Sunday September 27th
I’m sure most of you have heard of the psychological concept known as denial.
I hear a story about a man who went into a psychologist’s office and told the receptionist that he believed he was invisible. So the receptionist buzzed the doctor over the intercom and said, “There’s a patient here to see you who thinks he’s invisible.”
The doctor replied, “I’m too busy. Tell him I can’t see him right now!”
Here in John chapter 18 we will see another kind of denial – Peter’s denial of even knowing Jesus.
But before we get to that, we will take a look at Jesus’ arrest but the Romans and the Temple guards:
When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. 2 Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples.
This chapter has three sections. The arrest of Jesus is recorded in verses 1–18, the trial in front of the Jewish leaders is found in verses 19–27, and the trial before Pilate is in verses 28–40.
In the first two verses we see that Jesus is in a garden, which we know as the Garden of Gethsemane, with most of His disciples, except for Judas, who then arrives with some uninvited guests:
3 Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. 6 So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
In verses 5 and 6 we read Jesus response as “I am He”. But the word “he” is added to the English translation, so Jesus’ real response uses the actual name for God, which is “I am”.
And there are two things of note here:
Verse 9 is referring to something that Jesus said in His prayer to the Father back in chapter 17, where He stated that “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, (Judas) so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.”
Now the action starts, with Peter, who will later act like a coward, leading the charge to defend Jesus:
10 Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus. 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”
One commentary described the scene this way:
“Peter attacks the high priest’s servant in an impulsive and futile act of resistance.”
Only the Gospel of John says that Peter was the one who used the sword. The other gospels just say “one of the disciples.” And only John’s gospel tells us that Malchus was the name of the servant. But only the Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus healed the man’s ear.
Jesus’ rebuke of Peter doesn’t mean that we are never allowed to defend ourselves. The point is that Jesus has come to give His life a ransom for sin, and He was committed to fulfilling this task.
The “cup” that Jesus says He is prepared to drink is the cup of God’s wrath upon the sin of all mankind. That’s why Jesus was praying “let this cup pass away from me”. But Jesus chose to drink the cup not only of death, but the wrath of God for us all.
12 So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him, 13 and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.
Annas was one of the most influential Jewish leaders of that time. Although he had been removed from the role of the high priesthood by the Romans and replaced by his son-in-law, he was still called by this title among the Jews. Judging from the description of rules for trials found in Jewish writings, the proceedings here were marked by serious irregularities and violations of Jewish law. Just for a few examples - the Sanhedrin was not supposed to meet at night; the death penalty could not be declared on the day of the trial; false evidence, and false witnesses were presented; Jesus was exposed to physical attack from the guards during the trial, and in addition to all this, it was illegal for the Sanhedrin to meet for a capital case on the eve of a Sabbath or a feast day. To put it simply, Jesus’ condemnation by the Jewish authorities was a travesty of justice.
But let’s get back to our friend Peter for a moment. As the line from our Easter play would say, “Ah yes, Peter. You remember him?”
15 Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, 16 but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in.
Most people believe that the “other disciple” was John since of the three closest disciples to Jesus (Peter, James, and John), he is the only one not mentioned by name in this entire Gospel. For some reason he was “known to the high priest” and was therefore admitted into the palace, and was even allowed to invite Peter in as a guest.
That’s where things start to get a bit awkward for Peter:
17 Then the slave-girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the slaves and the officers were standing there, having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter was also with them, standing and warming himself.
So that’s the first denial. There’s apparently a lot of commotion going on, with a people coming and going and warming themselves by a fire. All four Gospels agree that the first denial was in response to a question of a “servant girl,” in other words, a harmless person. That should tell us right away how scared Peter was. He’s even afraid of her!
Now let’s go back to the “trial”:
19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. 21 Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said.” 22 When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, “Is that the way You answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?” 24 So Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
The high priest who questioned Jesus here was probably Annas, not Caiaphas, since Annas then sends Jesus to the current High Priest. The mood in the room is obviously hostile towards Jesus, so much so that one of the High Priest’s guard hauls off and slaps Jesus because he doesn’t like Jesus’ answer.
Keep in mind that Peter may be seeing all of this from afar, which would drive up his fear factor!
25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it, and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” 27 Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed.
Think about this fact - the man who made the third accusation was a relative of Malchus, the man whose ear Peter cut off. An accusation by this man might have scared Peter more than the previous ones, since this guy might have wanted revenge for the attack.
But whether it was a servant girl, a bystander, or the relative of a man that he had stabbed, Peter was denying everything! I don’t know the man. I’ve never known the man. You must be thinking of someone else.
And then the rooster crowed.
To quote Paul Mooney from the Easter play: “No, No, NOOOOOOOO!”
28 Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.
The Praetorium was the governor’s headquarters. It’s pretty ironic that these leaders didn’t want to defile themselves by entering into the Roman governor’s palace, but they didn’t seem to realize that killing God’s son might also defile them! This Roman trial of Jesus had three phases: here before Pilate; followed by an appearance before Herod (which is described in Luke 23:5–12); and then a second appearance before Pilate. John leaves out the visit to Herod and focuses on Pilate:
29 Therefore Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” 30 They answered and said to him, “If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.” 31 So Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.” The Jews said to him, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death,” 32 to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die.
When Pilate asks them, “What accusation do you bring?” it meant, “What Roman accusation do you bring?” The Jewish leaders actually had no charges that would be recognized in a Roman court, so they would have to make something up.
When Pilate says, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law”, his point is that if they were not willing to specify Roman charges, they should not expect a trial.
Their answer is that they aren’t allowed to put anyone to death. The Jews were not always so obedient to that law, particularly in the stoning to death of Stephen in Acts 7. But Jesus had to be crucified, something only the Romans could do.
Crucifixion was what was meant by the words “lifted up”, which is how Jesus said that He would die, and that was form of death penalty that was used by the Romans. Pilate seems surprised that they want such a severe punishment, so he brings Jesus inside to question Him:
33 Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” 35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”
Since the Jewish leaders can’t seem to explain what Jesus has done wrong, Pilate asks Jesus, “what have you done?” It really doesn’t matter to Pilate whether Jesus considers Himself the Jewish king or not. He asks Him about it more out of curiosity.
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”
This answer catches Pilate’s attention:
37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”
That’s an interesting question. What is truth? Truth happens to be standing right in front of Pilate, because Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but Pilate has no way of knowing it.
Many people in our world today actually believe that there is no such thing as objective truth. They are more likely to say that “your truth” might be different from “my truth”, but they can both be true!
And that’s really not true!
There is only one truth, and that’s God’s truth.
Pilate is just as confused after questioning Jesus as he was before questioning Him, but he is smart enough to know that Jesus hasn’t committed any crimes that would deserve the death penalty:
And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him. 39 But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?” 40 So they cried out again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a robber.
Pilate knows that no crime has been committed by Jesus and he is therefore understandably reluctant to put Him to death. It’s kind of ironic that this pagan Roman governor is trying to release Jesus, while the leaders of “his own” people want Him to die.
So Pilate tries to use the custom of pardoning a criminal at Passover as a way of setting Jesus free.
But the people ask for Barabbas to be set free instead. So, in some ways, Barabbas becomes the first person who is set free from the penalty of his sin by Jesus taking his place.
What’s fascinating is that the name Barabbas means “son of the father.” Instead of him, the true Son of the Father died.
In the same way, you and me became sons and daughters of the Father because the one and only begotten Son of the Father took our place, just like Jesus took Barabbas’ place.
Jesus went to the cross. Barabbas went free.
Jesus went to the cross. You and I went free.
Do you remember when Jesus said to Peter back in verse 11, “the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”
The cup that He drank was the cup of judgment for our sins. Barabbas’ sins. Peter’s sins. Your sins. My sins.
Thank God that He drank it for us all.