John 18
Pulpit Commentary
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.
Verse 1. - John 19:42. -

1. The outer glorification of Christ in his Passion. Verses 1-11. -

(1) The betrayal, the majesty of his bearing, accompanied by hints of the bitter cup. Verse 1. - When Jesus had spoken these words - i.e. had offered the prayer, and communed with his Father touching himself, his disciples, and his whole Church - he went forth with his disciples; i.e. from the resting-place chosen by him on his way from the "guest-chamber" to the Valley of Kedron; it may have been from some corner of the vast temple area, or some sheltered spot under the shadow of its walls, where he uttered his wondrous discourse and intercession. He went over the ravine - or, strictly speaking, winter-torrent - of Kedron. The stream rises north of Jerusalem, and separates the city on its eastern side from Scopas and the Mount of Olives. It reaches its deepest depression at the point where it joins the Valley of Hinnom near the well of Rogel, contributing to the peculiar physical conformation of the city. The stream is in summer dry to its bed, and Robinson, Grove, and Warren conjecture, in agreement with an old tradition, that there is, below the present surface of its bed, a subterraneous watercourse, whose waters may be heard flowing. The stream takes a sudden bend to the southeast at En-Rogel, and makes its way, by the convent of Saba, to the Dead Sea. It is not without interest that this note of place given by St. John alone - for the three other evangelists simply speak of "the Mount of Olives" - brings the narrative into relation with the story of David's flight from Absalom by the same route, and also the Jewish expectation (Joel 3:2), and Mohammedan prediction, that here will take place the final judgment (Smith's 'Dictionary,' art. "Kedron," by Grove; 'Pictorial Palestine,' vol. 1; Robinson, 'Bib. Res.,' 1:269: Winer's 'B. Realworterbuch,' art. "Kedron;" Dean Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine;' 'The Recovery of Jerusalem,' by Capt. Warren and Capt. Wilson, John 1. and 5.). Where was a garden. This reference is in agreement (Matthew 26:36; Mark 14:32) with the synoptic description of the χωρίον, "parcel of ground," small farm, or olive yard, enclosed from the rest of the hillside, and called "Gethsemane" (gath-shammi, press for oil). The traditional site of the garden dates back to the time of Constantine, and may be the true scene of the agony described by the synoptists. There are still remaining "the eight aged olive trees," which carry back the associations to the hour of the great travail. It is certain that the general features of the scene still closely correspond with what was visible on the awful night ('Pictorial Palestine,' 1:86, 98). Patristic and mediaeval writers, with Hengstenberg and Wordsworth, see parallels between the garden of Eden lost by man's sin, and the garden of Gethsemane where the second Adam met the prince of this world, and bore the weight of human transgression and shame, and regained for man the paradise which Adam lost. It is still more interesting to notice a further touch recorded by John: Into which - into the quiet retreat and partial concealment of which - he (Jesus) entered himself, and his disciples. We know from the other Gospels that they were separated -eight remained on watch near the entrance, and Peter and James and John went further into the recesses of the garden, and again, "about a stone's cast," in the depth of the olive-shade, our blessed Lord retired to "pray."
And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples.
Verse 2. - Now Judas also, who was betraying him (notice present tense in contrast with ὁ παράδους of Matthew 10:4), knew the place: because oftentimes Jesus resorted (literally, was assembled there) thither with his disciples. Luke tells us that during this very week (Luke 21:37) they had passed their nights (ηὐλίζετο) on the "Mount of Olives," and it is most likely that Judas conjectured that they had gone thither again to pass the night. The fact here mentioned by John, that Judas knew the place, disposes of the ignorant and vulgar taunt of Celsus, that our Lord sought to escape from his enemies after having challenged them (see Orig., 'Contra Cel.,' 2:9. 10). Keim, with perversity, declares that John only represented the place as known to Judas, in order to enhance the voluntary nature of the sacrifice. Some explanation may thus be given of the fact that the eleven disciples, having reached an accustomed place of repose, all slumbered and slept, and were not able to watch one hour. The choice of this particular garden for the purpose cannot be unraveled. Dean Plumptre suggests that it was the property of Lazarus, who was no other than the rich young man, who sold his all and gave to the poor, all but one solitary garment, and that he himself was keeping this one possession for the uses of his Lord on that very night, and that when in danger of arrest he it was that fled away naked. This is pure conjecture.
Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.
Verse 3. - Judas therefore, because he knew the place, was able treacherously to use his knowledge. Having received the cohort, Ἡ σπεῖρα is used for the lemon or portion of the legion of soldiers, who, under the direction of the Roman procurator, garrisoned the Tower of Antonia, which dominated the north-east temple courts. The article (τὴν) is probably used because the χιλίαρχος, military tribune, chief captain, or commander of the thousand men, had (Ver. 12) accompanied the detachment. "The word σπεῖρα, is used by Polybius for the Latin manipulus, not cohors (Polyb., 11:23), consisting of about two hundred men, the third part of a cohort" (Westcott). It should, however, be observed that the word is used of the Roman garrison of the tower (Acts 10:1; Acts 21:31; Acts 27:1; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 20:04. 3; ' Bell. Jud.,' 5:05. 8). Ξιλίαρχος was the proper name for the commander of a cohors, equivalent to one-sixth of a legion, i.e. a thousand men and a hundred and twenty horsemen. The strength of the cohort differed according to circumstances and need. Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' 3:04. 2) says that some σπείραι consisted of a thousand, some of six hundred, men. It is not rational to suppose that the whole cohort were visibly present, but they were-present in close proximity. Though John alone mentions the Roman soldiers, yet cf. Matthew 26:53, 54, where our Lord says, "Thinkest thou not that I could pray (παρεκαλέσαι) my Father, and he would henceforth furnish me with more than twelve legions of angels?" - a legion of angels for each one of the little group. The presence of this band of Roman soldiers with the Jewish police gives very great force and impressiveness to this scene of Israel's degradation and of the world's assault upon the Divine Savior. The other hints given by the synoptists of the presence of weapons in the "band," is Peter's use of the sword. Judas brought with him, not only the drilled and armed Roman soldiers, but the officers from the chief priests and of the Pharisees; i.e. a detachment of the Jewish guard of the temple, under direction of the Sanhedrin. The chief priests would have small difficulty in securing the aid of a detachment of the Roman garrison to prevent popular outbreak at the time of the feast. These ὑπηρέται, under the direction of the chief priests and Pharisees, have been mentioned in John 7:32 and 45, and the same name is given to the ὑπηρέται in Acts 5:22, 26, where the high priests and Sadducees are spoken of as their masters. In Luke 22:4, 52 the commandants of the temple are spoken of in the plural, στρατηγοῖς τοῦ ἱεροῦ. The Jewish guard was under the custody of one officer, ὁ στρατηγός, and he was a man of high rank and dignity (Josephus, ' Ant.,' 20:6. 2; ' Bell. Jud.,' 2:17.2) - not two, but one; the reference to more than one must therefore point to the Roman military official as well, thus unconsciously sustaining the more definite information given by John. Judas with his band cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons; for, though it was the Paschal full moon, they were intent on finding an individual, whom Judas would identify for them, amid the depths of the olive shades. (Λαμπάς is in its primary sense a torch, or even meteoric light, but it is used for a lamp or lantern; and φανός also is used for "torch" primarily, with secondary meaning of "lantern.") Matthew and Mark mention "swords" and "staves," but say nothing of the flaring torches which so arrested the eve of John. Thoma sees a reference to the frequent declaration of Christ, that he was the "Light of the world," and to the contrast between that light and the power of darkness.
Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?
Verse 4. - Jesus then - the οϋν implies that our Lord discerned the approach of the hostile band - knowing all the things that were coming upon him - in full consciousness of his position, and in voluntary sacrifice of himself to the will of God and the purpose of his mission - went forth; i.e. from the garden enclosure - see Ver. 1 - (say Meyer and Godet); from the recesses of the garden or the garden-house (say others); partly in consequence of the language of the kinsman of Maichus," Did I not see thee in the garden?" But this is perfectly compatible with the obvious fact that the eight disciples and the favored three should have shrunk behind our Lord when he calmly emerged from the entrance to the garden, and that their position would be thus sufficiently indicated. It is remarkable that John, who has been accused of personal malice to Judas (i.e. by those who, like Renan, admit, to a certain extent, the Johan-nine authorship), does not refer to the traitor's kiss. This well-attested and traditionally sustained incident is not excluded by the narrative before us - indeed, the second reference to Judas seems to imply something special in his conduct, which is needed to account for it. We can hardly suppose that it could have taken place before the Lord Jesus had uttered his solemn word, but it may easily have occurred as the first answer to his summons. And saith unto them, Whom seek ye?
They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.
Verses 5, 6. - They answered him, Jesus the Nazarene. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. Then, in all probability, the miscreant, the son of perdition, said," Hail, Master!" and kissed him; and there followed before and after his act the sublime replies given, "Companion, wherefore art thou come?" and "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" John, however, overwhelmed with the majesty and spontaneous self-devotion of the Lord, calls attention to the language he addressed to the "baud" which surrounded him. In some royal emphasis of tone he said, "I am (he)," and the same kind of effect followed as on various occasions had proved how powerless, without his permission, the machinations of his foes really were. In the temple courts, and on the precipice of Nazareth, the murderous Jews and Galilaeans were foiled (compare the murderers of Marius and of Coligny) by the moral grandeur of his bearing; and when he said, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground (χαμαί for χαμάζε). Whether this was a supernatural event, or allied to the sublime force of moral greatness flashing in his eye or echoing in the tone of his voice, we cannot say, but associating it with other events in his history, the supernatural in his case becomes perfectly natural. It was so that he whose "I am he" had hushed the waves and cast out the devil, and before whose glance and word John and Paul fell to the earth, as if struck with lightning, did perhaps allow his very captors (prepared by Judas for some display of his might) to feel how powerless they were against him. It is remarkable that our narrative should place between the "I am he" and its effect, the tautologous remark if there be nothing to explain it, Now Judas also, who was Betraying him, was standing with them. This implies that Judas had taken some step equivalent to that described in the synoptic narrative. There is some momentary consolation in the thought that the traitor fell to the ground with his gang, and for an instant saw the transcendent crime he had committed in betraying the innocent blood with the kiss of treachery and shame. Thoma sees in the approximation of Judas the approach of the prophetic Beast to the true King, and endeavors out of the letters of his name to read the number 666! It is true that John 13:27 represents Satan as having entered into Judas. He stood there, he fell there, with the powers of darkness. What a moment: The devil may have tempted Christ to blast his emissaries with the breath of his nostrils; but, true to his sublime mission, he is occupied only with the safety and future work of those who knew that he had come out from God.
As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.
Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth.
Verses 7, 8. - Again then (οϋν, regarding all the conditions, the cup, the cross, the blood-baptism, the supreme will, all are at stake) he asked them, Whom seek ye? Then, restored from their fright and spasm of conscience, produced by the presence of One whom no fetters, not even those of death itself, could bind, and reassured now by the same voice (cf. Daniel 10:10; Revelation 1:17), they reply, Jesus the Nazarene. He thus compels them to limit their design, and to single himself out for the malice and devilish plot of their masters. I told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, suffer these to depart. There is much in this that lies beneath the surface.

(1) There is an explanation of the miraculous blast which had a few moments before rolled them at his feet. They will not dare to disobey him. What may he not do, if they proceed to arrest the disciples?

(2) The disciples are discharged from the immediate function of suffering and death. They were in imminent danger, as is conspicuous from the fleeing youth, and from the language of the bystanders subsequently to Peter; but their hour was not yet come.

(3) He would tread the winepress alone. They were none who could go with him into this terrible conflict (cf. "Ye shall leave me alone; yet not alone").
Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way:
That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.
Verse 9. - But John found

(4) a deeper reason still. He said this in order that the word which he spake an hour or two before might be fulfilled, not finally exhausted in its unfathomable depth, but gloriously illustrated, Concerning those whom thou hast given me, not one of them I lost. This is a proof, as recognized by De Wette and others, that the evangelist was quoting exact words of the Master, not words which he had theologically attributed to him. The temporal safety of the disciples was a means on that dread night of saving their souls from death, as well as their bodies from torture or destruction. "Christ," says Calvin, "continually bears with our weakness when he puts himself forward to repel so many attacks of Satan and wicked men, because he sees that we are not yet able or prepared for them. In short, he never brings his people into the field of battle till they have been fully trained, so that in perishing they do not perish, because there is gain provided for them both in death and in life." The reference of the apostle to John 17:12 is, moreover, also one of the numerous proofs which the Gospel itself supplies, that great, Heaven-taught as the apostle was, he stands, with all his inspiration, far below, at least on a different plane, from that occupied by the Lord. His occasional interjections and explanations of his Master's words calmer be put on the same level with the words themselves. Even Reuss finds here a reason for holding the authenticity of many at least of the sayings themselves, while refusing to accept the genuineness of the Gospel as a whole ('Theologic Johannique,' in loco).
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.
Verse 10. - Then Simon Peter. The other evangelists simply tell us that one of the number of the disciples performed the following act. The οϋν here is introduced between Simon and Peter, as if to imply that it was not merely Simon son of Jonas, but Simon the Rock, the man of mighty impulsive passion, ready, as he said a few hours since, to go with his Master to prison and to death. The name and identification of Peter with the brave man who struck at least one blow for his Master, is a proof, not of John's animosity against Peter, or any desire to humble him, but rather to exalt him. The extraordinary concomitance of this act with all the other delineations of Peter's character is another undesigned hint of the authenticity of the narrative. Simon Peter, then, having a sword. Here we see the unintentional agreement with the synoptic narrative (Luke 22:38). Nothing would be less likely than that Peter should have a sword at his disposal; i.e. judging from the Johannine narrative. The Gospel of Luke explains it. Having a sword, he drew it, and smote the slave (not one of the ὑπηρέται, but the δοῦλος, body-servant) of the high priest, and eat off his right ear. The slave, in receiving such a wound, must have been in fearful danger of his life. The reference to the right ear, mentioned also by Luke (Luke 22:50), is noteworthy. Now the name of the slave was Malchus. Here the eye-witness, not the theologian, nor the dramatist, reveals his hand. Thoma sees, however, the fulfillment of prophetic outline, and a reference to the kings and chief captains, the Malchuses and chiliarchs, that are ultimately to flee before him. The subsequently mentioned circumstance (Ver. 15) that the evangelist was "known to the high priest," explains this recovery of an otherwise valueless name. The instant when Peter cried, "Shall we smite with the sword?" was most opportune. For the moment Peter felt that the whole band could be discomfited by a bold stroke. Christ with his word, the brave-hearted apostle with his weapon, could scatter all the foes of the Lord. As on so many other occasions, Peter gives advice to the Master, only to find himself in grievous mistake.
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?
Verse 11. - In Christ's reply there is no mention made of the miracle which followed, and yet the narrative is incomplete without it. Something must have restrained the baud and the high priest's own temple-watch from at once arresting Peter, if not the entire group. The characteristic touch, descriptive of our Lord's most Divine compassion, is in itself valuable, but it also accounts for the immunity of Peter. The solemn rebuke of Peter is full of Divine meaning, and is another link with the synoptic narrative of the agony. "Put up," or more literally, Cast the sword into its sheath (κολεός is the classical word; θήκη more generally used of repository, receptacle, sepulcher, etc.); or into its hiding-place; bury it away (τόπος is used in Matthew). Matthew adds a memorable saying, but is silent as to the deep Divine reason of the submission of our Lord to his fate. The cup which the Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? This imagery recalls the Passion, through which we learn from the synoptists that our Lord had passed into a Divine patience and submission to the will of God (Matthew 20:22; Matthew 26:39). The use of this most remarkable phraseology recalls that which John too had heard from his lips in the sweat of his agony, and of which he and Peter were the principal witnesses. The supplementary character of the Gospel, though by no means sufficient to account for all the omissions and additions of this narrative, yet does explain very much. "Jesus is now of his own accord at the disposal of his enemies; his words have put a stop to all further steps taken for his defense" (Moulton). (See Introduction, pp. 106, 107.)
Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him,
Verses 12-27. -

(2) The preliminary examination before Annas, interwoven with the weakness and treachery of Peter. This passage describes the first steps taken by the enemies of our Lord to conduct the examination which was to issue in a judicial murder, and therefore to provide the basis on which the charge might be laid before Pilate and that Roman court, which alone could carry into execution the malicious conclusion on which they had already resolved. Moreover, tiffs passage is interwoven with the melancholy record of the fall of Peter. There are grave difficulties in the passage, which have led to harsh judgment on the narrative itself and on its general truthful ness. Keim almost angrily dismisses it, and Strauss endeavors to show that it is incompatible with the synoptic narrative; while Renan, on the other hand, sees in it numerous lifelike touches and great circumstantial value. The prima facie objection is that John describes a preliminary examination before Annas, whom he confounds with the high priest, and says nothing of the judicial trial before the Sanhedrin under the presidency of Caiaphas. Baur and Strauss supposed that the author did this in order to exaggerate the guilt of the Jews by doubling their unbelief, and aggravating their offence by making two high priests rather than one condemn their Messiah. In reply to this we have simply to say that John, though he shows the animus of both these notorious men, does not mention the judicial condemnation pronounced by either (see Weiss, 3:334, Eng. trans.). The omission of the sublime answer of our Lord to the challenge of Caiaphas and others (Matthew 26:62, etc.; Luke 22:67, etc.; Mark 14:68, 70) is surely profoundly contradictory to the supposed theological purpose of the writer; and we can only account for its omission on the ground that the synoptic tradition had made it widely known, and that that tradition still needed correction by the record of important supplementary matter. Some harmonists have endeavored to transpose Ver. 24 into close proximity with Ver. 13, or to give, as the Authorized Version does, a pluperfect meaning to ἀπέστειλε of Ver. 24, the effect of which is to make the two examinations virtually one, but one from which John leaves out the most striking features. This is supposed to be necessitated by the Vers. 19-23, where the "high priest" is said to have interrogated Jesus. Moreover, the supposition of there being a considerable space in the city between the house of Annas and the palace of the high priest Caiaphas renders the harmony of the narratives touching the denials of Peter inextricably confused, seeing that, according to the synoptic narrative, they occurred in the court of Caiaphas, while in John they apparently were made in the court of Annas. This difficulty is entirely met by the natural suppositions arising out of the relations of these two men. Annas (Hanan, Ananias, Ananus) was a man of great capacity and exclusiveness, charged with fiery passions and bitter hatred of the Pharisaic party. He was appointed high priest in A.D. , by Quirinus, Governor of Syria; in A.D. he was compelled to retire in favor of his son Ishmael. After him followed Eleazar, and in A.D. Joseph Caiaphas, his son-in-law, was appointed, and this man held the office till A.D. . Three other sons of Annas held the like position, and it was during the high priesthood of one bearing his father's name (Ananus) that James the Just was cruelly murdered (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 20:08. 1). The influence of the old priest throughout the entire period covered by New Testament narrative was very great. Luke (Luke 3:2) speaks of Annas and Caiaphas as high priests, and Annas is again in Acts 4:6 spoken of as high priest. John never speaks of him as "high priest," unless he must be held to do so in this passage. Our most thoughtful commentators differ on the point whether John does not so designate him (Ver. 19), adopting the well-known usage of Luke, which gave him the title of high priest. The evangelic narrative reveals, however, quite enough to explain that he may have been at the heart of the antagonism to Jesus, have aided Caiaphas with his suggestions, and consented to conduct a preliminary midnight investigation which would give at least a semblance of legal sanction to the condemnation, which, between them, they would be able to secure as soon as the day dawned. In tract 'Sanhedrin,' Mishna, John 4:1 and John 5:5, we learn that, though an acquittal of a prisoner or accused person might be pronounced on the day of trial, yet a capital sentence must be delayed till the following day. As this trial must be brought at once to a termination, such an investigation as that which John describes would furnish the necessary validity. Moreover, some hours must have elapsed before the Sanhedrim under the legal superintendence of Caiaphas, could have assembled. Now, the domestic relation of Annas and Caiaphas would make it highly probable that the hall of the Sanhedrin and the house of Annas were on different sides of the same great court of the palace, and that one court, αὐλή, sufficed for both. With these preliminaries, let us proceed with the narrative as given by John. The frivolous supposition of Thoma, that the author of this Gospel was playing upon the idea of the beast (Judas) and the false prophet, and on the five brothers of the rich man of Luke's parable, is allowed to disfigure this writer's treatment of the introduction of the part taken by Hanan, or Annas, in the Passion-tragedy. Verses 12-14. - Οϋν, Therefore - i.e. since no further resistance was made by Jesus - the band (or cohort), which here takes the lead, and the captain of it, and the officers of the Jews in association with each other, took Jesus, and bound him, as sign that he was their prisoner, and to prevent escape until he should be in safe keeping. It is probable that the binding process was repeated by Annas and again by Caiaphas (Ver. 24 and Matthew 27:2), implying that during judicial examination the cordage was taken off, and reimposed when the accused was sent from one court to another; or else that additional bonds were placed upon him, for the sake either of greater security or of inflicting indignity. Christ, by accepting the indignity publicly, yielded his holy will, confessing the supreme ordinance of the Father as to the method in which he would now glorify him. And they led (him) to Annas first. The mention of the word "first" shows that John discriminated between the two legal processes, the first being a preliminary examination of the accused, with the view of extracting from him some matter which should furnish the priests with definite charges, and to make a show of partial conformity with the customs of their own jurisprudence. He was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that same year. John's reiteration of this statement (see John 11:49 and note) shows that he was in no ignorance of the custom and principle of high-priestly succession, which the Romans had treated so arbitrarily. "That same year" was the awful year in which the Christ was sacrificed to the willful ignorance, malice, and unbelief of the Jews. Now Caiaphas was he who counseled the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people (see John 11:50, 51); and while John leaves no doubt who is the virtual high priest, he calls attention to the fact that Jesus had no justice or mercy to expect from the decision of his judge, and also reminds his readers once more of the significance of every step in this tragedy.
And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year.
Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.
And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest.
Verse 15. - Now. After the first dispersion of all the disciples, two of them gathered up their courage. Simon Peter was following Jesus "afar off" (say all the synoptists), "even up to" εὤς, the court of the high priest" (say Matthew and Mark). The account of Matthew implies that, having come up to the door, he went ἔσω, and sat down to see the end; he does not say how he was admitted, though, by the use of the two prepositions, he implies there was a cause. And also another disciple: but that disciple was known to the high priest, and therefore to the officials, and went fix with Jesus into (εἰς τὴν, right within) the court of the high priest; for he was well known to be, and from the first did not pretend to be anything else than, one of the disciples of Jesus. From the known habit of the evangelist in other places, the vast majority of commentators at once conclude (see Introduction, p. 54.) that the writer designates himself by this reference. Godet and Watkins are disposed to question it, and imagine that it may have been the author's brother James. With the absence of the article before ἄλλος, the matter is left in doubt. But by this supposition much of the justification is lost, which the writer of the Gospel quietly supplies, touching his own ability to describe what otherwise would never have entered into the evangelic narrative. The supposition we have made above, that Annas and Caiaphas occupied the same palace, or different portions of the same edifice, solves the chief difficulty. Annas held his preliminary unofficial inquiry in his department of the building. The difficult question arises whether Annas was assisted or not by the reigning "high priest" in conducting this examination (see Ver. 19).
But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter.
Verses 16, 17. - But Peter was standing at the door without. Up to this moment Peter had only pressed as far as to the outer door; the other disciple had gone bravely in. The hum of voices was now deadened by the closed door dividing Peter from his Lord. The height, the cold, the strange blighting of all his expectations, the necessary conviction forced upon him that he had implicated himself by the assault he had delivered on the servant of the high priest, combined to induce a new and desponding mood. All hope had fled. Then John bethought him of the condition of his friend, and so we read that the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, therefore went out to the entrance-door, and finding Peter there, spake to her who kept the door (cf. Acts 12:13). His appeal may easily be supplied - and he brought in Peter. The other evangelists imply that before Peter was challenged the fire of coals had been lighted, and that the apostle, with the servants and with the rest of the group who had apprehended Jesus gathered round it. He placed himself as if he were an unconcerned spectator, identified himself, as it were, rather with the captors than with the Lord; nor is the narrative of John inconsistent with the synoptic statement. In Ver. 18 the incident is certainly introduced by the writer after he mentioned the challenge. Still, he states it as a condition of the denial rather than as a subsequent event. Matthew describes his position as "without, in the court," not in the audience-chamber, but in a court opening "upon" it or "above" it, as Mark (Mark 14:66) implies. Luke tells us he was "sitting m the midst of the court," with the glow of the burning charcoal on his face, "he was πρὸς τὸ φῶς," where the maiden might see him more attentively than when she hurriedly admitted him. "The other disciple" had moved swiftly on to some corner where he could see and hear all that was happening to the Master. But Peter's first step downwards had been already inwardly taken. Before he had verbally denied his Lord, he had acted as though he were indifferent to the result (see Hanna's 'Last Day of our Lord's Passion,' John 2.). Matthew's and Mark's accounts represent Peter's first and other denials as taking place after the mockery of Jesus that followed upon his great confession of Messiahship. Luke places them all three together before the formal examination or confession, and before the judicial condemnation. John's account throws much needed light upon the synoptic narrative, which is more inconsistent with itself than with that of the Fourth Gospel. Matthew's method of putting together into connected concurrent groups miracles, events, sayings, or parables which are allied to each other, will explain the substantially identical report contained in his and Mark's Gospels. There are with all differences some remarkable coincidences.

(1) All four accounts describe our Lord's prediction of Peter's denial.

(2) All four evangelists agree to represent the first temptation as proceeding from "a certain maiden," "one of the maids of the high priest," or "a damsel." John's Gospel explains the point by saying, the maid who kept the door (ἡ θυρωρός) said therefore, seeing she had admitted him, not in the rush of the other servants, but at the request of "the other disciple" - considerable meaning is thus put into her words, which is lost in the synoptists by lack of the hint already given By John - Art thou, as well as my acquaintance yonder, also one of this Man's disciples? He saith, I am not. The other evangelists amplify this negative in various ways. Mark, the reporter of Peter's own preaching, aggravates throughout the heinousness of Peter's fall, adding, "He denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest." His position was sufficiently taken, and he thought to have established for himself a perfect incognito.
Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also one of this man's disciples? He saith, I am not.
And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself.
Verse 18. - The εἰστήκεισαν δὲ implies the conditions under which the first fearful fall of Peter was accomplished. Now the servants and the officers were standing (imperfect tense), having made (πεποιηκότες, perfect participle) a fire of coals (ἀνθρακιάν), congeries prunarum ardentium (cf. John 21:9; Ecclus. 11:32, "a glowing fire;" Aquila, Psalm 120:4), because it was cold (in the dead of the night, even in April, at the present day, the temperature falls considerably, and the cold is felt far more keenly in these climates in contrast with the heat of the sun by day): and Peter was standing with them, standing and warming himself. The whole construction of the sentence implies that this was how matters stood while the examination was going on to which John then reverts. The synoptists know or say nothing of this first examination, which bears upon it strong marks of authenticity.
The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine.
Verse 19. - The οϋν connects the following incident with the thirteenth and fourteenth verses. The high priest. Hengstenberg, Godet, and Westcott here say that the high priest is Caiaphas, present i.e. at the examination over which Annas presides as the older man; but Renan, Meyer, Lange, Steinmeyer ('Passion and Resurrection History'), and Moulton, with many others, say Annas was here the high priest in question. Tholuck dismisses the idea of Annas altogether, and, by inverting the place of Ver. 24 or treating the ἀπεστείλε as pluperfect, suppose that Annas had sent the Lord to Caiaphas (so Calvin, De Wette, Hase, and others), who thus commenced his interrogatory. But the text of Ver. 24, now recovered, will not admit of this rendering. We find it far more satisfactory to accept this less formal examination, under the presidency of Annas, at which an attempt is made to put the Lord, if possible, to a test which will incriminate him. Keim says, "If Caiaphas were the acting high priest, and at the same time the soul of the movement against Jesus, it was for him and not for his father-in-law to take knowledge of the matter and report to the Sanhedrin." We must choose between two difficulties:

(1) Caiaphas is first spoken of as "high priest," who, as we know from the synoptists, conducted the examination-in-chief, and then that Annas, as conducting a preliminary examination, is also styled "high priest" without any explanation;

(2) or we must admit the supposition that after Caiaphas had asked these incriminating questions, Annas (who was not ἀρχιερεὺς), sent Jesus bound to Caiaphas the high priest. The former hypothesis is the easier. The high priest then asked Jesus concerning his disciples, the extent of his following, the number of his accomplices, the ramifications of the society or kingdom he professed to have founded, and concerning his doctrine, the secret teachings that held his followers together. He evidently knows the claims of Jesus well enough; his spies and officers have continually been dogging the steps of Jesus, and hitherto he has failed to gain evidence positively incriminating him. And as his representatives a few days ago were utterly foiled, notwithstanding their clever design, he hopes by his own ingenuity to entrap the Lord in his talk. Our Lord, anxious not to endanger his disciples, points to the publicity of his ministry, and appeals to all and sundry who have heard him.
Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.
Verse 20. - Jesus answered him, I have frankly (so Meyer, Lange; not "openly," but boldly, with freedom of speech) spoken to the world. Without reserving any of the essentials of my teaching, always I taught in synagogue, and in the temple, whither all the Jews resort and come together; and in secret spake I nothing, which they were not bidden to proclaim upon the housetops. Christ here repudiates esoteric teaching distinct from his abundant public ministry. It is true he explained his parables to his disciples, and he had within the last few hours poured forth the depth of his feelings upon them; still, he had said the same things virtually in the synagogues, on the hillside, in the temple, in the hearing of Greek as well as Jew. Much of that which he had just said in the upper chamber, hundreds and thousands had already heard. This great utterance accounts for the fact that St. Paul had received, long before the Fourth Gospel was written, truth allied to the teaching of the upper chamber.
Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said.
Verse 21. - Why askest thou me? If thou wantest evidence touching my design, my disciples, or my teaching, ask, interrogate, those who have heard me, what I have said to them. Lo, these (pointing to numbers in the angry crowd around him) know what I spake unto them (the ἐγώ at the end of this sentence is very emphatic). Christ thus rebukes the craftiness and hypocritical endeavor of his enemies to induce him to inculpate his disciples, or to give his prosecutors matter against him. To false witnesses he preserved an invincible silence, and before Caiaphas and Pilate he answered to many of their queries not a single word, insomuch that these governors marveled greatly. However, the case was altered when Caiaphas, in full Sanhedrin, officially challenged him to say whether he was the Christ, and adjured him to declare whether he was the Son of God. Then, on the most public scale, knowing well the issues of his declaration, and of his oath-bound word, he did not hesitate to confess that he was the Son of God, and would come in the glory of his Father, and that he was no less than the Christ of God. On the present occasion, when Annas was seeking to justify his own craft, and to utilize the disgraceful betrayal which he had diplomatically and cruelly contrived, Jesus refused to incriminate either himself or his disciples. Renan has the temerity to say that this great announcement was quite superfluous, and probably was never made. Any conclusion whatever may be derived from historical documents, if such liberties may be taken with impunity.
And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so?
Verse 22. - And when he had said these things, one of the officers standing by, anxious to win with his officious zeal the approval of his master, gave Jesus a ῤάπισμα. (Meyer says it cannot be settled whether this word means a stroke with a rod (as Godet, Bengel) or a blow on the cheek or ear, which was the current punishment for a word supposed to be insolent; but δέρεις of Ver. 23, which means "to flay," implies a more severe punishment than a blow on the face with the hand.) This is the beginning of the coarse and terrible mockery which was the lot of the sublime Sufferer through the remaining hours of the awful day which is now dawning on him. Saying, Answerest thou the high priest so?
Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?
Verse 23. - Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, come forward as a witness of the evil which thou hast heard. Thus he took no notice of the charge brought against him. But if I have spoken well, why smitest thou me? A quiet appeal to the conscience of the wretched upstart who dared to insult the Lord of glory. It is thus that the Lord explained the spirit of his own injunction, "Whosoever shall smite thee on the one cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matthew 5:39). Nothing was gained by this private interrogatory except an appeal to the outside world of his hearers, and a call for testimony; and no decision could be legally taken against him without incriminating evidence. Dr. Farrar ('Life of Christ') has pointed out with great force that the chief priests and Pharisees, from their intestine animosities, had great difficulty in formulating any specific charge. The Pharisaic ratty, if they made a point of his doctrine and practice concerning the sabbath, would have been foiled by the Sadducean latitudinarians; and the priests did not dare to call in question his imperial cleansing of the temple, knowing that the Pharisees would immediately have justified the act. Consequently, Arums limited his inquiries to the supposed esoteric character of some private teachings to his initiated disciples - a charge that was refuted by the continual publicity and openness of all his teaching.
Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest.
Verse 24. - The οϋν is quite in John's style, and the verse should read, Annas therefore sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest; i.e. to the full court of the Sanhedrin, under the presidency of Caiaphas, now got together for the judicial sifting and verdict. If John had intended a pluperfect sense to be given to the verb, why not use that tense? The relative clauses, where the aorist is used for the pluperfect, are not relevant here (Meyer). In other cases the context clearly reveals the occasion of such a sense (see Matthew 16:5; Matthew 26:48). John is not unaware of the momentous consequences of this act of Annas, seeing that he refers to them, nor of the fact of the accusation made by the false witnesses, nor of the judicial condemnation which followed Christ's own claim to be the Son of God. The subsequent narrative implies such condemnation (Vers. 29, 30, 35; John 19:11). The author of this narrative does not ignore the fact of the appearance before Caiaphas, nor the issue; but in consequence of the wide diffusion of the synoptic Gospels, he merely called attention to the facts which they had omitted so far as they bore directly on the human character of the Lord. The theological bias with which the evangelist is credited by some would be strangely subserved both by the omission of the scene before Caiaphas, and by the faithful record of this purely human and beautiful trait in the personal character of Jesus. The fact that the fourth evangelist should have recorded facts of which he was eye-witness, and omitted others which would have forcibly sustained his main thesis, is an invincible evidence of historicity.
And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not.
Verse 25. - Ἠν δέ. In startling contrast to this scene, and while Annas had completed his bad-hearted but foiled inquisition, possibly even while our Lord was being transferred from the one court to the other - an event which provided an opportunity for the searching, loving, compassionate glance which broke Peter's heart - the second and third denials of Peter were also being enacted. Now Simon Peter, who had been challenged by the doorkeeper, was standing and warming himself (a form of verbal construction of auxiliary verb with participle to which John is addicted, and especially in those portions of his Gospel which represent his personal composition; John 1:6, 9, 24, 27; John 3:24, 27) - "standing," not "sitting," as Luke describes his position at the first denial, having, we might suppose, impetuously changed his position. They said therefore unto him, Art thou also one of his disciples? This sentence of John really gathers up another moment of Peter's terrible fall, variously and even discrepantly put by the synoptic narrative, and is virtually accordant with them all three. According to Matthew "another maid," according to Mark "the maid" who had first challenged him, returned to the assault. Nothing more likely than that what was said by one woman should be eagerly taken up by another, and therefore that both statements are true. Luke, however, describes the event thus: ἑτερος, "another man" (perhaps "a different person") saw him and said, "Thou art one of them." John's statement embraces the substance of all three statements, "They said unto him." The general resemblance of the second charge brought against the apostle, as stated by all four evangelists, is remarkable. The different personages by whose lips the charge was urged can best be explained by the occurrence of simultaneous and widely spreading conviction, instead of an unnecessary multiplication of the denials themselves. Matthew and Mark represent Peter as overhearing the conversation of the maids with those who were there (ἐκεῖ), showing the obvious occasion for some eager ἕτερος to take up their statement as an accusation. The difficulty of place is not so easily resolved, for Matthew and Mark speak of the "gate," πυλών, or προαύλιον, "porch," outer hall of the court, and John of the fire where Peter first sat in apparent unconcern. We do not know how near the fire was to the πυλών, whether it was not indeed between the θύρα and the πυλών, in the προαύλιον. According to Matthew he was moving towards the πυλών, probably in the stir of the procession from the house of Annas to the court of Caiaphas. The four evangelists agree in the declaration made by Peter. He denied, and said, I am not; i.e. I am not one of the disciples concerning whom Annas asks. "I do not know the Man."
One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him?
Verses 26, 27. - Between the second and third denials some time elapsed. Thus according to Matthew and Mark "after a little while," according to Luke "about the space of one hour after," an effort was made to identify Peter by. some sign of his association with Jesus. All the synoptists re. present it as turning on his provincial, Galilaean, speech, but John gives a closer point of identification. There were thousands of Galilaeans in Jerusalem, and this was a feeble ground of proof, though it may have corroborated the suspicion of the maidens and others, that Peter was an accomplice of the hated Nazarene; but the charge came home in terrible earnest and verisimilitude as recorded by John. His account is far more lifelike, forcible, and circumstantial. The fourth evangelist says, One of the servants (doulw = n) of the high priest, being a kinsman of him whose ear Peter cut off, says, Did I not see thee in the garden with him? The historically attested fact gave the lie to Peter's previous assertions. Clearly he was seen and recognized and in imminent peril, and he is now more vehement than ever. Matthew and Mark tell, "tie began to curse and swear, saying, I do not know the Man." John, with less feeling of reproach, says, Peter therefore denied again. The intercessory prayer, the solemn warning, the agony in the garden, above all, the following of the sublime encouragements by this fearful failure, the ignominious binding and rude indignity offered to the Man who had claimed to be the Vicegerent and Image and Glory of the Father, combined to shatter Peter's courage, though it did not annihilate his faith (see Steinmeyer and Weiss). The Lord had prayed that his faith should not fail. He was sifted as wheat, but the apostle knew, even in the depths of his shame, that he was a poltroon and coward, and that the Lord was everything he said he was. But meanwhile he denied again, he kept up with his violence of language, his hypocritical denial of his own faith - and straightway the cock crew. Mark, who had made the prediction of our Lord cover a twofold cockcrowing, records the twofold fulfillment; John, who in John 13:38 had given the prediction "before the cock crow," here shows how Peter must have been reminded of his Lord's preternatural knowledge and forecast. So that, though John does not mention the repentance, he refers to the well-known occasion of it, and, moreover, shows more forcibly than either of the synoptists the extraordinary tenderness of the risen and reconciled Lord to his erring and cowardly disciple. Some extreme harmonists have spread out the fault of Peter into nine distinct acts of treachery; others have reduced them to seven or eight. M'Clellan, in a powerful note (p. 447), urges that there were "twice three," or six distinct denials. Matthew and Mark report three denials while the trial before Caiaphas was going on; these are, according to M'Clellan, entirely distinct from John's "first denial," which preceded even the lighting of the fire. Nor does he allow that Luke's first denial, "sitting at the fire," can coincide with John's "second denial," which must also have preceded that which Luke gives as the first, and that John's "third denial" is distinct again from Matthew's third, Mark's third, and Luke's third. Thus he makes John's account entirely supplementary to the synoptists. Peter may have used a variety of expressions on each occasion, and each challenge may have been accompanied by some features not especially noted as to posture or place, but the arrangement adopted in the text represents a threefold assault upon the apostle, which had three crises of intensity and terrible result. Taking Matthew and Mark as virtually identical, Luke's account as a separate tradition with reference to the second denial, and agreeing with Matthew and Mark in the third, and in his first with John's second, we have three denials once more following the prediction. John's account, whether distinct or not from the other two records, bears the same relation to our Lord's previous announcement that the synoptists' do to theirs, and shows that in no quarter was there a general belief in more than three virtual acts of apostasy. Mark alone mentions a twofold warning from the cock, one after the first denial, and on Peter's going out to the προαύλιον, or the enclosure, i.e. between the πυλών and the θύρα, and again after the third denial. M'Clellan and others find a threefold denial before each crowing of the cock. Certainly John has omitted the entire scene detailed by the synoptists in the hail of Caiaphas, viz. the calling of the witnesses; the lack of harmony in the false witnesses; the adjuration of Caiaphas; the wondrous confession of the persecuted and bound Sufferer; the verdict pronounced against him, on the part of all assembled, that he was guilty of death; the first cruel mockery; and the very early assembly of the entire Sanhedrin - all the chief priests (πάντες οἱ αρχιερείς) and. elders of the people (Matthew 27:1, 2; Mark 15:1, the chief priests, with the elders and scribes and all the Sanhedrin). The synoptists assure us that the object of this council - which was probably held in the celebrated chamber of the temple appropriated for the purpose - was to adopt the most suitable measures for immediately carrying their unanimous judgment into effect. As we shall see shortly, John is perfectly aware of such a measure having been taken (see not only Ver. 31, but John 11:47, etc.). Nevertheless, he passes on at once to the legal and civil trial before the Roman proprietor. This is not the place to discuss the twofold trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. Derembourg, Farrar, and Westcott suppose that the first demands of the high priest, as to whether he was the Christ, as given by Matthew and Mark, were different from the scene described by Luke, where he claimed ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν to be seated on the right hand of the power of God, and suppose that this last was the occasion, when the verdict was given by the Sanhedrin in full session, not in the palace of the high priest, but in the "Gazith," or possibly in the "Booths of Hanan," on the Mount of Olives. Luke clearly discriminates between οϊκος τοῦ ἀρχιερέως (Luke 22:54), and the συνέδριον αὐτῶν of Ver. 66.
Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.
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.
Verse 28 - John 19:16. -

(3) The Roman trial, presupposing the decision of the Sanhedrin. Verses 28-32. - (a) [Without the Praetorium.] Pilate extorts the malign intention of the Jews, and dares them to disobey Roman law. Verse 28. - Then they lead Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the Praetorium - to the imperial palace of the Roman governor. The word is used primarily for the general's tent in the Roman camps, and for the legal residence of the chief of a province. Now, the ordinary residence of the Roman governors was at Caesarea, but at the time of the great feasts they were in the habit of going up to Jerusalem, and at a later time than this (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 2:14. 8; 15:5) the governors utilized for this purpose the former palace of Herod, a gorgeous residence in the upper city. It is, however, more probable that Pilate occupied the palace of the Castle of Antonia, overlooking the northwest corner of the temple area, and having means of direct communication with it. Edersheim inclines to the palace of Herod. From the high-priestly palace to the castle they led Jesus. And it was early. [In Matthew 14:25 and Mark 13:35 πρωῖ´ is equivalent to the fourth watch of the night, between three and six o'clock. The breadth of the phrase would cover the period of the hurried council (see Matthew 27; Mark 15.) and the session of Pilate. The Roman judgments were often conducted in early morning (Seneca, 'De Ira,' 2:7) - prima luce.] The council having in their indecent haste conveyed Jesus to the Praetorium, while (and) they themselves went not into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled (μιαίνω, the solemn word for "profane" in Plato, Sophocles, and the LXX.). This defilement by entrance into the house of a Gentile was not an enactment of the Law, but was a purely rabbinic observance (Delitzsch, 'Talmudische Studien,' 14. (1874); 'Zeitschrift fur die gesammte Luth. Theol.'). We find it operative in Acts 10:28, and thus a hint given not merely of the author's knowledge of the inner life of Judaism, but of his quiet recognition of the stupendous spectacle of malicious ritualism, and of unscrupulous antagonism to the Holiest One, busying itself about attention to the letter of that which was only a rabbinic legislation. But might eat the Passover. Here in this passage we come once more face to face with the persistent puzzle occasioned by the divergent intimations of John and the synoptists as to the day of our Lord's death. In Matthew 26:17 and Mark 14:12-14 this very phrase is used for the preparation of that Paschal supper which our Lord celebrated with his disciples (see Introduction, pp. 93, etc.). So that we have at any rate a discordant verbal usage, however the problem be solved. The day is breaking, which constitutes, according to John (prima facie), the 14th of Nisan, in the evening of which and commencement of the 15th the Passover would be killed. According to the synoptists, that Passover meal was already over, and the first great day of the feast had commenced - the day of convocation, with sabbatic functions and duties. The statements are apparently in hopeless variance. Many emphasize, exaggerate, and declare insoluble the contradiction, repudiating either the authority of John or that of the synoptists. Meyer and Lucke give their verdict with John, the eye-witness, as against the synoptic tradition. Strauss and Keim, who also hold the invincible discrepancy, lift the synoptic account to a comparatively high state of historic validity, and thereby discredit the authenticity of the Fourth Gospel. We have two methods of reconciling the difficulty:

(1) An endeavor to show that the synoptic narrative itself is inconsistent with the idea that the night of the Passion was the night of the general Passover.

(a) That the entire proceeding of the trial was inconsistent with the feast-day;

(b) that Simon the Cyrenian could not bear the cross on that day;

(c) the circumstance that that Friday evening was the preparation of the Passover; and

(d) that the reckonings of the weeks till the Pentecost Sunday are all made to show that the synoptic narrative itself admits that the Crucifixion took place before the Passover meal. So also does the decision of the priests, that they would put Jesus to death μὴ ἐν τῆ ἑορτῆ (Matthew 26:5; Mark 14:2). On this understanding the passage before us is interpreted in its natural sense; the Jews were unwilling to contract ceremonial defilement, because they were about to eat the Passover, and so with respect to the other references in John's Gospel, which all, prima facto, suggest the same chronological arrangement.

(2) A very powerful argument has been constructed, however, which brings John's account here, as well as elsewhere, into harmony with the supposed assertion of a synoptic narrative, that the Paschal meal preceded the trial of Jesus. It is said by Hengstenberg, M'Clellan, Edersheim, and others that this unwillingness to defile themselves was because they were anticipating their midday meal, at which sacrificial offerings and thank offerings, also called chagigah, were regarded as "eating the Passover" (Deuteronomy 16:2, 3; 2 Chronicles 30:22; 2 Chronicles 35:7-9). It is argued that, if the Jews were thinking of a meal which would not come off till sundown, their fear of defilement was illusory. But examination of these passages shows that there is a distinction drawn between the Paschal lamb and the cattle which might form part of the general sacrificial feasting of the following days, and that the term "Passover" is strictly limited to the Paschal lamb. Moreover, the duration of the defilement thus contracted would certainly have prevented them from any participation in the slaying of the Paschal lamb "between the evenings" of the 14th and 15th of Nisan. Dr. Moulton has made the ingenious suggestion that John's statement here is brought into harmony with the synoptic narrative, by the supposition that the chief priests had been disturbed in their Passover preparations, and were intending to complete their meal as soon as the decision of the Roman governor had been given. This very supposition reveals the exceeding unlikelihood that all the hierarchs and chief scribes, Pharisees, and elders of the people had consented to forego the due solemnization of their national rite on that previous evening. This supposition involves a much greater violation of Passover regulation than that Jesus and the twelve should have anticipated the ceremony by a few hours. If the day is the 14th of Nisan, all, so far as John's account is concerned, is obvious. I am therefore disposed to agree with Meyer, Keim, De Pressense, Baur, Neander, De Wette, Ebrard, Ewald, Westcott, Godet, and Lucke, against Hengstenberg, Wieseler, Tholuck, Luthardt, M'Clellan, and many others. The full interpretation of the synoptic narrative is discussed elsewhere (Introduction, p. 92.). Certainly John makes no reference to the Passover in his account of the Last Supper, neither does he refer to the institution of the Lord's Supper. It will not be just to say, with Renan, that John has substituted the foot-washing for the sacramental least. (On the principle of his omissions, see Introduction, pp. 100-105.)
Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?
Verse 29. - Pilate therefore, because of their rooted national prejudice, went out unto them beyond his court, to some open space convenient for hearing the case. Pilate is introduced here without any preliminary statement or title, as though the position of the man were well known to his readers - another proof that the synoptic narrative is presupposed. This scrupulousness contrasts with the summary proceeding of Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:1, 2), and with the conduct of the Roman authorities (Acts 22:24). The very question he asks implies that something had conspired to provoke a certain sympathy on his part with Jesus, and to excite additional suspicion of the Jews. The statement of Matthew 27:19 may account for the former. The fact that he was ready to hear the case at this early hour shows that he must have been prepared for the scene, and even primed for it. Pilate (the manuscripts vary between Peilatos and Pilatos) was the fifth governor of Judaea under the Romans, and held office from A.D. -36. He is represented by Philo ('Legatio ad Caium,' 38) as a proud, ungovernable man; and, in his conflicts with the Jews, he had especial reason to detest their obstinate ceremonial and religious prejudices. Philo speaks of Pilate's "ferocious passions,What accusation do ye bring against this Man? He may have known, probably did know, but chose to give formality to the charge, and not simply to register their decrees.
They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.
Verses 30, 31. - They answered and said, if he were not a malefactor, we should not have delivered him up to thee. This was somewhat audacious. It was as much as to say, "We have judged, you have only to register our decisions. We are not bound to go through our evidence before you." If it had been so, the deprivation of the jus gladii, the power of capital execution would have mattered little to them. Pilate, in scorn and irony, replies, "If that be so, why have ye brought him to me? If you are unwilling to comply with the terms of Roman jurisprudence, then it must be some ease which you can dispose of according to your own rules." Take ye him yourselves, and according to your Law judge him. Pilate saw their animus, and that they were thirsting for the blood of Jesus, and wished at once to flout them and make them confess their impotence and admit his suzerainty. For them to judge (κρίνειν) was not equivalent to put to death (ἀποκτεῖμαι), and Pilate clearly suggested that much. The Jews [therefore] said to him, It is not lawful (οὐκ ἔξεστι) to us to put any man to death. This was perfectly true, notwithstanding the tumultuary and violent acts and threats, and incipient stonings of Jesus, to which the Gospel refers (John 8:3, 59; John 7:25). Other interpretations of this exclamation have been supplied, viz. "to execute criminals of state" (Krebs), "to do so on feast-days" (Semler); but the power had been formally taken from even the supreme court, forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem. The instance of the massacre of James the Just, occurring between the departure of one Roman governor and the arrival of another, is mentioned by Josephus ('Ant.,' 20:09. 1) as a distinct infringement and violation of law. The stoning of Stephen in a wild tumult, and the proceedings of Herod Agrippa, are rather confirmations than violations of the rule. Thus the malign disposition and distinct purpose of the Jews were revealed. They would not have brought Jesus at all before the Roman governor, nor admitted his claim to decide any case involving religious ideas and practices, if they had not fully decided that Jesus must die. Bat John sees a deeper reason still.
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:
That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.
Verse 32. - In order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying by what manner of death he was about to die. Thus the very political order of the world, the whole process by which Judaea became a Roman province, was part of the wondrous plan by which Jew and Gentile should together offer up the awful sacrifice, and all the world be guilty of the death of its Lord. The manner of the death had been foretold by our Lord. In John 3:14 he spoke of being lifted up (ὑψωθήαι), in John 8:28 he charged the Jews with the intention of so lifting him up to die (ὅταν ὑψώσητε), implying a method of capital punishment which was contrary to their ordinary habits; and in John 12:32 he declared that this lifting up of the Son of man would create part of his sacred and Divine attraction to the human race. In the synoptists he is said to have repeatedly spoken of his σταυρός (Luke 14:27; Mark 8:34; Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24); but in Matthew 20:19 he had clearly predicted his crucifixion by the Gentiles (cf. Luke 9:22, 23). The manner or kind of death was full of significance; it provided opportunity for the royal demission of his own life; it gave conditions for much of the sublime self-manifestation of the closing hours; it has proved, notwithstanding all the shame and curse of the proceeding, eminently symbolic of the compassion with which he embraced the human race in all its defilement and all the variety of its need. We are not surprised to find that the evangelist saw, in the complicated relations of Jewish and Roman authority, a divinely ordered arrangement, and a clearly foreseen and predicted consummation. Luke 23:2 shows that the charge brought against Jesus was made to receive a coloring likely to prejudice the Roman governor against him: "We found this Man perverting our nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King." The uproar and the false and malicious charge would be more likely than any other to move Pilate against him; and thus the synoptic narrative, being presupposed, gives an explanation of the first question which John, as well as the synoptists, represents Pilate as first of all pressing upon the Divine Sufferer. Without Luke's statement, Pilate's question is abrupt and in. explicable; but it must be admitted that there is in John's narrative no direct hint of Luke's addition; and Christ's counter-question to the inquiry of Pilate (which last is given in the same form by all four evangelists) implies that he had not overheard the false charge which the Jews had brought into the court. The Lord was within the Praetorium. Pilate and the Jews were on the open, external space, where the altercation proceeded. We may also, with Steinmeyer, observe that nothing could appear more anomalous to Pilate than that these bigoted and rebellious priests, who perpetually resisted the claims of Roman governors to enforce tribute, should now hypocritically pretend that a prophet-leader of their own had been guilty of such a charge. Instead of resisting, the Pharisees would have fostered a demagogue who had taken such a disloyal part. Pilate would at once have suspected that there was something ominous in the very charge itself, when tumultuously pressed by a party who were accustomed to regard such proceedings as patriotic; and he saw with shrewdness that the Jews had merely cloaked their real antagonism by presenting an incrimination which, under ordinary circumstances, they would have treated as a crowning virtue.
Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?
Verses 33-38. - (b) [Within the Praetorium.] Christ's admission that he was a .King, but that his kingdom was not of this world. Verses 33, 34. - Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, out of direct hearing of the vociferous crowd, where Jesus and John himself had remained under supervision of the officers of the court, and called - summoned -Jesus to his side, and said to him that of which the mob outside formed an imperfect idea. The account of John throws much light on the inference which Pilate drew from the reply of Jesus, as given in Ver. 38 and in Luke 23:4. To the loud accusations and bitter charges of "the chief priests and elders" (Matthew 27:11, 12; Mark 15:3, 4) brought in the presence of Pilate, Christ answered nothing. His solemn and accusing silence caused the governor to marvel greatly (see both Matthew 27:14 and Mark 15:5). He marveled not only at the silence of the Lord, but at that silence after he, Pilate, had received from him so explicit a statement as to the nature of his own kingdom. An explanation of the motive of Pilate, and of his entire manner upon this occasion, is to be found in the private interview between our Lord and the Roman governor within the Praetorium. It is unnecessary (with many) to see in Pilate an "almost persuaded" believer in the claims of Jesus, who yet was warring with his better judgment, and apostatizing from a nascent faith. He appears rather as the Roman man of the world, who has never learned to rule his policy by any notions of righteousness and truth, and is utterly unable to appreciate the spiritual claims of this Nazarene; yet he was shrewd enough to see that, so far as Roman authority was concerned, this Prisoner was utterly harmless. His question was, Art thou the King of the Jews? Of course, he expected at first a negative reply. Should this abused and rejected, this bound and bleeding Sufferer, with no apparent followers around him, actually betrayed by one of his intimate friends, deserted by the rest, and hounded to death by the fierce cries of Pharisee and Sadducee, chief priest and elder, answer in the affirmative, it might easily suggest itself to Pilate that he must be under some futile hallucination. It has been said that the question might have been answered right off in the affirmative or in the negative, according as the term "King of the Jews" was understood. If what Pilate meant was a popular titular leader, imperator of Jewish levies, one prepared for the career of Judas of Galilee, or Herod the Idumaean, or for that of Barchochab in after times, - nothing could seem to be less likely or more patently repudiated by the facts; moreover, from our Lord himself, who had always refused a quasi-royal dignity (John 6:15), it would have required an emphatic negative. Pilate knew no other way of interpreting the phrase. If the term meant the true "King of Israel," the Messiah anticipated by prophecy and psalm, the King of all kings and Lord of lords, the Ruler of hearts, who would draw all men to him, and east out and vanquish the prince of this world, then the "crown" was his, and he could not deny it; but before this assertion was made in the hearing of the multitude, our Lord would draw from Pilate the sense in which he used the words. He does not say to him, Σὺ λέγεις, "Thou sayest" -a reply given verbatim by all the synoptists, and referring to a second demand made in the presence of the multitude - but he put a counter-question, Sayest thou this thing, askest thou this question, from thyself? - from thy knowledge of the hopes kindled by the ancient books, or from comparing my words with my appearance, or from any judgments thou hast formed a priori? (so Godet, Neander, Olshausen, and Ewald). Thus Jesus was not so much informing Pilate of the distinction between the two kingships, as claiming qua Prisoner at the bar the source of the accusation. "Have I put forth any claim of this kind, which thou as the chief magistrate of this Roman province hast any legal cognizance of?" It was not, as Hengstenberg and Westcott suggest, an appeal to the man rather than to the governor, to the conscience of Pilate rather than to the forms of the tribunal; but (Meyer), with the intrepid consciousness of perfect innocence of the political crime, our Lord asks for the formal declaration of the charge brought against him. Or did others tell it thee concerning me? Alford, Lange, Schaff, etc., all agree with Godet in supposing that Christ was discriminating between the theocratic and the political use of the great phrase. It is obvious that he did rise from the latter to the former in the following verses, but it is difficult to find the distinction in this alternative question. "Did others (not thine own police or observation) - did the Jews, in fact, bring thee this charge against me? Nay, did they not? Is it not entirely due to this outbreak of hostility to my teaching that they have chosen thus to impeach me before thee - to deliver me to thee?" Therefore, first of all, Christ repudiated the charge, in the only sense in which it could have conveyed any colorable idea to the mind of Pilate.
Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?
Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?
Verse 35. - Pilate answered, with the proud and haughty tone of a Roman military judge or procurator, Am I a Jew? The ἐγώ is very emphatic, and the force of the question requires a negative. You know that it would be insult to me to make such a supposition. The nation that is thine, not mine, and the chief priests, delivered thee to me. An unequivocal statement that he had no reason of his own to assume that Jesus was a political aspirant. Whatever inner reasons these Jews had to malign Jesus and confuse Pilate's mind with the ambiguity of the title, the governor is innocent as yet of any such theocratic or religious meaning in the charge. More than this, the humiliation of the Divine Lord of men, the King of Israel, is grievously aggravated by the very use of the word. "Thy own nation has delivered thee up, has betrayed thee to me." The crime of Judas has been adopted by the religious authorities and the patriotic leaders of the people. "He came unto his own, and his own people received him not." Christ frequently anticipated this result of his ministry; and he regarded it as the climax of his indignity (see especially Luke 9:44; and cf. the language of St. Peter, Acts 3:13), that the anointed King should by his own people be "delivered" up to lawless Gentile hands to be crucified and slain. Pilate assures him that, if he is now in his hands, the cause of it is simply that his own people had utterly repudiated his claims, whatever they may have been. What didst thou do to transform into thy bitter enemies those who would naturally condone or favor any such claim as that of being a seditious rival to the Roman Caesar?
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.
Verse 36. - In reply to this challenge, Jesus answered - obviously assuming the fact that he was a king in a sense entirely different from that which had been maliciously suggested to Pilate - My kingdom - the kingdom that is mine - is not of this world. Neither now nor at any future period will it derive its origin from this world. So far as Christ is King, his royal power and state are not furnished by earthly force, or fleshly ordinances, or physical energies, or material wealth, or imperial armies. The dominion that he will wield will be one over hearts and lives; the authority of the Lord Jesus cannot be arrested or overpowered by physical force. Most commentators justly regard this as a spiritual manifesto of the sources and quality of the kingdom of Christ, and a foreshadowing of the separation between the spiritual and secular power - a declaration that all effort to embody Christian laws and government in compulsory forms, and to defend them by penal sanctions and temporal force, is disloyalty to the royal rank and crown rights of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hengstenberg regards the assertion as precisely the reverse; sees in the passage, "rightly understood, the very opposite purpose. The kingdom that sprang directly from heaven must have absolute authority over all the earth, and it will not submit to be put into obscurity. The kingdoms of this world must become the kingdom of the Lord and his Anointed, and he shall reign for ever and ever." This is true, but not along the lines or with the machinery of earthly rule and authority. The influence and authority of Heaven works upon the spirit by truth and righteousness and peace, and thus transforms institutions, permeates society from the ground of the heart, modifies the relations between the members of a household, and transfigures those between a ruler and his subjects, between the master and his slaves, between labor and capital, and between man and man. Whenever it is triumphant, whenever the lives of kings and their peoples are sanctified by supreme obedience to Christ the King, then war will be impossible, all tyrannies and slaveries will be abolished, all malice and violence of monarchs or mobs will be at an end; then the wolfish and the lamblike nature will be at peace. Then all the means for enforcing the will of one against another will be done away. He will have put down all rule, authority, and power; for he must reign, and he alone. This kingdom is not (ἐκ) "from," "out of," this world's methods or resources; does not begin from without and establish itself, or propagate or preserve itself, from the world, which is a rival, and is not to be coerced but drawn to itself. Like the individual disciple, the kingdom may be in the world, but not of it. Christ proceeded, If the kingdom that is mine were from this world, which it is not (mark the form of the condition), then, on that Supposition, would the servants (ὑπηρέται, generally translated "officers") that are mine fight, with physical force, in order that I should not be delivered up (παροδοθῶ) to the Jews. The supposition that the ὑπηρέται of whom our Lord spoke were "the angels" (as Bengel, Lampe, Stier, and at one time Luthardt, imagined), is distinctly repudiated by the ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, "of this present world." If it were the case, as it is not, then would my officers be, not a handful of disciples (whom he generally calls διάκονοι δοῦλοι), but the servants who would be appropriate to my royal mission, - then would my servants be busily fighting that I should not be delivered up by the Roman power that is for the moment thrown over me like a shield, to the Jews, who are thirsting for my blood. The loud cry of hatred and vengeance may even at this moment have pierced the interior of the Praetorium, thus giving its force, if not form, to the sentence. Godet thinks our Lord was referring to the crowds who actually gathered round him on Palm Sunday, and not to hypothetical ὑπηρέται; but the force of the condition goes down deeper, and, moreover, such language might have awakened the suspicion that, after all, Jesus had a political following, if he should choose to evoke it. Observe that this entire severance between "the Jews" and the friends of Christ, which, though occasionally adopted by the evangelist, is not the customary method of our Lord. The moment at which the Savior speaks gives great significance to the phraseology (observe John 4:22; John 13:33; John 18:20; the only other occasions on which the Lord used this phrase to denote his own people). But now (the νῦν, cf. John 9:41 and John 15:22, is logical, not temporal); i.e. But seeing that it is so - my kingdom, he adds, is not from hence. The ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου is equivalent to ἐντεῦθεν, and suggests that the kingdom derives its re sources and its energies "from the upper world, from above."
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.
Verse 37. - Pilate therefore said to him, Art thou a King then? The precise mean-lug of this exclamation depends on the accentuation of ουκουν - whether it be οὐκοῦν equivalent to igitur, "therefore:" "Therefore on your own showing you are a King!" or whether οὔκουν be the form; then it would have the force of nonne igitur? expecting an affirmative response. It is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον in the New Testament, but it generally implies an inference and a question expecting agreement with the questioner. Here Pilate flashes out with haughty rebuke. He had satisfied himself that Jesus was no political rival; hut, in wonderment and scorn, he would sound a little deeper the mystery of the kingly claim. It is not a judicial inquiry, but a burst of ironical surprise: So then, after all, thou art a King, even then? wavering between positive and negative reply. Hengstenberg sees neither irony nor scorn in the obsess, but a certain amount of disturbed equanimity. Jesus answered, Thou sayest it, that I am a King. This mode of affirmation is not found in classical Greek or the LXX., but occurs in the New Testament, and in the synoptists also it is given as the great answer of Jesus. Some have translated the ὅτι as "for" or "because," and added "well" and "rightly" to the λέγεις. Thus: Thou sayest well, for I am a King. Hengstenberg and Lampe separate this declaration from what follows, which they interpret exclusively of the prophetic office of Jesus: but the εἰς τοῦτο points backwards as well as forwards, and our Lord accepts that which he proceeds to explain as his royal functions. Westcott, however, says that Jesus neither accepts nor rejects the title of King, but simply reiterates Pilate's words, "Thou sayest that I am a King; I will proceed to explain what I mean by my royal mission." Seeing, however, that our Lord had already implicitly avowed his kingly state, it is far better to discern in the reply an acknowledgment of the inference which Pilate had scornfully drawn (see parallel method of answering the question, "Art thou the Son of God?" Luke 22:70, "Ye say that I am;" ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι compared with Mark 14:62). This is the "good confession" to which St. Paul referred (1 Timothy 6:13). This is the assumption, before the tribunal of the whole world, that he was and would forever remain its true King. To this end have I been born. Γεγέννημαι is an important admission of his true humanity, which Keim and others are unwilling to find in the Fourth Gospel. And to this end have I come into the world. These words are not tautological. In the first clause he asserts his birth as a man, in the second he refers to the state of being which preceded his incarnation (cf. here John 16:28, note), out of which he came, and to which he is now returning. The being "born" of woman is one fact, the "coming into this world" is another which he makes antithetical to his return to the Father. Ἐλήλυθα, present perfect, being used instead of ἤλθον, and implies that his "coming is permanent in its effects, and not simply a past historic fact" (Westcott). In order that I might bear witness unto the truth. This is his supreme claim. There is an absolute reality. God's way of thinking about things is the closest approximation we can make to the concept of "truth per se." In this is comprehended all the reality of the Divine nature and character; all that the eternal God thinks concerning man and the laws which have been given him, and concerning the failure of man to realize God's idea of what he ought to have been; all the absolute fact, just as it really is, of man's peril and his prospects, the actual relations between body and spirit, between the individual and the community; all man's positive need of redemption; all the deep mystery of Christ's own Person and work. These constitute the mighty realm of things, beings, duties, and prospects, which we call truth. Jesus said he had been born and had come into the world in order to bear witness to truth. From John the Baptist's standpoint, that prophet bore witness concerning the light (John 1:7, 8), and, according to the range of his vision, he too (John 5:33) bore "witness to the truth" (i.e. so far as he knew it) of the Christ. Our Lord now solemnly declares that he himself came to bear witness to THE TRUTH in all its amplitude. Hengstenberg sees in these words simply a reference here to the prophetic office of Christ; but the next clause shows that our Lord is actually defining by this claim the extent of the kingdom that is "not from hence" or from this world as its origin. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. To "hear the voice" is to obey as a supreme authority (John 10:8, 16, 27), and the phrase shows how widely the thought ranges. Every mind open to the influence of truth, every one who is set against the unrealities of mere opinion or tradition, who derives life and joy from the realm of reality, every one who therefore knows how different he might be, how much he needs, who is "of God," as the Source and Beginning and Ground of all things. Compare here the remarkable parallel to this sentiment, John rift. 47; and also the words of the high-priestly prayer, "All thine are mine, and mine are thine," and "Those whom thou hast given me are thine; thine they were, and thou gavest them me." The same large embrace of human souls is conspicuous here, Every one that is of the truth heareth the voice of Christ, and will accept his authority as final and supreme. The sublime witness to the truth which he had been bearing, in this manifestation of the Name of the Father, would make the voice of Jesus the imperial and august authority for all who fell how much they needed truth. The Sanhedrists said that "truth is the seal of God," and they played upon the word אמת or "truth," by making it equivalent to the first and middle and last of all things, seeing that ת מ א, are the first, middle, and last of the letters of the alphabet
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.
Verse 38. - Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? The aphorism of Lord Bacon, "'What is truth?' said jesting Pilate, and did not wait for an answer," scarcely represents the reality oft-he case. Pilate was not scornfully jesting with a metaphysical problem, nor professing himself hopelessly baffled in search for it. The language was not the utterance of irrepressible homage to his mysterious Prisoner, or heartfelt sympathy with him. For on this supposition why did he not wait for some more words of strange unearthly wisdom? Nor does he go so far in his skepticism as Pliny the Eider did when he said, "that there is only one thing certain, viz. that there is nothing certain;" but as a man of the world having to do with Roman authority or intrigue and Jewish fanaticism, Pilate despised earnestness and zeal, and was utterly unable to believe in the existence of a world or region where any higher reality than force prevailed. But the governor was now, with his narrow range of thought, strongly convinced that Jesus was utterly innocent of the charge brought against him. The unanswered question is equivalent to this - What has truth to do with kingship? What has the vague shadowy region over which this poor king reigns to do with plots against Caesar? He saw enough to induce him to break off the interview within the Praetorium, and he proceeded, though vainly, to deliver a verdict on the case. When he had said this, he went out to the Jews, and said, I find no crime in him. Here, however, must be introduced the scenes described by Matthew, Mark, and especially by Luke - scenes of loud and angry dispute and renewed and fierce accusation (Matthew 27:12-14; Mark 15:3-5; Luke 23:4-12). In all three accounts, after the admission that he was King of the Jews, the loud, fierce accusations followed in which our Lord, notwithstanding the repeated summons of Pilate, "answered nothing." At this the governor marveled greatly (Matthew and Mark). It is not impossible that the first question which Pilate put to him within the Praetorium was renewed and laconically answered with the Σὺ λέγεις, as before I but all the wild roar of the chief priests and people could extract nothing more. This silence in face of the accusation of the mob astonished Pilate, and made him more than ever convinced of the innocence of his Prisoner. B. Weiss shows conclusively how much light this interview with Pilate throws on the synoptic narrative; that, in fact, Pilate's whole conduct is only explicable on the supposition that he had received cogent reasons to disarm all political mistrust (see 'Life of Jesus,' vol. 3. pp. 348, 349). Westcott says, "It is of great interest to compare this confession before Pilate with the corresponding confession before the high priest (Matthew 26:64). The one addressed to the Jews is in the language of prophecy, the other addressed to a Roman appeals to the verdict of universal conscience. The one speaks of a future manifestation of glory, the other of a present manifestation of truth."
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?
Verses 39, 40. - (c) [Without the Praetorium.] The Roman trial continued without the Praetorium, where Pilate declared Christ innocent, and made another effort to save him. The Barabbas-proposal. Before the scene which John here introduces with a but - as though it followed immediately upon the utterance of a verdict of acquittal - Luke tells us that casual reference was made to the circumstance that Jesus was a Galilaean, and was in Herod's jurisdiction. Eager to quit himself' of a troublesome presence and business, Pilate caught at the expedient of sending Jesus at once to the court of Herod (Luke 23:6-12). This issuing in no result except in fresh and hideous mockery of the King of kings, and in a renewed protestation of his innocence and harmlessness, so far as the Roman Pilate or the Herodian tetrarch could discover, Pilate offered to scourge the Son of God, and release him. The utter meanness and cowardice of his offer to add ignominious pain and insult to the brutal mockeries of Herod and his soldiers, brands Pilate with eternal shame. As soon as the word "release" broke upon their ears, there was a reminder from the people that Pilate should follow at the feast the custom for some time in vogue, of releasing a prisoner. Now, there was a notorious criminal, who had stirred up a bloody insurrection in the city, one which had resulted in murder. He may have been popular among the vehement anti-imperial party for some seditious proceedings against constituted authorities; he may, in fact, really have been guilty of the very charge brought wickedly against the holy Jesus. This is only conjecture. But there he stood - Barabbas, and, according to some manuscripts, "Jesus" also by name, "Son of the Father," but a violent man, a λῃστής, statue with crime, whether he were a Gaulonite or not. The notion of releasing Barabbas, in accordance with a time honored custom, did, according to Luke, originate first of all with some of the people; and this apparent difference between the synoptic narrative and John's is represented and referred to in this Gospel by the introduction of a πάλιν (Ver. 40). For although John does not mention the first attempt to secure the safety of Barabbas, he implied that the infernal shout, "Not this Man, but Barabbas!" had already burst upon his ears, and was repeated so soon as Pilate had exclaimed, as John briefly reports, Ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the Passover (or, κατὰ δὲ ἑορτήν, Mark 15:6). We know nothing of the origin of this "custom," nor is it elsewhere referred to. The two classes into which critics are divided about the "day of our Lord's death," here take opposite views as to the meaning of the phrase, ἐν τῷ πάσχα. The one class press the fact that the Paschal meal must be over, and that this must have been the first day of unleavened bread, in order to justify this expression; the other critics urge that since the feast had not commenced, Pilate was prepared to grant release in time for Barabbas to take his place with his friends in all the national ceremonies. The phrase, according to Meyer and others, is so indefinite that it may most certainly belong to both the 14th and 15th days of Nisan, and no conclusive argument can, from its use, be drawn in favor of either day. Will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Again therefore they cried all, Not this Man, but Barabbas! Now Barabbas was a robber. Possibly Pilate wished to find out whether among the ὄχλος there were any sympathizers with Jesus, who might be gratified at the expense of the hated priests; for he "knew that by reason of envy they had delivered up Jesus to him." He wished to set the multitude and the priesthood at variance, and to save Jesus through their mutual recriminations. He would have made a diversion in favor of his Prisoner. He adroitly suspected that some of the surging crowd might have been the friends or accomplices of Jesus, and he would have been gratified to free himself from the responsibility of slaying an innocent man. The phraseology of Mark suggests that Pilate would have been justified in such a conjecture, for a momentary pause occurred. There were some symptoms of wavering in the crowd. But the suggestions of the chief priests passed to the people. Matthew (Matthew 27:20) says, "The chief priests and elders persuaded (ἔπεισαν) the multitudes that they should demand Barabbas, and destroy Jesus." They needed some persuasion, then: but, alas! they yielded to it. Mark (Mark 15:11) is still more explicit: "The chief priests stirred up the people(ἀνέσεισαν), in order that he might release Barabbas unto them." The double phrase sets forth, in vivid touches, the eager circulation to and fro among the crowds of the hot- headed and malignant priests and elders, who thus secured, not without some difficulty, a popular confirmation of their malignant scheme. "NOT THIS MAN, BUT BARABBAS!" was the repeated cry of a stupefied crowd. The memory of all the gracious words and life-giving actions of Jesus did not subdue the raging passion of their lust; they could neither see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts. The light that was in them was darkened. They preferred that a murderer should be granted to them. "Not this Man, but Barabbas!" is their verdict. Human power and popular feeling and corporate conscience reached the bottomless abyss of degradation. Jerusalem that killed the prophets would have none of him. Even human nature itself must bear the shame which by this cry for vengeance against goodness was branded upon its brow for ever. Through this daemonic hatred of the noblest and the best, manifested by the world, the world is itself condemned. "Who is he," said John afterwards, "that overcometh the world? Even he who believeth that Jesus is the Son of God." The world has made its Sesostris, its Tiberius, its Nero, its Antinous, into sons of God; the world has ever cried, "Not this Man" - not Jesus of Nazareth - but "Jesus Barabbas is son of God." It will find out its mistake too late. The synoptic narrative (Matthew 27:19-23; Mark 15:12-14; Luke 23:20-23) had already made the Church familiar with other details more or less connected with this incident, and which preceded the final sentence. John, who followed his Master as closely as possible, was acquainted with some interesting facts, full of suggestion, which throw additional light upon the conduct of Pilate, and bring forth some sublime traits in the character and bearing of our Lord. From the synoptists we learn that Pilate struggled for some considerable time to get his own way, and he remonstrated repeatedly with the people concerning their choice of Barabbas, the murderer and brigand, and their refusal to recall their malignant deliverance of Jesus to him as a malefactor. The bare idea that this gentle, silent, magnanimous Sufferer, bereft of his friends, mocked by Herod, deserted by his disciples, should have the faintest shadow of a claim to sovereignty in the only sense in which Pilate could understand such an idea, revolted his common sense. The message from his wife (Matthew 27:19) had furthermore excited his semi-superstitious fears, and he maundered in a feeble fashion, "What shall I do with Jesus that is called Christ?" -"with him whom ye say is (accused of being) King of the Jews?" and for the first time the ominous and terrible cry is returned, "CRUCIFY HIM!" They do not ask that he be speared or beheaded, or treated like a convicted aspirant or usurper; nay, they will not be pacified until the doom of a common malefactor, the shameful death of a criminal slave, is meted out to him. Pilate is amazed, and even horrified, by the intensity of their spite and the cruelty of their hatred. Once and again Pilate said, "Why, what evil has he done? I found in him no proved occasion of any kind of death." The tumult was rising every moment, and Pilate would have been glad to compromise the matter by sending Barabbas to the cross; and before he took the course dictated by the angry mob, he washed his hands in a basin of water, and proclaimed the fact that he had, and would take, no responsibility for the judicial murder to which they would hound him. "I am guiltless of the blood of this Man: see you to it" (Matthew 27:24, 25). Many commentators refer this proceeding of Pilate to the moment when he finally uttered the cursed verdict: Ibis ad crucem. Matthew's account is much more concise at this point than John's. Heathen writers had repeatedly scoffed at the notion of water washing away the guilt of blood. We can hardly suppose that Pilate meant more than a disdainful repudiation of any sympathy with the infuriated crowd (see Steinmeyer). This act, instead of appeasing, served to madden the fury of the populace, who shouted in bitter earnest, "His blood be upon us, and upon our children" -a sentence of their own, which rankled in their memories, and came back a few months afterwards with grim earnestness (Acts 5:28). "Then," says St. Matthew, "Pilate released Barabbas to them." To do this, the governor would return to the Praetorinm, and Jesus was thus once more face to face with him. Probably the gorgeous robe which Herod had thrown over his fettered limbs had been taken from him; and then Pilate, bewildered, weak, with some ulterior motive of staving off the madness of the Jews, and satiating their inhuman thirst for blood, adopted another expedient.

Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

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