John 18:1. He went — over the brook Cedron. Cedron, or Kidron, was the name of the deep valley, as well as of the brook which ran through it, on the east between Jerusalem and the mount of Olives. It is mentioned also in 2 Saul. John 15:23. 1 Kings 2:37. It had its name from kedrai, having cedar trees planted on each side. In the LXX, as well as here, it is always mentioned in the plural number. Jeremiah 31:40. This brook is here called Cheimarrhos, that is, a torrent flowing in winter, being dry in the drought of summer. It is almost singular that so great a city as Jerusalem could subsist without a constant river. But the Gihon was the fountain of life to the city, and the frequent subject of sacred song. Psalms 46:4.
A garden, into which he entered, called Gethsemane. Matthew 21:36. Mark 14:32. This he did, that as the sin of the first Adam, which brought destruction upon his posterity, was committed in a garden, so that salutary passion of the second Adam, which was to rescue us from that destruction, might begin in the like place.
John 18:3. Judas then having received a band — and (peace) officers. The Greek σπειραν, rendered cohort by Montanus, should be a guard of soldiers, as it reads in many of the versions. The officers of the highpriest being with them, the force was strong. What a multitude, with Judas at their head! We use the word guard, because a cohort was nearly the tenth of a legion.
John 18:6. They went backward, and fell to the ground. Here we may observe, that it was not man’s power, but Christ’s own permission, which brought his sufferings upon him. How easily could he have delivered himself out of his enemies’ hands, who by a word could cause them to retrograde and fall to the ground. In speaking those words, Christ darted out a ray of his divinity, and this struck them down. He only said, I am he, and down they fell, the providence of God not suffering him to fall into their hands, without first giving them this further mark of his divine majesty and power. If there was so much majesty in the voice of Christ, in one of the lowest acts of his humiliation, what will the voice of his glorified person be to sinners, when he shall come as a judge to condemn the world.
John 18:10. Then Simon Peter — smote the high-priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. It is probable that Malchus was more bold and officious than others in seizing and binding the Saviour. But this stroke might contribute towards the denial of his Master, by making him the more afraid of martyrdom.
John 18:13. They led him away to Annas first. But Caiaphas being named next, it would seem that nothing of moment occurred till they reached the hall where the council were assembled. They had sat up all night, and did not eat the paschaI lamb, till they had first killed the very paschal sacrifice.
John 18:15. That disciple — went in with Jesus into the palace, αυλην, hall of the highpriest. Matthew and Mark have “hall,” but Luke “house.” It is probable that the highpriest had his mansion house, and that our Saviour was arraigned in the usual court of justice, private houses being incompetent to contain the crowds which attend the courts.
John 18:20. I ever taught in the synagogue. Our Lord here clears himself from having any design to raise sedition against the government. When therefore he says, In secret have I said nothing, his meaning is not, that he never said any thing in private to his followers; but that the doctrine he taught at all times was for substance the same; and what that was there were great numbers of whom they might enquire, he having, as often as any opportunity offered, taught publicly in the temple and in the synagogues. It was more proper therefore to ask them who heard him, than to enquire of him who was the person accused, and so might not be believed in his own case. He did not go about to conceal any thing, which those who intend to raise sedition are wont to do; but what he said in private was the same that he spake in public.
We may hence learn, that it is not unusual for the best of doctrines to pass under the odious name and imputation of error and heresy. Christ’s own doctrine is here questioned. Also that ministers of Christ who have truth on their side, may and ought to speak boldly and openly. Truth blushes at nothing except at its being concealed.
This text also confutes those who say, Christ came not to Jerusalem, lest the Romans should suspect him of affecting a kingdom. For here he testifies that he “taught daily in the temple.” After his first miracle in Cana of Galilee, we find him going up to Jerusalem to keep the passover, where he abode at least eight days; and many, seeing the miracles that he did, believed on him: John 5:1. He went again to the feast, as mentioned in John 6:4; so that we have reason to believe he never declined that feast. He also went up to the feast of tabernacles, John 7:10; John 7:14, and preached to the people in the temple, and wrought such wonders that the jews cried out, “When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these?” This feast being ended, he goes to the mount of Olives, and returns the next day to preach in the temple: John 8:1-2. At the feast of dedication we find him again “walking in Solomon’s porch,” John 10:23, and there declaring himself to be the Son of God. In chap. 11. we find him at Bethany, only two miles distant from Jerusalem, where he raised Lazarus from the dead. From Bethany he goes to Jerusalem, the people going before him, and crying, “Hosanna to the Son of David:” chap. 12.
John 18:22. One of the officers — struck Jesus with the palm of his hand. The word rhapisma has been differently interpreted, according to the divers significations put upon the verb rhapizo, from whence it is derived. Some will have it properly to mean a stroke, given either with a rod, a stick, or cudgel, because rhapis is by Hesychius rendered a rod or wand. But the old Greek and Latin lexicon renders it a box or stroke with the hand, agreeably to which it is understood by St. Augustine, Nonnus, Sedulius, Suidas, and Juvencus. — Some again make this distinction between coclaphus and rhapisma, that the former is given with the fist, and the latter with the flat or open hand; both which are expressed by Juvenal, where he says,
Nec pugnis cædere pectus Te veto, nec plana faciem contundere palma.
By the former of which is meant what we call a blow on the breast, or box on the ear; and by the latter, a slap on the face.
But whichever of these indignities be understood here, it must be a complete fulfilment of the prophecies, where it is said, I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. Isaiah 50:6. They shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek. Micah 5:1. They have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully. Job 14:10. And he giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him. Lamentations 3:30. These very circumstances of the passion, Lactantius affirms to have been foretold by the Erythræan Sibyl. (Bp. Taylor.) For this reason also Christ chose to suffer this, that he might confound and humble the pride of man, and leave the proud an example of patience; which, if not imitated, will certainly condemn them.
John 18:25. Peter stood and warmed himself. The interesting case of this apostle is reserved to chap. 21. But we learn here, that Peter denied his Master in the house of Annas; and as John was the only disciple who never left Peter, we ought to follow his narration.
John 18:28. Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas to the prætorium or hall of judgment, that is, to the bar of Cæsar, whom Pilate represented, Caiaphas and the council having delivered him up as worthy of death. It would seem they had a secret wish that Pilate should confirm their sentence without enquiry, and that Jesus might be crucified before the populace could know what was done, or have time to make a tumult. But Pilate, knowing their enmity, struggled against the sentence for nearly three hours, and with a pusillanimity quite unlike a Roman; so that it was not till noon that they saw him nailed to the cross.
John 18:33-34. Art thou the king of the jews? Jesus postponed the direct answer by asking the governor what the jews had said when he went out to speak to them, and which the judge in point of honour and duty was bound to announce: Sayest thou this of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?
On being asked the plain question, whether he were a king —
John 18:36. Jesus answered, my kingdom is not of this world. Mine is the kingdom promised by the prophets.
John 18:37. Art thou a king then? Though this might be asked in derision, yet the Saviour gave a full reply. To this end was I born; to sit and reign at the Father’s right hand. Thus he witnessed a good confession before Pontius Pilate.
For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. The very design of his incarnation was to publish righteousness, and preach the gospel of salvation. This was evident from his intercessory prayer for the apostles: Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth. He declared the command he had received of the Father. Pilate asked, What is truth, but waited not for an answer. When hearers do this, we have but little hope of their conversion.
John 18:40. Not this man, but Barabbas. “We compare and prefer Barabbas to Jesus Christ, whenever we choose to follow our own passions rather than the gospel; the spirit of the world rather than that of God; and the inclinations of the first Adam, a sinner, rather than those of the second, who is holiness itself. We abhor that which the jews did but once; and yet we do the same every day, without any remorse or concern, and even without considering what it is we are doing. The jews renounced Christ; but it was before they had received his Spirit, or were made members of his body. The ingratitude of a christian, who has tasted his heavenly gifts, and yet by his actions seems continually to cry out, we will not have Jesus Christ, that is, we will have none of his humility, his poverty, his mortifications, his cross, has nothing which comes near it.” — QUESNEL.
We are again called to tragic and painful scenes, earth at war with heaven. Oh Judas, Judas, is this thy face, thy kiss, thy voice? Judas, at the head of Romans and Jews, to betray his Lord and Master! Nay, it is not surely Judas; it is a demon arrayed in mortal flesh. Truly Satan had entered with the sop, and now like the swine of the Gadarenes, he hastes to perdition. Oh, and is it possible for the viler passions to gain this ascendency over their victim?
On the other hand, mark the dignity of the Saviour. He went boldly to meet the Roman soldiers, and the halbert men. What words; — whom seek ye? — I am he whom ye seek. The good shepherd was bold as a lion in the hour of danger. What a model for confessors and martyrs to follow.
Neither did he forget the timid sheep; he covered them with his arm, he capitulated for their liberation. If ye seek me, let these go their way. They are the hopes of the church for another day. Well did Isaiah define his character when he said, He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall take the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:11.
On being interrogated with regard to divine and regal claims, having confessed that he was born to be a king, and a witness of the truth; he added, that his kingdom was not of this world. In this Pilate acquiesced, and declared that his case did not belong to the Roman bar. Take ye him and judge him according to your law; for I find no civil crime, no political fault in him. Then, oh believer, if thy Redeemer’s kingdom be not of this world, take heed to his words, “Lest at any time your hearts should be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness,” and with the cares of this life, and the evils of Jerusalem come upon you unawares.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on John 18". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany