John 18 – Yeshua’s Arrest

Yeshua’s Arrest; His Preliminary Examination Before Annas; His Trial At The Home Of Caiaphas; His Preliminary Examination Before Pilate; Peter’s Three Denials; The Leaders’ Choice of Barabbas

We have been walking with Yeshua through the book of John. We’re at the end of the life of the Most Important Man who ever lived. That man is also the Messiah and the Son of God and the one and only Savior of humanity, able to rescue us from the real and deadly forces of Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, death and Hell.

It’s Yeshua’s last day on Earth. It’s a special day – the first day of Passover. It’s the day Messiah will die a very special death, as God’s Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. That makes this day one of the most important days in history.

Yeshua ate His final meal, a Passover seder with His most important followers, the men He will entrust with His on-going mission of world salvation. During the meal, Yeshua gave His disciples His final teachings. He prayed. Now, He will be arrested, given several examinations and trials, be tortured and crucified. And, to make matters worse, He will be abandoned by most of His followers and denied by Peter.

When He had finished praying (one of the greatest prayers ever prayed, if not the greatest), Yeshua left with His disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and He and His disciples went into it. They were immediately east of the city, on the Mount of Olives.

The Jewish leaders wanted to eliminate Yeshua, who was very popular; and there were hundreds of thousands of people in and around Jerusalem to observe Passover, many of whom supported the young Rabbi. This was a dangerous situation for the Jewish leaders and they sent a formidable force to arrest Him. Now Judas, who betrayed Him, knew the place, because Yeshua had often met there with His disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. This well-equipped force included people loyal to the leaders, Roman soldiers and the traitor Judas who could identify Yeshua – to ensure that Yeshua would be arrested.

Yeshua, knowing all that was going to happen to Him: John wants us know Yeshua was not surprised by any of the events that are about to take place. Yeshua was not foolishly walking into a trap. He knew exactly what was coming – and still had the courage to face it. He knew what God wanted to happen and submitted Himself to the will of God.

Yeshua, knowing all that was going to happen to Him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Yeshua of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am He,” Yeshua said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Yeshua said, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground – because, I think, they were afraid of Him. Everyone knew He was doing miracles. Maybe they were thinking about Elijah, who, when he was being arrested, called down fire from Heaven which incinerated a formidable force of 100 soldiers and their officers.

Throughout His ministry, Yeshua had protected His disciples. He had taken the brunt of the opposition. The good shepherd protected His sheep once again. Again He asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Yeshua of Nazareth,” they said. Yeshua answered, “I told you that I am He. If you are looking for Me, then let these men go.” And the disciples were not arrested.

Earlier that night Yeshua told these men that all of them would survive the coming ordeal – which is exactly what happened. This happened so that the words He had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those You gave Me.” Yeshua was a true prophet. He was never wrong.

In contrast to Yeshua’s calm acquiescence which was based on His knowledge of the will of God, and submission to the will of God, was Peter’s response. Peter assumed it was his duty to defend his Rabbi and Lord, and courageously attacked a member of the larger force. Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.). Note the details that are recorded. It was the servant of the high priest who was injured. The name of the servant was Malchus. The injury was to his right ear, which was cut off. This lets us know that this was written based on the testimony of someone who was there.

But, Peter, although loyal and courageous, was wrong to use his sword. Yeshua knew His Father wanted Him to be arrested and killed, and He had made His decision to do what God wanted – no matter how painful, and so Yeshua stopped Peter from further well-meaning but wrong attacks. Yeshua commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given Me?”

Put your sword away. Too often the Church has been too quick to use the sword, to resort to violence to defend what we think are Yeshua’s best interests or our best interests. I’m thinking about things like the crusades and the inquisition and the pogroms against the Jewish people of Europe, justifications for slavery, western colonialism to promote Christianity. I’m thinking about the violence caused by our words and actions that abuse or injure or violate those around us, especially our spouses or children. We need to be very, very careful before we use the sword, use violence in defense of what we think are our interests or Yeshua’s interests.

Yeshua was arrested, bound and brought before one of the powers-that-be for a pre-trial examination. Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Yeshua. They bound Him and brought Him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people – which John reminds us, is exactly what is happening. Unknowingly, and with evil motives, the Jewish leaders, who were far from God, were advancing God’s plan to make atonement available for the Jewish people, and the peoples of the world – through the death of Yeshua.

Like modern writers telling a story with different characters and subplots, John now shifts the scene to one of Yeshua’s core disciples. Simon Peter and another disciple (I think it was John, our author, who out of humility doesn’t mention himself by name) were following Yeshua. They had more courage than the rest. They did not abandon Yeshua. Because this disciple was known to the high priest – which lets us know that this disciple came from a prominent family. The high priest was one of the highest leaders of the nation, and the high priest knew this disciple. It would be like one of us being known to a senator or governor and having access to him in his home. When was the last time you were in the home of the governor or a senator you knew? This disciple was no simple, ordinary fisherman.

Because this disciple was known to the high priest he went with Yeshua into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in. John used his familiarity with one of Israel’s most powerful men to allow Peter access into the courtyard of the high priest.

Next comes something awful – the first of Peter’s three denials. And keep in mind Yeshua’s words, which Peter had heard: if you deny Me before men, I will deny you before My Father. “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” Peter, who a few hours earlier had proclaimed his willingness to lay down his life in order to remain loyal to Yeshua, denied his association with Yeshua.

And, like a good writer, John sets the stage for denial number two. It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.

John shifts the scene back to Yeshua being examined at the house of Annas. Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Yeshua about His disciples (probably trying to ascertain how many they were, and how potentially dangerous they were, and their location) and His teaching (if there were any heresies or blasphemies to use to have Him executed).

Yeshua was wiser than the high priest and didn’t give His adversary any unnecessary information that he could use against Him. “I have spoken openly to the world,” Yeshua replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jewish people come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question Me? Ask those who heard Me. Surely they know what I said.” Yeshua refused to incriminate Himself.

An official didn’t like Yeshua’s response and used physical violence to coerce and humiliate Yeshua. When Yeshua said this, one of the officials nearby slapped Him in the face. “Is this the way You answer the high priest?” he demanded. “If I said something wrong,” Yeshua replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike Me?” Yeshua repudiated coercion and the use of force in the pursuit of truth. In a legal situation like this, it’s wrong to use violence to compel someone to testify. Reason and an appeal to tell the truth are to be used. Regrettably, this lesson has often been ignored by religious leaders, and others. This is a lesson Islam still needs to learn.

Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest – where His trial before the Sanhedrin took place, and at the end of which they condemned Him to death for claiming to be the Messiah and the Son of God.

John shifts the scene back to Peter. Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of His disciples too, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” Maybe Peter’s first denial was a mistake – he didn’t hear the question clearly; maybe he spoke without thinking. But, this second denial could only be intentional. Peter has repudiated his Rabbi and Lord not once, but twice.

One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with Him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it. This is denial number three – which means that Peter’s renunciation was intentional. Peter denied His Rabbi and Lord, not once, not twice, but three times. In the Bible, when something is said once, it’s important. When it is said twice, it’s means it’s very important (truly truly I say to you). When something is repeated three times (holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts), it is exceptionally significant. Peter’s three-fold denial was totally intentional. Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow – just as Yeshua had predicted – because God had revealed to Yeshua that Peter would disown Him three times before that morning was over. Yeshua was a true prophet.

John shifts the scene back again to Yeshua. Then the Jewish leaders took Yeshua from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. Their goal was to have Pilate condemn Yeshua to death. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. How ironic. These men were committing one of the greatest of all sins – killing the Messiah, who is the ultimate Passover Lamb – while being concerned about not becoming ceremonially unclean by entering the house of a Gentile, so that they would be able to eat the Passover lamb. John is teaching us something very important – that someone can be very religious and committed to observing laws and ceremonies and every minutia of religion – while sinning greatly against God.

So Pilate came out to them (because they wouldn’t come in to him) and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” The Romans had a legal system with legal procedures. For a trial to be fair, specific charges of violation of Roman law had to be brought against the accused. The Jewish leaders, however, did not bring a specific charge – only a vague accusation of criminality. “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed Him over to you.”

That was not a sufficient legal response; and Pilate understood this was an internal Jewish affair. Pilate said, “Take Him yourselves and judge Him by your own law.”

But since the Roman government had taken away the right of capital punishment, a trial by the Jewish leaders would not accomplish their goal. “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected.

John wants us to know that the leaders’ insistence that Yeshua be tried by the Romans and found guilty so He could be executed by them fulfilled another prediction Yeshua made. This took place to fulfill what Yeshua had said about the kind of death He was going to die. Yeshua had predicted: Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up – which meant death by crucifixion on a cross. Yeshua was a true prophet.

The Roman governor acquiesced to the demand of the leaders. He began to examine the Rabbi. His first question to Yeshua reveals that Pilate was aware that a charge of rebellion could be brought against Yeshua if He claimed to be the king of Israel. Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Yeshua and asked Him, “Are You the king of the Jews?” Only someone Rome allowed to be king could proclaim himself to be king. Claiming to be a king without the approval of Rome was rebellion against Rome.

Yeshua knew He was the Messiah and the Son of David and Israel’s true king. But, instead of answering Pilate’s question, He responded to Pilate’s question with a question of His own, designed to determine Pilate’s spiritual interest. “Is that your own idea,” Yeshua asked, “or did others talk to you about Me?” Yeshua was trying to determine if God was at work in Pilate, making the Roman governor aware that Yeshua was Israel’s true king.

Pilate’s response revealed that he had no spiritual interest in Yeshua. He was simply trying to find out if Yeshua was guilty of a crime. “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed You over to me. What is it You have done?”

Yeshua was wiser than the wisest of the Jewish leaders, and He was wiser than the shrewdest Roman leaders. He knew He was being maneuvered into a trap where a charge of rebellion could be brought against Him. He replied to Pilate’s question, “Are You the king of the Jews?” with an amazing answer that was both true and non-threatening. Yeshua said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, My servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now My kingdom is from another place.” Yeshua told Pilate the truth, but not all of the truth. What He told Him was sufficient, and true. He acknowledged He was a king – but a king of an otherworldly kingdom – Heaven. He was not interested in ruling Israel – right then. He will later, but He did not reveal that to Pilate. The proof? He had not encouraged or armed His followers to fight for Him. That proved He had not intention to rebel against Rome. He was not a threat to Rome.

Pilate seized upon Yeshua’s statement that He was a king. “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Yeshua answered, “You say that I am a king. Which can be understood to mean: You say I am a king, but I am not claiming to be an ordinary king. Or, king is the term you are using. That’s not the way I refer to Myself.

Yeshua clarified that the purpose of His first coming was not to rule as king. It was something very different. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone (including the Jewish people and the people from the nations, like Pilate) on the side of truth listens to Me. Yeshua came to Earth for several reasons: to atone for the sin of the world; to reveal what God is like; to teach us; and to tell us the truth. Humanity is confused, delusional, deceived about the most basic truths like God and the way of salvation. Humanity doesn’t know what is true. Yeshua is the greatest teller of truth: He came to let us know what is real, what is true, the way things really are. If anyone wants to know the truth about God and salvation, they must listen to Yeshua. If Pilate was interested in knowing the truth, Yeshua was giving him an opportunity to find out more.

Pilate was not interested in pursuing the issue of truth with Yeshua.“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. He had discovered what he needed to know. Yeshua was not guilty of breaking Roman law. With this he went out again to the Jewish leaders gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against Him. Not welcome news for the Jewish leaders.

Pilate knew Yeshua was innocent and wanted to release Him, and came up with a strategy that might mollify the Jewish leaders and spare Yeshua. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” But, Pilate underestimated the hatred of the leaders toward Yeshua. They rejected Pilate’s offer. They shouted back, “No, not Him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Bar Abbas was a rebel. Not Yeshua. He was loyal and true.

Bar Abbas means son of the father. Yeshua is the true son of the true Father. Ironically, the leaders chose a rebel instead of their king. That made the leaders spiritual rebels.

The leaders chose a sinful son of a sinful father instead of the true Son of the true Father. That removed the leaders from being legitimate sons of God.

Sadly, the majority of the Jewish people of that time and since that time have followed these leaders, and have continued in their rebellion against God and their spiritual illegitimacy.

We end here today. We will continue with John’s vivid account of the trial and sufferings and death of Yeshua – which is one of the most important things that ever happened, followed by His resurrection, which is also one of the most important events in history, and an event of life-changing significance for us.

Let’s pray:

Father, thank You that Yeshua knew what was going to happen to Him, and allowed it to happen. Help us to submit ourselves to Your will, even when it may be unpleasant.

Help us learn from Peter and be very hesitant to use the sword, to use violence in defense of what we think are our interests or Yeshua’s interests.

Help us learn from Peter’s denials and never deny You or Your Son.

Help us learn from Pilate’s mistake and be seekers after truth, and be sensitive to truth when it is presented to us.

Thank You for Yeshua’s wisdom, and His response to Pilate, letting us know that He is a true king of an otherworldly kingdom. Thank You for making us citizens of that kingdom. Help us live now in keeping with our citizenship of that kingdom.

Help us learn from the Jewish leaders mistakes and not choose flawed men with flawed ideologies and flawed methods instead of the Perfect Man and the true Son of the Father, and our Lord, Yeshua.

Thank You that Yeshua is Your Son, the when we understand that and become loyal to Him, we become Your sons and daughters.