It is difficult to know how to describe the way both Jews and Gentiles treated the Lord Jesus before He was crucified. There were so many illegal acts on the part of Israel, and a gross miscarriage of justice by the Gentiles, that it is flattery to call any of the proceedings a trial. The “princes of this world”, 1 Corinthians 2:8 made their decisions on the basis of prejudice, ignorance, envy and cowardice.
Prejudice, because the chief judge on the Jewish side had said a few days before, “it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not”, John 11:50. John makes it clear that he was referring to Christ. How can a trial be just when the judge believes the accused ought to die? How can it be right for those in charge of the proceedings to seek for witnesses “against Jesus to put Him to death”, Mark 14:55. Leaving aside the fact that witnesses should not be sought, but should come forward of their own will, they should come to witness impartially, not against the accused, and should certainly not come with the intention of making sure the accused is put to death. Nor should the Sanhedrin have taken counsel “to put Him to death”, Matthew 27:1. They should have taken counsel to discover the truth.
They were marked by ignorance of who He really was. This was wilful ignorance, for he had given ample proof as to who He was by His character as He lived before them, His works as He did miracles, and His words as He spake as none other did. As He Himself said, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hateth Me hateth My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause'”, John 15:22-25. Such was the clarity of His teaching, the power of His works, and the holiness of His character, that to hate Him was to show themselves up as hardened and hateful sinners.
Their decisions were also on the basis of envy, as Pilate realised, for Matthew tells us that “he knew that for envy they had delivered Him”, Matthew 27:18. They saw Christ as a threat to their position and power. The people flocked to hear Him, but hated them.
As for Pilate, three times he declared that Christ was without fault as far as the law was concerned, (on the third occasion after he had scourged Him, which was only done to those who were condemned), but still he decreed that He be crucified. Sadly, he put favour with Caesar before favour with God, for when the chief priests saw that he was wavering, and was seeking to release Him, they said, “If thou let this man go, thou art not Ceasar’s friend”, John 19:12. At that point he sat on his judgement seat and delivered the Lord Jesus to be crucified. This was gross injustice on the basis of cowardice.
The arrest in the garden
18:1 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.
When Jesus had spoken these words- in 17:1, the phrase “these words spake Jesus” introduces the prayer that follows. Here the prayer is in the past, and the “I come to Thee” of 17:13 is continuing to happen. In His prayer to the Father He had used phrases like “I have finished the work”; “I am no more in the world”; “I come to Thee”; “while I was with them in the world”; “now come I to Thee”; “for their sakes I sanctify Myself”; “where I am”. All these expression tell of one who is projecting His mind into the future, and is anticipating being back with His Father, where He will ever live to make intercession for His own.
As far back as Luke 9:51 Jesus had been described as one who was going to be received up, a reference to His ascent to heaven. But more than that, He Himself said ” I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father”, John 16:28. So He began to move back to His Father the moment He had come into the world.
He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron- note the repetition of the word “disciples” in this verse. “With His disciples…and His disciples…with His disciples”, but although marked out as His followers, they became His forsakers in the garden. John does not record this, because he emphasises Christ’s defence of His own, and the way none of them was lost, and if he recorded the disciples fleeing it would detract from this.
The brook Cedron, (known as Kidron in the Old Testament), was a winter-brook, meaning it did not flow constantly, but only in winter and after storms. Job said, “My friends have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away; which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid: what time they wax warm they vanish: when it is hot they are consumed out of their place. The paths of their way are turned aside; they go to nothing, and perish”, Job 6:15-18. So Christ’s friends disappeared when the heat of the arrest came, but they did not perish like Job’s friends, for their Lord could say “I have lost none”, verse 9. As the Good Shepherd, He gives to them eternal life, “and they shall never perish”, John 10:28.
David crossed the Kidron (Cedron), when Absalom rebelled against him and Ahithophel changed allegiance and betrayed him, 2 Samuel 15,16,17. The traitor psalms, applied to Judas in the New Testament, (Psalms 41, 55, 69, 109), are based on Ahithophel’s treachery.
But there are several contrasts between David and Christ when they crossed this brook as follows:
1. David had sinned in the matter of Bathsheba, and Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather, 2 Samuel 11:3; 23:34. It is easy to see he had reason to change allegiance. Judas, however, had no reason at all to betray Christ. In fact, he had every reason to be loyal.
2. The judgement on David for his sin in connection with Bathsheba was, amongst other things, that evil would be raised up against him out of his own house, 2 Samuel 12:11. And so it came to pass, for the would-be usurper of David’s throne, Absalom, was his son. There was no sin in Christ, and therefore no reason for any to rise up against Him, especially from His own band of apostles.
3. David fled in the face of Absalom’s rebellion in part because he was weak in body, as he wrote in Psalm 41:8, “‘An evil disease’, say they, ‘cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth, he shall rise up no more'”. No such affliction affected Christ, however, to enable His enemies to take advantage of Him.
4. David crossed the Kidron brook to flee into the wilderness to escape, leaving himself vulnerable to the loss of his throne; Christ crossed the same brook at the same place to confront His enemies, and go to Calvary to guarantee His throne.
5. Because the route from Jerusalem both David and Christ took was at the approach to the Mount of Olives, we know from ancient Jewish records that they followed the path that the scapegoat took on the Day of Atonement. But only the Lord Jesus could fulfil the ritual of that day, for He was “once offered to bear the sins of many”, Hebrews 9:28.
6. Once they reached the top of Mount Olivet, they were at the place, opposite the east gate of the Temple, where the Red Heifer would be slain “before the Lord”. In one of his repentance psalms, David appealed to the Lord to “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean”, Psalm 51:7, a reference to the sprinkling of the ashes of the red heifer over a defiled person to make him clean, Numbers 19:17,18. The writer to the Hebrews contrasts the limited effect of the “ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean”, Hebrews 9:13, with the blood of Christ, which purges the conscience fully.
7. It is said that the blood from the Passover lambs was channelled from the altar down to the brook Cedron, so that it is very possible that the waters were still red with their blood. How this must have affected the sensitive soul of Christ as He crossed those waters! But He would do more that cross over the brook, He would go to Calvary and pass through the waters of judgement so that we might be redeemed.
Where was a garden, into the which He entered, and His disciples- John does not name the garden, nor does he name the garden where the sepulchre was, 19:41. He does not use the word Gethsemane, meaning “Place of olive-presses”, for the same reason that he does not record the cry of abandonment on the cross. He is emphasising the Deity of Christ, not His vulnerability. There is no “crushing” in Gethsemane in John’s gospel, no “being in an agony”, hence no name for the garden which would remind of that. This tells us that the prayer of John 17 was not offered in Gethsemane; even the location was distinct, as well as the content of the prayer. The one was spoken as if the Lord was already in heaven, with the cross over, (hence to mention the place-name would be inappropriate), the others in Gethsemane were offered as if the cross was looming large.
18:2 And Judas also, which betrayed Him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with His disciples.
And Judas also, which betrayed Him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with His disciples- He would retire there when the authorities in Jerusalem oppressed Him, John 8:1. The place of refuge now becomes the place of arrest. Perhaps Judas and Christ “walked into the House of God in company” from this place, Psalm 55:14.
18:3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.
Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees– putting all the gospel records together, the following were present:
1. A great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people, Matthew 26:47.
2. Mark adds “the scribes”, Mark 14:43.
3. The chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders, Luke 22:52.
4. A band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, John 18:3.
5. Judas, Luke 22:47.
6. A servant of the high priest, Malchus, verse 51.
7. A kinsman of Malchus, John 18:26.
Remember that more than twelve legions of angels were waiting for a call from Christ that never came, but, as the Lord said, “how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled?” Matthew 26:53.
Cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons- perhaps domestic lamps, hastily picked up when the call came, and military torches. Gideon’s torches caused the enemy to flee, Judges 7:19,20, but here it is the “enemy” who are holding the torches. They are sons of darkness coming to apprehend the Light of the World. But He does not need the torches, nor does He flee. Judas agreed to betray Him “in the absence of the people”, Luke 22:6, and this is how he did it. “He that doeth evil hateth the light”, John 3:20.
The Lord highlighted the swords (military) and staves, (domestic), with the words, “Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take Me?” Matthew 26:55. God has put a sword into the hand of the powers that be, so that they can punish evil-doers. But Pilate could ask the question, “Why, what evil hath He done?”, Matthew 27:23, and they refused to answer that question, because they knew the answer. On the other hand, staves are what a householder would use to defend his property from a burglar. So they were treating Him as if He were the one who, like a thief, was acting illegally against the best interests both of the nation, and the individuals in the nation.
In fact, it was they who were in the wrong, for Jewish law was being contravened in the following ways:
1. The arrest should have been done voluntarily by those who were witnesses to the crime.
2. It was illegal for the temple guard acting for the High Priest to make the arrest.
3. It was illegal in Jewish law to use force against a suspect.
4. The arrest should not have been at night, and constituted an act of violence. This is why the disciples were preparing to prevent it. Malchus was probably one of those foremost in the arrest. If Peter had been preventing a legal arrest, he should have been arrested. The fact he was not, showed the authorities knew they were in the wrong.
5. The prisoner was bound, which was unnecessary violence, since He was surrounded by only a few men, and the arrest party consisted of many.
6. The prisoner was taken to Annas first, but he was not the proper magistrate.
7. He was interrogated at night, which was prohibited by law.
8. He was detained in a private house.
9. He was struck gratuitously, and before any charges had been brought, John 18:22.
18:4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?
Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him- the “therefore” indicates that He is acting in line with His knowledge of the Father’s will. He knew He was the foreordained Lamb, 1 Peter 1:20, and that the arrest would lead to His crucifixion.
Went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? In response to the arrival of the arrest party, the Good Shepherd not only goes before to lead, but also to protect the sheep. The enemies of the sheep have to confront the shepherd first. He went forth to meet them, taking the initiative. There is no mention by John of Judas’ actions, which have taken place before this point. There is an emphasis on the love and care of the Shepherd, not the treachery and hostility of Judas, the wolf, who comes, with his accomplices, “to steal and to kill and to destroy”. He takes the initiative, asking whom they sought, so they did not arrest anyone else by mistake in the semi-darkness.
18:5 They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am He. And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them.
They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am He- the blind man said this, John 9:9 and no-one thought he was claiming Deity. So it must be that the expression reminds them of His word, “Before Abraham was, I am”, John 8:58. They took up stones to stone Him then, but now they are determined to see Him crucified.
How remarkable it is that Jesus of Nazareth is the great “I am”! This tells of His Deity. How remarkable also that the great “I am” should answer to the name of Jesus of Nazareth! This tells of His humility. He still answers to that name in heaven, as Saul of Tarsus found, Acts 22:8. His humble and obedient spirit shall never be forgotten.
And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them- he has done his wretched work, and now stands back with his friends. He prefers their company to that of the Son of God, and thus shows himself to be an unbeliever. John alone mentions this fact, for he was especially sensitive to anything that was untrue to his Lord. Yet Stephen accuses the nation of being the betrayers of Christ, Acts 7:52, so Judas is just a reflection of the nation. Stephen stood for Christ on earth, and Christ stood to receive him into heaven, verse 56.
18:6 As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground.
As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground- they took steps backward, reversing momentarily their plans, and then fell to the ground, illustrating what God’s plan is. They involuntarily do what they will do before Christ at the Great White Throne, (unless they have repented beforehand and have bowed the knee in that way), for unto Him every knee shall bow, Philippians 2:10, not only because of what He did when He became man, but also because of His Deity, Isaiah 45:22,23. They have an overpowering sense of Christ’s majesty. They thought they had come to arrest a carpenter, but he is, in fact, the Creator.
18:7 Then asked He them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth.
Then asked He them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth- having shown that He has power in Himself to resist arrest, He now submits to it as His Father’s will, and not as the will of men, thus highlighting that “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter”, Acts 8:32, not resisting at all. They have learnt that they are not in control. They may take Him, but He is delivered by “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”, Acts 2:23.
18:8 Jesus answered, I have told you that I am He: if therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way:
Jesus answered, I have told you that I am He- He is in control here, and rebukes them for asking the question again, when He has already given the answer. One man is holding a multitude at bay by His word, before submissively allowing them to take Him.
If therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way- having established that they have only come for Him, then, and not before, He requires that the disciples be allowed to go. They cannot refuse this without denying what they have just said. He has put them into a position where they cannot refuse to let the disciples go. The Lord ensures the disciples retire with dignity, even if, when they are out of immediate danger, they flee, as the other gospels record, and as the Lord foretold even in John’s record in 16:32. The emphasis is on His care, and not their fear.
18:9 That the saying might be fulfilled, which He spake, Of them which Thou gavest Me have I lost none.
That the saying might be fulfilled, which He spake, ‘Of them which Thou gavest Me have I lost none’- John is quoting Christ’s testimony to His Father in 17:12. There is no mention of Judas here, as there was in that verse, for he has now clearly sided with the enemy, and has placed himself out of the range of Christ’s protection as Good Shepherd. This statement shows that our Shepherd is concerned about our physical welfare and safety, as well as our spiritual good.
18:10 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.
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- this had repercussions in a two-fold way later. First, this incident drew attention to Peter, and so a relative of Malchus, who also was in the garden, accused him of being a disciple, and this resulted in the third of his denials, John 18:26,27. Perhaps this is why John is the only one to name Peter as the one with the sword, so as to make his account of Peter’s denial intelligible. Only Luke the doctor records the healing of the ear.
Peter’s action also gave the Lord the opportunity to show Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world. What earthly king rebukes his followers for fighting, and heals one of the enemy’s soldiers? John does not record the healing of the ear to preserve the climax of the raising of Lazarus. To heal an ear, although having significance, would be an anti-climax if recorded after the raising of a dead person.
18:11 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?
Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath- it is noticeable that the Lord rebuked Peter for seeking to prevent His arrest, but the soldiers do not arrest Peter for the injury to Malchus. They know they are acting illegally. Peter on a human level was justified in seeking to prevent an injustice. The Lord had sanctioned the carrying of a sword when engaged in the work of God, in self-defence, Luke 22:35-38.
The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it? The Lord was acting on a higher level than human justice. Note the difference between these words and “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me”, Matthew 26:39. The conflict in Gethsemane is over, and the Saviour is resolved to drink the cup. In Mark 14:35,36, “the cup” is the same as “the hour”, so it signifies His suffering and death.
Peter did not realise it then, but later on he would speak of Christ being delivered by the determinate will and counsel of God”, Acts 2:23, and yet he had sought to frustrate that will! He will write as an old man that the sufferings of Christ were sufferings “that pertained to Christ”, such is the sense conveyed by the particular preposition “of” in that passage, 1 Peter 1:11. Those sufferings were to be His, come what may, and Peter’s sword would not prevent them.
18:12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound Him,
Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound Him- this was another illegality, to bind an uncharged suspect. When men came to arrest Elijah, he brought down fire from heaven and consumed the first two arrest parties, and no doubt would have done the same to the third had not the angel intervened, 2 Kings 1:9-15. James and John referred to this as a reason to judge the Samaritans, but the rebuke the Saviour gave was, “The Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them”, Luke 9:54-56. Samson broke his bands and triumphed, Christ gained victory in weakness. They bind the hands that had just healed an ear.
At this point it will be helpful to have the order of subsequent events in our minds. If we were to read each of the four gospels in isolation, we might gain the impression that they were at variance, or that they had their facts wrong. This is not so, however, because John the apostle lived to be an old man, well beyond the time when the four gospels were written, and the Spirit guided him into all truth, John 16:13. So he, as one present at the proceedings, was able to sanction all four of the records, his own included. We may have confidence, therefore, that what is written is a true witness. We should approach the gospel records, not in a spirit of criticism and doubt, but with an open mind, prepared to accept what they tell us.
The general order of events from the Arrest to the Sentence of Christ, is as follows:
1. Arrest in the garden.
2. Leading, bound, to Annas, one of the High Priests.
3. Transferral to be questioned by Caiaphas, the other High Priest.
4. Brought before an informal Sanhedrin, at night, and condemned.
5. Brought before a formal session of the Sanhedrin at dawn to ratify former decision.
6. Led to Pilate, bound, to be questioned.
7. Sent by Pilate to Herod.
8. Returned to Pilate and questioned again.
9. Pronounced by Pilate to be not guilty, but scourged.
10. Presented to the people who call for His crucifixion.
11. Delivered to be crucified.
12. “And He bearing His cross went forth”.
18:13 And led Him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year.
And led Him away to Annas first- He was “led as a sheep to the slaughter”, Acts 8:32, where the word slaughter is not one used of sacrifice. Their object is to kill Him. They have no notion that He will be the sacrifice, even though it is priests who direct the operation. The House of Annas were known as “the whisperers”, (The Jewish Talmud said “they hissed like vipers”). They exerted their influence on the judges, “whereby rivals were corrupted, judgement perverted, and the Shekinah withdrawn”. The Shekinah was the Jewish name for the glory of God. Christ is the brightness of the glory, Hebrews 1:3, and He was withdrawn from the nation by God, being rejected by the High Priests. They of all people should have appreciated the glory of God in Christ.
In the days of Eli the Israelites brought the Ark of the Covenant into the field of battle, and it was captured. David comments on this later on and writes, “He delivered His strength into captivity, and His glory into the enemy’s hand”, Psalm 78:61. Phinehas’ wife commented on the incident and said, “the glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken”, 1 Samuel 4:22. She knew that the glory of God dwelt between the cherubim on the mercy-seat which was upon the ark, and lamented its departure. How much more should Israel have lamented after they had taken the one the ark typified, and delivered Him into the hands of the Gentiles. But the priests, like Eli’s sons, had no such appreciation. No doubt the Philistines thought they had won the day, but they found that the ark was stronger than they were, for Dagon their god bowed down to it. And those who took “the ark” in Gethsemane, they bowed down too, as we have seen in verse 6.
For he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year- the reason He was taken to Annas first was because he was father-in-law to Caiaphas. This might seem a strange reason to give, but John is indicating that the high priests were all of the same family, and Caiaphas was high priest that same year only because of the behind-the-scenes manipulation by Annas.
The fact that John mentions this, as well as saying in verse 24 that Annas had sent Christ bound to Caiaphas, suggests that “the high priest” of the following narrative is Caiaphas, and that the Lord was taken first of all to Annas, but not to be formally interrogated. It shows the influence Annas still had. In fact, in Acts 4:6 it is Annas who is called the high priest, and Caiaphas, whilst present, was simply named.
18:14 Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.
Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people- this refers to John 11:45-54. Caiaphas is clearly not an unbiased judge, for he is of the opinion that one man should die, if that avoids the nation perishing, and that one man is Christ. Not only has he made his mind up, but has made it public. This is further evidence of the illegality of the trial. Christ did indeed die for the nation, but not as a hostage, but a sacrificial substitute. It was indeed expedient, or profitable to them, but not so as to prevent the Romans depriving them of their rights, but so as to secure the rights of God in the matter of sin, and enable Him to righteously justify sinners.
There follows in verses 15 to 18 the account of Peter’s first denial. The gospel writers intertwine Peter’s denials with the account of Christ before the high priests, as if to suggest that they, as representatives of the nation, were denying Him too. This was the case, for Peter himself, having been converted from his lapse, accuses the nation later on of denying the Holy One and the Just, Acts 3:14. He then called upon the nation to “repent…and be converted”, verse 19, just as he had repented and been converted from his denials.
We continue with John’s narrative, as he describes the preliminary hearing, designed to prepare the way for the formal hearing before the Sanhedrin at dawn. John is showing us at the outset the disinterest in the truth displayed by the authorities.
18:19 The high priest then asked Jesus of His disciples, and of His doctrine.
The high priest then asked Jesus of His disciples- he is afraid there is about to be an uprising against the authorities, but they need not have worried. The Lord had rebuked Peter for the use of the sword in Gethsemane. Notice the Lord does not discuss His disciples, as He protects them like the Good Shepherd He is. He arranged for their departure at His arrest, thus shielding them physically, and now He shields them again, ensuring that after His ascension they are not targeted.
And of His doctrine- the High Priestly family were Sadducees, and Luke tells us “they say there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit”, Acts 23:8. They are clearly at variance with the teaching of the Lord Jesus. The Lord will not be drawn into details, however, for He had been a recognised teacher in Israel for three and a half years, often in the temple courts, and they had ample opportunity to listen to Him.
We could say the following about His doctrine:
It was a life-giving word- “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgement, but is passed from death unto life”, John 5:24.
It was a word from God- “My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me”, John 7:16.
It was a word of truth- “He that sent Me is true: and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of Him”, 8:26.
It was a word of insight- “I speak that which I have seen with My Father”, John 8:38.
It was a word of authority- “For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak”, John 12:49.
18:20 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.
Jesus answered him- the Lord was always in control during His trials, yet never acted rudely. “When He suffered, He threatened not”, 1 Peter 2:23. He is confident that truth is on His side, and will not allow error and falsehood to prevail, even when He is a bound prisoner.
I spake openly to the world- He never limited Himself to a select group of listeners, for all were welcome to hear what He had to say. There was no secrecy. This was a rebuke to Annas, (who was very possibly present, since Peter links all those named as rulers together in Acts 4:8), for Annas was notorious for his secret dealings, being known as “the whisperer”.
I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort- His was no attempt to advance some weird doctrines at variance with the teaching of the Old Testament. He was recognised as a teacher in the synagogues, and He taught in the temple courts as other doctors of the law did. He was not a rabble-rouser on the street corner. The prophet had said that “He shall not cry, not lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street”, Isaiah 42:2. The apostles followed this example, preaching either in the synagogues, or in different houses.
The temple was the territory of the High Priests, and their responsibility, so if He had been a heretic, they should have arrested Him immediately. The fact is that when they tried to do so, those who were sent to apprehend Him came back without Him, saying, “Never man spake like this man”, John 7:46. The power of His words was enough to prevent His arrest.
And in secret have I said nothing- there was nothing underhanded about the Lord jesus, for He had nothing to hide. This is in contrast to Annas who was known for his underhandedness.
18:21 Why askest thou Me? ask them which heard Me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said.
Why askest thou Me? It was forbidden in Jewish law to try to get the accused to incriminate himself, hence the implied rebuke for asking Him.
Ask them which heard Me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said- the Lord appeals to those who could bear witness, and implies that the high priest should have been bringing them forward to bear testimony, not false witnesses who couldn’t agree. This is a rebuke from “the Holy One and the Just”, for his false dealings
18:22 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?
And when He had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand- is this the best way that the nation entrusted with God’s righteous law can behave? Have they no procedures by which to deal with this situation? They have no answer to His responses, except an act of contempt and insult. Men still hold (suppress) the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18. This is part of the process by which the world was being judged by Christ, bringing it out into the light and exposing its wickedness. He is prepared to be ill-treated in this way if the truth is brought out thereby, as it is.
Saying, Answerest Thou the high priest so? Any prisoner was within His rights to protest at the illegality of the proceedings. Paul protested at his illegal treatment, so that others would benefit, Acts 16:37. The Lord will not allow unrighteousness. He is “the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers”, Acts 7:52, (said to the high priest, verse 1). The officer is clearly trying to impress his master with his zeal. He should have been restrained and rebuked for breaking the law, but there was no interest in keeping to the law that night.
18:23 Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou Me?
Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil- He was either guilty or innocent of reviling the high priest. If guilty, the due process should be followed and measures taken to show His guilt. Annas and Caiaphas are being given a lesson in justice by “the Judge of all the earth”.
But if well, why smitest thou Me? That the action of striking Him was illegal is seen in the absence of any response to Christ’s question.
18:24 Now Annas had sent Him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Annas had sent Him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest- Why does John tell us this at this point? It may be that Annas lived in the same palace as Caiaphas, and John is preparing us for the possibility that when the Lord was being taken from Caiaphas to Pilate, it was then “He turned, and looked upon Peter”, Luke 22:61. It is also possible that by his deliberate vagueness as to where the conversation took place, John is using a literary device to show his disapproval of what happened. Jacob had said, as he prophesied about the wickedness of Simeon and Levi, “O my soul, come not into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united”, Genesis 49:6. John is heeding Jacob’s advice, and distancing himself from the secret counsels of the descendants of Levi. It would have been better for Peter if he had done this too, for his other name Simon is the equivalent of Simeon, who was allied to Levi. Simon Peter came close to being united unto their assembly, such is the danger of denial.
In John 18:25-27 we have John’s account of Peter’s third denial, as if to put side by side the denial of Peter for the third time and the denial of the Jewish authorities of the Lord Jesus for the third time, first before Annas privately, then before Caiaphas and an informal company of “chief priests and elders, and all the council”, Matthew 26:59, and then before the formal Sanhedrin in public at the break of day, (although John does not record this latter “trial”). By his statement about the sending from Annas to Caiaphas, John is ensuring we realise the informal session of the Sanhedrin we shall consider next was under Caiaphas the High priest’s control, for he was high priest that year.