Today: [John 18:] In the Garden with Jesus: In this chapter, we go with Jesus to the garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal. He is taken to the high priest’s house and then stands before Pilate in the final hours before His crucifixion.
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[Jhn 18:1-18 KJV] 1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. 2 And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. 3 Judas then, having received a band [of men] and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? 5 They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am [he]. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. 6 As soon then as he had said unto them, I am [he], they went backward, and fell to the ground. 7 Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. 8 Jesus answered, I have told you that I am [he]: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: 9 That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none. 10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. 11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? 12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, 13 And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. 14 Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. 15 And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and [so did] another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. 16 But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter. 17 Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also [one] of this man’s disciples? He saith, I am not. 18 And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself.
In verse 1 of chapter 18, Jesus leads His disciples to a place of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He would have passed right by the house of the high priest Caiphus where Judas would conspire to betray Him. In the garden below the temple mount, Jesus could look up through the branches of the Olive trees and had a full view of the Eastern Gate, or Lion’s gate that prophecy foretells would one day be the point of His entrance to the city in His future Millennial reign. You don’t know these things unless you have studied maps or visited the city of Jerusalem itself. These land features are visible and discernible even today after centuries of history and change in the Middle East. As soon as Jesus would have passed by the house of Caiphus, Judas may indeed have been watching because behind Jesus; on the very route by which He led His disciples to pray, Judas would have followed on the only route available for him to do so. In spite of all this, Jesus does not flee to the Jordan in the east nor to Galilee in the north, as He has done on other occasions. He knows His hour has come.
The soldiers came with Judas accompanying them, and Jesus in the authority of the king that He challenged the mob, demanding of them “whom seek ye…” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth…” They didn’t know Him for who He was, and He answered with one of the great “I AM” statements in the bible. “I AM HE” and with the power of that answer the entire group of men opposing Him fall to the ground under the power of God. Jesus then, asks them again “whom seek ye?” They answer again, perhaps with a tremble in their voices “Jesus of Nazareth…” To which Jesus replied “I have told you I am he” and then adds “if therefore you seek Me, let these go their way…” He will do nothing to protect Himself, for this reason, He came into the earth, but He will move heaven and earth to defend His followers.
Simon Peter is instant to Jesus defense with a sword that they carried in the midst, and he slashes off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. Jesus stays Peter’s hand, insisting that He will indeed drink the cup that the Father has put in His hand. In another place, in the gospels, we see that Jesus takes the severed ear and restores it to the side of Malchus’ head. In receiving this miracle, Malchus had the distinction of being the last person Jesus healed during His time on earth before His crucifixion. Although he is mentioned in all four gospels, there are no traditions concerning what became of him, or of his response to the healing he received. He disappears from history without another word.
The soldiers leave the disciples to themselves and bind Jesus to take him away to Annas, the father-in-law to Caiaphas who was the current high priest. The back story to this is that Annas, Caiaphas’ father-in-law had been the previous high priest, but Herod had removed him under the instruction of the Romans and installed his son in law. However, history tells us that Caiaphus was merely a puppet and that nothing was done relating to the temple without Annas consenting as the power behind the high priestly office. This is all a matter of historical account contemporary to the events that took place in our chapter.
In verse 15 we find Peter following afar off along with “another disciple” that we understand to be John himself. Thus we see two men with very diverse characters and personalities following at a distance to see what would become of their master. They would have gone back up the hill past the upper temple mount, and the city of David below it and cross the valley between the former location of David’s palace just below on an adjacent hill the residence of King Herod.
Outside the high priest’s home, in the cold and damp of winter Peter warms himself at the enemy’s fire. He is confronted for the first time by a young servant girl whether or not he is one of Jesus’ followers to which he makes denial. His bombastic personality and being noticed at the forefront of every gathering of Jesus is now betraying his identity.
[Jhn 18:19-40 KJV]
19 The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine. 20 Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. 21 Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. 22 And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? 23 Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me? 24 Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest. 25 And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also [one] of his disciples? He denied [it], and said, I am not. 26 One of the servants of the high priest, being [his] kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him? 27 Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew. 28 Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover. 29 Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? 30 They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee. 31 Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: 32 That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die. 33 Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? 34 Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? 35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? 36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. 37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. 38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault [at all]. 39 But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? 40 Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.
Inside the palace of Caiaphas Jesus is questioned about His doctrine. Jesus refuses to engage in the debate observing that He had been teaching openly for years, and in secret had said nothing different than He has taught publicly. One of the officials standing by disapproves of the remark and strikes Jesus for what he saw as lack of proper respect. Jesus looks at him calmly asking for what reason He would strike Him. Outside, Peter is having his own troubles, being asked again and then again whether he was Jesus disciple and he denies it vehemently. Ominously the cock crows for the third time in the early morning, and as other gospels tell us, Peter flees in brokenness of heart and shame.
The priestly official press Jesus as much as they dared and then send him off to Pilate. Pilate, no doubt irritated at being woken in the early morning, demands to know for what accusation they have brought Jesus to them. The Jews know they have no legitimate complaint but insist if Jesus were not worthy of judgment at Pilate’s pavement, they would not have brought Him before him. Pilate defers, not interested in their religious conflicts and commands them to take Jesus to be judged by the lesser authority of Jewish religious courts. That isn’t enough for the Jews because they don’t have the power to sentence Jesus to death. Wearied with the scene and the insistence of the priests, Pilate decides to interrogate Jesus himself.
The governor asks Jesus if He is a king. That is the one thing that would be of interest to Rome. Jesus replies asking whether someone else told Pilate he claimed to be a king, or whether Pilate was inquiring of his own interest. Pilate spits the question back in Jesus’ face demanding to know what Jesus had done to incite the Jews so heatedly. Jesus calmly answers that His kingdom is not of this world; otherwise His followers would be at the door to defend Him. The question is put again by Pilate:
Are you a king then?
Jesus doesn’t give a direct answer, merely responding that Pilate was calling Him a king, therefore, it must be so. Jesus goes on to add “to this end I was born and for this cause came I into the world…” It is as though Jesus is attempting to encourage Pilate to get on with it because it didn’t matter what Pilate thought or what the Jews thought, there was something of greater enormity taking place that much proceed to its expected end.
Pilate responds to Jesus remark about truth in classic Greco-Roman style “what is truth…” to which Jesus answers not one word. Even though Jesus has been less than cooperative, Pilate goes out to the angry crowd outside insisting that he can find no fault in Jesus. He takes advantage of a clemency tradition whereby he could have released Jesus and freed Him. The Jews are having none of it and reject the prospect of releasing Jesus and call instead for the pardon of a notorious criminal by the name of Barabbas.
We know little of what happened to Barabbas; therefore, this chapter is bracketed by the mystery surrounding Malchus and Barabbas, both men whose lives were profoundly influenced by Jesus in unexpected ways though they were not followers of Jesus. Now what is interesting is that the name Barabbas is the last name of the man “bar – Abbas” meaning “son of” without giving his first name. Ancient Syriac versions of the gospels, however, state that his name surprisingly is “Jesus” as well. In fact, the early writing and scholar Origen agrees that the name was altered in the record so as not to equate the name of Jesus with that of a known criminal. Beyond that, the only suggestions in ancient literature are that Barabbas went on to witness the crucifixion of Jesus and later to die as a rebel fighting the Roman occupation in the years that followed.
What can we say of the figures involved in this chapter? Jewish religious leaders inflamed with murderous rage against Jesus. A son-in-law sitting as a puppet leader being manipulated by Annas, his father-in-law to collude in the death of Jesus. Pilate, with his jaded perspective, puzzling over the man called Jesus, yet unwilling to condemn him to death. Peter, impetuously violent yet in a moment of cowardice denying his master while warming himself at the enemy’s fires. Malchus, receiving a notable miracle but whose life was not changed by his encounter with Jesus. Finally, Barabbas, freed at the last moment and witnessing the death of Jesus in his place, yet going on his way – unfazed by his close encounter with God on earth. All sinful men, going on their way oblivious of the sinless Lamb passing in such close proximity to them. We can only pause and think if it were you or I, would we have any cognizance of the cosmic scale of justice that is being weighed in these events.
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