest). Pontius Pilate was the fifth Roman procurator. He administered the kingdom of Archelaus (son of Herod the Great), which included Samaria and Judea, Gaza, and the Dead Sea. Most of the information about Pilate comes from Flavius Josephus' writings.

Special Topic: Pontius Pilate

18:30 "If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you" This is a SECOND CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE often called "contrary to fact." Jesus was not an evil doer. This was a sarcastic remark of Pilate who refused to indulge in the "nit-picking" religious charges of Jews.

This VERB "delivered" is the same one usually translated "betrayed" when used of Judas (cf. John 6:64,71; 12:4; 13:2,11,21; 18:2,5). The term literally means "to hand one over to an authority" or "to pass on a tradition." In connection with Judas, the term has intensified in meaning among English translators.

18:31 "We are not permitted to put anyone to death" The Jewish leadership had condemned Jesus for blasphemy, but they used the charge of insurrection to have Him executed by the Romans. It was very important to the Jewish leaders that Jesus be crucified because of Deut. 21:23 (i.e., being crucified was understood by 1st century rabbis as being cursed by God). Jesus had predicted this in John 18:32; 3:14; 8:28; 12:32,33; and Gal. 3:13.

Special Topic: The Night Trial of Jesus Before the Sanhedrin

18:32 "signifying by what kind of death He was about to die" Why did the Jewish leaders want Jesus crucified? It is obvious from Acts 7 that they executed people for blasphemy by immediate stoning. Possibly it relates to the OT divine curse of Deut. 21:22-23. Originally this referred to public impalement after death, but the contemporary rabbis interpreted this verse in light of Roman crucifixion. They wanted Jesus, this Messianic pretender, cursed by God. This was God's plan for the redemption of fallen humanity. Jesus, the Lamb of God (i.e., 1:29), offered Himself as a substitute (cf. Isaiah 53; 2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus became "the curse" for us (cf. Gal. 3:13).

�JOHN 18:33-38

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JOHN 18:33-38a
  33Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" 34Jesus answered, "Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?" 35Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?" 36Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." 37Therefore Pilate said to Him, "So, You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You may correctly say that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." 38Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?"

 18:33 "the Praetorium" See Special Topic: Praetorian Guard.

▣ "Are you the King of the Jews" Jesus was accused of treason (cf. Matt. 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:2 and John 19:3,12,15,19-22).

Special Topic: OT Titles of the Special Coming One

18:34 "Jesus answered, 'Are you saying this on your own initiative or did others tell you about Me'" If Pilate was asking the question in reference to a political kingship, Jesus would have denied it. If the Jews had suggested it, then it referred to His Messiahship and Jesus would have affirmed it. Pilate was obviously not ready to discuss the intricacies of Jewish religious thought (cf. John 18:35).

18:35 The first question expects a "no" answer. Pilate is expressing his contempt for the Jewish religion.

18:36 "If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting" This is a SECOND CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE which is called "contrary to fact." It should be translated "If My kingdom were of this world, and it is not, then My servants would be fighting, which they are not." The phrase "my servants" could refer to (1) the disciples or (2) the angels (cf. Matt. 26:53).

Special Topic: Kingdom of God

Special Topic: My Servant

18:37 "Therefore Pilate said to Him, 'So you are a king?'" This was extreme irony on the lips of this symbol of earthly power (i.e., Rome), confronting Jesus and His spiritual kingdom. This question expects a "yes" answer.

▣ "You may correctly say that I am a King. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world" The first phrase is difficult to translate because of its ambiguity. It is an affirmation with qualifications (cf. Matt. 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3). Jesus knew who He was (two PERFECT TENSE VERBS), and why he came (cf. John 13:1,3; Mark 10:45; Luke 2:49; Matt. 16:22ff). Pilate would not have understood!

▣ "for this I have been born" Jesus is referring to His task of revealing the Father (i.e., "to testify to the truth"). Basically there are three reasons why Jesus came.

  1. to fully and completely reveal the character and purpose of God (cf. John 1:18; 3:32)
  2. to die as the innocent lamb of God to take away the sin of the world (cf. John 1:29)
  3. to give believers an example of how to live and please God

▣ "Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice" I am always deeply moved by "everyone," "anyone," "whosoever," "as many as"! Wow! YHWH is fulfilling Gen. 3:15 in Christ. Jesus restores the image of God damaged in the Fall. Intimate, personal fellowship is again possible! Fellowship is restored now (realized eschatology).

Only those with spiritual eyes and ears (i.e., John 10:3,16,27; 18:37) can understand truth (cf. Matt. 11:15; 13:9,16,43; Mark 4:9,23; Luke 8:8; 10:23,24; 14:35; Rev. 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22). Jesus is the truth (John 14:6)! When He speaks His followers hear (cf. John 10:1-5). In John to "see" or "hear" truth is theologically equivalent to receiving "eternal life."

18:38 "Pilate said to Him, 'What is truth'" Pilate asked this question, but apparently left before he received the answer. Pilate wanted to assure himself that Jesus was no threat to the Roman government. He did this. He then tried to have Jesus released as was a custom of the Jews of that day during the Passover season (cf. John 18:39; Matt 27:15). John is writing, as Luke did, to show that Christianity was no threat to the Roman Empire (i.e., John 18:38b; 19:4; Luke 23:4,14,22).

Special Topic: "Truth" in John's Writings

�JOHN 18:38-40

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: JOHN 18:38b-40
 38bAnd when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, "I find no guilt in Him. 39But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for the King of the Jews?" 40So they cried out again, saying, "Not this Man, but Barabbas." Now Barabbas was a robber.

18:39 "you have a custom" This is explained in Matt. 27:15 and Luke 23:17 (but unknown from historical documentation outside the NT).

18:40 "So they cried out again, saying, 'Not this Man, but Barabbas" It is ironical that Barabbas was apparently a member of the zealot party and, therefore, guilty of the very charge for which Jesus was condemned (cf. Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19,25). This crowd apparently had been waiting there to support their local folk-hero. The Jewish authorities just took this opportunity to assure the condemnation of Jesus (cf. Mark 15:11).

It is also ironic that the name "Barabbas" means "son of a father." John uses these plays on words throughout his Gospel. The crowd wanted the "son of the father" released instead of "The Son of the Father." The darkness has fully come!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did Jesus go to a place where He knew Judas would find Him?

2. Why does John omit Jesus' agony at Gethsemane?

3. Why did the Sanhedrin take Jesus to Pilate?

4. Why is the order of events between John and the Synoptics so confusing?

5. Why does John depict Pilate as trying to release Jesus?

 

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