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Bible Commentaries
John 18

Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentMahan's Commentary

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Verses 1-12

The betrayal

John 18:1-12

John 18:1 . When our Lord had spoken these words of comfort, instruction, and teaching concerning his death, departure, the disciples' future ministry (John 13-16), and his priestly prayer, he went with his disciples over the Brook Cedron (2 Samuel 15:23) into a garden called Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36).

John 18:2 . Poole says this garden was probably at the foot of Mt. Olivet, where the Lord often went alone and with his disciples (Luke 21:37; Luke 22:39). Judas was well acquainted with this private place of prayer and meditation. One thing made clear in his going to this place that Judas knew so well is that the Master was not hiding nor evading the betrayal and arrest. He went there to meet Judas.

John 18:3 . John does not mention Judas's going to the priests, contracting with them to betray the Lord, and the kiss of betrayal (Matthew 26:14-16; Matthew 26:47-50). Also according to the other evangelists, the party which came to arrest him was a great multitude (Matthew 26:47) made up of the chief priests, elders of the people, officers, and soldiers with torches and weapons. John's main point is that Judas, the betrayer, knowing where our Lord would be, served as the guide and encouragement for these who would kill him. Led by one of his disciples, they came out against him as if he were a criminal. What a shame and an insult to our Lord!

John 18:4-5 . Our Lord knew all things that would come upon him from the manger to the cross. He is God! He purposed and willed it all that righteousness might be fulfilled, justice satisfied, the nature of sin exposed, and his elect redeemed (John 6:64). He knew (and it was recorded in the Old Testament) not only that he must suffer and die, but all the circumstances that would attend his death (Luke 24:27; Luke 24:44-46; Acts 15:18). Our Lord stepped out in the open and walked forward until he stood directly in front of this multitude. It was probably then that Judas stepped forth and kissed him on the cheek saying, ‘Hail, master.’ This was the pre-arranged sign but wholly unnecessary, for our Lord would identify himself when his hour was come; and all that they would and could do was pre-determined by himself (Acts 4:27-28). He asked, ‘Whom seek ye?’ He was, as always, in total control of the whole situation. The mob or several of them answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ John again mentions the fact that Judas (who sold out, led them to the garden, and planted the evil kiss of betrayal) still stood with these wicked men. Our Lord said, ‘I AM HE,’ or ‘I AM’ (Exodus 3:13-14; John 8:24), declaring himself to be Jehovah God; the Christ; the Messiah; as well as Jesus of Nazareth.

John 18:6 . His answer was delivered with so much majesty, authority, and divine power that they all went backward and fell to the ground (Revelation 1:17). He is God, King of kings; he speaks and worlds are created: he speaks and men live or die; he speaks and graves are opened. ‘No man takes my life from me; I lay it down of myself.’ Think of his sovereignty and power when just the sound of his voice prostrates and terrorizes a multitude of enemies (Isaiah 46:9-11). He might easily have walked away (Luke 4:29-30); but he allowed them to rise up, arrest him, and take him away.

John 18:7-9 . The Saviour's question and their answer were the same as in John 18:4-5. He makes it very clear that it was he alone whom they sought. He said, ‘Let these (his disciples) go their way.’ Christ must suffer alone. He alone is our Saviour, redeemer, and sacrifice (Hebrews 1:3; Isaiah 63:3). If Christ suffers, his people must go free. Substitution is the essence of the gospel and it is seen here. Christ is apprehended and his people go free (Isaiah 53:4-6). Christ dies and we live! Christ bears all the curse, penalty, and wrath against sin, enabling God to be just and justifier; and we are free indeed. ‘Payment God's justice cannot twice demand; first, at my bleeding Surety's hand and then again at mine.’ Substitution and satisfaction learn the meaning of these in reference to the person and work of Jesus Christ and one learns the gospel. He will lose none which the Father gave and for whom he is the sin-offering (John 6:37-39; John 17:12).

John 18:10 . The disciples had two swords among them (Luke 22:35-38). Peter had one of them, and, acting impulsively (as he often did) yet fully intending to deliver his Master or die with him as he had boasted, drew the sword and smote Malchus, the high priest's servant, and cut off his ear; undoubtedly he meant to behead him and missed.

John 18:11 . Our Lord spoke to Peter in rebuke (Matthew 26:52) and also to prevent his repeating the action. The term ‘cup’ refers to his suffering and death decreed by the Father (Matthew 20:22; John 12:27) for our sins. The death of the Redeemer was not an accident, nor only an example, nor the death of a helpless reformer. It was decreed, designed, and determined in the covenant of grace from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8; Hebrews 9:25-26; Hebrews 13:20). ‘Shall I not drink it?’ He is not only able to fulfill all that is written of Him, but he is willing (John 10:18).

John 18:12 . They bound the hands of the Lord Jesus and led him away. The disciples forsook him and fled (Matthew 26:56: Mark 14:50). Mark states that a young man (not one of the disciples) attempted to follow; but when they tried to lay hold on him, he fled (Mark 14:51-52).

Verses 13-24

Christ before Caiaphas

John 18:13-24

John 18:13-14 . After the soldiers and temple police arrested our Lord Jesus in the garden, they led him first to Annas. Who was Annas? (Luke 3:2; Acts 4:6). Most believe that he had been the high priest; but though now deposed, he remained the ruling power behind the office. The office of high priest was so corrupted it was often changed, being bought and sold for money. So when Christ was taken into custody, the first one to consult was Annas, the proud, ambitious, and wealthy older man, who really gave orders to his younger son-in-law, Caiaphas, the high priest. Caiaphas was the one who had plotted the death of Christ for a long time (John 11:49-52), arguing that no matter who Jesus was nor what he did, it was better for him to die than for the Romans to be stirred up by his kingly claims and destroy the whole nation. John considered this statement by Caiaphas to be a prophecy of the substitutionary work of Christ in dying for believers Jew and Gentile. What took place before Annas we do not know, but Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas (John 18:24).

John 18:15 . It is said that ‘all the disciples forsook him and fled’ (Matthew 26:56). Evidently Peter came back and followed ‘afar off’ as Christ was led to the palace of the high priest (Luke 22:54). Another disciple also followed Christ to the house of Caiaphas. Who this was we are not sure, but he knew the high priest and could go directly into the courtyard without being questioned or arrested. It may have been Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, or one of the chief rulers who was said to believe (John 12:42).

John 18:16 . Peter, being a fisherman and unknown to the high priest or his servants, waited outside the door. This other disciple who went directly into the palace, being well known even to the servants, ordered the servant who kept the door to admit Peter. This is further proof that the other disciple was not one of the twelve but a man of influence, who could not only enter the palace but also gain admittance for a friend.

John 18:17 . The girl who kept the door thought that she recognized Peter and asked him if he was not one of the Lord's disciples. Peter replied, ‘I am not his disciple.’ Our Lord had told Peter that he would deny him three times (John 13:36-38). This was the first denial.

John 18:18 . The officers who had arrested Jesus and brought him to the palace of Caiaphas and the servants of the palace stood around a fire they had built to keep warm. Peter, who had already denied that he was a disciple, joined these servants and officers at the fireside to warm himself, for it was very cold in the courtyard (Matthew 26:58; Mark 14:54). Who can say what thoughts were going through Peter's mind and heart? He loved the master; we know that! He was confident that Jesus was the Christ; we know that! He was an aggressive, impulsive, and curious man who made it his business to get the facts. But he was confused and afraid. Those who are most critical of the Apostle Peter need to consider the circumstances more carefully and consider their own weaknesses in times of trial (Galatians 6:1).

John 18:19 . When one reads all four accounts of our Lord's experiences after his arrest, it is evident that he had to endure two trials an ecclesiastical trial before the high priest, and a civil trial before Pilate. In this trial before the high priest he was asked about his disciples and his doctrine. They wanted to prove he was a false prophet guilty of blasphemy and violating the law and the traditions of the fathers. While they had no authority in civil matters, they would like to have some charge against him to send to Pilate and Herod.

John 18:20 . Our Lord replied, ‘I spake openly to all men (friends and enemies). I taught in the synagogue and in the temple to all who came there. I said nothing in secret that I did not teach in public.’ His gospel was the truth of the scriptures, the truth of God, and meant for every ear. He was not guilty of sedition, blasphemy, nor destroying the law: rather he honored and fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17-18).

John 18:21 . ‘Why do you ask me, the accused, about my teaching? Wouldn't it be wiser to ask them that heard me? They know what I taught.’ Three things are evident here:

1. His doctrine was so pure, so free from sedition, and so true to scriptures that he was willing to submit his case to those who had heard him.

2. It was a foolish thing for the high priest to ask an accused man to testify against himself.

3. If one really wants to know what a preacher is preaching, don't ask him; ask those who hear him regularly.

John 18:22 . His words were so clear and condemning that one of the officers who stood by struck the Lord and accused him of contempt and disregard for the office of high priest. This event also shows the disorder and disarray in this supposedly holy court. A man on trial is struck by an inferior officer and nothing is made of it. However, this is only the beginning of his great suffering, humiliation, and pain of soul and body endured for our sins.

John 18:23 . The Lord replied, ‘If I have spoken lies or evil or contemptibly, then prove it; but if I have spoken truth and wisdom, then why do you smite me?’

John 18:24 . This verse only lets us know that these things were done before Caiaphas, the high priest, to whom Annas had sent the Lord Jesus.

Verses 25-40

Christ before Pilate - 1

John 18:25-40

John 18:25-27 . While our Lord was being tried before the high priest, the apostle Peter was undergoing a severe trial in the courtyard. A full account of the three times he denied the Lord is given in Matthew 26:69-75. This denial of Christ arose from two things: fear of men and lack of faith in the Lord's power to keep and deliver him (Luke 12:4-9). Luke wrote that the Lord looked upon Peter (Luke 22:61-62); and when Peter saw the pain, the hurt and yet the love in his eyes, he went out and wept bitterly. Though Peter failed this trial, as our Lord had said he would, he was still a disciple, a child of God and a believer (Psalms 37:23-25). Oh, that we might learn to love and forgive as our Lord loves and forgives (Ephesians 4:32)!

John 18:28 . Caiaphas, the chief priests and their Sanhedrin had tried our Lord most of the night, and now, very early in the morning (probably about 6 a.m.), having judged him worthy of death (Matthew 26:63-68; Mark 14:63-64), they led him to the judgment hall of Pilate. It was the Passover season, so these religious hypocrites dared not go into the judgment hall of the heathen Gentiles lest in some way they should be defiled. They could falsely accuse the Son of God, lie, be filled with covetousness, hate and evil; but they were careful to observe their traditions (Matthew 23:23-26).

John 18:29-30 . Pilate came out to meet them and asked, 'What accusation, or change, bring ye against this man? What crime is he guilty of? What proof do you have?' Pilate asked this that, as judge, he might be capable of dealing with the accused. This offended the Jews that Pilate should question them in such a way; so they replied, 'If he were not a criminal, we would not have brought him to you.' They dared not mention the true reasons for their hatred of Christ, but insinuated that he was guilty of some crime which came under Caesar's court.

John 18:31 . Pilate evidently had heard of Jesus of Nazareth and his unusual works and miracles, as had all the people of that area (Acts 26:26). He was not ignorant of the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees, so he said, 'You take him and judge him according to your laws,' for he knew it to be a religious, not a civil matter. But the Jews protested, 'It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.' Some say this right was taken away by the Romans; some say it was taken away by their own court. But their punishment was by stoning, and they wanted him to be crucified as a common criminal by the Romans, partly to relieve them of any guilt in the eyes of the people. If they had stoned Jesus of Nazareth, it would have raised a tumult among the people.

John 18:32 . Our Lord had told his disciples what death he would die, and he must remove the curse from us by being made a curse for us (Matthew 20:17-19; Galatians 3:13; Deuteronomy 21:22-23). Crucifixion was not a Jewish but a Roman death. These Jews were doing what they wanted to do, yet fulfilling the purpose of God in the death of our Substitute (Acts 2:22-24; Acts 4:27-28). God makes even the wrath of men to praise him.

John 18:33-34 . Pilate then brought the Lord Jesus into the judgment hall and asked him privately and pointedly, 'Art thou the King of the Jews?' Our Lord's answer gives us some insight into this question asked by Pilate, for our Lord knows the thoughts of all men. Pilate's behavior during this entire episode reveals that he was deeply concerned about how he dealt with this unusual person (Matthew 27:19). The Lord replied to his question, 'Do you ask if am I the king of the Jews as a private person, for your own information, or do you ask as a judge, having heard such an accusation?'

John 18:35 . Pilate responded, 'Am I a Jew? Do you think I am concerned about your law, prophets and religion? Your own people and leaders have delivered you to me to be crucified. What have you done? What have you done to stir up such hatred among the leaders of your nation?' (John 1:11).

John 18:36 . 'I do not deny that I am the Messiah. I have a kingdom, but my kingdom is not an earthly kingdom as the Jews expect and desire. If my kingdom were an earthly kingdom, my servants would fight; and I would not be bound and delivered to you. My kingdom is not threat to the Roman government, for my kingdom is a spiritual kingdom over the hearts and minds of men, not earthly and worldly.’ His kingdom is certainly in this world but not of it.

John 18:37 . Pilate wanted a yes or no! 'Art thou a king, then? If you have a kingdom, then you must be a king.' Our Lord answered, 'Your conclusion is correct; I am indeed the King!' Jesus Christ was born and came into the world from heaven as King and Saviour. He came as Prophet to declare the truth of God's glory, redemption and kingdom. He came as Priest to offer himself as our sacrifice and atonement. He came as King to rule over his kingdom and covenant people. All that are given to him of the Father and are of the truth hear his voice and follow him (John 10:26-30).

John 18:38 . Pilate (politician, skeptic and man of the world) asked, 'What is truth?' not realizing that the Truth was standing in front of him (John 14:6). He then went to the Jews and said, 'I find in (Jesus) no fault at all.'

John 18:39-40 . Where this custom originated, we do not know. Probably the Romans granted to the Jews, in honour of their great Passover festival, the life of any criminal they desired. Pilate felt sure that they would choose to release Jesus of Nazareth (guilty of no crime) rather than a noted criminal like Barabbas, and he would have Christ Jesus off his hands. But not so! They cried, 'Not this man! Release Barabbas and crucify Jesus!' (Matthew 27:15-26).

Bibliographical Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on John 18". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hms/john-18.html. 2013.
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