The next two chapters of John’s Gospel (chapters 18 and 19) portray what Jesus predicted to the disciples in the upper room. These events will fulfill Jesus’ words about the intense sorrow they will experience. Jesus’ greatness is reflected in the narrative as he moved toward the cross with great intentionality and without the slightest fear. His courage and bravery were an example to his followers about how to endure the persecution he predicted they would experience. There are four major scenes in John’s passion story about Jesus. First, the events begin in a garden on the other side of the Kidron Valley where Jesus is arrested. Second, the scene shifts to an interrogation before Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest. While Jesus was interrogated, Peter was denying his relationship to Jesus. The third scene is the most extensive and is Jesus’ trial before Pilate. John does not describe the trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin; instead, he focuses our attention on the trial before Pilate. The fourth and final scene describes Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. Jesus was lifted up to accomplish the purpose for which he came into the world. John depicts the Scriptures being fulfilled in meticulous detail as Jesus hung on the cross. And what we must remember is that all of the events that we have been discussing, going all the way back to chapter 13, take place over a single 24 hour period. And today we are going to be dealing with the first scene in John’s passion story of Jesus, which is Jesus’ arrest.
When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.
Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.—18:1-7
Jesus led the disciples east across the Kidron Valley to the western slope of the Mount of Olives. The Kidron Valley is a riverbed lying between the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem. The garden was a place where Jesus regularly went to pray. Judas, aware of this, knew where to find Jesus. John escalates the drama of the arrest by his description of the forces arrayed against Jesus. The whole array of Jesus’ enemies—Gentile and Jewish—confronted him. Jesus demonstrated tremendous bravery by stepping forward and initiating the confrontation. His question was an attempt to make sure they focused on him and not his disciples. Even in this dark moment Jesus demonstrated himself to be the good shepherd protecting his sheep. John portrays Jesus as being in complete control of the situation. His enemies fell to the ground as he identified himself. It seems improbable that they were merely startled and tumbled over another in a domino effect; instead, John makes it clear that they drew back and fell to the ground. Something dramatic and dynamic happened when Jesus identified himself using the divine name (“I am he”). In all the commotion taking place, Jesus continued to protect his disciples.
Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”—18:8-11
Jesus demanded that his disciples be permitted to leave. As the good shepherd, he stood between his disciples and their enemies, offering himself in their place. His actions fulfilled his earlier promise that he would not lose one of his disciples. Then Peter drew his sword and cut off Malchus’s right ear. Jesus rebuked Peter. Jesus’ words, even in this moment, reveal his intention to accomplish his mission. Jesus would allow nothing to stop him from drinking the cup of God’s wrath as he bore the punishment for the world’s sin.
Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.—18:12-14
John’s Gospel is the only Gospel to describe Jesus being taken to the home of Annas for a preliminary interrogation. Annas was a former high priest and the father-in-law of Caiaphas. Bringing Jesus to Annas first may have been a way for Caiaphas to show deference to his father-in-law, or it may have allowed Caiaphas time to gather together the Sanhedrin for a nighttime and highly illegal trial. In the following verses (vv. 12-27), John alternates between the events inside Annas’s home and those outside in the courtyard. The alternating focus from Annas and Jesus to Peter and his interrogators highlights the vast difference between Jesus and Peter. While Jesus confessed his true identity before his enemies, Peter denied his relationship to Jesus before Jesus’ enemies. And we will pick up with that train of thought tomorrow as we move into the second scene in John’s passion story of Jesus.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
2 Kings 3:1-4:17, Acts 14:8-28, Psalm 140:1-13 and Proverbs 17:22
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