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the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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John 18

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

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A.M. 4037. A.D. 33.

In this chapter we are informed,

(1,) How Christ was arrested by Judas and his band in the garden; and after manifesting his power over them, and care for his disciples’ safe escape, surrendered himself a prisoner, John 18:1-12 .

(2,) How he was abused in the high-priest’s court, and thrice denied by Peter, John 18:13-27 .

(3,) How he was prosecuted before Pilate, and examined by him concerning his kingly office, John 18:28-37 .

(4,) How the Jews preferred Barabbas, a murderous robber, to him, John 18:38-40 .

Verses 1-3

John 18:1-3. When Jesus had spoken these words Had delivered the discourse recorded above, and concluded his intercessory prayer; he went with his disciples over the brook Cedron On the other side of which was a garden, known by the name of the garden of Gethsemane; (see notes on Matthew 26:36;) and probably belonging to one of his friends. He might retire to this private place, not only for the advantage of secret devotion, but also that the people might not be alarmed at his apprehension, nor attempt, in the first sallies of their zeal, to rescue him in a tumultuous manner. Cedron, or Kedron, was (as the name signifies) a dark, shady valley, on the east side of Jerusalem, between the city and the mount of Olives, through which a little brook ran, which took its name from it. It was this brook which David, a type of Christ, went over with his people, weeping, in his flight from Absalom. Judas, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus oft-times resorted thither, &c. Namely, for the sake of retirement and devotion. Judas, having received a band of men Greek, την σπειραν , a cohort of Roman foot-soldiers, as the word signifies, and the title of its commander ( χιλιαρχος , a chiliarch, answering to our colonel) implies; and officers Some Jewish officers, sent for that purpose; from the chief priests and other Pharisees Belonging to the sanhedrim, who were chiefly concerned in this affair; cometh thither with lanterns and torches, &c. Which they brought with them, though it was now full moon, to discover him if he should endeavour to hide himself; and weapons To use if they should meet with any opposition, which they foolishly imagined they might.

Verses 4-11

John 18:4-11. Jesus, knowing all things that should come upon him That is, knowing, not only in general, that he must suffer a variety of insults, tortures, and even death itself, but also all the particular circumstances of ignominy and horror that should attend his sufferings; went forth Namely, after his repeated supplications to his heavenly Father, and his agony, as is related at large, Matthew 26:37-46; Mark 14:34-42; Luke 22:41-46; where see the notes; and said unto them With the greatest composure of mind; Whom seek ye? The appointed time of our Lord’s sufferings being come, he did not now, as formerly, avoid his enemies, but readily came forward, and gave them an opportunity of apprehending him, telling them, when they said they sought Jesus of Nazareth , I am he Which expression he had no sooner uttered than the whole band went backward, and fell to the ground By which exertion of his divine power he evidently showed them that they could not apprehend him without his consent. How amazing is it, that they should renew the assault after so sensible an experience both of his power and mercy! But probably the priests among them might persuade themselves and their attendants, that this also was done by Beelzebub, and that it was through the providence of God, not the indulgence of Jesus, that they received no further damage. See note on Matthew 26:47-50. If ye seek me, let these (my disciples) go It was an eminent instance of his power over the spirits of men, that they so far obeyed his word as not to seize even Peter, when he had cut off the ear of Malchus. Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it No other evangelist names the person that drew the sword, nor could they without exposing Peter to danger. But John, writing after his death, might do it without any such inconvenience. And smote the high-priest’s servant, &c. See note on Matthew 26:51-54. Then said Jesus, Put up thy sword, &c. For I will not have recourse to this or any other method of defence. The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? You look only at second causes, and have but an imperfect view of things; but I consider all the sufferings I am now to meet, as under a divine direction and appointment, and therefore willingly acquiesce in what I know to be my heavenly Father’s will.

Verses 12-13

John 18:12-13. Then the band, &c. To whom Jesus, without any opposition, surrendered himself; took and bound him Foolishly supposing, that he might attempt to make his escape. And led him away to Annas Annas had been high-priest before his son-in-law Caiaphas. And though he had for some time resigned that office, yet they paid so much regard to his age and experience, that they brought Christ to him first. But we do not read of any thing remarkable which passed at the house of Annas, for which reason his being carried thither is omitted by the other evangelists.

Verses 15-17

John 18:15-17. Simon Peter followed See note on Matthew 26:58; Luke 22:54-62; and so did another disciple Generally supposed to have been John himself, it being the manner of this evangelist to speak of himself in the third person. Grotius however, is of opinion, that the disciple intended was not one of the twelve, but rather an inhabitant of Jerusalem; possibly, the person at whose house our Lord ate the passover. Whitby likewise thinks it was not John. “These authors found their opinion on this circumstance, that the twelve being Galileans, and men of mean station, could not any of them be so well acquainted in the high-priest’s family, as to procure admission for a friend at a time when there was so much ado there. Nevertheless the common opinion may still be adhered to. For though John was a Galilean, and a person in a mean station, there is neither impossibility nor improbability in the notion, that he might have had a relation, friend, or acquaintance in the station of a servant at the high- priest’s, who might not only give him admittance, but, at his desire, admit Peter also. Further, when we consider that John was to write a history of Christ’s life, it will appear extremely proper that, in the course of providence, he should have an opportunity afforded him of being an eye- witness of our Lord’s trial before the council.” Macknight. That disciple was known unto the high-priest, and therefore was admitted into the palace, without any objection or impediment. But Peter stood at the door without Having no interest or acquaintance in the high-priest’s house. Then went out that other disciple Namely, out of the inner room, into which Jesus had been carried in order to his examination; and spake unto her that kept the door Desiring her to open it, and admit Peter, whom he brought in. Then saith the damsel unto Peter, Art not thou also As well as the other; one of this man’s disciples Of Peter’s sundry denials of Christ, and of the manner in which the accounts given thereof by the different evangelists may be reconciled, see the notes on Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62.

Verses 19-27

John 18:19-27. The high-priest then asked Jesus As he stood before him; of his disciples, and of his doctrine What it was that he taught, and with what view he had gathered so many followers. In these questions there was a great deal of art. For, as the crime laid to our Lord’s charge was, that he set himself up for the Messiah, and deluded the people, they expected he would claim that dignity in their presence, and so, without further trouble, they would have condemned him on his own confession. But, to oblige a prisoner to confess what might take away his life, being an unjust method of procedure, Jesus complained of it with reason, and bade them prove what they laid to his charge, by witnesses. Jesus answered, I spake openly, &c. What I have taught has been delivered in the most public manner. I ever taught in the synagogue As I had opportunity; and in the temple, whither the Jews resort In the greatest numbers; and in secret have I said nothing Even to my most intimate friends, but what has been perfectly agreeable to the tenor of my public discourses. Why askest thou me Whom thou wilt not believe? It was greatly to the honour of our Lord’s character, that all his actions were done in public, under the eye even of his enemies; because, had he been carrying on any imposture, the lovers of truth and goodness would thus have had abundant opportunities to have detected him. With propriety, therefore, in this defence, he appealed to that part of his character; nevertheless, his answer was thought disrespectful. For, when he had spoken, one of the officers Belonging to the court; struck Jesus, saying, Answerest thou the high- priest so? With so little reverence? Jesus answered With his usual mildness; If I have spoken evil Any thing false or improper; bear witness of the evil Show wherein it lies; but if well, why smitest thou me Can reason be answered by blows? Or, can such a sober appeal to it deserve them? Thus Jesus became an example of his own precept, (Matthew 5:44,) bearing the greatest injuries with a patience that could not be provoked. Now Annas had sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest The evangelist mentions that Jesus was sent to the high-priest, because he had before said that he was sent first to Annas, the high-priest’s father-in-law. Moreover, he takes notice that he was sent bound, to show the inhumanity of the officer who struck him in that condition. Of what took place while Jesus stood before the high-priest, see the notes on Matthew 26:59-68.

Verse 28

John 18:28. Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment Το πραιτωριον , the pretorium, the governor’s palace. Properly speaking, the pretorium was that part of the palace where the soldiers kept guard, Mark 15:16; but in common language it was applied to the palace in general. The Jewish high-priests and elders sent Jesus hither that he might be tried by the Roman governor, Pilate, because they could not otherwise accomplish their purpose, the power of life and death being now taken out of their hands. And it was early Although by this time it was broad daylight, yet it was early in the morning, and much sooner than the governor used to appear. It is therefore probable that he was called up on this extraordinary occasion; and they themselves went not into the judgment-hall Or, into the palace, of which the judgment-hall was a part; lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the passover Having purified themselves in order to eat the passover, they would not enter into the palace, which was the house of a heathen, for fear of contracting such defilement as might have rendered them incapable of eating the paschal-supper. They stood, therefore, before the palace, waiting for the governor, who on such occasions came out to them.

Verses 29-32

John 18:29-32. Pilate then went out and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? This was the most natural question imaginable for a judge to ask on such an occasion; nevertheless the priests thought themselves affronted by it. They answered, haughtily, If he were not a malefactor Greek, κακοποιος , an evil-doer, a notorious offender; we would not have delivered him up unto thee It seems they knew the governor’s sentiments concerning the prisoner, and understood his question as carrying an insinuation along with it, of their having brought one to be condemned against whom they could find no accusation. Then said Pilate, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law By making this offer to them, the governor told them plainly, that in his opinion the crime which they laid to the prisoner’s charge was not of a capital nature; and that such punishment as they were permitted by Cesar to inflict, might be adequate to any misdemeanour Jesus was chargeable with. The Jews therefore said, It is not lawful for us It is not allowed, you well know, by the government under which we are; to put any man to death By which they signified, that the prisoner was guilty of a capital crime, that he deserved the highest punishment, and that none but the governor himself could give judgment in the cause. That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, &c. That is, in consequence of this procedure of the Jews, there was an accomplishment of the divine counsels concerning the manner of our Lord’s death, of which Jesus had given frequent intimations in the course of his ministry. Signifying what death he should die For crucifixion was not a Jewish, but a Roman punishment. So that had he not been condemned by the Roman governor, he could not have been crucified. Thus was the governor’s first attempt to save Jesus frustrated. He made four other efforts to the same purpose, but was equally unsuccessful in them all. This good effect, however, has flowed from them; they serve to testify how strongly Pilate was impressed with the conviction of our Lord’s innocence, and at the same time they show to what a height of malice and wickedness the Jewish great men were now risen.

Verses 33-40

John 18:33-40. Then Pilate entered into the judgment-hall again See the note on Matthew 27:11. It seems, as the governor had heard an honourable report of Jesus, and observed in his silence, under the accusations brought against him, an air of meek majesty and greatness of spirit, rather than any consciousness of guilt, or any indication of a fierce contempt, he was willing to discourse with him more privately before he proceeded further. He therefore called Jesus, and said, Art thou the king of the Jews? Dost thou really pretend to any right to govern them? Jesus answered, Sayest thou this thing of thyself? Dost thou ask this question of thy own accord, because thou thinkest that I have affected regal power? or did others tell it thee of me? Or dost thou ask it according to the information of the priests, affirming that I have acknowledged myself to be a king? No doubt Jesus knew what had happened; but he spake to the governor after this manner, because, being in the palace when the priests accused him, he had not heard what they said. Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Dost thou think that I am acquainted with the religious opinions, expectations, and disputes of the Jews? Thine own nation, &c., have delivered thee unto me As a seditious person, one that assumes the title of a king: What hast thou done To merit the charge of sedition? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world Not a temporal, but a spiritual kingdom, which does not at all interfere with the dominion of Cesar, or of which any prince has reason to be jealous. If my kingdom were of this world Were of an external or temporal nature; then would my servants fight Or rather, would have fought, would have endeavoured to establish me on the throne by force of arms, and would have fought against the Jews when they came to apprehend me. But as I have done nothing of this, but readily put myself into their hands, it is evident my kingdom is not from hence Nor to be erected here; and therefore I have been so far from arming my followers with secular weapons, that the guard who came to apprehend me know I forbade their making use of those they had. Pilate said, Art thou a king then? Art thou a king, notwithstanding thy kingdom is not of this world? Jesus answered, Thou sayest I am a king That is, according to the Hebrew idiom, It is as thou sayest: I am a king, but not of this world: even the appointed Head and Governor of the whole Israel of God; nor will I ever basely seek my safety by renouncing my claim to the most excellent majesty and extensive dominion. To this end was I born, &c. Our Lord speaks of his human origin; his divine was above Pilate’s comprehension: yet it is intimated in the following words: For this cause came I into the world Namely, from heaven; that I should bear witness unto the truth That by explaining and proving the truth, I might impress it upon men’s consciences, and make them obedient to its laws. In this consisteth my kingdom, and all the lovers of truth obey me, and are my subjects. This is what Paul calls the good confession, which he tells Timothy, (1 Timothy 6:13,) Jesus witnessed before Pontius Pilate. And justly does the apostle term it so. For our Lord did not deny the truth to save his own life, but gave all his followers an example highly worthy of imitation. It is remarkable, that Christ’s assuming the title of king did not offend the governor in the least, though it was the principal crime laid to his charge. Probably the account which he gave of his kingdom and subjects, led Pilate to take him for some Stoic philosopher, who pleased himself with the chimerical royalty attributed by his sect to those they termed wise men. See Horace, Lib. I. Sat. 3. Accordingly he desired him to explain what he meant by truth. Pilate saith, What is truth? That is, the truth to which thou referrest, and speakest of as thy business to attest. Or perhaps he meant, What signifies truth? Is that a thing worth hazarding thy life for? So he left him presently, to plead with the Jews for him; looking upon him, it is probable, as an innocent but weak man. He went out again unto the Jews, and saith To those that were assembled about the judgment-hall, namely, chief priests and others: I find in him no fault at all No opinion inconsistent with the good of society, neither any action or pretension criminal in the least degree. But ye have a custom that I should release unto you one at the passover And I am ready now to oblige you in this affair. This, it seems, was said in consequence of the multitude desiring him to do as he had been wont to do at preceding passovers. See Mark 15:8-10. Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? It seems he hoped by this proposal to preserve the life of Jesus, of whose innocence he was fully convinced; and accordingly, that he might induce them to choose him, he proposed no other alternative than Barabbas, a robber and murderer. See note on Matthew 27:15-18; Matthew 27:20-22. Then cried they all again Or, all at once, as some translate παλιν here, because it does not appear that the people had refused Jesus and asked Barabbas before this time. But indeed “that word is wanting in a considerable number of manuscripts, in the Complutensian edition, the Syriac, Coptic, Saxon, Arabic, Armenian, and Ethiopic versions. In many Latin manuscripts it is not found. Besides, it does not suit the preceding part of our Lord’s trial, as related by this evangelist, who makes no mention of their crying in this manner before.” Campbell. Not this man We will not have this man released; but Barabbas A robber and murderer. And thus, when Pilate would have let him go, they denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto them, Acts 3:14. See note on Luke 23:18-25.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on John 18". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/john-18.html. 1857.
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