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Bible Commentaries

The Fourfold Gospel

John 18

Verse 1


CXXIII.
GOING TO GETHSEMANE, AND AGONY THEREIN.
(A garden between the brook Kidron and the Mount of Olives. Late Thursday night.)
aMATT. XXVI. 30, 36-46; bMARK XIV. 26, 32-42; cLUKE XXII. 39-46; dJOHN XVIII. 1.

d1 When Jesus had spoken these words [the words contained in :], a30 And when they had sung a hymn [the shadow of the cross did not quench the spirit of praise in Christ], they went out c39 And he came out, and dhe went forth with his disciples cas his custom was, dover the brook Kidron, ainto {bunto} the mount of Olives. dwhere was a garden, into which he entered, himself and his disciples. {cand the disciples also followed him.} a36 Then cometh Jesus with them b32 And they come unto a place which was named {acalled} Gethsemane [The name Gethsemane means a place of oil-presses, and hence it accords well with the name of the mountain at whose base it was situated. But the place was now a garden. It was about half a mile from the city, and from what Luke says here and elsewhere ( Luke 21:37), it seems that Jesus often resorted to it while in Jerusalem at the festivals. Compare also John 18:2], c40 And when he was at the place, he said {asaith} unto his disciples, Sit ye here, while I pray. cPray that ye enter not into temptation. [As the hour of trial and temptation came upon Jesus he fortified himself against it by prayer. And he bade his disciples do likewise, for his arrest would involve them also in temptations which he [685] foresaw that they would not be able to withstand.] a37 And he took {btaketh} with him Peter aand the two sons of Zebedee, bJames and John, and began to be greatly amazed, asorrowful and sore troubled. [While seeking heavenly aid in this hour of extremity, our Lord also manifested his desire for human sympathy. All the eleven apostles were with him in the garden, and the three most capable of sympathizing with him were stationed nearer to him than the rest.] c41 And he was parted from them about a stone’s cast [one hundred fifty to two hundred feet]; b34 And a38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: babide ye here, and watch. awith me. [The sequel shows that the phrase "even unto death" was no figure of rhetoric. The nervous prostration of Jesus was such as to endanger his life, and the watching of the apostles may have been doubly needful. Not only did he require their sympathy, but he may also have looked to them to render him assistance in the case of a physical collapse.] 39 And he went forward a little, cand he kneeled down band fell on the face, aand fell on his face, and prayed, bthat, if it were possible, the hour might pass away from him. [This posture was expressive of the most intense supplication.] 36 And he said, {asaying,} bAbba, aMy Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me: ball things are possible unto thee; cif thou be willing, remove this cup from me: bhowbeit anevertheless, not as {bwhat} I will, abut as {bwhat} thou wilt. cnot my will, but thine, be done. [Much of mystery is found in all life, so it is small wonder if the dual nature of Jesus presents insoluble problems. It perplexes many to find that the divine in Jesus did not sustain him better during his trial in the garden. But we must remember that it was appointed unto Jesus to die, and that the divine in him was not to interfere with this appointment, or the approaches to it. For want, therefore, of a better expression, we may say that from the time Jesus entered the garden until he expired on the cross, the human in him was in the [686] ascendant; and "being found in fashion as a man," he endured these trials is if wholly human. His prayer, therefore, is the cry of his humanity for deliverance. The words "if it is possible" with which it opens breathe the same spirit of submissive obedience which is found in the closing words. Reminding the Father of the limitless range of his power, he petitions him to change his counsel as to the crucifixion of the Son, if his gracious purposes can be in any other way carried out. Jesus uses the words "cup" and "hour" interchangeably. They are both words of broad compass, intended to include all that he would undergo from that time until his resurrection. They embrace all his mental, moral, physical, and spiritual suffering which we can discover, together with an infinite volume of a propitiatory and vicarious nature which lies beyond the reach of our understanding. The submission of Jesus was no new fruitage of his character; the prayer of the garden had been the inner purpose of his entire life-- John 5:30, John 6:38.] 43 And there appeared unto him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground. [Commentators give instances of bloody sweat under abnormal pathological conditions.] 45 And when he rose up from his prayer, he came {acometh} unto the disciples, and findeth {cfound} them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. [The admonition which had at first been addressed to all the eleven is now spoken to the chosen three] aand saith unto Peter, bSimon, sleepest thou? couldest thou not watch one hour? aWhat, could ye not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. [Peter, having boasted of his loyalty, has his weakness pointed out and is further warned to be on his guard, since the weakness of his nature will not stand the coming strain. The slumber of the disciples was not through indifference; but was [687] caused by the prostration of grief. When we remember the excitement which they had endured that night, the tender words spoken by Jesus, the sadness of which was intensified by the atmosphere of mystery which pervaded them, the beautiful and touching prayer, and lastly this agony in the garden, it is not to be wondered at that the apostles, spurred by no sense of danger, should succumb to the long-borne tension and fall asleep. Had they comprehended how much the Lord needed their wakeful sympathy as he came again and again seeking for it, they would probably have kept awake.] b39 And again aa second time he went away, and prayed, bsaying the same words. asaying, My Father, if this cannot pass away, except I drink it, thy will be done. [Jesus here speaks of draining the cup. The "cup" was a common Hebrew figure used to denote one’s divinely appointed lot or fortune-- Psalms 23:5, Psalms 75:8, Isaiah 51:17, Isaiah 51:22, Ezekiel 23:31-33.] 43 And he came again and found them sleeping, for their eyes were bvery heavy; and they knew not what to answer him. [They were ashamed of the stupor which had come upon them and knew not what apology to make for it.] a44 And he left them again, and went away, and prayed a third time, saying again the same words. b41 And a45 Then cometh he to the disciples, bthe third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and that your rest: it is enough; abehold, the hour is at hand, {bthe hour is come;} aand bbehold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Arise, let us be going: behold, he that betrayeth me is at hand. [Our Lord’s words are paradoxical. In our judgment the saying is best understood by regarding the first part of it as spoken from the Lord’s viewpoint, while the latter part is spoken from the disciple’s viewpoint. It is as if he said, "So far as I am concerned, you may sleep on and take your rest, for the time to be of comfort or assistance to me has wholly passed. But so far as you yourselves are concerned, you must arise and be going, because Judas with his band of temple police is upon us."] [688]

[FFG 685-693]

Verses 2-11


CCXXIV.
JESUS BETRAYED, ARRESTED, AND FORSAKEN.
(Gethsemane. Friday, several hours before dawn.)
aMATT. XXVI. 47-56; bMARK XIV. 43-52; cLUKE XXII. 47-53; dJOHN XVIII. 2-11.

d2 Now Judas also, who betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. [See 2 Kings 6:8-12). Jesus asked, "Whom seek ye?" (1) To openly and manfully declare his identity; (2) to make the Jewish rulers fully conscious that they were arresting him, an innocent man; (3) to confine the arrest to himself and thus deliver his disciples. The older commentators regard the falling to the ground as a miracle, but modern scholars look upon it as a result of sudden fear. Jesus merely manifested his dignity and majesty, and the prostration followed as a natural result.] a48 Now he that betrayed him gave {bhad given} them a token, aa sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he: take him. band lead him away safely. cand he drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. 48 But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? b45 And when he was come, astraightway he came to Jesus, and said {bsaith,} aHail, Rabbi; and kissed him. 50 And Jesus said unto him, Friend, do that for which thou art come. [Some place this event before the preceding paragraph. It comports better with the fitness of things to place it here. Jesus made Judas feel his utter nothingness, and his worthlessness even as a betrayer. Before Judas can in any way identify Jesus, the Lord had twice declared himself to be the party whom they sought. When he approaches to carry out his contract, the Lord’s question exposes him before all as a betrayer, and not a disciple as he wished to appear to be (for kissing was the common mode of salutation between men, especially between teacher and pupils), and when Judas brazenly persists in completing the sign, Jesus bids him do it, not as a friend, but as a traitor. Little did the betrayer think that the kiss of Judas would become a proverb in every nation.] Then they came [690] and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. [The sight of Judas touching him no doubt reassured them, and they laid hands on Jesus.] c49 And when they that were about him saw what would follow, they said, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? b47 But {a51 And} behold, d10 Simon Peter ba certain one of them that stood by athat were with Jesus dtherefore having a sword astretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and smote {dstruck} athe servant of the high priest, and struck {dcut} off his right ear. [We have seen that the apostles were but scantily armed, there being only two swords in their possession. See John 18:16). He knew Malchus by name, and he also knew his kindred-- John 18:26.] c51 But Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye them thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him. [Some think that Jesus spoke these words, "Suffer ye thus far," to those who held him, asking them to loose him sufficiently to enable him to touch the ear of Malchus. But the revision committee by inserting "them" make Jesus address his disciples, commanding them not to interfere with those who were arresting him, making it a general statement of the idea which the Lord addressed specifically to Peter in the next sentence.] a52 Then d11 Jesus therefore said {asaith} dunto Peter, aPut up again thy {dthe} sword into the sheath: aits place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. dthe cup which the Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? [By the healing of Malchus’ ear and the words spoken to Peter, Jesus shows that the sword is not to be used either to defend the truth or to advance his kingdom. Had he not thus spoken and acted, Pilate might have doubted his words when he [691] testified that his kingdom was not of this world ( John 18:36). While we know better than to rely upon the aid of the sword for the advance of truth, we are often tempted to put undue trust in other "carnal weapons" which are equally futile. Wealth and eloquence and elaborate church buildings have but little saving grace in them. It is the truth which wins. By using the word "cup" John gives us an echo of the agony in Gethsemane, which suggests that he expects his readers to be conversant with the other Gospels. The other Evangelists, having shown that Jesus was fully resolved to drink the cup, do not regard it as necessary to repeat these words.] a53 Or thinkest thou that I cannot beseech my Father, and he shall even now send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then should the scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be? [Jesus still addresses Peter. Had it accorded with the divine purpose that Jesus should resist this arrest, angels and not men would have been his proper and infinitely more effective rescuers. But, on the contrary, it was God’s purpose that he should be arrested, as the Scripture had foretold.] 55 In that hour bJesus answered and said unto them athe multitudes, cthe chief priests, and captains of the temple, and elders, that were come against him, Are ye come out, as against a robber, with swords and staves? ato seize me? c53 When aI sat {bwas} daily with you in the temple teaching, cye stretched not forth your hands against me: band ye took me not: cbut this is your hour, and the power of darkness. a56 But all this is come to pass, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. [The party which came to arrest Jesus was large. The word "band" used by John to describe part of it is speira, which is the Greek name for the cohort, a division of the Roman army which in the time of Augustus contained 555 men. Ten cohorts, or a legion, were usually quartered in the castle Antonia, at the northwest corner of the temple enclosure. That the whole cohort was present is not likely ( Matthew 27:27), but there was a large enough body to represent it. The [692] Evangelists therefore properly style it a great multitude. Moreover, it was a motley crowd. Its strength and diversity suggest the fear that Jesus might miraculously defend himself. Each part of the crowd found courage in the strength possessed by the other part, the priests relying upon the solidity of the soldiers, the soldiers superstitiously trusting to some spiritual power residing in the priests, etc. Now, because of these fears, the preparation was as great as if some band of robbers was to be taken. The questions of Jesus, therefore, show two facts: 1. By their extensive preparation the rulers bore an unintentional testimony to his divine power. 2. By their failure to arrest him openly in the temple, they bore witness to his innocence. With his divinity and his innocence, therefore, Jesus challenges them, referring to their own conduct for testimony thereto. In conclusion, he cites them to the Scriptures which they were fulfilling. Our Lord’s dual reference to the Old Testament at this sacred time should cause us to handle them with awe and reverence.] b50 And aThen all of the disciples left him, and fled. b51 And a certain young man followed with him, having a linen cloth cast about him, over his naked body: and they lay hold on him; 52 but he left the linen cloth, and fled naked. [All the predictions of Jesus had failed to prepare the apostles for the terrors of his arrest. Despite all his warnings, each apostle sought his own safety. The young man who fled naked is usually presumed to be Mark himself, and it is thought that he thus speaks impersonally after the manner of Matthew and John. The manner of his description shows that he was not an apostle. As Mark’s mother resided in Jerusalem ( Acts 12:12, Acts 12:25), Canon Cook advances the theory that the Lord’s Supper was eaten in the upper room of her house, and that when the disciples retired with Jesus from thence to Gethsemane, Mark slipped from his bed, threw his sindon about him, and followed after them. The sindon, or linen vestment, was very costly, not being worn even by the middle classes: no apostle would be thus attired.] [693]

[FFG 689-692]

Verses 12-23


CXXV.
FIRST STAGE OF JEWISH TRIAL.
EXAMINATION BY ANNAS.
(Friday before dawn.)
dJOHN XVIII. 12-14, 19-23.

d12 So the band and the chief captain, and the officers of the Jews, seized Jesus and bound him, 13 and led him to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. [For confusion in the priesthood, etc., see Matthew 13:10, Matthew 13:11), but he did not do so for [694] the purposes of concealment ( Matthew 10:27). Jesus was the light of the world; addressing his teachings to all flesh, he chose the most public places to utter them--places, however, dedicated to the worship of the true God. He who had said that heaven and earth would pass away, but that his word would not pass away, did not suffer his teaching to be held in contempt; he did not permit it to be made matter for cross examination. On the contrary, it was to be taken cognizance of among the things universally known and understood. The very officers who had arrested him could tell about it-- John 7:45, John 7:46.] 22 And when he had said this, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with 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? [Jesus was then under arrest, and as the trial had not yet opened there was ample time to add new matter to the charges against him. If, in addressing the high priest, he had just spoken words worthy of punishment, the officer who struck him should, instead, have preferred charges against him and had him punished in a legal manner. If the officer could not do this (and the point is that he could not), he was doubly wrong in striking him. Thus the Lord calmly rebuked the wrong-doer. Compare his conduct with that of Paul under somewhat similar circumstances ( Acts 23:1-3). Jesus exemplified his teaching at Matthew 5:39. "Christ," says Luther, "forbids self-defense with the hand, not with the tongue."] [695]

[FFG 694-695]

Verses 15-27


CXXVII.
PETER THRICE DENIES THE LORD.
(Court of the high priest’s residence. Friday before and about dawn.)
aMATT. XXVI. 58, 69-75; bMARK XIV. 54, 66-72; cLUKE XXII. 54-62;
dJOHN XVIII. 15-18, 25-27.

a58 But {d15 And} Simon Peter followed Jesus [leaving Jesus in the palace of the high priest, we now turn back to the garden of Gethsemane at the time when Jesus left it under arrest, that we may follow the course of Simon Peter in his threefold denial of the Master], and so did another disciple. [This other disciple was evidently the apostle John, who thus speaks of himself impersonally.] Now that disciple was known unto the high priest, and entered in with Jesus into the court of the high priest [John’s acquaintanceship appears to have been with the household as well as with the high priest personally, for we find that it is used as a permit at the doorway. It is likely that the high priest knew John rather in a business way-- Acts 4:13]; b54 And Peter had followed him afar off, aunto the court of the high priest, d16 but Peter was standing at the door without. So the other disciple, who was known unto the high priest, went out and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter. beven within, into the court of the high priest [For courts of houses see Acts 12:13. John would have shown a truer kindness to Peter had he let him stay out]; d17 The maid therefore that kept the door saith unto Peter, Art thou also one of this man’s disciples? He saith, I am not. aand [Peter] entered in [The doorkeeper evidently recognized John as a disciple, and was therefore suspicious of Peter. The cowardly "I am not" of Peter is a sad contrast to the strong "I am he" of Jesus], [700] d18 Now the servants and the officers were standing there, having made a fire of coals; for it was cold; and they were warming themselves: and Peter also was with them [they were gathered around a little smokeless charcoal fire], c55 And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the court, and had sat down together, Peter asat with the officers, cin the midst of them. ato see the end. [Though his faith in Christ was shaken, he still loved him enough to see what would become of him.] band he was sitting with the officers, and warming himself in the light of the fire. c56 And a69 Now bas dSimon Peter awas sitting {dstanding} awithout bbeneath in the court, there cometh {acame} unto him, ca certain bone of the maids of the high priest; 67 and seeing Peter cas he sat in the light of the fire, bwarming himself, she looked {cand looking} stedfastly upon him, said, {bsaith, asaying,} Thou also wast with Jesus the Galilaean. bthe Nazarene, even Jesus. cThis man also was with him. a70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. bI neither know, nor understand what thou sayest: cWoman, I know him not. dThey said therefore unto him, Art thou also one of his disciples? He denied, and said, I am not. band he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. a71 And when he was gone out into the porch, cafter a little while another saw him, and said, Thou also art one of them. But Peter said, Man, I am not. b69 And aanother bthe maid saw him, and began again to say {asaith} unto them that were there, bthat stood by, This is one of them. aThis man also was with Jesus of Nazareth. b70 But {a72 And} again he denied bit. awith an oath, I know not the man. [Peter’s second denial was of a quadruple nature. He denied to four different parties, but in such quick succession that the event is regarded as one.] 73 And after a little cafter the space of about one hour another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a [701] truth this man also was with him; for he is a Galilaean. 60 But Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. bAgain they that stood by acame and said to Peter, Of a truth thou also art one of them; bfor thou art a Galilaean. afor thy speech maketh thee known. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. d26 One of the servants of the high priest, being a kinsman of him whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him? b70 But d27 Peter therefore denied again: a74 Then began he to curse and to swear, I know not the {bthis} aman. bof whom ye speak. 72 And straightway cimmediately, while he yet spake, bthe second time the cock crew. [Exasperated by the repeated accusations, Peter loses his temper and begins to emphasize his denial by profanity. Desire to make good his denial is now supreme in his thoughts and the Lord whom he denies is all but forgotten.] c61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered bAnd Peter called to mind the word, cof the Lord, awhich Jesus had said, bhow that he said unto him, aBefore the cock crow, btwice, cthis thou shalt deny me thrice. 62 And he went out, bAnd when he thought thereon, he wept. cbitterly. [When Peter remembered the loving tenderness of Jesus manifested when he foretold Peter’s crime it formed a background against which the sin appeared in all its hideous enormity.]

[FFG 700-702]

Verse 24


CXXVI.
SECOND STAGE OF JEWISH TRIAL. JESUS CONDEMNED
BY CAIAPHAS AND THE SANHEDRIN.
(Palace of Caiaphas. Friday.)
aMATT. XXVI. 57, 59-68; bMARK XIV. 53, 55-65; cLUKE XXII. 54, 63-65; dJOHN XVIII. 24.

d24 Annas therefore sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest. [Foiled in his attempted examination of Jesus, Annas sends him to trial.] band there come together with him all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes. a57 And they that had taken Jesus led him away to the house of Caiaphas the high priest, cand brought him into the high priest’s house. awhere the scribes and the elders were gathered together. [It is very likely that Annas had apartments in the same palace with Caiaphas, and that from these apartments Jesus was led into some hall large enough to hold the Sanhedrin, which was now convened. But this was not its formal session as a court; it was more in the nature of a caucus, or committee of the whole.] b55 Now the chief priests and the whole council sought afalse witness against Jesus, bto {athat they might} put him to death; 60 and they found it not, though many false witnesses came. b56 For many bare false witness against him, and their witness agreed not together. aBut afterward came b57 And there stood up certain, atwo, band bare false witness against him, a61 and said, {bsaying,} aThis man said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. b58 We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands. 59 And not even so did their witness agree together. [What Jesus [696] had really said will be found at John 2:19-22. Though his words were misunderstood at that time, being applied, not to his body, but to Herod’s temple, yet it is not unlikely that the Jewish rulers, hearing our Lord’s prediction that he would rise from the dead after three days ( Matthew 27:62, Matthew 27:63), came to understand the import of his words. If so, the record itself shows the willingness of the Sanhedrin to receive false witnesses against Christ, for its judges received testimony which they knew to be utterly immaterial if rightly construed. The accounts of the two Evangelists, moreover, show how the witnesses failed to agree. A man could only be condemned on the testimony of two witnesses as to some fact or facts constituting a ground for condemnation-- Deuteronomy 17:6, Deuteronomy 19:15.] a62 And the high priest stood up, bin the midst, and asked Jesus, aand said unto him, {bsaying,} Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? a63 But Jesus held his peace. band answered nothing. [While the testimony then before the court might be used to show that Jesus was recklessly boastful, it was insufficient to justify a sentence of blasphemy. A threat to destroy the temple might be thus construed ( Jeremiah 26:9-11, Acts 6:13, Acts 6:14); but a promise to rebuild the temple, if destroyed, was altogether different. The high priest, knowing this, sought to extort from Jesus some additional evidence. With great cunning and effrontery he assumes that the testimony is all that could be possibly desired, and demands of Jesus what he has to say in answer to it. But our Lord did not suffer himself to seem so easily deceived. He gave no explanation, since the future would explain his meaning, and speak the real truth to all who had ears to hear it.] aAnd bAgain the high priest asked him, and saith {asaid} unto him, bArt thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? aI adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou art the Christ, the Son of God. [Seeing that Jesus was not to be lured into an answer, and well knowing his perfect frankness, Caiaphas resolved, in his desperation, to question Jesus plainly and [697] bluntly. His question is twofold: 1. Art thou Christ? 2. Art thou the Son of God? The latter of these would constitute blasphemy, and the former, by showing a boastful spirit, would tend to confirm the charge. Perhaps, too, Caiaphas anticipated the future, and foresaw how useful this claim to be the Messiah would prove when a hearing was had before Pilate ( Luke 23:2). Originally the Messiah was recognized as the Son of God ( Psalms 2:7), but if the Jews had ever generally entertained such an idea, they had lost it before Jesus’ day, The Messiah might of course be called the Son of God in that secondary sense in which Adam was thus called ( John 1:49, Luke 3:38). But Jesus had used the term in an entirely different sense, and his usage had been extremely offensive to the Jews ( John 5:17, John 5:18, John 10:30-39, Matthew 22:41-46). Caiaphas evidently wished Jesus to answer this question in that new sense which the Lord had given to the words. Caiaphas had no legal right to ask either of these questions. No man can be compelled to testify against himself, but he knew the claims of Jesus, and realized that if Jesus repudiated them he would be shamed forever, and if he asserted them he could be charged with blasphemy. Taking advantage, therefore, of the situation, Caiaphas put the question with the usual formula of an oath, thus adding moral power to it, for, under ordinary circumstances, one was held guilty if he refused to answer when thus adjured ( Leviticus 5:1). When their own witnesses failed, these rulers called the "faithful witness"-- 1 Timothy 6:13, Revelation 1:5.] b62 And Jesus said, {asaith} unto him, Thou hast said: bI am: and anevertheless I say unto you, Henceforth ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on {bwith} the clouds of heaven. [Jesus freely confessed the truth which his church is called upon to confess. "Right hand of Power" was commonly understood to mean the right hand of God. By the words "nevertheless" and "henceforth" Jesus brings the present state of humiliation into contrast with his future state of glory. Hard as it might be for them to believe it, the day would come when he should [698] sit in judgment and they should stand on trial before him.] 63 And a65 Then the high priest rent his garments, {bclothes,} and saith, {asaying,} He hath spoken blasphemy: what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard the blasphemy: 66 what think ye? [Though Jesus had given the very answer which the high priest was longing to hear, yet he hypocritically pretends to be shocked at it, and rends his clothes and feigns horror. Evidently he feared the effect of the clear, calm answer of Jesus and sought to counteract its influence on his colleagues.] They answered and said, He is worthy of death. bAnd they all condemned him to be worthy of death. [This was not the final, formal sentence, but the mere determination of the council at the preliminary hearing.] c63 And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and beat him. b65 And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, a67 Then did they spit in his face and buffet him: c64 And they blindfolded him, aand some smote him with the palms of their hands, 68 saying, {band [began] to say unto him,} aProphesy unto us, thou Christ: who is he that struck thee? band the officers received him with blows of their hands. c65 And many other things spake they against him, reviling him. [To spit in the face has been an insult in all ages and in all lands. See Numbers 12:14, Deuteronomy 25:9, Job 30:10. Jesus, having stood out for examination, is now given back to the officers to be led away into the council chamber. These officers received Jesus with many indignities. They seek to make his high claims contemptible, and to make it appear that instead of being divine he is hardly worthy to be regarded as human.] [699]

[FFG 696-699]

Verse 28


CXXVIII.
THIRD STAGE OF JEWISH TRIAL. JESUS FORMALLY
CONDEMNED BY THE SANHEDRIN AND LED TO PILATE.
(Jerusalem. Friday after dawn.)
aMATT. XXVII. 1, 2; bMARK XV. 1; cLUKE XXII. 66-23:1; dJOHN XVIII. 28.

a1 Now when morning was come, c66 And as soon as it was day, bstraightway cthe assembly of the [702] elders of the people was gathered together, both chief priests and scribes; and they led him away into their council, aall the chief priests and {bwith} the elders aof the people band scribes, and the whole council, held a consultation, and atook counsel against Jesus to put him to death [Since blasphemy was by no means a criminal offense among the Romans, the Sanhedrin consulted together and sought for some charge of which the Romans would take notice. As we follow their course it will become evident to us that they found no new ground of accusation against Jesus, and, failing to do so, they decided to make use of our Lord’s claim to be the Christ by so perverting it as to make him seem to assert an intention to rebel against the authority of Rome]: csaying, 67 If thou art the Christ, tell us. But he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe [as experience had already proven-- John 8:59, John 10:31]: 68 and if I ask you, ye will not answer. [Thus Jesus protests against the violence and injustice of his trial. His judges were asking him whether he was the Christ without any intention of investigating the truth of his claim, but merely for the purpose of condemning him by unwarrantedly assuming that he was not the Christ. They therefore asked in an unlawful spirit as well as in an unlawful manner. Jesus had a good right to ask them questions tending to confirm his Christhood by the Scripture, but had he done so they would not have answered-- Matthew 22:41-45. Jesus appeals to them to try the question as to who he was, but they insist on confining the inquiry as to who he claimed to be, assuming that the claim was false.] 69 But from henceforth shall the Son of man be seated at the right hand of the power of God. [See p. 698.] 70 And they all said, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am. [The Hebrew mode of expression, equivalent to "Ye say it, because I am."] 71 And they said, What further need have we of witness? for we ourselves have heard from his own mouth. [Thus they unconsciously admit their lack of evidence against Jesus.] [703] 1 And the whole company of them rose up, a2 and they bound bJesus, and carried {aled} him away, d28 They lead Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the Praetorium: cand brought him before Pilate. band delivered him up to Pilate. athe governor. dand it was early; [The Sanhedrin could try and could condemn, but could not put to death without the concurring sentence of the Roman governor. To obtain this sentence, they now lead Jesus before Pilate in the early dawn, having made good use of their time.]

[FFG 702-704]

Verses 28-38


CXXIX.
FIRST STAGE OF THE ROMAN TRIAL. JESUS
BEFORE PILATE FOR THE FIRST TIME.
(Jerusalem. Early Friday morning.)
aMATT. XXVII. 11-14; bMARK XV. 2-5; cLUKE XXIII. 2-5; dJOHN XVIII. 28-38.

dand they themselves entered not into the Praetorium, that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover. [See John 12:33, John 12:34), but he also gave the details of his trial-- Matthew 20:18, Matthew 20:19, Mark 10:33, Mark 10:34.] c2 And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ a king. [The Jews now profess to change their verdict into a charge, they themselves becoming witnesses as to the truth of the matter charged. They say "We found," thereby asserting that the things which they stated to Pilate were the things for which they had condemned Jesus. Their assertion was utterly false, for the three things which they now mentioned had formed no part whatever of the evidence against Jesus in their trial of him. The first charge, that Jesus was a perverter or seducer of the people, was extremely vague. The second, that he taught to withhold tribute from Cæsar, was a deliberate falsehood. See John 6:15.] d33 Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, and called Jesus, a11 Now Jesus stood before the governor [Jesus is called from the guards who have him in custody and stands alone before Pilate that the governor may investigate his case privately]: b2 And Pilate athe governor [705] asked him, dand said unto him, {asaying,} Art thou the King of the Jews? [The Gospels are unanimous in giving this question as the first words addressed by Pilate to Jesus. The question expresses surprise. There was nothing in the manner or attire of Jesus to suggest a royal claimant. The question was designed to draw Jesus out should he chance to be a fanatical or an unbalanced enthusiast.] And Jesus banswering saith {canswered him and said,} bunto him, Thou sayest. dSayest thou this of thyself, or did others tell it thee concerning me? [Using the Hebrew form of affirmative reply (see John 12:19). They objected to his kingly claims ( Matthew 21:15, Matthew 21:16, Luke 19:38, Luke 19:39), but Jesus shows Pilate that these kingly claims, however distasteful to the Jews, were no offense to or menace against the authority of Rome. Further than this, Jesus did not define his kingdom, for Pilate had no concern in it beyond this. It was sufficient to inform him that it made no use of physical power even for purposes of defense. Such a kingdom could cause no trouble to Rome, and the bare fact stated by Jesus proved that it was indeed such a kingdom.] 37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. [See John 19:7, John 19:8.] 38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? [This question has been regarded as an earnest inquiry (Chrysostom), the inquiry of one who despaired (Olshausen), a scoffing question (Alford), etc. But it is evident that Pilate asked it intending to investigate the case of Jesus further, but, suddenly concluding that he already knew enough to answer his purpose as a judge, he stifles his curiosity as a human being and proceeds with the trial of Jesus, leaving the question unanswered.] And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, cunto the chief priests and the multitudes, I find no fault in this man. dno crime in [707] him. [The pronoun "I" is emphatic; as if Pilate said, "You, prejudiced fanatics, demand his death, but I, the calm judge, pronounce him innocent."] b3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. a12 And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. [When Pilate left the Prætorium to speak with the Jewish rulers, it is evident that Jesus was led out with him, and so stood there in the presence of his accusers.] b4 And a13 Then bPilate again asked him, {asaith unto him,} bsaying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they accuse thee of. aHearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? b5 But Jesus no more answered anything; a14 And he gave him no answer, not even to one word: binsomuch that Pilate athe governor bmarvelled. agreatly. [Pilate was irritated that Jesus did not speak in his own defense. He had already seen enough of our Lord’s wisdom to assure him that it would be an easy matter for him to expose the malicious emptiness of these charges--charges which Pilate himself knew to be false, but about which he had to keep silent, for, being judge, he could not become our Lord’s advocate. Our Lord’s silence was a matter of prophecy ( Isaiah 53:7). Jesus kept still because to have successfully defended himself would have been to frustrate the purpose for which he came into the world-- John 12:23-28.] c5 But they were the more urgent, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Judaea, and beginning from Galilee even unto this place. [The Jews cling to their general accusation of sedition, and seek to make the largeness of the territory where Jesus operated overshadow and conceal the smallness of their testimony as to what his operations were.] [708]

[FFG 704-708]

Verses 39-200


CXXXI.
THIRD STAGE OF THE ROMAN TRIAL. PILATE
RELUCTANTLY SENTENCES HIM TO CRUCIFIXION.
(Friday. Toward sunrise.)
aMATT. XXVII. 15-30; bMARK XV. 6-19; cLUKE XXIII. 13-25; dJOHN XVIII. 39-XIX 16.

a15 Now at the feast [the passover and unleavened bread] the governor was wont {bused to} release unto them athe multitude one prisoner, whom they would. {bwhom they asked of him.} [No one knows when or by whom this custom was introduced, but similar customs were not unknown elsewhere, both the Greeks and Romans being wont to bestow special honor upon certain occasions by releasing prisoners.] a16 And they had then b7 And there was aa notable prisoner, bone called Barabbas, lying bound with them that had made insurrection, men who in the insurrection had committed murder. [710] [Josephus tells us that there had been an insurrection against Pilate’s government about that time caused by his taking money from the temple treasury for the construction of an aqueduct. This may have been the affair here referred to, for in it many lost their lives.] 8 And the multitude went up and began to ask him to do as he was wont to do unto them. [It was still early in the morning, and the vast majority of the city of Jerusalem did not know what was transpiring at Pilate’s palace. But they came thither in throngs, demanding their annual gift of a prisoner. Pilate welcomed the demand as a possible escape from his difficulties.] c13 And Pilate called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people [He did not wish to seem to take advantage of our Lord’s accusers by releasing him during their absence. Possibly he knew of the triumphal entry the Sunday previous, and thought that the popularity of Jesus would be such that his release would be overwhelmingly demanded, and so called the rulers that they might see that he had released Jesus in answer to popular clamor. If he had such expectations, they were misplaced], b9 And a17 When therefore they were gathered together, bPilate answered them, saying, {c14 and said} unto them, bWill ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? cYe brought unto me this man, as one that perverteth the people: and behold, I having examined him before you, found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: 15 no, nor yet Herod: for he sent him back unto us; and behold, nothing worthy of death hath been done by him. d39 But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: c16 I will therefore chastise him, and release him. dWill ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? aWhom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ? 18 For he knew {bperceived} athat for envy they bthe chief priests had delivered him up. [Though Jesus had been declared innocent on the joint finding of himself and Herod, [711] Pilate did not have the courage to deliberately release him. He sought to please the rulers by scourging him, and the multitude by delivering him to them as a popular favorite, and himself by an adroit escape from an unpleasant situation. But he pleased nobody.] c18 But they cried out all together, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:-- 19 one who for a certain insurrection made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison. [We see from Matthew’s account that though the people had a right to name their prisoner, Pilate took upon himself the liberty of choosing which one of two it should be. By doing so he complicated matters for the Jewish rulers, asking them to choose between Jesus, who was held on an unfounded charge of insurrection, and Barabbas, who was notoriously an insurrectionist and a murderer and a robber as well. But the rulers were not to be caught in so flimsy a net. Without regard to consistency, they raised their voice in full chorus for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus.] a19 And while he was sitting on the judgment-seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that righteous man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. [This message of Pilate’s wife suggests that the name and face of Jesus were not unknown to Pilate’s household. Pilate would be much influenced by such a message. The Romans generally were influenced by all presages, and Suetonius tells us that both Julius and Augustus Cæsar attached much importance to dreams.] b11 But a20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded {bstirred up} the multitude, {amultitudes} bthat he should rather release Barabbas unto them. athat they should ask for Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. 21 But the governor answered and said unto them, Which of the two will ye that I release unto you? And they said, Barabbas. d40 They cried out therefore again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber. c20 And Pilate spake unto them again, desiring to release Jesus; [712] b12 And Pilate again answered and said {asaith} unto them, What then shall I do unto Jesus who is called Christ? bhim whom ye call the King of the Jews? c21 but {b13 and} they cried out {cshouted} bagain, csaying, Crucify, crucify him. aThey all say, Let him be crucified. b14 And Pilate said unto them, cthe third time, Why, what evil hath this man {ahe} done? cI have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him and release him. aBut they cried out exceedingly, saying, bCrucify him. aLet him be be crucified. [Finding the mob cruelly persistent, Pilate boldly declines to do its will and turns back into the Prætorium declaring his intention to release Jesus. But he retires with the demands of the multitude ringing in his ears.] d1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. [Carrying out the program which he proposed, Pilate had Jesus removed from the Prætorium to the place of scourging, and inflicted that punishment upon him. We learn from Josephus and others that the law required that those about to be crucified should first be scourged. But Pilate hoped that scourging would suffice. He believed that the more moderate would take pity upon Jesus when they viewed his scourged body, for scourging was so cruel a punishment that the condemned person often died under its infliction. The scourge was made of thongs loaded at the extremity with pieces of bone or metal. The condemned person was stripped and fastened to a low post, this bending the back so as to stretch the skin. Blood spurted at the first blow.] 2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple garment; 3 and they came unto him, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they struck him with their hands. [The soldiers had no special malice against Jesus, but the Roman military system made men hard of heart. The occasion gave to these foreign legionaries a much-enjoyed opportunity to show their contempt for the Jews by mocking Jesus as their King. It is not known which one of the many thorny plants of Palestine [713] was used to form the Lord’s crown. See Acts 22:24). If Pilate had found Jesus guilty, he would have condemned him at once. As it was, he sought to return Jesus to the Sanhedrin as having committed no crime of which the Roman law could take note.] 5 Jesus therefore came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold, the man! [It was Pilate’s original proposition to scourge Jesus and let him go ( Luke 23:16). Having already scourged him, he now hoped to effect his release. Presenting our Lord in this state of abject humiliation, he feels that he has removed him from every suspicion of royalty. He speaks of Jesus as no longer a king, but a mere man. Pilate’s words, however, have a prophetic color, somewhat like those uttered by Caiaphas. All those of subsequent ages have looked and must continue to look to Jesus as the ideal of manhood. The "Ecce Homo" of Pilate is in some sense an echo of the words of the Father when he said, "This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye him." In Jesus we behold the true man, the second Adam.] 6 When therefore the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him! [Thus Pilate’s expectation came to naught, for not one of the Jewish rulers ever wavered in their demand for crucifixion.] Pilate saith unto them, Take him yourselves, and crucify him: for I find no [714] crime in him. [In this sentence, "ye" and "I" are both emphatic; for Pilate wishes to draw a contrast between himself and the Jewish rulers. His words are not a permission to crucify, but a bit of taunting irony, as if he said: "I the judge have found him innocent, but ye seem to lack the wit to see that the case is ended. If ye are so much superior to the judge that ye can ignore his decision, proceed without him; crucify him yourselves."] 7 The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. [Perceiving that Pilate was taunting them, and practically accusing them of attempting to put an innocent man to death, they defended themselves by revealing the fact that in addition to the charges that they had preferred against Jesus, they had found him clearly guilty and worthy of death on another charge; viz.: that of blasphemy ( Leviticus 24:16). They had made no mention of this fact because Pilate was under no obligation to enforce their law; but they mentioned it now to justify their course. They probably felt sure that Jesus himself would convince Pilate of the truth of this latter accusation if Pilate questioned him.] 8 When Pilate therefore heard this saying, he was the more afraid [The words of Jesus at John xviii. 37 (see John 18:2, John 18:5 (the same word being translated both "betrayed" and "delivered"), but Judas did not deliver to Pilate, so Caiaphas as the representative of the Sanhedrin is here meant; and Pilate’s sin is contrasted with that of the rulers. Both of them sinned in abusing their office (the power derived from above-- Psalms 75:6, Psalms 75:7, Isaiah 44:28, Romans 13:1); but Pilate’s sin stopped here. He had no acquaintance with Jesus to give him the possibility of other powers--those of love or hatred, worship or rejection. The members of the Sanhedrin had these powers which arose from a personal knowledge of Jesus, and they abused them by hating and rejecting him, thereby adding to their guilt. Pilate condemned the innocent when brought before him, but the Sanhedrin searched out and arrested the innocent that they might enjoy condemning him.] 12 Upon this Pilate sought to release him [As we have seen, Pilate had before this tried to win the consent of the rulers that Jesus be released, but that which John here indicates was probably an actual attempt to set Jesus free. He may have begun by unloosing the hands of Jesus, or some such demonstration]: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar’s friend: every one that maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. [716] [Whatever Pilate’s demonstration was it was immediately met by a counter one on the part of the rulers. They raise a cry which the politic Pilate can not ignore. Taking up the political accusation (which they had never abandoned), they give it a new turn by prompting Pilate to view it from Cæsar’s standpoint. Knowing the unreasoning jealousy, suspicion and cruelty of the emperor, Pilate saw at once that these unscrupulous Jews could make out of the present occasion a charge against him which would cost him his position, if not his life.] 13 When Pilate therefore heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment-seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. [Pilate had already again and again declared Jesus innocent. He now mounts the judgment-seat that he may formally reverse himself and condemn him. The apostle as an eye-witness fixes by its two names the exact spot where this awful decision was rendered.] 14 Now it was the Preparation of the passover [see 1 Samuel 12:12), their faithful prophet, Samuel, warned them what the king of their choice would do, and what they should suffer under him. Thus Jesus also foretold what this Cæsar of their choice would do to them ( Luke 19:41-44, Luke 23:27-31). They committed themselves to the [717] tender mercies of Rome, and one generation later Rome trod them in the wine-press of her wrath.] c23 But they were urgent with loud voices, asking that he might be crucified. And their voices prevailed. [They overcame Pilate’s weak resistance by their clamor.] a24 So when Pilate saw that he prevailed nothing, but rather that a tumult was arising, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man; see ye to it. 25 And all the people answered and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. [Pilate’s act was symbolic, intended to show that he regarded the crucifixion of Jesus as a murder, and therefore meant to wash his hands of the guilt thereof. The Jewish law made the act perfectly familiar to the Jews ( Deuteronomy 21:1-9). Had the Jewish rulers not been frenzied by hatred, the sight of Pilate washing his hands would have checked them; but in their rage they take upon themselves and their children all the responsibility. At the siege of Jerusalem they answer in part for the blood of Christ, but God alone determines the extent of their responsibility, and he alone can say when their punishment shall end. But we know that it ends for all when they repentantly seek his forgiveness. The punishments of God are not vindictive, they are the awards of Justice meted out by a merciful hand.] b15 And Pilate, wishing to content the multitude, cgave sentence that what they asked for should be done. a26 Then released he unto them Barabbas; chim that for insurrection and murder had been cast into prison, whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will. d16 Then therefore bJesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified [Mark mentions the scourging to show that it preceded the crucifixion, but we see from John’s account that the scourging took place somewhat earlier in the proceeding], bhe delivered him unto them to be crucified. [Pilate delivered Jesus to their punishment, but not into their hands; he was led forth and crucified by Pilate’s soldiers, who first mocked him, as the next paragraph shows.] b16 And [718] a27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus, bled him away within {ainto} the court, which is the Praetorium; and they called together aand gathered unto him the whole band. 28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. b17 And they clothe him with purple, a29 And they platted {bplatting} a crown of thorns, [and] they put it on him; aupon his head, and a reed in his right hand; and they kneeled down before him, and mocked him, b18 and they began to salute him, asaying, Hail, King of the Jews! 30 And they spat upon him, and took the reed b19 And they smote his head {aand smote him on the head.} bwith a reed, and spat upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. [After the sentence of death the soldiers take Jesus back into the Prætorium, and renew the mockeries and indignities which had been interrupted that Pilate might exhibit Jesus to the people, as John shows us. Moreover, the whole band, or cohort, are now gathered, where at first but a few took part. It is likely that the mock robe and crown were removed when Jesus was brought before Pilate to be sentenced, for it is highly improbable that a Roman judge would pronounce the death sentence while the prisoner was clothed in such a manner.]

[FFG 710-719]


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 18". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tfg/john-18.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.