Matthew Poole's 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.John 18:1-9 Judas betrayeth Jesus: the officers and soldiers at
Christ’s word fall to the ground.
John 18:10,11 Peter cutteth off Malchus’s ear.
John 18:12-14 Jesus is led bound to Annas and Caiaphas.
John 18:15-18 Peter denieth him.
John 18:19-24 Jesus is examined by the high priest, and struck by
one of the officers.
John 18:25-27 Peter denieth him the second and third time.
John 18:28-40 Jesus, brought before Pilate, and examined,
confesses his kingdom not to be of this world;
Pilate, testifying his innocence, and offering to
release him, the Jews prefer Barabbas.
Having so largely discoursed the history of our Saviour’s passion, See Poole on "Matthew 26:1", and following verses to Matthew 26:71, See Poole on "Matthew 27:1", and following verses to Matthew 27:66, where (to make the history entire) we compared what the other evangelists also have about it; I shall refer the reader to the notes upon those two chapters, and be the shorter in the notes upon this and the following chapters.
Matthew hath nothing of those discourses, and prayer, which we have had in the four last chapters; no more have any of the other evangelists, who yet all mention his going into the mount of Olives, after his celebration of his last supper, Matthew 26:30 Mark 14:26 Luke 22:39. Our evangelist saith, he went over the brook Cedron into a garden. The others say nothing of a garden, but mention his coming to a place called Gethsemane. It is probable that this village was at the foot of Mount Olivet; and the garden mentioned was a garden near that village, and belonging to it (for they had not their gardens within their towns, but without): now the way to this was over the brook Cedron; of which brook we read, 2 Samuel 15:23; David passed over it when he fled from Absalom; and 1 Kings 2:37, where it is mentioned as Shimei’s limit, which he might not pass. This brook was in the way towards the mount of Olives; which being passed, he with his disciples went into a garden belonging to the town Gethsemane.
And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples.We read that Christ, when he was at Jerusalem, was wont at night for privacy to retire to the mount of Olives, Luke 21:37 22:39 and it should seem that he was wont ordinarily to go to this garden, which made Judas know the particular place where he might find him.
Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.The evangelist here passeth over all mentioned by the other evangelists about Judas’s going to the high priests, and contracting with them, and cometh to relate his coming to apprehend him with a band of men that he had obtained from the chief priests and Pharisees for that purpose. By band we must not understand a Roman cohort, as the word signifies, but such a convenient number out of that band (probably) which at the time of the passover guarded the temple, as was sufficient to take him: they came with
lanterns and torches, ( though it were the time of full moon), to make the strictest search; and with weapons, fearing where no fear was; for Judas (their leader) could have told them that he was not wont to go with any great company to the mount of Olives.
Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?This evangelist saith nothing of what the other evangelists mention, of the sign that Judas had given them, by which they should know him; nor of Judas’s kissing of him, or our Saviour’s reply to him. (John, all along his Gospel, mentions very little of what is recorded by the other evangelists). It must be supposed, that after Judas had kissed our Saviour, our Saviour himself came forth and asked him whom they looked for; hereby showing that he laid down his life, and no man took it from him: he could easily have delivered himself out of their hands, (though I think they are too charitable to Judas, who think that it was that which made Judas discover him; not that he designed his death), he had once and again before so escaped them; but now his hour was come, he freely offers himself unto his enemies, and asketh whom they looked for.
They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.They tell him, Jesus of Nazareth. Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea, Matthew 2:1; but his father and mother lived at Nazareth, a city of Galilee, Luke 2:4,39, where he lived with them, Luke 2:51; hence he was called Jesus of Nazareth, from the place where he lived, and most ordinarily conversed. Matthew 21:11 Matthew 26:71 Mark 1:24 10:47 14:67 16:6. Christ replies that he was the man; and it is particularly noted, that Judas was with this armed company.
As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.For a further evidence to the world that Christ was the Son of the Everlasting Father, it pleased God in all the periods of his life to show forth by him some acts of the Divine power. What had Christ said or done here to prostrate his armed adversaries? He had only asked them whom they looked for; and hearing that it was for him, told them he was the man: they are struck with a terror, and instead of apprehending him, start from him, and fall down to the ground. If there were so much majesty in and such an effect of the voice of Christ in one of the lowest acts of his humiliation, what will the voice of a glorified Christ be to sinners, when he shall return as a Judge to condemn the world! And what will the effect of that be upon his enemies! How easily might our Saviour have escaped, now that his enemies were fallen to the ground! But he suffered them to rise up again, to take him, and to carry him away, to show that he had laid down his life freely.
Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth.Ver. 7,8. Our Saviour’s question, and their answer, are the same as before. They fell down, but they rose up again, and go on in their wicked purpose. This is the genius of all sinners; they may be under some convictions and terrors, but they get out of them, if God doth not concur by his Spirit, and sanctify them as means to make a thorough change in their hearts. Though those words,
let these go their way, might be interpreted of the armed men that came with the officers, of whom there seemed no such need to carry away an unarmed man; yet the next words make it evident that they are to be understood of his disciples, being persons against whom they had no warrant. Our Lord hath a care of his disciples, that they might not suffer with him.
Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way:See Poole on "John 18:7"
That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.But were those words of our Saviour, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none, to be understood as to a temporary losing, or of an eternal destruction? Some of the ancients were of opinion, that they were to be understood of a losing with reference to a spiritual and eternal state; but that they were applicable also to a losing as to this life. I think that they are applicable to both, and that in this text they are primarily to be understood of a losing as to a temporal death and destruction. It was Christ’s purpose, that eleven of his twelve apostles should outlive him, receive the promise of the Father in the pouring out of the Spirit, and be his instruments to carry the gospel over a great part of the world: this they could not have done had they been put to death at this time; he therefore resolved not to lose them in this sense, but to uphold and preserve their lives, for these ends to which he had designed them; and therefore he said to these officers, You have the person whom ye seek for; for these my disciples, you have nothing against them, let them go away: and by his power upon their hearts he effected it, so that they had a liberty to forsake him, and to flee and to shift for themselves.
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.It is thought that this action of Peter’s was before the apprehension of our Saviour, though after the discovery of it, as our evangelist reports it; because upon the apprehension of our Saviour, both Matthew 26:56, and Mark 14:50, agree, that the disciples fled; and it can hardly be thought that if Peter had seen his Master apprehended he would have adventured upon so daring and provocative an action; nor could Christ, had he been first bound, have stretched out his hand, to have touched his ear, and healed it. Lest any should wonder how Peter came by a sword, we may read, Luke 22:38, that the disciples had two swords amongst them, probably brought out of Galilee for the defence of themselves and their Master against assaults from robbers in that long journey.
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?The other evangelists report this part of the history with many more circumstances; particularly our Saviour’s miraculous healing Malchus again; See Poole on "Matthew 26:51", and following verses to Matthew 26:54. See Poole on "Mark 14:47", and following verses to Mark 14:49. See Poole on "Luke 22:50". See Poole on "Luke 22:51". With what pretence some, both of the ancient and modern writers, think that Peter did not sin in this action, I do not understand, when our Saviour did not only (as John saith) command him to put up his sword again into its sheath, but also (as Matthew tells us, Matthew 26:52) told him, that all they that take the sword, that is, without commission from God, shall perish with the sword. He used that argument, according to the other evangelists. This evangelist tells us of another,
The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? That is, shall I not freely and cheerfully submit to the will of God in suffering what he willeth me to suffer? The term cup is often in Scripture used to signify people’s measure and proportion of affliction and suffering, which God allots them; (possibly the metaphor is taken from the custom of some nations, to put some kinds of malefactors to death by giving them a cup of poison); See Poole on "Matthew 20:22", See Poole on "Matthew 26:39". It is a good argument to quiet our spirits roiled by any afflictive providences: they are but a cup, and the cup our Father hath given us.
Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him,As is usual for officers to do with ordinary malefactors which are great criminals; they put no difference between Christ and the most villanous thieves and murderers. There are many conjectures why Christ was first led to Annas, whereas Caiaphas was the high priest that year, not Annas (as the next words tell us); but it is uncertain whether it was because his house was very near, and in the way to Caiaphas’s house, or that he lived in the same house with his son in law; or out of an honour and respect to him, being the high priest’s father, or to please the old man’s peevish eyes with such a sight, or by this means to draw Annas to the trial of Christ, or because he had had a more than ordinary hand about the apprehending him, or to take direction from him what to do: we cannot give a certain account why they used this method; we are only certain they did it, and that they did not carry him before him as high priest; for the next words tell us ...( see John 18:13).
And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year.That his son in law Caiaphas was the high priest that year; which we had also before, John 11:51, where we discoursed more largely about the disorder of the Jews, in that most corrupt time, when that place was bestowed without regard to the family of Aaron, and bought and sold, or conferred at the will of their conquerors. See Poole on "John 11:51".
Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.Of his giving that counsel, and the wickedness of it, (though it proved an oracle beyond his intention), we discoursed before: See Poole on "John 11:51". The meaning of the high priest was, that right or wrong, whether they had any just accusation against Christ or no, yet they might for expediency put him to death, because his death might prevent mutinies and seditions amongst 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.When Christ was apprehended, the other evangelists tell us, all the disciples forsook him and fled; but it should seem that Peter, who all along the gospel history hath appeared more forward, and bold, and daring than any of the rest, came back; but who that other disciple was that went in with him, and in favour of whom Peter was admitted, we are not told. It is but a conjecture of those who think that it was John, for John was a Galilean as well as Peter, and would have been as much to be questioned upon that account as Peter was. They judge more probably who think it was the master of the house where Christ had ate the passover, and celebrated his supper; or some person of note in Jerusalem, who by reason of his reputation might have more free access to the chief magistrate than one of the apostles, who were but mean persons in the account of the Jews. This disciple, whoever he was, was one that had some familiarity and acquaintance with Caiaphas, which it is no way probable that either John or any of the apostles had.
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.This further confirmeth the conjecture of those, who think that other disciple was none of the apostles, but a favourer of Christ, that lived in Jerusalem, and was of some repute either for estate or place; so as he had not only an acquaintance with the high priest, but also with his family; and could gain admittance into his palace, not only for himself but also for his friend.
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.This is Peter’s first denial of his Master; between which and his second denial (of which John saith nothing till he comes to John 18:26) the evangelist interposes many things not mentioned by the other evangelists.
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.Here is nothing in this verse which needeth any explication, unless any should ask how it could be cold weather at that time of the year, (about April 14), especially in a country where it now was the time of harvest? Which may easily be resolved. It was now about three of the clock in the morning, and we know that in summer (the spring especially) nights are cold; besides that in those countries that are more equinoctial, the nights are longer, and consequently colder towards the morning, as the air hath had more time to cool.
The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine.Questions about sedition or rebellion belonged not to the judge of this court, but fell under the cognizance of the Roman governor, they being now a conquered people, and tributary to the Romans; who, though themselves heathens, granted the Jews their liberty as to religion, and courts in order there unto; as also a liberty of courts for civil causes: the high priest therefore saith nothing to Christ about his being a King, but only inquires of him about his doctrine. What particular questions he propounded to him we do not read; only in general he inquired about the doctrine he had preached, and the disciples he had sent out, which was one and the same cause, to see if he could bring him under the guilt of a false prophet; for that, and blasphemy, and idolatry, were three principal causes that fell under the cognizance of this court, as appeareth from Deu 13.
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.I spake openly to the world; to all sorts of men, my enemies as well as my friends.
I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; the Jews for instruction do use to resort to the temple, which was in Jerusalem, and whither three times in the year all the males were wont to come from all parts of the country: and in the public assemblies of the Jews, and in the places where they use to meet.
And in secret have I said nothing; I have said nothing in secret contrary to the doctrine which I have publicly taught; though I have preached in other places, yet it hath been the same thing which I have said in public.
Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said.We are told by those that have written about the Jewish order in their courts of judgment, that their capital causes always began with the defensive part; and that it was lawful for any to speak for the defendants for a whole day together; (though they did not observe this in the cause of Christ); and their method was not to put the defendants to accuse themselves, but to examine witnesses against them. Our Saviour therefore appeals to their own order, and says,
Why askest thou me? It was, saith he, no secret action; I spake publicly, ask them that heard me speak; they know what doctrine I preached, and can accuse me if I delivered any false doctrine.
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?This lets us see in what indecent disorder the Jewish government was at this time, that an inferior officer dared to strike a supposed criminal, standing before the judgment seat, and defending himself by their own known rules and methods; for what had our Saviour said or done, more than making use of the liberty their own law allowed; not confessing any thing against himself, but putting them upon the proof of what they laid to his charge? Yet we read of no notice taken of this disorder.
Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?Our Saviour could easily have revenged himself upon this officer; but, to teach us our duty, he only gently reproves him, and lets him know that he did not behave himself as one ought to do in the face of a court of justice, where he had both a liberty and a present opportunity to have accused him, if he had spoken ill; and if he had spoken well, there was no reason for his striking him.
Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest.These words are only to let us know, that these things were not done before Annas, but before Caiaphas the high priest, to whom (as to his proper judge) Annas had sent him bound, as he was at first brought to him.
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.Ver. 25-27. This history of Peter’s denial of his Master the second time we have before met with, Matthew 26:71,72 Mr 14:69,70; Luke 22:58,59, with several circumstances not mentioned by John. See Poole on "Matthew 26:69".
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?See Poole on "John 18:25"
Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.See Poole on "John 18:25"
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.The chief priests having in their sanhedrim done with our Saviour’s case, and judged him worthy of death, as we read, Matthew 26:66 Mark 14:64; which two evangelists, with Luke, relate this history of Christ’s trial before the sanhedrim, with many more circumstances than John doth; they now lead him from the ecclesiastical court to the court of the civil magistrate; either kept in Pilate’s house, who was them present civil governor under the Romans, or some where at least where he sat as judge, which was therefore called
the hall of judgment. And it was early; how early it was we cannot tell, but probably about five or six of the clock. The Jews would not go into the judgment hall, that they might not be defiled, for they accounted it a legal pollution and uncleanness to come into a heathen’s house, or to touch any thing which a heathen had touched: now the reason is assigned why they were afraid of contracting any legal pollution, viz. that they might the passover.
Object. But had they not eaten the passover the night before? That was the time prescribed by the law, to the letter of which there is no doubt but that our Saviour strictly kept himself.
Answer. Some say that they had not, because the day wherein they should have eaten it this year falling the day before their sabbath, the passover was put off to be kept on the sabbath, that two great festivals might not be kept two days successively; so as, though our Saviour kept it at the time appointed by the law, yet the Jews did not. But this is denied by other very learned then, who tell us the Jews never altered their day for keeping their passover, neither for the succeeding sabbath, nor any other reason. They say therefore, that by the passover which is mentioned in this verse is to be understood the feast, mentioned Numbers 28:17, which was to be kept the fifteenth day, which day was a day of great solemnity with them from the morning to the evening; all the seven days they also offered various sacrifices, which all went under the name of the passover, because they followed in the days of the paschal feast. Thus the term passover is taken, Deu 16:2, Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto the Lord thy God, of the flock and the herd. According to this notion, the meaning of those words, that they might eat the passover, is, that they might proceed in their paschal solemnity, keeping the feast according to the law. Be it as it will, these hypocrites in it notoriously discovered their hypocrisy, scrupling what caused a legal uncleanness, and not at all scrupling either immediately before their eating the passover, or presently after it, in their great festival to defile themselves with the guilt of innocent blood; nay, had Christ been such a malefactor as they pretended, yet the bringing him into judgment, their prosecuting, and accusing, and condemning him, and assisting in his crucifying, were not works fit for the day before such a solemnity, or the day after it, which was so great a festival: but there is nothing more ordinary, than for persons over zealous as to rituals, to be as remiss with reference to moral duties.
Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?The Roman governor humours them in their superstition (the Romans having granted them the liberty of their religion): they scruple to go into the ordinary place of judgment; he goes out to them, and calls for their
accusation of Christ, according to the ordinary and regular course of judgments.
They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.They had in their sanhedrim before judged him guilty of blasphemy, Matthew 26:65, but this they durst not mention, lest Pilate should have rejected them, as being not concerned in questions of their law; they therefore only exclaimed against him in the general as a great malefactor, but of what kind they do not say. It should seem they would have had Pilate have added his civil authority to confirm and execute their ecclesiastical censure, without so much as hearing any thing of the cause (as at this day frequent in popish countries); but they met with a more equal judge.
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:Take ye him, and judge him according to your law; I will judge no man before myself first hear and judge of his crime; you have a law amongst yourselves, and a liberty to question and judge men upon it, proceed against him according to your law. They reply,
It is not lawful for us to put any man to death. We are assured by such as are exercised in the Jewish writings, that the power of putting any to death was taken away from the Jews forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem. Some say it was not taken away by the Romans, but by their own court. They thought it so horrid a thing to put an Israelite to death, that wickedness of all sorts grew to such a height amongst them, through the impunity, or too light punishment, of criminals, that their courts durst not execute their just authority. And at last their great court determined against the putting any to death; nor (as they say) was any put to death by the Jews, but in some popular tumult, after their court had prejudiced the person by pronouncing him guilty of blasphemy, or some capital crime; which seemeth the case of Stephen, Acts 7:1-60.
That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.Christ had before this time told his disciples that he should die, and that by the death of the cross, as we read, Matthew 20:19. God by his providence ordereth things accordingly, to let us know that the Scripture might be fulfilled to every tittle. Crucifying was no Jewish but a Roman death; had the Jews put him to death, they would have stoned him; but he must remove the curse from us, by being made a curse for us, being hanged on a tree, which was looked upon as an accursed death, Galatians 3:13. The Jews therefore knowing nothing of this counsel of God, yet execute it by refusing themselves to put him to death, and putting it off to Pilate, though possibly their design was but to avoid the odium of it. Thus God maketh the wrath of men to praise him.
Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, the ordinary place of judicature, from whence we read before he went out, in civility to the Jews, whose superstition (as we before heard) kept them from going there during the festival. He called Jesus to him privately, and asks him, if he owned himself to be the
King of the Jews? The confessing of which (for without doubt they had suggested some such thing to Pilate, and could not prove it) had brought Christ under Pilate’s power, he being governor for the Romans, and so concerned to inquire upon any that pretended to any regal power over that conquered people.
Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?Our Saviour neither affirms nor denies: though we are bound, whenever we speak, to speak the truth, yet we are not bound at all times to speak the whole truth. Our Saviour desireth to be satisfied from Pilate, whether he asked him as a private person for his own satisfaction, or as a judge, having received any such accusation against him? For if he asked him as a judge, he was bound to call them to the proof of what they had charged him with.
Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?The sum of this is no more than that he did not devise this captious question, for he was no Jew, not concerned in nor regarding what they had in their books of the law and the prophets; but he was accused to him by those of his own nation, and he was desirous to find out the truth, and to know what he had done.
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.My kingdom is not of this world; that is, I cannot deny but that I am the King of the Jews, but not in the sense they take it, not such a king as they look for in their Messiah; my kingdom is spiritual, over the hearts and minds of men, not earthly and worldly. And of this thou thyself mayest be convinced; for was there ever an earthly prince apprehended and bound for whom none of his subjects would take up arms? There is none of my disciples that takes up arms, or offereth to fight for me; which is a plain evidence, that I pretend to no kingly power in disturbance of the Roman government.
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.Art thou a king then? Pilate seems to have spoken this rather in derision and mockery, than out of any desire to catch him in his words. Christ neither owneth himself to be a king, nor yet denieth it, but tells Pilate that he said so; and to this end he was born, and for this cause he came into the world, to bear testimony to the truth: i.e. I cannot deny but that I have a spiritual kingdom, that is truth, and I must attest the truth; it was a part of my errand into the world; and every one who is by Divine grace disposed to believe and love the truth, will hear and obey my doctrine.
Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.Pilate (as profane persons use to do) thought that our Saviour, speaking of truth, and a spiritual kingdom, did but cant, and therefore asking him what he meant by truth, he never stays for an answer, but goes out again to the Jews, whom he had left without the door of the judgment hall, and tells them he found no fault in him. Whatever the quality of the kingdom was of which our Saviour spake, he judged that his pretensions to it were not prejudicial to the authority of the emperor, nor the tranquillity of the state, and would have demissed him from their unjust prosecution.
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?Whence this custom came is uncertain; most probably from the Romans, who in some honour of this great festival of the Jews, and in humour of them, granted them the life of any criminal whom they desired. Pilate propounds Christ as the prisoner whom he had most mind to release, perceiving that his prosecution was of malice, rather than for any just cause.
Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.But such was the malice of his adversaries, that though Barabbas was one that had committed murder in an insurrection, yet they choose him rather than Christ.
See Poole on "Matthew 27:15", and following verses to Matthew 27:18.