1.When Jesus had spoken these words. In this narrative John passes by many things which the other three Evangelists relate, and he does so on purposej as his intention was to collect many things worthy of being recorded, about which they say nothing; and, therefore, let the reader go to the other Evangelists to find what is wanting here.
Over the brook Kedron. In the Greek original there is an article prefixed to Kedron, which would seem to intimate that the brook takes its name from the cedars; but this is probably an error which has crept into the text; for the valley or brook Kedron is often mentioned in Scripture. The place was so called from its being dark or gloomy, because, being a hollow valley, it was shady, on that point, however, I do not dispute: I only state what is more probable.
The chief thing to be considered is, the intention of the Evangelist in pointing out the place; for his object was, to show that Christ went to death willingly. He came into a place which, he knew, was well known to Judas. Why did he do this but to present himself, of his own accord, to the traitor and to the enemies? Nor was he led astray by inadvertency, for he knew beforehand all that was to happen. John afterwards mentions also that he went forward to meet them. He therefore suffered death, not by constraint, but willingly, that he might be a voluntary sacrifice; for without obedience atonement would not have been obtained for us. Besides, he entered into the garden, not for the purpose of seeking a place of concealment, but that he might have a better opportunity, and greater leisure, for prayer. That he prayed three times to be delivered from death, (Mat_26:44,) is not inconsistent with that voluntary obedience of which we have spoken; for it was necessary that he should contend with difficulties, that he might be victorious. Now, having subdued the dread of death, he advances to death freely and willingly.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
1–11. The Betrayal
1. he went forth] From the upper room. The same word is used of leaving the room, Mat_26:30; Mar_14:26; Luk_22:39. Those who suppose that the room is left at Joh_14:31 (perhaps for the Temple), interpret this of the departure from the city, which of course it may mean in any case.
the brook Cedron] Literally, the ravine of the Kedron, or of the cedars, according to the reading, the differences of which are here exceedingly interesting. Of the cedars (τῶν Κέδρων) is the reading of the great majority of the authorities; but of the Kedron (τοῦ κεδροῦ or τοῦ κεδρών) is well supported. Of the cedars is the reading of the LXX. in 1Ki_15:13 and occurs as a various reading 2Sa_15:23; 1Ki_2:37; 2Ki_23:6; 2Ki_23:12. The inference is that both names were current, the Hebrew having given birth to a Greek name of different meaning but very similar sound. Kedron or Kidron = ‘black,’ and is commonly supposed to refer to the dark colour of the water or the gloom of the ravine. But it might possibly refer to the black green of cedar trees, and thus the two names would be united. This detail of their crossing the ‘Wady’ of the Kidron is given by S. John alone; but he gives no indication of a “reference to the history of the flight of David from Absalom and Ahitophel” (2Sa_15:23). ‘Brook’ is misleading; the Greek word means ‘winter-torrent,’ but even in winter there is little water in the Kidron. Neither this word nor the name Kedron occurs elsewhere in N.T.
a garden] Or, orchard. S. Matthew and S. Mark give us the name of the enclosure or ‘parcel of ground’ (Joh_4:5) rather than ‘place,’ of which this ‘garden’ formed the whole or part. Gethsemane = oil-press, and no doubt olives abounded there. The very ancient olive-trees still existing on the traditional site were probably put there by pilgrims who replanted the spot after its devastation at the siege of Jerusalem. S. John gives no hint of a comparison between the two gardens, Eden and Gethsemane, which commentators from Cyril to Isaac Williams have traced. See on Mar_1:13 for another comparison.
and his disciples] Literally, Himself and His disciples, Judas excepted.
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 (Joe_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, Joh_1:1-51. and 5.). Where was a garden. This reference is in agreement 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.”
Cambridge Bible Plummer
2. which betrayed] Better, who was betraying: he was at that moment at work. Comp. Joh_18:5.
knew the place] Therefore Christ did not go thither to hide or escape, as Celsus scoffingly asserted. Origen (Cels. ii. 10) appeals to Joh_18:4-5 as proving that Jesus deliberately surrendered Himself.
ofttimes] Comp. Joh_8:1, and see on Luk_21:37; Luk_22:39. The owner must have known of these gatherings, and may himself have been a disciple.
resorted thither] Literally, assembled there; as if these gatherings were for teaching of a more private kind than was given to the multitude.
Now Judas also, who was betraying him (notice present tense in contrast with ὁ παρα ́δους of Matt, Joh_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 (Luk_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.,’ Joh_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.
3.Judas, therefore, having received a band of soldiers. That Judas came accompanied by soldiers and by so large a retinue, is a sign of a bad conscience, which always trembles without any cause. It is certain that the band of soldiers was borrowed from the governor, who also sent a captain at the head of a thousand soldiers; for, on account of sudden mutinies, a garrison was stationed in the city, and the governor himself kept a body-guard, wherever he was. The rest were officers sent by the priests; but John makes separate mention of the Pharisee, because they were more enraged than all the rest, as if they had cared more about religion.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
3. Judas then] Better, Judas therefore; S. John’s favourite particle, as in Joh_18:4; Joh_18:6-7; Joh_18:10-12; Joh_18:16-17; Joh_18:19; Joh_18:24; Joh_18:27-29; Joh_18:31; Joh_18:33; Joh_18:37; Joh_18:40. It was because Judas knew that Jesus often went thither that he came thither to take Him. “Our English version gives little idea of the exactness of the description which follows.” S. p. 241.
a band of men] Rather, the band of soldiers. This is one part of the company; Roman soldiers sent to prevent ‘an uproar’ among the thousands of pilgrims assembled to keep the Passover (see on Mat_26:5). The word for band, speira, seems elsewhere in N.T. to mean ‘cohort,’ the tenth of a legion (Mat_27:27; Mar_15:16; Act_10:1; Act_21:31; Act_27:1), and with this Polybius (xi. xxi. 1; [xxiii. 1]) agrees. But Polybius sometimes (vi. xxiv. 5, xv. ix. 7, III. cxiii. 3) appears to use speira for ‘maniple,’ the third part of a cohort and about 200 men. In any case only a portion of the cohort which formed the garrison of the fortress of Antonia can here be meant: but that the arrest of Jesus was expected to produce a crisis is shewn by the presence of the chief officer of the cohort (Joh_18:12). The Jewish hierarchy had no doubt communicated with Pilate, and his being ready to try the case at so early an hour as 5 a.m. may be accounted for in this way.
officers from the chief priests and Pharisees] i.e. from the Sanhedrin. These may have been either officers of justice appointed by the Sanhedrin, or a portion of the Levitical temple-police: that some of the latter were present is clear from Luk_22:4; Luk_22:52. This is a second part of the company. S. Luke (Luk_22:52) tells us that some of the chief priests themselves were there also. Thus there were (1) Roman soldiers, (2) Jewish officials, (3) chief priests.
with lanterns and torches] The ordinary equipment for night duty, which the Paschal full-moon would not render useless. It was possible that dark woods or buildings would have to be searched. The word for ‘lantern,’ phanos, occurs here only in N.T.; and here only is lampas rendered ‘torch;’ elsewhere either ‘light’ (Act_20:8) or ‘lamp’ (Mat_25:1-8; Rev_4:5; Rev_8:10). ‘Torch’ would perhaps be best in all cases, even in Mat_25:1-8, leaving ‘lamp’ free as the translation of luchnos (Joh_5:35; Mat_5:15; Mat_6:22; Mar_4:21; Luk_8:16; Luk_11:33-34; Luk_11:36, &c.) for which ‘light’ and ‘candle’ are either inadequate or misleading. Torches were fed with oil carried in a vessel (Mat_25:4) for the purpose.
Judas therefore, because he knew the place, was able treacherously to use his knowledge. Having received the cohort, Ἡ σπει ͂ρα 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 (Joh_18:12) 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 (Act_10:1; Act_21:31; Act_27:1; Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 20.4. 3; ‘ Bell. Jud.,’ 5.5. 8). Χιλίαρχος 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.,’ 3.4. 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. Mat_26:53, Mat_26:54, 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 ὑπηρε ́ται, under the direction of the chief priests and Pharisees, have been mentioned in Joh_7:32 and Joh_7:45, and the same name is given to the ὑπηρε ́ται in Act_5:22, Act_5:26, where the high priests and Sadducees are spoken of as their masters. In Luk_22:4, Luk_22:52 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.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
4. all things that should come] Better, all the things that were coming.
went forth] From what? (1) from the shade into the light; (2) from the circle of disciples; (3) from the depth of the garden; (4) from the garden itself. It is impossible to say which of these suggestions is right; the last is not contradicted by Joh_18:26. The kiss of Judas is by some placed here, by others after Joh_18:8. While ‘His hour was not yet come’ (Joh_7:30, Joh_8:20), He had withdrawn from danger (Joh_8:59, Joh_11:54, Joh_12:36); now he goes forth to meet it. He who had avoided notoriety (Joh_5:13) and royalty (Joh_6:15), goes forth to welcome death.
said] The better reading gives saith. His question perhaps had two objects; to withdraw attention from the disciples (Joh_18:8), and to make His captors realise what they were doing.
Jesus then—the οὖν 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 Joh_18:1—(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?
5.It is I. He replies mildly that he is the person whom they seek, and yet, as if they had been struck down by a violent tempest, or rather by a thunderbolt, he lays them prostrate on the ground. There was no want of power in him, therefore, to restrain their hands, if he had thought proper; but he wished to obey his Father, by whose decree he knew that he was called to die.
We may infer from this how dreadful and alarming to the wicked the voicc of Christ will be, when he shall ascend his throne to judge the world. At that time he stood as a lamb ready to be sacrificed; his majesty, so far as outward appearance was concerned, was utterly gone; and yet when he utters but a single word, his armed and courageous enemies fall down. And what was the word? He thunders no fearful excommunication against them, but only replies, It is I What then will be the result, when he shall come, not to be judged by a man, but to be the Judge of the living and the dead; not in that mean and despicable appearance but shining in heavenly glory, and accompanied by his angels? He intended, at that time, to give a proof of that efficacy which Isaiah ascribes to his voice. Among other glorious attributes of Christ, the Prophet relates that he will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and will slay the wicked by the breath of his lips, (Isa_11:4.)
True, the fulfillment of this prophecy is declared by Paul to be delayed till the end of the world, (2Th_2:8.) Yet we daily see the wicked, with all their rage and pride, struck down by the voice of Christ; and, when those men fell down who had come to bind Christ, there was exhibited a visible token of that alarm which wicked men feel within themselves, whether they will or not, when Christ speaks by his ministers. Besides, as this was in some measure accidental to the voice of Christ, to whom it peculiarly belongs to raise up men who were lying in a state of death, he will undoubtedly display toward us such power as to raise us even to heaven.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
5. Jesus of Nazareth] Or, Jesus the Nazarene (Mat_2:23), a rather more contemptuous expression than ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ (Joh_1:46; Act_10:38; comp. Mat_21:11). ‘The Nazarene’ in a contemptuous sense occurs Joh_19:19; Mat_26:71; Mar_14:67. It is sometimes used in a neutral sense (Mar_10:47; Luk_18:37; Luk_24:19). Later on the contempt of Jews and heathen became the glory of Christians (Act_2:22; Act_3:6; Act_4:10; Act_6:14).
I am he] The ‘he’ is not expressed in the Greek: and ‘I am’ to Jewish ears was the name of Jehovah. We have had the same expression several times in this Gospel (Joh_4:26), Joh_6:20, Joh_8:24; Joh_8:28; Joh_8:58, Joh_13:13 (see notes in each place). Judas, if not the chief priests, must have noticed the significant words. There is nothing in the narrative to shew that either the whole company were miraculously blinded (Luk_24:16), or that Judas in particular was blinded or paralysed. Even those who knew Him well might fail to recognise Him at once by night and with the traces of the Agony fresh upon Him.
which betrayed him, stood] Literally, who was betraying Him (Joh_18:2), was standing. This tragic detail is impressed on S. John’s memory. In this as in the lanterns and torches, which he alone mentions, we have the vividness of the eye-witness. S. Luke (Luk_22:47) tells us that ‘Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss Him.’ Apparently, after having done this, he fell back and rejoined Christ’s enemies, standing in the foreground.
Pop Comm Bible Schaff
Joh_18:5.They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. The answer may perhaps reveal the light in which Judas had represented Jesus to the Roman authorities,—‘of Nazareth,’ a Galilean, prone to revolt; or it may be that the Evangelist beholds in it one of those unconscious prophecies of the enemies of Jesus of which we have so many examples in this Gospel. In chap. Joh_1:45, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ is one of the three great aspects in which we are led to expect that we shall behold the Redeemer.
Jesus saith unto them, I am he. Before the effect produced by the reply is related, a parenthetical clause is introduced.
And Judas also, which betrayed him, was standing with them. What is the object of this clause? Not to explain what afterwards happened, as if Judas had been the first to fall, and so to produce a confusion which made his companions also fall; not merely to awaken indirectly a deeper feeling of abhorrence for the traitor who thus dared to present himself before his victim, and that, too, as we learn from the other Evangelists, with a kiss; least of all in order to connect this Gospel with the earlier ones, its author feeling that as he had not told the story of the kiss of Judas it would be well for him at least to indicate the place where it had been given. The explanation is to be found in chap. Joh_13:27. We have before us Judas possessed by Satan. The powers of evil are concentrated in him; and to bring him thus prominently forward as sharing the fate of others illustrates in the most striking; manner the victory of Jesus even in this hour of apparent defeat. Not man only but Satan shall fall prostrate before the Divine Son; and, if the latter is taken by His enemies, it is not because of their power but because He freely surrenders Himself into their hands (chap. Joh_10:18).
Cambridge Bible Plummer
6. As soon then as he had said] Better, when therefore (see on Joh_18:3) He said. The Evangelist intimates that what followed was the immediate consequence of Christ’s words.
went backward, and fell] Whether this was the natural effect of guilt meeting with absolute innocence, or a supernatural effect wrought by Christ’s will, is a question which we have not the means of determining. Moreover, the distinction may be an unreal one. Is it not His will that guilt should quail before innocence? The result in this case proved both to the disciples and to His foes that His surrender was entirely voluntary (Joh_10:18). Once before, the majesty of His words had overwhelmed those who had come to arrest Him (Joh_7:46); and it would have been so now, had not He willed to be taken. Comp. Mat_26:53, where the expression ‘legions of angels’ may have reference to the fragment of a legion that had come to superintend His capture.
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 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 Joh_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.
17.Then the maid that kept the door said to Peter. Peter is introduced into the high priest’s hall; but it cost him very dear, for, as soon as he sets his foot within it, he is constrained to deny Christ. When he stumbles so shamefully at the first step, the foolishness of his boasting is exposed. He had boasted that he would prove to be a valiant champion, and able to meet death with firmness; and now, at the voice of a single maid, and that voice unaccompanied by threatening, he is confounded and throws down his arms. Such is a demonstration of the power of man. Certainly, all the strength that appears to be in men is smoke, which a breath immediately drives away. When we are out of the battle, we are too courageous; but experience shows that our lofty talk is foolish and groundless; and, even when Satan makes no attacks, we contrive for ourselves idle alarms which disturb us before the time. The voice of a feeble woman terrified Peter: and what is the case with us? Do we not continually tremble at the rustling of a falling leaf? A false appearance of danger, which was still distant, made Peter tremble: and are we not every day led away from Christ by childish absurdities? In short, our courage is of such a nature, that, of its own accord, it gives way where there is no enemy; and thus does God revenge the arrogance of men by reducing fierce minds to a state of weakness. A man, filled not with fortitude but with wind, promises that he will obtain an easy victory over the whole world; and yet, no sooner does he see the shadow of a thistle, than he immediately trembles. Let us therefore learn not to be brave in any other than the Lord.
I am not. This does not seem, indeed, to be an absolute denial of Christ; but when Peter is afraid to acknowledge that he is one of Christs disciples, it amounts to an assertion that he has nothing to do with him. This ought to be carefully observed, that no one may imagine that he has escaped by acting the part of a sophist, when it is only in an indirect manner that he shrinks from the confession of his faith.
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. Act_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 verse 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 (Mar_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,’ Joh_2:1-25.). 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 θυρωρο ́ς) 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.
Pop Comm Bible Schaff
Joh_18:18.And the servants and the officers were standing there, having made a fire of charcoal; for it was cold, and they were warning themselves; and Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. These ‘servants’ and ‘officers,’ it must be remembered, are those who had so recently laid hold of Jesus, and who were the instruments of His sufferings. They had made a fire of charcoal, a circumstance in itself exceedingly natural in the cold of that spring night; and at it they stood and warmed themselves. ‘Peter’ also ‘with them’ was standing and warming himself. Such seems at first to be the sole meaning of the words: but the clause ‘for it was cold,’ reminding us of chap. Joh_10:22 and chap. Joh_13:30, forces upon us the impression that the Evangelist has something more in view than the simple fact apparent to the first glance at the words employed by him. The fact is historical. We know that even from the other Gospels. But it is more than historical. To the symbolic eye of John it has a deeper meaning. In this night of cold he sees Peter associating himself with the enemies of Jesus, perhaps consulting his own comfort while his Master suffers, at all events putting himself in a position where the faithlessness that had already led to his first denial must gain strength; and he thus prepares us to expect that the sin of which he has been already guilty may, probably will, be followed by a still greater fall. Whether this idea is brought out also by the ‘fire of charcoal’ is more difficult to say. It seems not unlikely that it is, for the word is not used by the other Evangelists; ‘coals of charcoal’ are in the Old Testament one of the symbols of Divine judgment (Psa_18:13; Psa_120:4; Psa_140:10); and this symbolic meaning may be extended to chap. Joh_21:9, the only other passage of the New Testament where we find the word. Apart from this, however, there is enough to show that Joh_18:18 is not simply historical. The peculiar spirit of the Evangelist appears in it, and we have thus the less occasion for surprise if we meet in the narrative other traces of the same spirit.
19.The high priest then asked Jesus. The high priest interrogates Christ, as if he had been some seditious person, who had split the Church into parties by collecting disciples; and he interrogates him as if he had been a false prophet, who had endeavored to corrupt the purity of the faith by new and perverse doctrines. Our Lord Jesus Christ, having completely and faithfully discharged the office of teacher, does not enter into a new defense; but, that he may not abandon the cause of truth, he shows that he was prepared to defend all that he had taught. Yet he likewise reproves the impudence of the high priest, who inquires about a matter perfectly well known, as if it had been doubtful. Not satisfied with having rejected the Redeemer offered, together with the salvation promised to them, they likewise condemn all the exposition of the Law.
The οὖν 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 Joh_18:24 or treating the ἀπεστει ́λε 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 Joh_18:24, 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 ἀρχιερευ ̀ς), 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.
20.I spoke openly in the world. It is a childish error into which some have fallen, who think that this reply of Christ condemns those who expound the word of God in private apartments, when the tyranny of wieked men does not allow them to expound it publicly; for Christ does not argue as to what is lawful and what is not lawful, but his intention was to put down the insolent malice of Caiaphas.
This passage, however, appears to be inconsistent with another saying of Christ, where he enjoins the apostles to
proclaim on the house-tops what he had whispered in their ear, (Mat_10:27;) and again, when he declares that
it is not given to all to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, (Mat_13:14) and that he therefore confers this favor on none but the twelve apostles. I answer, when he says in the passage now under review, that he spoke nothing in secret, this refers to the substance of the doctrine, which was always the same, though the form of teaching it was various; for he did not speak differently among the disciples, so as to instruct them in something different; nor did he act cunningly, as if he purposely intended to conceal from the people what he spoke to a small number of persons in the house. He could, therefore, testify with a good conscience that he had openly declared and honestly proclaimed the substance of his doctrine.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
20. I spake] The true reading gives, I have spoken. There is a strong emphasis on ‘I.’ Christ answers no questions about His disciples; He bears the brunt Himself alone. Moreover He seems to contrast the openness of His proceedings with the secrecy of His enemies.
openly] See on Joh_7:4; Joh_7:26.
to the world] Not to a secret society. Comp. Joh_8:26.
in the synagogue] All the best MSS. omit the article; in synagogue, as we say ‘in church.’ See on Joh_6:59.
whither the Jews always resort] The better reading gives, where all the Jews come together. The word rendered ‘resort’ is not the same as that rendered ‘resort’ in Joh_18:2. ‘I always taught in public places, where all the Jews meet.’ Nothing could be more open than His teaching. Comp. Mat_10:27.
have I said] Rather, I spake, the aorist of the verb in the first clause, which is in the perfect. See next verse.
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.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
21. which heard] Better, who have heard; and ‘I have said’ should again be I spake.
they know] Or, these know, as if implying that they were present and ought to be examined. According to Jewish rule witnesses for the defence were heard first. ‘These’ cannot refer to S. Peter and S. John. S. Peter is still outside by the fire.
22.When he had said these things. This is added, in order to inform us, first, how great was the rage of the enemies of Christ, and how tyrannical their government was; and, secondly, what sort of discipline existed among those priests. They sit like judges, but they are as cruel as ferocious beasts. A council is assembled, in which the utmost gravity ought to have prevailed; and yet a single officer is so daring and presumptuous, that, in the midst of the judicial proceedings, and in the presence of the judges, he strikes the person accused, who was not found to be in any respect guilty. We need not wonder, therefore, that the doctrine of Christ is condemned by so barbarous an assembly, from which not only all justice, but likewise all humanity and modesty, are banished.
23.If I have spoken evil. That is, “If I have sinned, accuse me, that, when the cause has been tried, I may be punished according to the offense; for this is not a lawful mode of procedure, but very different order and very different modesty ought to be maintained in judicial courts.” Christ complains, therefore, that a grievous injury has been clone to him, if he has committed no offense, and that, even if he has committed an offense, still they ought to proceed in a lawful manner, and not with rage and violence.
But Christ appears not to observe, in the present instance, the rule which he elsewhere lays down to his followers; for he does not hold out the right cheek to him who had struck him on the left, (Mat_5:39.)
I answer, in Christian patience it is not always the duty of him who has been struck to brook the injury done him, without saying a word, but, first, to endure it with patience, and, secondly, to give up all thoughts of revenge, and to endeavor to overcome evil by good, (Rom_12:21.) Wicked men are already too powerfully impelled by the spirit of Satan to do injury to others, in order that nobody may provoke them. It is a foolish exposition of Christ’s words, therefore, that is given by those who view them in such a light as if we were commanded to hold out fresh inducements to those who already are too much disposed to do mischief; for he means nothing else than that each of us should be more ready to bear a second injury than to take revenge for the first; so that there is nothing to prevent a Christian man from expostulating, when he has been unjustly treated, provided that his mind be free from rancour, and his hand from revenge.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
23. If I have spoken] Rather (as at the end of Joh_18:20-21), If I spake (comp. Joh_13:14, Joh_15:16). This seems to shew that Christ does not refer, as our version would lead us to suppose, to His answer to the high-priest, but to the teaching about which He is being examined. He here gives His own illustration of His own precept (Mat_5:39); to exclude personal retaliation does not exclude calm protest and rebuke.
The οὖν 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 Mat_16:5; Mat_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 (verses 29, 30, 35; Joh_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.