30. Jesus' Arrest and Trial (John 18:1-19:16)

Audio (55:45)
Hans Holbein (the younger), detail of ‘The Passion’ Altarpiece (1524-25), oil on limewood, Kunstmuseum, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel, Switzerland.
Hans Holbein (the younger), detail of 'The Passion' Altarpiece (1524-25), oil on limewood, Kunstmuseum, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel, Switzerland.

In John's Gospel we move from Jesus' High Priestly Prayer directly to the Garden of Gethsemane. You'll observe some different emphases between John's Gospel and the Synoptics regarding Jesus' trails, crucifixion, and resurrection. For example, we see that John has truncated his account of Jesus' various trials to suit his purpose. We'll only give the differences a passing mention in these lessons.[723]

As you read John's account, you'll become aware that none of these events take Jesus by surprise. He knows what will happen. Though he is the one arrested, tried, and ultimately crucified, he is no martyr. He is clearly in charge. Earlier, Jesus had said:

"The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life -- only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." (10:17-18)

I beg your indulgence, for in this lesson I spend considerable time explaining each detail of John's account so that we can understand the crass injustice, gross brutality, and deep humiliation that Jesus endured for us.

Betrayal in Gethsemane (18:1-3)

Exactly where Jesus completed his Farewell Discourses and High Priestly Prayer isn't certain from Jesus' earlier words, "Come now, let us leave" (14:31b), during his Farewell Discourses. They must have taken place in the city -- perhaps the Upper Room, since 18:1 has Jesus "going out" with his disciples, crossing the Kidron brook, and arriving on the slope of the Mount of Olives.

"When he had finished praying, Jesus left[724] with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it." (18:1)


Location of the Garden of Gethsemane east of Jerusalem.
Location of the Garden of Gethsemane east of Jerusalem.

On the slopes of the Mount of Olives is an "olive grove" or "garden"[725], which is referred to in Matthew and Mark as Gethsemane (Hebrew for "olive press"). It may have been a walled garden, since Jesus and his disciples are said to go into it (verse 1) and out of it (verse 4). Luke tells us that during Holy Week, Jesus and his disciples have repeatedly spent the night[726] on the Mount of Olives (Luke 21:37; 22:39).

Because the location and times were predictable and free of crowds, this is the spot Judas chose to betray Jesus.

"2  Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met[727] there with his disciples. 3  So Judas came to the grove[728], guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons." (18:2-3)

This detachment of soldiers appears to be Roman, due to the Roman military technical terms used in the text to refer to the detachment (speira[729]) and its commander (chiliarchos, 18:12). They were accompanied by "officials from the chief priests and Pharisees." The officials included temple guards (hypēretēs[730]) who had been sent to arrest Jesus earlier -- and failed (7:32, 45-46).

While the Synoptics speak of an armed "crowd" (Matthew 26:47), John's details indicate that Roman soldiers were present also. Due to the throngs of people in Jerusalem during Passover, the Romans transferred auxiliary troops (usually garrisoned in Caesarea) to the Fortress of Antonia adjacent to the Temple. They were there to prevent mob riots and incipient rebellion at this volatile festival. Apparently, the Romans had been asked to send some soldiers to assist in this arrest to insure overwhelming odds. Starting a riot or a fight with Jesus' disciples wouldn't have served the chief priests' purposes. But, even though Roman soldiers were present, the arrest was clearly made by the chief priests' officers, since Jesus was taken to the high priest's residence (19:12), not a Roman facility.

James J. Tissot, ‘The Guards Falling Backwards’ (1884-1896), gouache on grey wove paper, 7-13/16 x 10-3/8 in,  Brooklyn Museum, New York.
James J. Tissot, 'The Guards Falling Backwards' (1884-1896), gouache on grey wove paper, 7-13/16 x 10-3/8 in,  Brooklyn Museum, New York.

Jesus is no victim. Instead of slipping away as he had done on previous occasions when it wasn't his time (7:30; 8:59; 10:39; Luke 4:29-30), Jesus "went out" and confronted the soldiers and temple officers.

"4  Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, 'Who is it you want?'
5  'Jesus of Nazareth,' they replied.
'I am he,' Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor[731] was standing there with them.) 6  When Jesus said, 'I am he,' they drew back and fell to the ground." (18:4-6)

Notice Jesus' reply to those who demand Jesus of Nazareth: literally, "I am" (egō eimi), words that reflect Yahweh's self-revelation as the Great "I AM." (For more on this, see Appendix 4. The "I Am" Passages in John's Gospel.) The effect on those who come to arrest him is remarkable -- and two-fold: They

  1. Drew back, physically retreated,[732] and
  2. Fell to the ground.[733]

Some scholars have tried to find natural explanations for the soldiers falling down. Since those in front backed up into them, they suggest, it caused row after row of soldiers to fall down. If that were the case, John would have ignored this detail. But he shares it so that we might see the awesome Shekinah glory of God upon Jesus.

How do we explain this falling incident? In the Bible, people fall when the Holy Spirit or the power of God comes upon them (Numbers 11:25-26; 1 Samuel 10:11; 19:20-24; 1 Kings 8:10-11; 2 Chronicles 5:14; Matthew 28:4; Acts 9:3). This incident in the Garden of Gethsemane should probably be understood in this category. Pentecostals and Charismatics sometimes observe a phenomenon they refer to as "being slain in the Spirit" or "falling under the power." Clearly, the soldiers are overwhelmed by the presence of God.

"7  Again he asked them, 'Who is it you want?' And they said, 'Jesus of Nazareth.' 8  'I told you that I am he,' Jesus answered. 'If you are looking for me, then let these men go.[734]' 9  This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: 'I have not lost one of those you gave me.'" (18:7-9)

Jesus' promise to protect his disciples (6:39) is primarily spiritual, but his requesting that they be let go is symbolic of that care.

Peter Cuts Off the High Priest's Servant's Ear (18:10-11)

Luke's Gospel tells us that as part of the Upper Room discourse, Jesus had instructed his disciples to now carry more on their mission trips than he had previously allowed them. He encouraged them to take a purse, a bag, "and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one" (Luke 22:36). The disciples then produced two swords, one of which was in Peter's possession. John explains:

"10  Then Simon Peter, who had a sword[735], drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.[736]) 11  Jesus commanded Peter, 'Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?'" (18:10-11)

Jesus rebukes Peter, and, Luke tells us, "touched the man's ear and healed him" (Luke 22:51). He actually performs a miracle before the arresting officers and they arrest him anyway!

Jesus doesn't need to be defended -- he has legions of angels at his beck and call (Matthew 26:53). Peter's defense, heroic though it is in the face of overwhelming force, is intended to prevent Jesus from "drinking the cup" that the Father has given him, that is, the destiny or mission that he has fully accepted from his Father earlier that night after agonizing in the Garden -- "Not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). Throughout  John's Gospel we've seen references leading up to this "hour," this destiny. Jesus will not be denied his glory and the Father's plan of salvation by Peter's clumsy swordplay.

Q1. (John 18:1-11) What do you think caused the soldiers to fall back in the Garden (18:6)? Why does John tell us this detail? Why does Jesus rebuke Peter for defending him with a sword (18:11)? Jesus is facing forces sent by hell. Why doesn't he resist?

Arrested and Brought to Annas (18:12-14)

Gerrrit van Honthorst, ‘Christ before the High Priest Annas’ (c. 1617), National Gallery, London.
Gerrrit van Honthorst, 'Christ before the High Priest Annas' (c. 1617), National Gallery, London.

"12  Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander[737] and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13  and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14  Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people." (18:12-14)

Modern-day readers are surprised that Jesus isn't brought before the ruling high priest rather than his father-in-law. But that's because we don't understand the intricacies of Jewish history and the politics of this period.

Annas had been appointed high priest in 7 AD by Quirinius, governor of Syria, and deposed by Valerius Gratus in 15 AD. But though he no longer had official power, he still commanded great influence as the patriarch of his family. Annas belonged to the Sadducean aristocracy, and, like others of that class, he seems to have been arrogant, astute, ambitious, and enormously wealthy.

His influence with Rome and power behind the scenes of Judaism are demonstrated by the fact that, over several decades, Annas saw to it that five sons and one son-in-law were appointed high priest. Annas wielded the power of high priest during this period; Caiaphas merely held the title and served as chairman of the Sanhedrin. So the soldiers bound Jesus and brought him first before Annas.

Peter's First Betrayal  (18:15-18)

"15  Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest's courtyard, 16  but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there[738] and brought Peter in." (18:15-16)

Exactly what courtyard[739] Peter and the other disciple enter isn't certain. Do Annas and Caiaphas live in the same palace? How far is it from there to the meeting place of the Sanhedrin in the temple, presumably where the trial takes place later? We're not sure. But the meeting with Annas couldn't have been in the temple grounds, since a servant girl[740] is the doorkeeper here, not a Levite.

It is clear that Peter and the "other disciple" gain entrance into the courtyard because the "other disciple" is "known to the high priest."[741] To gain immediate entry means that the "other disciple" was recognized on sight and admitted without question. Who is this "other disciple"? Though he isn't named, some believe that this is John, the Beloved Disciple, though we can't be sure.[742]

Immediately, the girl at the door questions Peter.

"17  'You are not one of his disciples, are you?' the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, 'I am not.' 18  It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself." (18:17-18)

John describes the scene with Peter standing around in the same vicinity as the "officers" (hypēretēs), a brave but foolish place to hang out, as we see in verse 26.

Annas Questions Jesus (18:19-24)

Inside, Annas is interrogating Jesus.

"19  Meanwhile, the high priest questioned[743] Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
20  'I have spoken openly to the world,' Jesus replied. 'I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21  Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.'" (18:19-21)

Annas has two questions. First, about Jesus' disciples. How many were there? Were they likely to resist or rebel at Jesus' arrest? And, second, about the content of Jesus' teaching. Jesus assures Annas that what he said to his disciples privately[744] is the same thing that he taught publically.

Then Jesus questions Annas. Why is Annas interrogating the accused? According to Jewish law, an accusation must be substantiated by credible witnesses, not by questioning the accused.[745] True, this seems to be an informal interrogation, not a trial. But for this "impertinence" Jesus is slapped in the face.

"22  When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face.[746] 'Is this the way you answer the high priest?' he demanded.
23  'If I said something wrong,' Jesus replied, 'testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?'" (18:22-23)

Jesus refuses to be intimidated. He defends his statement and calls on the official to "testify," that is, to "furnish proof"[747] that Jesus said something improper. Jesus demands to be treated according to Jewish law.

Annas apparently concludes that he won't get any more out of Jesus, and sends him on.

"Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest." (18:24)

Where Jesus was sent isn't clear. As mentioned, Caiaphas, the reigning high priest, may have lived in the same palace as Annas, and this seems to be where Peter's denials took place.

But the Synoptics indicate that soon, "when day came" (Luke 22:66), Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin, usually which met in the temple, with Caiaphas as moderator of the assembly. Many have questioned the legality of these proceedings, but John doesn't linger here.[748]

Peter's Second and Third Denials (18:25-27)

Instead, he relates Peter's second and third denials.

"25  As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, 'You are not one of his disciples, are you?' He denied[749] it, saying, 'I am not.' 26  One of the high priest's servants, a relative[750] of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, 'Didn't I see you with him in the olive grove?' 27  Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow." (18:25-27)

Why is Peter there in the high priest's courtyard? Clearly this is an act of bravery, to be right in the enemy's camp and in danger of being recognized. Perhaps he is there to observe what is happening and help Jesus if he sees an opportunity. Perhaps he sees himself as a spy who is operating incognito, unwilling to disclose his true identity so he retains freedom to act later. We don't know.

However, we do know that at the cock's crow, "the Lord turned and looked at Peter" (Luke 22:61) and that Peter "went out and wept bitterly" (Luke 22:62). Peter is crushed as he realizes the depth to which he has fallen. He hasn't been a spy, but a traitor. Perhaps he remembers Jesus' words:

"I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men,
the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.
But he who disowns me before men
will be disowned before the angels of God." (Luke 12:8-9)

John, however, tells us how Peter was later reinstated by Jesus in spite of his sin (21:15-17)  -- a big encouragement to those of us who have sinned against Jesus.

Q2. (John 18:17-18, 25-27) What have been Peter's acts of courage at the arrest and in the high priest's courtyard? Why do you think he ends up denying Jesus? How would you rebuke Peter according to Galatians 6:1b? Has your courage failed lately? What should you do about it?

Jesus Taken to Pilate's Palace (18:28)

John skips Jesus' early-morning trial before the Sanhedrin that is detailed in the Synoptics, probably because he knows his readers are familiar with that part of the story. Rather, he spends more time giving unique material about Jesus' trial before Pilate that isn't contained in the Synoptics.

"28  Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness[751] the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover." (18:28)

It was still very early.[752] The Jews knew that to get Jesus crucified that day, they would have to work fast, since many Roman officials began the day very early in the morning and finished by 10 or 11 am.[753]

For strict Jews, to enter the house of a Gentile would mean incurring ritual defilement that would require waiting and washing themselves, perhaps for several days, depending upon the type of defilement. It is deeply ironic that these Jewish leaders are concerned about ritual defilement and Passover, but not the guilt of seeking the execution of the true Passover Lamb.

The reference to wanting to "eat the Passover" raises again the question of what day Jesus' trial took place -- the day after Passover or on Passover itself. Here, it is likely that John is using "Passover" to refer to the entire festival, not just the actual Day of Passover.[754] For more on this problem, see Appendix 7. The Chronology of Holy Week in John's Gospel.

The next question this verse raises is Pilate's location while in Jerusalem. Praitōrion refers to the governor's official residence.[755] The governor's normal residence was in the Roman provincial capital of Caesarea, on the coast. However, Pilate would come to Jerusalem several times a year, especially when there was a threat of an uprising from the crowds that filled the city at feasts such as at Passover.

Location of the Praetorium, Jerusalem at the time of Jesus.
Location of the Praetorium, Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. Larger map.

Where did Pilate stay when in Jerusalem? The traditional location of the praetorium is the Fortress of Antonia on the East Hill of the city, a Hasmonean castle that was refurbished by Herod the Great in 37-35 BC and used as his palace for twelve years. It now housed a garrison of Roman troops that, since the fortress was directly adjacent to the temple, could easily quell any disturbances that might take place in the temple.

However, it is likely that, when in Jerusalem, Pilate took up residence in the more sumptuous Herod's Palace, on the West Hill, dominating the whole city. This more grandiose structure had been built by Herod the Great and became his palace in 23 BC.[756]

The Jewish Leaders Accuse Jesus (18:29-32)

Pilate accommodates Jewish scruples here. Since they won't enter his palace for fear of defilement, he will come out to them. While it might appear that Pilate has all the power of Rome behind him, to do his job (and remain in power), he must accommodate himself to the local leaders and they to him. It is a delicate balance that neither he nor the Jewish rulers (11:48) want to upset.

"29  So Pilate came out to them and asked, 'What charges[757] are you bringing against this man?'
30  'If he were not a criminal,' they replied, 'we would not have handed him over to you.'" (18:29-30)

According to procedure, Pilate asks the Jewish leaders for the formal charge against the prisoner. While John doesn't repeat the charge, it is clear as the narrative unfolds that Jesus is being accused of claiming to be king of the Jews (18:33; 19:12, 14-15, 19). Luke records the charge:

"We have found this man subverting[758] our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.... He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place." (Luke 23:2, 5)

  Though the Jewish leaders have condemned Jesus for a theological reason -- blasphemy (19:7) -- their charge in a Roman court must be political. So they accuse Jesus of being a revolutionary who is stirring up the populace to rebel against Rome -- a dangerous man who is a threat to Roman sovereignty.

None of this is new to Pilate. Earlier, the chief priests had requested a contingent of soldiers from Pilate to arrest Jesus (18:3), so they must have made an accusation at that time to warrant their request. But at his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus hadn't acted like a rebel, and that too must have come to Pilate's ears.

The Jewish leaders seek to justify their charge:

"'If he were not a criminal,' they replied, 'we would not have handed him over to you.'" (18:30)

They charge him with being a "criminal" (NIV, NRSV), "doing evil" (ESV), "malefactor" (KJV). The word is kakopoios, from kakos, "bad, evil" + poieō, "to do."[759] It is ironic how, over the centuries, Christ's followers who seek to do good are accused of evil by the evil-doers they put to shame by their good deeds!

Pilate isn't convinced by the Jewish leaders' protestations.

"31  Pilate said, 'Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.'
'But we have no right to execute[760] anyone,' the Jews objected. 32  This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled." (18:31-32)

Pilate has dealt with these leaders before. They are trying to manipulate him to do their bidding, to accomplish their purposes, so Pilate throws it back at them: "Judge him by your own law. Don't bother me with trivialities!" He is taunting them with their powerlessness.

Roman policy was to let local courts and customs deal with most civil and criminal matters, except those that threatened Roman interests. However, in 6 AD the right to inflict capital punishment had been withdrawn from the Jews and given to the governor exclusively -- except for punishment of pagans who enter into the holy temple.[761] Nevertheless, mob actions, such as the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58) sometimes occurred.

And so the true reason they have brought him to Pilate comes out -- they want nothing less than the death penalty, and can't inflict it without Pilate's cooperation! Moreover, the Jews want Jesus crucified so that he and his followers will be utterly disgraced according to the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 2:23). But John tells us that crucifixion was necessary to fulfill Jesus own words (verse 32):

"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up." (3:14)

"'But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.' He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die." (12:32-33)

"We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!" (Matthew 20:18-19)

Pilate Interrogates Jesus (18:33-35)

Pilate knows he cannot dismiss the Jewish leaders' demand so easily, so he leaves them to interrogate Jesus privately.

"33  Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned[762] Jesus and asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?'
34  'Is that your own idea[763],' Jesus asked, 'or did others talk to you about me?'" (18:33-34)

How Jesus will answer Pilate's question depends on whether Pilate has a personal interest or is just dealing with the chief priests' accusations. Pilate's answer indicates that it is the latter.

"'Am I a Jew?' Pilate replied. 'It was your people[764] and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?[765]'" (18:35)

Pilate is trying to cut through the politics of all this. "What have you done to get the high priests so mad at you?" he is asking.

My Kingdom Is Not of this World (18:36-37a)

Now Jesus replies to Pilate's first question, about whether he is the king of the Jews.

"36  Jesus said, 'My kingdom[766] is not of this world. If it were, my servants[767] would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.'
37  'You are a king, then!' said Pilate.
Jesus answered, 'You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify[768] to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth[769] listens[770] to me[771].'
38  'What is truth?' Pilate asked." (18:36-38a)

To the Jews' accusation that he is a dangerous rebel who claims to be king of the Jews, Jesus acknowledges his kingship. First he describes his kingdom negatively: that he is not a political king. A political king's followers would have defended him from arrest and put up armed resistance. Jesus, a rebel? He even healed an ear severed in violence by one of his misguided disciples! No, he is not a rebel king, a threat to Rome.

Jesus explains: "But now my kingdom is from another place" (18:36b) -- literally, "not from here" (NRSV). It doesn't arise from the world.

Pilate wants to follow up. Clearly, Jesus is acknowledging some kind of kingship. Pilate observes, "You are a king, then!"

Jesus' answer is difficult to translate into English with clarity:

"You are right in saying I am a king" (NIV)
"You say that I am a king" (literal: NRSV, ESV, KJV)

Jesus isn't denying his kingship, but he is saying something like "'King' is your word, not mine."[772] So, even though Jesus' statement is reluctant or leads to circumlocution, it is unambiguously affirmative, as is rendered by the NIV. In the Synoptics we see a similar answer:

"You say so." (Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; NRSV, KJV)

Jesus doesn't deny, but affirms Pilate's words in a qualified manner, meaning something like, "Yes, but those aren't the words I would have chosen."

Q3. (John 18:29-35) What do you think the Jewish leaders charged Jesus with before Pilate? If true, why would that be taken seriously by the Romans? What kind of king does Jesus say he is? Where is the source of his kingship, according to Jesus? What is the danger to our gospel message when we politicize Christian causes?

King of Truth (18:37b-38a)

Now Jesus explains in positive terms what his kingship entails -- a king who testifies to the truth he has personally seen in his Father's House.

37  'You are a king, then!' said Pilate.
Jesus answered, 'You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.'
38  'What is truth?' Pilate asked." (18:37-38a)

John brings together in verse 37b two themes that have been interwoven throughout John's Gospel:

1. Testifying, bearing witness. The verb is martyreō, which we have seen many times[773]: "to confirm or attest something on the basis of personal knowledge or belief, bear witness, be a witness."[774]

2. Truth. The noun is alētheia, "the content of what is true, truth" as opposed to falsehood, then "an actual event or state, reality."[775] Throughout John we see references to truth and the divine reality that Jesus reveals directly from the Father.[776] Beyond that, Jesus constantly talks of the "true" (alēthinos) or genuine  item, the thing that exhibits reality and is not a half-truth or a lie.[777] Often, Jesus prefaces his solemn statements with the phrase, "Truly, truly (amēn amēn[778]) I say to you."[779]

So when Jesus says to Pilate, "I came into the world to testify to the truth" (18:37), he is not saying idle words. Throughout his ministry he has been pointing to the Father's truth, the Father's reality. But sadly, his testimony has been largely ignored. To Nicodemus he said sadly:

"I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony." (3:11)

To Pilate, Jesus gives the same bold challenge concerning the truth he represents and teaches -- truth directly from the Father!

"37d Everyone on the side of truth listens[780] to me[781].'
38  'What is truth?' Pilate asked." (18:37d-38a)

Pilate, if you were "on the side of truth" (NIV), that is, "of the truth" (ESV, KJV), then you would listen to my words, and like my sheep, "hear my voice" and "follow me" (10:27). But because Pilate is "of the world," he doesn't care about the search for truth. Like so many in our world today,

"The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:4, ESV)

Pilate is a politician, all about power, caught up with the values of this world system. Later, about him and all the rest of us, John writes:

"If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world -- the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does -- comes not from the Father but from the world." (1 John 2:15b-16)

Pilate is blind, cynical, and clueless. Jesus speaks to him passionately of truth, and Pilate questions coldly, "What is truth?" To him, everything is relative. When truth is constantly sacrificed on the altar of expediency, one's conscience is seared, deadened. Pilate has the only True One looking him in the eye -- the Son of God himself -- and Pilate can neither perceive this nor care. How very sad!

Q4. (John 18:37-38) Jesus presents himself as the King of Truth, with a mission to testify to the truth. What is the danger when we disciples declare the gospel is absolutely true? How do cynics like Pilate or people in our post-modern age react? If people reject the truth we bring, what is the next step for us?

Release Barabbas! (18:38b-40)

As Roman procurator, Pilate is committed to justice, which would require him to release Jesus. But as a politician, he is committed to keeping the peace -- and his job! Rome expects him to keep his province peaceful, to diffuse dissent that could become ugly, and, if necessary, to put down rebellion ruthlessly.[782]

Pilate sees a possible solution designed to secure Jesus' release -- and shift blame from himself. The plan is to induce the people to release Jesus in the traditional holiday prisoner release. Pilate introduces Jesus as "the king of the Jews" to appeal to the crowd's nationalism.

"38b With this he went out again to the Jews and said, 'I find no basis for a charge against him. 39  But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release "the king of the Jews"?'
40  They shouted back, 'No, not him! Give us Barabbas!' Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion." (18:38b-40)

We don't know much about this local custom of releasing a prisoner at Passover; it is mentioned only in the New Testament Gospels. But it sounds like a way for Rome to garner some goodwill at a time when so many Jews are gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast.

Pilate's plan backfires, however. The Jewish leaders have salted the crowd with their own supporters, so that Pilate's condescending "king of the Jews" phrase doesn't have its desired effect. Instead, the crowd insists on the release of Barabbas, a true revolutionary.

Barabbas's name could mean "son of the father" or perhaps "son of the teacher, the Rabbi." He was a real criminal. John describes him with the noun lēstēs, the word for "robber, highwayman, bandit" or a "revolutionary, insurrectionist, guerrilla."[783] He is a "notorious[784] prisoner" (Matthew 27:16) who has participated in a recent uprising[785]  in Jerusalem (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19), and, in the process, has committed murder (Luke 23:19; Acts 3:14). He is exactly the opposite kind of person that Pilate wants to release back into the population. Barabbas is a troublemaker, a threat, an enemy of Rome. Clearly, the Jewish authorities are trying to flaunt their power over Pilate in demanding Barabbas -- and, they wanted to force Pilate to execute Jesus.

Jesus Is Flogged (19:1)

"Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged[786]." (19:1)

Pilate now tries Plan B to release Jesus -- to gain sympathy for Jesus with the crowd by flogging and humiliating him. Pilate plans to punish Jesus severely to mollify the Jewish leaders, and then let him go in the interests of justice (Luke 23:13-16). He hopes that the Jews will have mercy on one of their own, especially one who is represented as "the king of Jews," when they see the results of flogging, and recognize that their own nation and people are being punished in the person of this "king." At least, that's a positive take on Pilate's reason for the flogging.[787]

In the ancient world, flogging was common -- and brutal.[788] If there was ever a "norm" for the barbaric practice of crucifixion among the Romans -- and practices varied widely in the first century -- it usually began with a flogging using a scourge tipped with glass or metal (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15). Some men were flayed to the bone. In others the flogging was so severe that it bit down to deep veins and arteries, even disemboweling the victim.[789] Flogging killed some men outright, before their crucifixion could be carried out.[790] We know that Jesus received a very severe flogging prior to his crucifixion, making it difficult for him to carry his cross and greatly hastening his death.

Jesus Is Mocked (19:2-3)

After the scourging came the mocking, also inside the praetorium (19:4). The Roman soldiers have no love for the Jews, whom they count as enemies. They take this opportunity to show their hatred for the Jews by pouring ridicule on their "king."

"2  The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3  and went up to him again and again, saying, 'Hail, king of the Jews!' And they struck him in the face." (19:2-3)

We see four kinds of abuse of the Son of God that followed the scourging: (1) a crown of thorns, (2) a robe to dress him as a king and mock him and all the Jews, (3) insults, and (4) blows.

The crown of thorns is probably designed to mimic the laurel or oak-leaf plaited crowns awarded to victors in a contest, or worn by honored individuals and Roman emperors. It may have been woven from the common thornbush Poterium spinosium, or perhaps acanthus.[791]  This crown isn't meant to honor Jesus but to mock him and the Jews he represents, and to inflict scalp wounds that will bleed profusely.

The purple robe[792] is the chlamys or the red military cloak or mantle worn by Roman soldiers (Matthew 27:28).[793] The costume includes a staff in his right hand to indicate a scepter (Matthew 27:29).

The mocking involves the soldiers repeatedly[794] calling to him (sometimes kneeling, Matthew 27:29), saying, "Hail, king of the Jews." The irony of the situation is that Jesus is the King of the Jews, and not only the Jews, but King of all kings and Lord of all lords. He is King of the Universe, but in their racial bigotry and cruelty the Roman soldiers cannot perceive it.[795]

The striking involves blows to the face[796] (19:3). Matthew and Mark tell us they also spat on him and struck[797] his head with a stalk or staff.[798] Each blow would drive the crown of thorns deeper into his scalp.

This abuse reminds me of Isaiah's prophecy of what would happen to the Suffering Servant:

"He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows,
and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised,
and we esteemed him not....
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:2, 5)

Why does Jesus allow this to happen to him? The brutality, the mocking? I think of the writer of Hebrews, who calls us to perseverance in the face of persecution:

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:2-3)

Jesus is determined to complete the task the Father gave him, to redeem the world by taking our sins upon him on the cross!

Crucify Him! (19:4-6)

Jesus is now a bloody mess, still dressed in the filthy robe over his lacerated back, with blood streaming down his face from the crown of thorns. Pilate seems to be hoping that this punishment will be considered sufficient to satisfy the Jewish leaders. He is wrong.

"4  Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, 'Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.' 5  When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, 'Here is the man!'
6  As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, 'Crucify! Crucify!'" (19:4-6a)

Pilate again declares Jesus innocent of fomenting a rebellion with himself as king. Pilate points to Jesus, parodied as king as the soldiers have dressed him, and declares, "Here is the man!" (NIV, NRSV) or "Behold, the man!" (ESV, KJV), Latin, ecce homo. Pilate could have meant, "Look at the poor fellow," or perhaps, "See how ridiculous your claim is that he is the king of the Jews." But likely, John intends the reader to see this as a reference to Jesus as the Man, recalling his self-designation, Son of Man. Paul develops the idea of Jesus as the archetypical Man, the Last or Second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Romans 5:15).

"There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all...." (1 Timothy 2:5-6a)

"The chief priests and their officials" shout "Crucify! Crucify!" and others, following them, take up the shout. Pilate fears that the scene might degenerate into a riot.

"But Pilate answered, 'You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.'" (19:6b)

Pilate continues to maintain Jesus' innocence. His statement, "You take him and crucify him," is a jab at the Jews' impotence; Pilate has no intention of letting the Jews undertake a crucifixion; that is the exclusively Roman punishment.

Q5. (John 19:1-6) Why do you think Pilate maintains Jesus' innocence and then has him brutally scourged? Why does Jesus allow himself to be brutally scourged and then mocked? (see Hebrews 12:2) How much persecution are you willing to endure to accomplish the mission the Father has given you?

He Claims to be the Son of God (19:7-11)

Now the Jewish leaders introduce the real reason they want Jesus crucified. It is not political ("king of the Jews") like their first charge; it is theological ("Son of God").

"The Jews insisted, 'We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.'" (19:7)

The term "son of God" in the Old Testament is sometimes used to describe angelic beings and Israel's kings (2 Samuel 7:14-16; Psalm 89:24, 28-37). The king is God's agent who exercises God's authority on earth. The title "Son of God" does not seem to be a common title for the Messiah in intertestamental Judaism.[799] But in the Gospels we see the term used in tandem with Messianic terms in the mouths of Nathanael (1:49),  Martha (11:27), Peter (Matthew 16:16), and the high priest (Matthew 26:63). In John's Gospel, the term "Son of God" is often used in the sense of divine Sonship, the Son who was preexistent with the Father.[800] This kind of equality with God is what the Jews (rightly) accused him of (5:18), and on this occasion, are accusing him before Pilate (19:7).

However, in Pilate's ears, the term "Son of God" is alarming. Greek and Roman mythologies had many divine beings that went around as men. Pilate is now afraid that he has offended a god. He withdraws and continues to interrogate the bloody Jesus.

"8  When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9  and he went back inside the palace. 'Where do you come from?' he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.
10  'Do you refuse to speak to me?' Pilate said. 'Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?'
11  Jesus answered, 'You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.'" (19:7-11)

Jesus refuses to answer further questions about where he comes from, fulfilling a theme emphasized in the Synoptic Gospels[801] in fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy of the Suffering Servant:

"He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth." (Isaiah 53:7)

Pilate is mystified. Why isn't Jesus pleading for mercy from the only one who can save him from crucifixion -- the Roman governor? Jesus breaks his silence to remind this proud man of the real source of his power -- God!

"You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." (19:11)

Isn't Pilate guilty of sin in ultimately crucifying Jesus? Yes. He is blind, arrogant, and self-serving. But at least he sees Jesus as innocent of the charges made against him and seeks several ways to release him. The Jewish leaders are clearly more to blame, since they have seen and heard of Jesus' miracles and yet seek to kill him.

Jesus is the bloodied prisoner, yet he is comforting the heathen governor and talking to him about his lesser sin. Amazing!

The Jewish Leaders Threaten Pilate with Reporting Him to the Emperor (19:12)

Pilate doesn't know what to say. He continues to try to set Jesus free. But when the Jewish leaders threaten to report Pilate to Caesar for being lenient with a self-proclaimed king, Pilate's will buckles.

"From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, 'If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.'" (19:12)

The term "friend of Caesar" refers to a loyal supporter of Rome. The Jews threaten to contact the notoriously suspicious Emperor Tiberius with the claim that Pilate doesn't suppress treason, and allows to live a person who claims to be a king in opposition to Caesar's reign. Since the Jews had communicated to the emperor their displeasure with him previously, Pilate knows that this is not an idle threat.

In the writings of first century Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo, we find a description of Pilate's potential problems with Rome. Regarding a different occasion, Philo, writes,

"[Pilate] feared that if they actually sent an embassy, they would also expose the rest of his conduct as governor by stating in full the briberies, the insults, the outrages and wanton injuries, the executions without trial constantly repeated, the ceaseless and supremely grievous cruelty."[802]  

Even though Philo has likely overstated this, it is clear that Pilate doesn't want an investigation into the conduct of his governorship. Pilate capitulates.

To illustrate Pilate's precarious position, we learn that in AD 37, Tiberius orders Pilate back to Rome after he harshly suppresses a Samaritan uprising. Pilate is replaced by Marcellus.[803]

Pilate Takes the Judge's Seat (19:13-14a)

Pilate's mind is made up. So long as he can defend an innocent man without being in personal danger, he is willing to. But now the Jewish leaders' threats hit home.

"13  When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge's seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14  It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.
'Here is your king,' Pilate said to the Jews.
15  But they shouted, 'Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!'" (19:13-15)

"Judge's seat/bench" (NIV, NRSV), "judgment seat" (ESV, KJV) is bēma, "a dais or platform that required steps to ascend, tribunal," a platform on which the governor sat with his clerks and advisors.[804] The word has the special meaning,  "judicial bench."[805]

This place of judgment was at a location known at the time as the "Stone Pavement," an area "paved with blocks of stone, stone pavement or mosaic."[806] Gabbatha, the Aramaic name for this place, means "height" or "raised place," perhaps because Herod's Palace was built on bedrock on the highest hill in Jerusalem.[807]

John gives the time of the sentence as "about the sixth hour," which would be, measuring the hours from sunrise to sundown, about noon. This is an apparent discrepancy with Mark's report that Jesus was crucified at "the third hour" (about 9 am; Mark 15:25). There have been various approaches to resolve the problem, none completely convincing.[808] Morris concludes,

"In neither Mark nor John is the hour to be regarded as more than an approximation. People in antiquity did not have clocks or watches, and the reckoning of time was always very approximate."[809]

The reference to the day of Preparation is ambiguous. I take it to mean the preparation for Sabbath on Friday night, a special Sabbath since it fell during the Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread. See Appendix 7. The Chronology of Holy Week in John's Gospel.

The Leaders Again Demand Jesus' Crucifixion (19:14b-16)

Now seated on the official place of judgment, Pilate presents Jesus, knowing what the result will be.

"14b 'Here is your king,' Pilate said to the Jews.
15  But they shouted, 'Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!'"
"'shall I crucify your king?' Pilate asked.
'We have no king but Caesar,' the chief priests answered.
16  Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus." (19:15b-16)

At the end, Pilate wins from the chief priests a hypocritical confession, "We have no king but Caesar," but it is hollow and everyone knows it. What is sad and ironic is that the chief priests reject the true King of Israel and claim a false pagan to be king over them.

Pilate "handed him over,"[810] that is, conceded to their wishes. He gives the order for Jesus to be crucified, and the Roman soldiers take over from there.

Q6. (John 19:7-15) What does Pilate fear when the Jewish leaders report that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God? What does Pilate fear when the Jewish leaders threaten to report him to Caesar? Which fear wins out? What fears control you and keep you from serving Jesus fully? What motivation is winning out in your life?

Lessons for Disciples

John's Gospel: A Discipleship Journey with Jesus, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Entire study is available in paperback, Kindle, and PDF formats.

Many things are obvious about Jesus' arrest and trial. But here are some lessons for us disciples to ponder.

  1. Jesus is not the victim in this account. He is the master of the arrest in the Garden as well as of the conversation with Pilate. He willingly lays down his life for our sins.
  2. Peter has the courage to wield a sword at Jesus' arrest and be in the high priest's inner courtyard where there are people who may have seen him in the Garden. But his courage fails and he denies Jesus. I think the lesson for disciples is to realize our own weakness, and not rely on our own bluster for strength, but in humility rely on the Lord (18:17-18, 25-27).
  3. Jesus clearly comes with a spiritual kingdom, not a political kingdom. When we politicize Christian causes, we seriously confuse the world about what we stand for -- a spiritual message, rather than a temporal message (18:36-37).
  4. Jesus presents himself as the King of Truth, with a mission to testify to the truth. When cynics like Pilate and post-modern relativists hear this, they often deflect it with relativism. Even though we know this will happen we, like Jesus, must still testify to the truth. Some will listen (18:37-38).
  5. Jesus is scourged brutally and then mocked mercilessly as the King of the Jews, which he actually is! Jesus put up with this because he had a higher mission, to endure the cross (19:1-6).
  6. Pilate wants to avoid crucifying Jesus and tries several times to release him because he believes Jesus is unjustly charged.
  7. The Jewish leaders then try to manipulate Pilate with fear -- fear of punishing a Son of God, and the greater fear of being reported to Caesar for being soft on revolutionaries. Ultimately, the fear of losing his job wins out. We disciples should analyze our fears to make sure fear isn't controlling us rather than faith.


Father, it is heartbreaking to realize the mocking, brutal torture, and crass injustice that Jesus had to endure for us. He is King, yet no one can see it! We are not worthy of such a King who gives his all and suffers humiliation that we might be saved. Thank you for your amazing grace to us! In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"When Jesus said, 'I am he,' they drew back and fell to the ground." (John 18:6, NIV)

"Jesus commanded Peter, 'Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?'" (John 18:11, NIV)

"My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." (John 18:36, NIV)

"You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (John 18:37)

"You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." (John 19:11, NIV)

End Notes

[723] For more detail, see Appendix 10. Harmony between John and the Synoptic Gospels, and a full Introduction to the New Testament.

[724] Exerchomai, "to move out of or away from an area, go out, come out, go away, retire" (BDAG 347, 1aα Gimmel).

[725] "Olive grove" (NIV) or "garden" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is kēpos, "garden," here, 18:26 and 19:41 (BDAG 542).

[726] Aulizomai, "to have a temporary sleeping arrangement, spend the night." The word originally meant spending the night in the aulē,  in the open air, then also of temporary lodging, with context indicating whether outdoors ('bivouac') or indoors (BDAG 151, 1).

[727] "Met" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "resorted" (KJV) is synagō, passive, "be gathered or brought together" or "gather, come together, assemble" (BDAG 962, 1). We get our word "synagogue" from this verb.

[728] In Greek this is the adverb ekei, "there, in that place."

[729] "Detachment/band of soldiers" (NIV, NRSV, ESV) is speira, a military technical term, "cohort," the tenth part of a legion. The speira normally had 600 men, but the number varied (BDAG 936). To arrest Jesus, however, they probably took a much smaller detachment.

[730] "Officials" (NIV), "police" (NRSV), "officers" (ESV, KJV) is hypēretēs, here, and in verses 12, 22, and 19:6, frequently as technical term for a governmental or other official, "one who functions as a helper, frequently in a subordinate capacity, helper, assistant" (BDAG 1035).

[731] "Traitor" (NIV), "who betrayed him" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is paradidōmi, here, "hand over, turn over, give up a person" (as a technical term of police and courts 'hand over into [the] custody [of]') (BDAG 762, 1b).

[732] "Drew back" (NIV, ESV), "stepped back" (NRSV), "went backward" (KJV) is the verb aperchomai, "go," here, "draw back" a short distance (BDAG 102, 1b) and a prepositional phrase with the adverb opisō, "marker of a position in back of something, behind" (BDAG 716, 1aα).

[733] "Fell to the ground" is the verb piptō, "fall, fall to the ground, fall down (violently)" (BDAG 815, 1aαא); and the adverb chamai, "pertaining to location on the ground as objective of movement, "to/on the ground" (BDAG 1076, 2).

[734] "Let ... go" is the verb aphiēmi, "allow," and the infinitive of hypagō, "to leave someone's presence, go away" (BDAG 1028, 1).

[735] Peter's sword (machaira) was "a relatively short sword, dagger, or other sharp instrument (BDAG, 622, 1).

[736] Only John tells us the servant's name, Malchus, perhaps because of John's more intimate knowledge of the high priest's household. For a depiction of this scene, read my short story, "Malchus, the Slave Whose Ear Was Cut Off" (www.joyfulheart.com/easter/malchus.htm).

[737] "Commander" (NIV), "officer" (NRSV), "captain" (ESV, KJV)  is chiliarchos, literally, "leader of a thousand soldiers," then also = the Roman  "military tribune," the commander of a cohort, about 600 men, roughly equivalent to major or colonel (BDAG 1084).

[738] Thyrōros, "Doorkeeper, gatekeeper" (BDAG 462), in verses 16 and 17. Here the noun has a feminine article, indicating a female doorkeeper.

[739] "Courtyard" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "palace" (KJV) is aulē, "an area open to the sky, frequently surrounded by buildings, and in some cases partially by walls, enclosed open space, courtyard," though it could refer to a dwelling complex, "palace" (BDAG 150, 1 and 2b), though here it is obviously a courtyard, since the soldiers are warming themselves at a fire there.

[740] "Girl" (NIV), "woman" (NRSV), "servant girl" (ESV), "damsel" (KJV) is paidiskē, the diminutive of pais, "girl," in the New Testament, always of the slave class, "female slave" (BDAG 749).

[741] "Known" in verses 15 and 16 is the adjective gnōstos, with the dative case, "pertaining to being familiar or known: known," here, "acquaintance, friend, intimate" (BDAG 204, 1b).

[742] John's Gospel does seem to have insider knowledge concerning the high priest's dealings (11:49-52), the name of the high priest's servant (18:10), etc. There are late Christian writings that identify this person with John, but too late to have historical value. If the "other disciple" is John, son of Zebedee, how would a fisherman's family in Galilee personally know a wealthy Sadducee of a powerful family in Jerusalem? However, there is some indication John's family may have had priestly connections (Morris, John, p. 752, fn. 32). We can only speculate.

[743] "Questioned" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "asked" (KJV) is erōtaō, "to put a query to someone, ask, ask a question" (BDAG 395, 1).

[744] "Secret" is the adjective kryptos, "hidden, secret," here as a substantive, "a hidden place" (BDAG 670, 2b).

[745] Morris, John, p. 755.

[746] "Struck in/on the face" (NIV, NRSV), "struck with his hand" (ESV), "struck with the palm of his hand" (KJV) is two words, didōmi, "give" and rhapisma, "a blow on the face with someone's hand, a slap in the face" (BDAG 904, 2).

[747] "Testify" is martyreō. Here, "testify to the wrong" is the equivalent of "furnish proof" (BDAG 618, 1aα).

[748] To read my exposition of Luke's account of Jesus' trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin: "Before the Sanhedrin (Luke 22:63-71)," Lesson 102 of my JesusWalk: Discipleship Lessons from Luke's Gospel (JesusWalk, 2010). https://www.jesuswalk.com/lessons/22_63-71.htm

[749] "Denied" is arneomai, "to disclaim association with a pers. or event, deny, repudiate, disown someone" (verbally or nonverbally), here and at 13:38 and 8:27 (BDAG 132, 3b).

[750] "Relative" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "kinsman" (KJV) is syngenēs, "belonging to the same extended family or clan, related, akin to" (BDAG 950).

[751] "Ceremonial uncleanness" (NIV), "ritual defilement" (NRSV), "be defiled" (ESV, KJV) is the verb miainō, originally, "to stain," here, "to cause something to be ritually impure, stain, defile" (BDAG 650, 1).

[752] "Early morning" (NIV, ESV), "early" (KJV) is prōia, "early part of the daylight period, (early) morning" (BDAG 892).

[753] Carson, John, p. 588, citing A.N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament (Oxford, 1963) p. 45.

[754] Carson, John, pp. 588-590. It is possible to interpret "eat the Passover" to refer, not to the Passover Meal itself, but the hagigah, the feast-offering offered on the morning of the first full paschal day (Numbers 28:18-19). We know that "the Passover" could refer to the combined feast of the paschal meal itself plus the ensuing Feast of Unleavened Bread, as in Luke 22:1.

[755] "Palace of the Roman governor" (NIV), "Pilate's headquarters" (NRSV), "governor's headquarters" (ESV), "hall of judgment" (KJV),  is praitōrion, a transliteration of the Latin praetorium. The word originally referred to the praetor's tent in camp, along with its surroundings, but the course of its history the word also came to designate the governor's official residence (BDAG 859).

[756] Urban C. von Wahlde, in Jesus and Archaeology, pp. 572-573; Brown, John 2:845; Brown, Death 1:705-710. Mark 15:16 identifies the praetorium by the noun aulē, "palace, courtyard," the Greek word used by Josephus to designate Herod's place, but never the Fortress of Antonia.

[757] "Charges" (NIV), "accusation" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is katēgoria (from which we get our word "category"), "accusation" (BDAG 533), an "old word for 'formal charge'" (Robertson, Word Studies). Also found in 1 Timothy 5:19; Titus 1:6. The word is derived from kata, "against" + agora, "marketplace, court, assembly," to speak against in court, in the assembly.

[758] "Subverting" (NIV), "perverting" (NRSV, KJV), "misleading" (ESV) is diastrephō, "to cause to be distorted, deform," then "make crooked, pervert." Here it has the sense, "to cause to be uncertain about a belief or to believe something different, mislead" (BDAG 237, 3).

[759] Kakopoios, "pertaining to doing evil, evil doer, criminal" (BDAG 501).

[760] "Execute" (NIV), "put to death" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is apokteinō, literally, "to deprive of life, kill" (BDAG 114, 1a).

[761] Some have disputed the truth of verse 31, but we see evidence of it in Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.8.1 and j. Sanhedrin 1:1; 7:2.

[762] "Summoned" (NIV, NRSV), "called" (ESV, KJV) is  phōneō, "call, address," here, "to call to oneself, summon someone" (BDAG 1071, 3).

[763] "Your own idea" (NIV) is a paraphrase. More literally,  Jesus asks, "Do you say this from/of yourself?"

[764] "People" (NIV), "nation" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is ethnos, "a body of persons united by kinship, culture, and common traditions, nation, people" (BDAG 276, 1).

[765] "Have done" is the Aorist tense of poieō, "do, make."

[766] "Kingdom" is basileia, the act of ruling, generally, "kingship, royal power, royal rule ... especially of God's rule," the royal reign of God (usually rendered 'kingdom of God') (BDAG 168, 1b).

[767] "Servants" is hypēretēs, which we saw earlier in 18:3, 12, 22, a technical term for a governmental or other official, "one who functions as a helper, frequently in a subordinate capacity, helper, assistant," here, of a king's retinue (BDAG 1035).

[768] "Testify" (NIV, NRSV), "bear witness" (ESV, KJV) is martyreō, "to confirm or attest something on the basis of personal knowledge or belief, bear witness, be a witness." (BDAG 618, 1).

[769] "On the side of truth" (NIV), "belongs to the truth" (NRSV), is literally, "of the truth" (ESV, KJV).

[770] "Listens to me" (NIV) is the verb akouō, "hear," here, "to pay attention to by listening, listen to someone/something," with the implication that one's words are heeded and obeyed (BDAG 38, 5).

[771] The phrase "to me" (NIV), "to my voice" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) uses the noun phōnē, "the faculty of utterance, voice," (BDAG 1071, 2a). The same phrase is found in Jesus' teaching on the Good Shepherd: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27; also 10:16).

[772] C.H. Dodd, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge University Press, 1963), p. 99; cited by Carson John, p. 594.

[773] John testifies to Jesus (1:7, 15, 34; 3:26, 28; 5:33) and Jesus himself testifies to what things are like in the presence of God (3:11, 26), to what is evil (7:7) and concerning his mission (8:14, 18). The Father testifies concerning Jesus (5:37; 8:18), the Scriptures testify about Jesus (5:39). And the Holy Spirit will testify about Jesus (15:26-27).

[774] Martyreō, BDAG 618, 1.

[775] Alētheia, BDAG 42, 2 and 3.

[776] Jesus is said to be "full of grace and truth (1:14, 17). Worship of the Father must be in "in spirit and in truth" (4:23-24). "The truth shall set you free" (8:32). Jesus reveals the truth (8:40, 45, 46), while the devil has "no truth in him" (8:44). Jesus is in himself "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (14:6). He will send the "Spirit of truth" (14:17; 15:26; 16:13), who will guide his disciples into all truth. Jesus' followers are sanctified by words of truth (17:17-18).

[777] The "true light" (1:9), a "true Israelite" (1:47), "true worshippers" (4:23), true witness (5:31-32), "true bread" (6:32), the true Father (7:28; 8:26), true judgments (8:16), true testimonies (8:17; 19:35; 21:24), the "true vine" (15:1), and "the only true God" (17:3).

[778] Amēn, strong affirmation of what is stated, here, as an asseverative particle: "truly," meaning "I assure you that, I solemnly tell you" (BDAG 53, 1b). Asseverative in English means, "to declare seriously or positively; affirm." Amēn is transliterated from the Hebrew 'amen, "verily, truly, amen," from the verb 'āman, "to confirm, support, uphold, be established, faithful, certain" (Jack B. Scott, TWOT #116).

[779] John 1:51; 3:3, 5, 11; 5:19, 24, 25; 6:26, 32, 47, 53; 8:34, 51, 58; 10:1, 7; 12:24; 13:16, 20, 21; 14:12; 16:20, 23; 21:18.

[780] "Listens to me" (NIV) is the verb akouō, "hear," here, "to pay attention to by listening, listen to someone/something," with the implication that one's words are heeded and obeyed (BDAG 38, 5).

[781] The phrase "to me" (NIV), "to my voice" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) uses the noun phōnē, "the faculty of utterance, voice," (BDAG 1071, 2a). The same phrase is found in Jesus' teaching on the Good Shepherd: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27; also 10:16).

[782] Luke's Gospel adds at this point an account of Pilate realizing that Jesus was from Galilee. Ah-ha! A chance to pass the burden to Herod Agrippa, a vassal king appointed by the Romans to administer Galilee. So Pilate sends Jesus to Herod, who is also in the city for Passover -- probably in the same palace where Pilate is staying. But the wily Herod sends him back to Pilate; he doesn't want to incur the wrath of the high priests either! (Luke 23:5-12).

[783] Lēstēs, BDAG 594, 1 and 2.

[784] "Notorious" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "notable" (KJV) is episēmos, "prominent," here in a negative sense, "notorious" (BDAG 378, 2).

[785] Stasis, "movement toward a (new) state of affairs, uprising, riot, revolt, rebellion" (BDAG 340, 2).

[786] "Flogged" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "scourged" (KJV) is mastigoō, "to beat with a whip or lash, whip, flog, scourge" (BDAG 626, 1a).

[787] So Carson, John, p. 596.

[788] The Romans administered flogging in three forms: (1) Fustigatio, a less severe beating for minor offences. (2) Flagellatio, a brutal flogging administered to criminals for more serious offences. (3) Verberatio, the most extreme scourging associated with other punishments, especially crucifixion. Based on Pilate's desire to release Jesus, it is possible that he received the lesser fustigatio flogging at this point, and then, after the sentence of crucifixion was given, received the most brutal verberatio flogging (Carson, John, p. 597, following A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament (Oxford University Press, 1963), pp. 27-28).

[789] Morris, John, p. 790, fn. 2.

[790] Martin Hengel, Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross by (translated from the 1976 German edition by John Bowden; Fortress Press/SCM Press, 1977), p. 29, fn. 21, includes half a page of references.

[791] "Thorns" is akantha (from which we get our plant name "acanthus"), "thorn-plant" (BDAG 34). Speculations about the type of crown and material made of can be found in Brown, John 2:875. Some see this as the "radiant corona" or "sun crown" that served as a ruler's adornment in many of the coins in Jesus' time, perhaps made from the cruel spikes at the base of a palm branch (Morris, John, pp. 790-791, n. 3). However, since the text uses the verb plekō, "to plait, braid, weave, together" (Thayer, p. 516; BDAG 824), I think that the wreath-type crown is more likely.

[792] Himation, "piece of clothing," here, of outer clothing, "cloak, robe" (BDAG 475, 2).

[793] Chlamys, BDAG 1085.

[794] The verb is in the imperfect tense, continued action in past time.

[795] Compare this to Nathanael's confession and insight: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel" (1:49). Earlier, prior to Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin, soldiers mocked and insulted him as well (Luke 22:63-65).

[796] The verb is rhapisma, which we saw when Jesus was before the high priest, "a blow on the face with someone's hand, a slap in the face" (BDAG 904, 2).

[797] Typtō, "to inflict a blow, strike, beat, wound" (BDAG 1020, 1a).

[798] Kalamos, "stalk, staff" (BDAG 502, 2).

[799] Adam Winn, "Son of God," DJG2, pp. 886-887.

[800] John 1:18; 3:18; 5:25; 6:69; 10:36; 11:4, 27; 20:1; cf. Luke 1:35.

[801] Matthew 26:63; 27:13-14; Mark 14:61; 15:4-5; Luke 23:9; Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 2:23.

[802] Philo, Embassy to Gaius, 302, as quoted in Morris, John, p. 799, fn. 27.

[803] Josephus, Antiquities, 18.4.1-2.

[804] Carson, John, p. 607.

[805] Bēma, BDAG 175, 3. Josephus tells us of an incident that sounds quite similar that took place some 30 years later when the Roman prefect Florus was in Jerusalem. "Florus then took up residence at the palace, and on the following day, having had the bēma put in place in front of the building, took his seat. The chief priests, the nobles, and the most eminent citizens then coming forward, stood before the bēma..." (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.14.8, 66 AD, translated by Urban C. von Wahlde, "Archaeology and John's Gospel," in Jesus and Archaeology, p. 574).

[806] Lithostrōtos, BDAG 596. Though a 3,000 square foot stone paved area has been found at the Fortress of Antonia, this comes from the second century AD, and thus couldn't be the pavement spoken of in this verse (von Wahlde, Jesus and Archaeology, pp. 574-575, fn. 156).

[807] Von Wahlde, Jesus and Archaeology, pp. 573-575.

[808] For details of the approaches, see Carson, John, p. 604-605; and Morris, John, pp. 800-801.

[809] Morris, John, p. 801.

[810] "Handed over" (NIV, NRSV), "delivered" (ESV, KJV) is paradidōmi, which we've seen before: "hand over, turn over, give up a person," as a technical term of police and courts, "hand over into [the] custody [of]" (BDAG 762, 1b).

Copyright © 2024, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

Sign up now!To be notified about future articles, stories, and Bible studies, why don't you subscribe to our free newsletter,The Joyful Heart, by placing your e-mail address in the box below. We respect your privacy and never sell, rent, or loan our lists. Please don't subscribe your friends; let them decide for themselves.
Country(2-letter abbreviation, such as US)
Preferred FormatHTML (recommended) Plain text