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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
John 18

 

 

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Verse 1

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.

Here all the four Evangelists at length meet again; each of them recording the great historical facts at which we have now arrived-the departure from the upper room and out of the city, the entrance into Gethsemane, the treason of Judas, and the seizure of their Lord. But whereas all the first three Evangelists record the Agony in the Garden, John-holding this, no doubt, as already familiar to his readers-gives us, instead of it, some of the circumstances of the apprehension in more minute detail than had been before record.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples. With this explicit statement before them, it is surprising that some good critics should hold that the departure took place when Jesus said, "Arise, let us go hence" (John 14:31), and that all which is recorded in John 15:1-27; John 16:1-33, including the prayer of John 17:1-26, was uttered in the open air, and on the way to Gethsemane. As to how we are to view the proposal to depart so long before it actually took place, see the note at John 14:31.

Over the brook Cedron (Kedron) - a deep, dark ravine, to the northeast of Jerusalem, through which flowed this small 'storm-brook' or 'winter-torrent,' and which in summer is dried up. As it is in the reflective Gospel only that the circumstance of His crossing the Brook Kedron is mentioned, we can hardly doubt that to the Evangelist's own mind there was present the strikingly analogous crossing of the same dark streamlet by the royal sufferer (2 Samuel 15:23); possibly also certain other historical associations (see 2 Kings 23:12): 'Thus surrounded,' says Stier, by such memorials and typical allusions, the Lord descends into the dust of humiliation and anguish.'

Where was a garden - at the foot of the Mount of Olives, "called Gethsemane" (Matthew 26:30; Matthew 26:36) or 'oil-press' [ gat (Hebrew #1660) sh


Verse 2

And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples.

And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place; for Jesus ofttimes resorted there with his disciples. The baseness of this abuse of knowledge in Judas, derived from the privilege he enjoyed of admission to the closest privacies of His Master, is most touchingly conveyed here, though only in the form of simple narrative. Jesus, however, knowing that in this spot Judas would expect to find Him, instead of avoiding it, hies Him there, as a Lamb to the slaughter. "No man taketh my life from me, but I lay it down of myself" (John 10:18). For other reasons why this spot was selected, see on the Agony in the garden (Luke 22:39-46), page 331, second column, third paragraph.


Verse 3

Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.

Judas then - "He that was called Judas, one of the Twelve," says Luke (Luke 22:47), in language which brands him with special infamy, as in the sacred circle, though in no proper sense of it.

Having received a band [of men] and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees , [ teen (Greek #3588) speiran (Greek #4686), kai (Greek #2532) ek (Greek #1537) toon (Greek #3588) archiereoon (Greek #749) kai (Greek #2532) Farisaioon (Greek #5330) hupeeretas (Greek #5257)] - rather, 'the band (without the supplement, "of men") and officers' or 'servants of the chief priests and Pharisees.' Two bodies are here mentioned: "the band," meaning, as Webster and Wilkinson expresses it, the detachment of the Roman cohort on duty at the festival, for the purpose of maintaining order; and the officials of the ecclesiastical authorities-the captains of the temple and armed Levites.

Cometh there with lanterns and torches and weapons. It was full moon, but in case He should have secreted Himself somewhere in the dark ravine, they bring the means of exploring its hiding-places-little knowing Whom they had to do with. The other Gospels tell us that the time when Judas drew near was "immediately, while Jesus yet spake," that is, while He was saying, after the Agony was over, to the three whom He had found sleeping for sorrow, "Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray Me" (Matthew 26:46-47). The next step, as we take it, is the act of Betrayal-not recorded at all, but only alluded to, in our Fourth Gospel; the other Evangelists having given it fully, whom we shall now follow.

"Now he that betrayed Him gave," or had given "them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast" (Matthew 26:48). The cold-bloodedness of this speech was only exceeded by the deed itself. "And Judas went before them (Luke 22:47), and said, Hail, Master! and kissed Him" (Matthew 26:49 : see, for illustration of the act, 1 Samuel 20:41; and mark Proverbs 27:6.) The impudence of this atrocious deed shows how thoroughly he had by this time mastered all his scruples. If the dialogue between our Lord and His captors was before this, as some interpreters think it was, the kiss of Judas was purely gratuitous, and probably to make good his right to the money; our Lord having presented Himself unexpectedly before them, and rendered it unnecessary for anyone to point him out. But a comparison of the narratives seems to show that our Lord's "coming forth" to the band was subsequent to the interview of Judas. "And Jesus said unto him, Friend" [ Hetaire (Greek #2083)]. The difference between the term here studiously employed-which signifies rather 'companion' in mere social intercourse, and which is used on other occasions of remonstrance and rebuke (as Matthew 20:13; Matthew 22:12) - and the endearing term properly rendered "friend" (in Luke 12:4, and John 15:13-15) - is very striking: "Wherefore art thou come?" (Matthew 26:50). "Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?" (Luke 22:48) - imprinting on the foulest of all acts the mark of tenderest affection? What wounded feeling does this express! Of this Jesus showed Himself on various occasions keenly susceptible-as all generous and beautiful natures are. This brings us back to our own Gospel.


Verse 4

Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?

Jesus therefore knowing all things that should come (or 'were coming') upon him went forth from the Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come (or 'were coming') upon him, went forth - from the shade of the trees, probably, into open view, indicating His sublime preparedness to meet His captors,

And said unto them, Whom seek ye? - partly to prevent a rush of the soldiery upon the disciples, as Bengel thinks (see Mark 14:51-52, which may lend some countenance to this), but still more in the exercise of that courage and majesty which so overawed them: He would not wait to be taken.


Verse 5

They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.

They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth - just the sort of blunt, straightforward reply one expects from military men, simply acting on their instructions.

Jesus saith unto them, I am [he]. On this sublime expression, see the note at Mark 6:50.

And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. No more is recorded here of his part of the scene, but we have found the gap painfully supplied by all the other Evangelists.


Verse 6

As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.

As soon then as he had said unto them, I am [he], they went backward (recoiled), and fell to the ground

- struck down by a power such as that which smote Saul of Tarsus and his companions to the earth (Acts 26:14). It was the glorious effulgence of the majesty of Christ which overpowered them. 'This,' as Meyer well remarks, 'occurring before His surrender, would show His power over His enemies, and so the freedom with which He gave Himself up.'


Verse 7

Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth.

Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? - giving them a door of escape from the guilt of a deed which now they were able in some measure to understand. And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. The stunning effect of His first answer wearing off, they think only of the necessity of executing their orders.


Verse 8

Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way:

Jesus answered, I have told you that I am [he]. If therefore ye seek me, let these go their way - Wonderful self-possession and consideration for others in such circumstances!


Verse 9

That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.

That the saying might be fulfilled which he spake, Of them which thou gavest ('hast given') me have I lost none. The reference is to such sayings as John 6:39; John 17:12; showing how conscious the Evangelist was, that in reporting his Lord's former sayings, he was giving them not in substance merely, but in form also. (See the note at John 17:1-26, Remark 1 at the close of that section.) Observe, also, how the preservation of the disciples on this occasion is viewed as part of that deeper preservation undoubtedly intended in the saying quoted.


Verse 10

Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus.

Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. None of the other Evangelists mention the name either of the ardent disciple or of his victim. But John being "known to the high priest" (John 18:15), the mention of the servant's name by him is quite natural, and an interesting mark of truth in a small matter. As to the right ear, specified both here and in Luke, the man, as Webster and Wilkinson remark, 'was likely foremost of those who advanced to seize Jesus, and presented himself in the attitude of a combatant; hence, his right side would be exposed to attack. The blow of Peter was evidently aimed vertically at his head.' "And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far" (Luke 22:51). It seems unnatural to understand this as addressed to the captors, as if He had said, 'Suffer My disciples thus far to show their attachment to Me; excuse it to this extent; they shall do nothing more of this kind,' as Webster and Wilkinson put it, and DeWette and van Osterzee view it. Still less natural does Alford's view appear, which takes it as a request to those who were holding and binding Him, to permit Him to heal the wounded ear. It seems plainly to be addressed, as Meyer says, to the disciples, bidding them go no further in the way of defending Him; and so the majority of interpreters understand it. "And He touched his ear, and healed him." Luke only records this miracle, which in the apparently helpless circumstances in which our Lord stood, was most signal. But "The Son of Man came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Luke 9:56), and, even when they were destroying His, to save theirs.


Verse 11

Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? It is remarkable that though the Agony in the Garden is not here recorded, this question expresses with affecting clearness both the feelings which during that scene struggled in the breast of Jesus-`aversion to the cup, viewed in itself,' and, 'in the light of the Father's will, perfect preparedness to drink it up.' (See the exposition of that wonderful scene, at Luke 22:39-46.)

In the other Gospels we have some fuller particulars, Matthew 26:52 : "Put up thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword." 'Those who take the sword must run all the risks of human warfare; but Mine is a warfare whose weapons, as they are not carnal, are attended with no such hazards, but carry certain victory.' "Thinkest thou that I cannot now" - even after things have proceeded so far, "pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me" - rather, 'place at My disposal' [ parasteesei (Greek #3936) moi (Greek #3427)] "more than twelve legions of angels;" with allusion, possibly, to the one angel who had, in His agony, "appeared to Him from Heaven strengthening Him" (Luke 22:43); and in the precise number, alluding to the twelve who needed the help, Himself and His eleven disciples. (The full complement of a legion of Roman soldiers was six thousand.) "But how then shall the Scripture be fulfilled that thus it must be?" He could not suffer, according to the Scripture, if He allowed Himself to be delivered from the predicted death.


Verse 12

Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him,

Then the band and the captain and ('the') officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him - but not until He had made them feel that "no man took His life from Him, but that He laid it down of Himself" (John 10:18).

In the first three Gospels we have here the following additional particulars: Matthew 26:55, "In that same hour," probably on the way to judgment, when the crowds were pressing upon Him, "said Jesus to the multitudes" - or as in Luke 22:52, "unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to Him" - "Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take Me?" He thus keenly yet loftily expresses the indignity which He felt to be done to Him. "I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on Me." "But this is your hour, and the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53.) Matthew continues (Matthew 26:56) "But all this was done, that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled."

Here follows, in the first two Gospels, an affecting particular, the mention of which somewhere we should have expected from the sad announcement which Jesus had made at the Supper-table - "All ye shall be offended because of Me this night," etc. (Matthew 26:31; Mark 14:27 : see opening remarks at Luke 22:31-39). It is the same two Evangelists that report this warning who record the too speedy fulfillment.

DESERTION AND FLIGHT OF THE DISCIPLES

(Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50)

"Then all the disciples forsook Him, and fled."

A singular incident is here recorded by Mark alone (Mark 14:51-52): "And there followed Him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body" - they were wont, says Grotius, to sleep in linen, and in this condition this youth had started up from his bed: "and the young men laid hold on him" - the attendants of the chief priests, mentioned in John 18:3, or some of their junior assistants [but hoi (Greek #3588) neaniskoi (Greek #3495) seems not to be genuine]: "And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked" - for, as Bengel says, in great danger fear conquers shame. The general object for which this was introduced is easily seen. The flight of all the apostles, recorded in the preceding verse, suggested the mention of this other flight, as one of the noticeable incidents of that memorable night, and as showing what terror the scene inspired in all who were attached to Jesus. By most interpreters it is passed over too slightly. One thing is stamped on the face of it-it is the narrative of an eye-witness of what is described. The mention of the fate of one individual, and him "a certain young man" - expressively put in the original [ eis (Greek #1519) tis (Greek #5100) neaniskos (Greek #3495)] - of his single piece of dress, and that of "linen," of the precise parties who laid hold of him [though hoi (Greek #3588) neaniskoi (Greek #3495) cannot be relied on], and how he managed to make a hair-breadth escape, even though it obliged him to part with all that covered his nakedness-this singular minuteness of detail suggests even more than the pen of an eye-witness. It irresistibly leads to a further question-Had the writer of this Gospel himself nothing to do with that scene?-`To me,' says Olshausen, 'it appears most probable that here Mark writes concerning himself.' So also Lange.

Remarks:

(1) But once only from the time that the officers came to take Him until He expired on the cross, did Jesus think fit to show, by any overt act, how voluntarily He endured all that was inflicted on Him by the hands of men; and that was immediately before they proceeded to their first act of violence. One such manifestation of His glorious superiority to all the power of earth is what we should perhaps expect; and as it was put forth at the critical moment-when His disciples would be watching with breathless interest to see whether He would endure to be seized, and perhaps His captors were apprehensive of some difficulty in the matter-so it was of such a nature as rendered a second manifestation of it altogether superfluous. From this time forth it must have been seen, by any eye that could read what He had done, that all-unforced, He went as a Lamb to the slaughter.

(2) How quickly, when men "sell themselves" to do evil, do their hearts become steeled against all feeling, and capable of whatever blackness of demon-like ingratitude and treachery may be required for the perpetration of the crimes they have resolved on! Think of Judas but a brief hour or two before this, sitting at the supper table as one of the apostles of the Lord Jesus, all unsuspected by the rest; think of him but six days before this at the house of Simon the leper, unsuspected in all likelihood even by himself, until his disappointment in the matter of the "three hundred pence" ripened into rage and suggested, apparently for the first time, the foul deed (see the notes at Mark 14:1-11, Remark 8 at the close of that section); and then think of the pitch of wickedness he had now reached. It may be thought that only the continual overawing presence of his Lord kept down the already matured wickedness of his heart. But it should rather be said, it kept the seeds of that wickedness, which undoubtedly were there from the first (John 6:70), from coming to maturity and acquiring their full mastery before the time. Nay, the end which Judas made of himself seems clearly to show how far he was from being a long hardened wretch, what quick work Satan had made of his natural tendencies at the last, and how, when his full criminality stared him in the face, instead of being able to wipe his mouth, as those whose conscience is seared as with a hot iron, he felt it to be insupportable. We make these observations, not to lessen the execration with which the deed and the doer of it are instinctively regarded, but to show that there is nothing in this case of Judas but what may in substance have been done once and again since that time-nothing exceptional to the ordinary working of evil principles in the human heart and life. "Let him" then, "that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall!"


Verses 13-23

And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year.

For the exposition, see the note at Mark 14:53, etc., as far as page 204, second paragraph.

Our Evangelist, it would seem, had nothing to add to the ample details of the trial and condemnation of the Lord Jesus and the indignities with which He was thereafter treated, and next to nothing on the sad fall of Peter in the midst of these transactions. With all this he holds his readers already familiar, through the records of the three preceding Evangelists. In the first of these four verses, accordingly, he simply tells us that "Annas sent Him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest," without so much as mentioning what this was for, still less giving any particulars of the trial. And though he relates in the briefest terms two of Peter's denials, and the crowing of the cock, this is merely to supply one small but striking particular which had not been noticed in the preceding Gospels-how one of those who charged Peter with being a disciple of Jesus was able to identify him, by his own relationship to the man whose ear Peter had cut off in the garden, and who saw him do it (John 18:26). For the exposition of all the Evangelical matter embraced by these four verses, see the notes at Mark 14:53-72, page 203, second paragraph, and 204, second paragraph to page 211.

As one of the most important details of this varied section is omitted altogether by our Evangelist, while the rest are given very summarily, we must avail ourselves of the other Gospels in order to have the whole before us for exposition.

From the time of the deposition of Archelaus, and the reduction of Judea to the condition of a Roman province (see the note at Matthew 2:22), the power of life and death was taken from the Jewish tribunals. No sentence of death, therefore, which they pronounced could be executed without the sanction of the Roman Governor. Accordingly, as soon as our Lord was condemned by the Sanhedrim to die, and the contemptuous treatment of Him which followed had time to spend itself-it being now early morn-they proceed to bring Him before Pilate that he might authorize His execution.


Verses 24-27

Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 28

Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.

Then led they, [ agousin (G71), 'Then lead they] Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment , [ to (Greek #3588) praitoorion (Greek #4232)] - rather, 'the Proetorium;' that is, the official residence of the Roman Governor. His usual place of residence was at Caesarea; but during the Passover season it was his duty to be at Jerusalem, on account of the vast influx of strangers, to see that all things were conducted legally and peaceably.

And it was early. We learn from Mark (Mark 15:1) that this step was the result of a special consultation: "And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council" [ holon (Greek #3650) to (Greek #3588) sunedrion (Greek #4892)] - no doubt to arrange their plans and frame their charge, "and bound Jesus, and carried Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate."

And they themselves went not into the judgment hall ('the Praetorium,') lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover. These words have occasioned immense research, and given rise to much controversy and not a few learned treatises. From these words chiefly it has been argued that the Jews had not eaten the Passover up to the time here referred to, and consequently, as our Lord and His apostles ate it the previous evening, they must have eaten it a day earlier than the proper statutory day. In that case there is a manifest discrepancy between the first three Gospels and the fourth, and this on a point not only of considerable importance, but one on which it is difficult to conceive that there should on either side be any mistake. As to this particular passage, it is not easy to see how it helps the theory which it is supposed to establish. For supposing that the proper season for eating the Passover was not to be until that evening after six o'clock and this party that brought Jesus to Pilate in the morning had ceremonially defiled themselves by going into the Praetorium, that defilement-as it would only have lasted, according to law, during the one day of twelve hours on which it was contracted-would have passed away of itself before the proper time for eating their Passover.

Does not this show that the statement of our Evangelist here has no reference to the regular time for eating the Passover? Having already expressed our belief that all the four Gospels are at one on this subject, and that our Lord ate the Passover on the usual day-the 14th of the month Nisan (see opening remarks on the 'Preparation for the Passover,' at Luke 22:7-30; and at John 13:1) - it only remains that we here state what we take to be our Evangelist's meaning in the words before us. We cannot accept the explanation of some good critics-Robinson, for example-that by "eating the Passover" the Evangelist means, not the eating of the Paschal lamb, which was the first and principal part of the feast, but keeping the feast of unleavened bread. The passages which are thought to justify this way of speaking are insufficient; it is not, at least, according to the usual language of the Evangelists; and it has a forced appearance.

But there is a simpler explanation of the words. If we suppose that the party who were bringing Jesus before the Governor had been so engrossed with the exciting circumstances of His capture and trial and condemnation the previous evening as not to have leisure to eat their Passover at the proper time; but that having only deferred it on the ground of unavoidable hindrances, and fully intending to eat it as early that same day as this urgent business would allow, they abstained from entering the Praetorium, because by doing so they would have been defiled, and so legally disqualified from eating it until the day was over-we have, in our judgment, a satisfactory explanation of our Evangelist's statement. Nor were similar postponements, and even omissions, of the most solemn observances of their ritual altogether unknown in the Jewish history, as may be seen in Josephus. (See an able Essay on this subject in Fairbairn's "Hermeneutical Manual.")


Verse 29

Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?

Pilate then went out unto them - since they would not come in to him,

And said, What accusation bring ye against this man? - `State your charge.'


Verse 30

They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.

They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee - a very lame reply. But they were conscious they had no case of which Pilate could take cognizance and inferring death, or any punishment at all, according to the Roman law. They therefore simply insinuate that the case must have been bad enough before they would have come to him with it, and that having found him worthy of death by their own law, they merely wished him to sanction the execution.


Verse 31

Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:

Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, [ labete (G2983) auton (G846) humeis (G5210), 'Take him yourselves,'] and judge him according to your law. This was not an admission, as some view it, of their independence of him in matters of life and death: for they themselves say the contrary in the very next words, and Pilate surely did not need to learn what his powers were from these Jews. But by this general reply he would throw upon themselves the responsibility of all they should do against this Prisoner: for no doubt he had been informed to some extent of their proceedings.

The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death. See Josephus (Ant. 20:

9. 1), who tells us that the high priest was charged with acting illegally for assembling the Sanhedrim that condemned 'James the just' to die, without the consent of the Roman Governor.


Verse 32

That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.

That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death, [ poioo (G4169) thanatoo (G2288), 'what kind' or 'manner of death'] he should die - that is, the death of the cross, which Jesus had once and again predicted He should die (Matthew 20:19; John 3:14; John 8:28; John 12:32). Had it been left to the Jews to execute their own sentence, it would have been, as their law required in cases of blasphemy, by stoning. (Leviticus 24:16; 1 Kings 21:10; Acts 6:13, with 7:58; and see the notes at John 10:32-33.) But as this would have defeated the divine arrangements, it was so ordered that they should not have this in their power; and the divinely fixed mode of crucifixion, being a Roman mode of execution, could only be carried into effect by order of the Roman Governor. Finding it now indispensable to success to get up a criminal charge against their Prisoner, they proceed with shameless audacity to say that they had found Him guilty of what on His trial they seem not so much as to have laid to His charge. This is recorded only in

Luke 23:2 : "And they began" - or 'proceeded' "to accuse Him, saying, We have found this [fellow] perverting the nation" - `our nation' the true reading probably is - "and forbidding to give tribute to Cesar, saying that He Himself is Christ a King." In two things this speech was peculiarly base. First, It was a lie that He had ever forbidden to give tribute to Cesar; nay, to some of themselves, not many days before this, in reply to their ensnaring question on this very subject, and with a Roman coin in His hands, He had said, "Render to Cesar the things which be Cesar's" (Luke 20:25). Secondly, Their pretended jealousy for the rights and honours of Cesar was so far from being real, that their restless impatience under the Roman yoke was already creating uneasiness at Rome, and ultimately brought ruin on their whole commonwealth; nor can there be any doubt that if our Lord had given the least indication of a willingness to assume royal honours, in opposition to the Roman power, they would have rallied around Him. But how does Pilate treat this charge against the blessed Jesus? It was at least a tangible choose, and whatever suspicion he might have as to the motives of His accusers, it was not to be trifled with. Perhaps rumours of our Lord's regal claims may have reached the Governor's ears; but instead of entering on the subject with the accusers, he resolves to interrogate the Accused Himself, and that alone, in the first instance.


Verse 33

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall ('the Praetorium') again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?


Verse 34

Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?

Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? - `Is this question prompted by any evidence which has come to thine ears of treason on My part against the Roman government; or hast thou merely been put up to it by those who, having failed to convict Me of anything that is criminal, are yet urging thee to put Me to death?'


Verse 35

Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?

Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? - q.d., 'Jewish questions I neither understand nor meddle with; but thou art here on a charge which, though it seems only Jewish, may yet involve treasonable matter. As they state it I cannot decide the point; tell me, then, what procedure of thine has brought thee into this position.' In modern phrase, Pilate's object in this question was merely to determine the relevancy of the charge, or whether the claims which he was accused of making were of a treasonable nature. If it should be found that they were, the evidence of His having actually advanced such claims would still remain to be sifted.


Verse 36

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world , [ Hee (Greek #3588) basileia (Greek #932) hee (Greek #3588) emee (Greek #1699)]. The "My" here is emphatic: q.d., 'This kingdom of Mine.' He does not say it is not 'in' or 'over,' but it is not "of this world" [ ek (Greek #1537) tou (Greek #3588) kosmou (Greek #2889) toutou (Greek #5127)], that is, in its origin and nature; and so, is no such kingdom as need give thee or thy master the least alarm.

If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews - `a very convincing argument,' as Webster and Wilkinson observe; 'for if His servants did not fight to prevent their king from being delivered up to His enemies, much less would they use force for the establishment of His kingdom.'

But now is ('but the fact is') my kingdom not from hence. Our Lord only says whence His kingdom is not-first simply affirming it, next giving proof of it, then re-affirming it. This was all that Pilate had to do with. The positive nature of His kingdom He would not obtrude upon one who was as little able to comprehend it as entitled officially to information about it. It is worthy of notice that the "MY," which occurs four times in this one verse-thrice of His kingdom and once of His servants-is put in the emphatic form.


Verse 37

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? There was no sarcasm or disdain in this question, as Tholuck, Alford, etc., allege, else our Lord's answer would have been different. Putting emphasis upon "thou," his question betrays a mixture of surprise and uneasiness, partly at the possibility of there being, after all, something dangerous under the claim, and partly from a certain awe which our Lord's demeanour probably struck into him.

Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king , [ Su (Greek #4771) legeis (Greek #3004) hoti (Greek #3754) basileus (Greek #935) eimi (Greek #1510) Egoo (Greek #1473)] - or rather, 'Thou sayest [it], for a king I am.'

To this end was I ('have I been') born, and for this cause came I ('to this end am I come') into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. His birth expresses His manhood; His coming into the world, His existence before assuming humanity: the truth, then, here affirmed, though Pilate would catch little of it, was, that 'His Incarnation was expressly in order to the assumption of Royalty in our nature.' Yet, instead of saying He came to be a king, which is His meaning, He says He came to testify to the truth. Why this? Because, in such circumstances, it required a noble courage not to flinch from His royal claims; and our Lord, conscious that He was putting forth that courage, gives a turn to His confession expressive of it. It is to this that Paul is commonly understood to allude, in those remarkable words to Timothy: "I charge thee before God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession" [ teen (Greek #3588) kaleen (Greek #2570) homologian (Greek #3671)] (1 Timothy 6:13). But we have given our opinion (page 206, first column) that the reference is to the solemn confession which He witnessed before the supreme ecclesiastical council, that He was "THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE BLESSED," which the apostle would hold up to Timothy as a sublime example of the fidelity courage which he himself should display. These two confessions, however, are complements of each other. For, in the beautiful words of Olshausen, 'As the Lord owned Himself the Son of God before the most exalted theocratic council, so He confessed His regal dignity in presence of the representative of the highest political authority on earth.'

Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice. Our Lord here not only affirms that His word had in it a self-evidencing, self-recommending power, but gently insinuates the true secret of the growth and grandeur of His kingdom: it is a KINGDOM OF TRUTH, in its highest sense, into which all souls who have learnt to live and count all things but loss for the truth are, by a most heavenly attraction, drawn as into their proper element; whose KING Jesus is, fetching them in and ruling them by His captivating power over their hearts.


Verse 38

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? - q.d., 'Thou stirrest the question of questions, which the thoughtful of every age have asked, but never man yet answered.'

And when he had said this - as if, by putting such a question, he was getting into interminable and unreasonable inquiries, when this business demanded rather prompt action,

He went out again unto the Jews - thus missing a noble opportunity for himself, and giving utterance to that consciousness of the want of all intellectual and moral certainty, which was the feeling of every thoughtful mind at that time. 'The only certainty,' says the elder Pliny, quoted by Olshausen, 'is that nothing is certain, nor more miserable than man, nor more proud.' 'The fearful laxity of morals,' adds the critic, 'at that time must doubtless be traced in a great degree to this scepticism. The revelation of the eternal truth alone was able to breathe new life into ruined human nature, and that in the apprehension of complete redemption.'

... And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them - in the hearing of our Lord, who had been brought forth to them,

I find in him no fault [at all] - that is, no ground of criminal charge, "touching those things whereof ye accuse him" (Luke 23:14). This testimony is all the more important immediately after our Lord's explicit confession that He was a King, and speaking of "His kingdom." But how could Pilate with any truth say else than he did, after the explanation that His kingdom was not of a nature to come into collision at all with Caesar's? Indeed, it is clear that Pilate regarded our Lord as a high-minded Advocate of some mysterious religious principles, more or less connected with the Jewish Faith but at variance with the reigning ecclesiastical system-thoroughly sincere, at the least, but whether more than that he was unable to judge; yet cherishing no treasonable designs and meddling with no political affairs. This conclusion, candidly expressed, so exasperated "the chief priests and elders," who were panting for His death, that afraid of losing their Victim, they pour forth a volley of charges against Him, as if to overhear the Governor by their very vehemence. The precise succession of the incidents and speeches here, as reported by the different Evangelists, it is not quite easy to see, though the general course of them is plain enough.

Matthew 27:12-14 ( = Mark 15:3-5): "And when He was accused of the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto Him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? And He answered him to never a word" - Mark says, "Jesus yet answered nothing," or rather, 'answered nothing more' [ ouketi (Greek #3765) ouden (Greek #3762)]; that is, nothing more than He had answered already to Pilate alone - "insomuch that the governor marveled greatly." Pilate, fully persuaded of His innocence, seems to have been surprised that He did not refute nor even challenge their charges. But here a very important incident occurred-the transference of Jesus to Herod-which is recorded only in the Third Gospel. It is thus introduced:

Luke 23:4-5 : "Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in him." (This appears to us clearly to be the same testimony as we found recorded in John, though Robinson in his 'Harmony' represents it as a second statement of the same thing.) "And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place." They see no hope of getting Pilate's sanction to His death unless they can fasten upon Him some charge of conspiracy against the government; and as Galilee was noted for its turbulence (see Luke 13:1; Acts 5:37), and our Lord's ministry lay chiefly there, while Pilate might well be ignorant of much disafffection bred there, beyond his own jurisdiction, they artfully introduce this region as that in which the alleged treason had been hatched, and whence it had at length spread to Judea and the capital. In his perplexity, Pilate, hearing of Galilee, bethinks himself of sending the Prisoner to Herod, in the hope of thereby shaking off all further responsibility in the case. Accordingly, we have in the sequel of this third Gospel the following remarkable incident:

JESUS BEFORE HEROD ANTIPAS

(Luke 23:6-12)

Luke 23:6. "When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean. Luke 23:7. And as soon as he knew that He belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who also was at Jerusalem at that time" - hoping, as we have said, to escape the dilemma of an unjust condemnation or an unpopular release; possibly also in hope of some light being cast upon the case itself. Herod was then at Jerusalem, no doubt to keep the Passover. Luke 23:8. "And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season." (See Luke 9:9.) This is not inconsistent with what is said in Luke 13:31; for Herod, though full of curiosity for a considerable time to see Jesus, might not cars to have Him wandering about in his own dominions, and too near to the scene of the bloody deed done on his faithful reprover. "Because he had heard many things of Him, and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him." Fine sport thou expectest, O coarse, crafty, cruel tyrant, as the Philistines with Samson (Judges 16:25).

But thou hast been baulked before (see the notes at Luke 13:31-33), and shalt be again. Luke 23:9. "Then he questioned with Him in many words: but He answered him nothing." (See Matthew 7:6.) Luke 23:10. "And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him" - no doubt both of treason, Herod being a king, and of blasphemy, for Herod, though of Idumean descent, was by religion a circumcised Jew. Luke 23:11. "And Herod with his men of war" [ tois (Greek #3588) strateumasin (Greek #4753)] - or his body guard, "set Him at nought" - stung with disappointment at His refusal either to amuse him with miracles or to answer any of his questions. But a day is coming, O proud Herod, when He who now stands before thee, to outward appearance a helpless prisoner, shall from His great white throne "laugh at thy calamity, and mock when thy fear cometh"! - "and arrayed Him in a gorgeous (or 'bright') robe" [ estheeta (Greek #2066) lampran (Greek #2986)]. If this mean, 'of shining white,' as sometimes, it may have been in derision of His claim to be "King of the Jews;" that being the royal colour among the Jews. But if so, he in reality honoured Him, as Bengel remarks, just as Pilate did by blazoning His true title on the Cross: "and sent Him again to Pilate" - instead of releasing Him as he ought, having established nothing against Him (John 18:14-15). Thus, to use again the words of Bengel, did Herod implicate himself with Pilate in all the guilt of His condemnation; and accordingly he is classed with him in this deed in Acts 4:27; Luke 23:12. "And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves" - perhaps about some point of disputed jurisdiction, which this exchange of the Prisoner might tend to heal.

The materials of this portion must be drawn chiefly from the other Gospels.

Luke 23:13-16 : "And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you" - from the first three Gospels we should conclude that the whole examination hitherto had been in their presence, while John represents it as private; but in all likelihood the reference here is to what is related in John 18:3-5, though too briefly to enable us to see the precise form which the examination took throughout - "have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto Him" [ autoo (Greek #846)] - or rather, 'by Him,' as the phrase sometimes means classically, and here must be held to mean. "I will therefore chastise Him, and let Him go" [ paideusas (Greek #3811) ... apolusoo] - 'When, therefore, I have corrected, I will dismiss Him.' Though the kind of correction which he proposed to inflict was not specified by Pilate on this occasion, there can be no doubt that scoring was what he meant, and the event soon proved it. It seems strange to our ideas of justice, that a Roman governor should propose to punish, however lightly, a prisoner whose innocence he has just proclaimed. But it was of the nature of a well meant yet indefensible offer, in hope of saving the prisoner's life.

At this moment, as would appear, two of those strange incidents occurred which throw such a lurid light on these awful transactions. We refer to the choice of Barabbas for release at the feast, in preference to Jesus, and the dream of Pilate's wife.

Matthew 27:15-23 : Matthew 27:15 . " Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would." Matthew 27:16. "And they had then a notable (or 'notorious') prisoner called Barabbas" - "which," says Mark (Mark 15:7), "lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him" [sustasiastoon], or 'with his fellow insurgents,' "who (that is, which insurgents) had committed murder in the insurrection." But in Luke (Luke 23:19) the murder is expressly ascribed to this Barabbas, who is also called "a robber." He was evidently the ringleader of this lawless gang; and there we learn that the "sedition" here referred to was "made in the city." "And the multitude," says Mark, "crying aloud, began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them." This is unique to Mark, and enables us vividly to realize the rising of the popular excitement before which Pilate-reluctantly though it was-gave way. But this clamour for the exercise of his usual clemency at the feast suggested another expedient for saving his conscience-the selection of Jesus as the prisoner of his choice for this release; not doubting that between Jesus and such a villain as this Barabbas they would for very shame be forced to prefer the former. But he little knew his men, if he thought that. Matthew 27:17. "Therefore," continues Matthew, "when they were gathered together, Pilate saith unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?" Matthew 27:18. "For he knew that for envy they had delivered Him" - that is, out of jealousy at the popularity of Jesus, and fear of losing their own. This would seem to show that Pilate was not ignorant of the leading facts of this case.

At this stage of the proceedings, or rather just after they had formally begun, the strange message from his wife, recorded only by Matthew, seems to have deepened the anxiety of Pilate to save Jesus, and was probably what induced him to set up Barabbas as the only alternative he would give them for release, if they would not have Jesus Matthew 27:19. "When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him" - it has been noticed as a striking confirmation of the historical accuracy of this Gospel, that (as Tacitus relates, in his Annals, 3: 33, 34) the Governors of provinces had not begun to take their wives with them until the time of Augustus - "saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man" [ meeden (Greek #3367) soi (Greek #4671) kai (Greek #2532) too (Greek #3588) dikaioo (Greek #1342) ekeinoo (Greek #1565) see the note at John 2:4]: "for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him;" a testimony to the innocence of Jesus, and a warning to Pilate, from the unseen world, which, though finally ineffectual, made doubtless a deep impression upon his mind. Matthew 27:20. "But the chief priests and elders," continues Matthew, "persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus." Possibly they took advantage of the pause in the proceedings, occasioned by the delivering of the message from the Governor's wife. Matthew 27:21. "The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas" - and said it with a vehemence which showed how successful the leaders had been in putting them up to this simultaneous way of clamouring. "And they cried out," says Luke, "all at once, saying Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas."

Pilate now makes a last feeble effort to induce them to acquiesce in the release of Jesus. "Pilate therefore," says Luke, "willing to release Jesus, spake again to them;" but what he said is recorded only by the first two Evangelists. Matthew 27:22. "Pilate," says Matthew, "said unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" - or, according to the keener form of the question in Mark, "Him whom ye call the King of the Jews?" This was just the thing they could not endure, and Pilate was sharp enough to see it. "But they all cried, Crucify Him, crucify Him" (Luke and Matthew). The shocking cry is redoubled. "And the governor said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in Him: I will therefore chastise Him, and let Him go" (Luke). Why chastise Him, O Pilate, if thou hast found no fault in Him? But his remonstrances are waxing feebler; this offer of chastisement, already rejected as a compromise, is but another slight effort to stem the torrent, and presently he will give way. They see this, and hasten to bury his scruples in a storm of cries for His crucifixion. What a scene! Matthew 27:23. "But they cried out the more, saying, Let Him be crucified." Luke is more emphatic: "And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that He might be crucified, And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed."

A very striking incident is here again related in the First Gospel only.

Matthew 27:24-25 : Matthew 27:24 "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing" - his humiliating helplessness was manifest to himself - "but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude" (compare, in illustration of this act, Deuteronomy 21:6-7; Psalms 26:6), as a solemn and public protest against the deed, "saying, I am innocent of the blood of this [just] person:" [the words tou (Greek #3588) dikaiou (Greek #1342) are omitted by Tischendorf, and bracketed by Lachmann and Tregelles. They appear to be of doubtful authority.] "see ye to it." 'Tis not so easy, O Pilate, to wash out sin, much less the innocent blood of the Holy One of God! But thy testimony to Him, and to the uneasiness of thy conscience in condemning Him, we accept with all thankfulness-to a Higher than thou. Matthew 27:25. "Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children." O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how heavy has that word been to thee! And the dregs of that cup of fury, voluntarily called down upon thine own head, are not all drunken yet. "But thou, O Lord, how long?" "And Pilate," says Luke, "gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will." There is a heavy reflection conveyed by these words, though they be but the studious repetition of the black facts of the case; for it is not the manner of the first three Evangelists to make reflections on the facts which they record, as the fourth does.

From the fullness of the matter embraced in the foregoing portions of the first three Gospels, it will at once be seen that the beloved disciple, in the two following verses, designed not so much to record as merely to remind his readers of facts already fully recorded and familiar to all Christians, in order to pave the way for the fuller details of what followed, which he was about to give:


Verse 39

But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the Passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?


Verse 40

Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 18:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/john-18.html. 1871-8.

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Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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