Title: Gospel of John [18:12-24]. Christ's trials, part 1. Annas, Caiaphas, and Peter's
So ended the first scene in the terrible drama of that night.
Annas' [father-in-law to the high priest] house: We know nothing of what was said here, but being taken to him first, prior to the high priest, shows that he was the real power behind the Sanhedrin.
Annas was high-priest for only six or seven years; but the high-priesthood was filled by not fewer than five of his sons, by his son-in-law Caiaphas, and by a grandson. In those day it was much better to have been in his position than to be the high-priest. He enjoyed all the dignity of the office, and all its influence while directing the affairs of the Sanhedrin without either the responsibility or the restraints which the office of high-priest imposed. We see this a lot in history and today where the real power is not known. Satan portrays himself as an angel of light. He has convinced many that he doesn't even exist. We look at the people in power as the power of evil often times when it is really someone unknown who is pulling the strings. And in fact it is not even the unknown powerful people that are the true source of evil. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, powers, world forces of this darkness.
Both Annas and his son-in-law Caiaphas made vast amounts of money in the temple trade. Twice this Jesus upset that trade by emptying the outer courtyard of the temple of its money exchangers and livestock. They certainly wanted Him dead.
JOH 18:12 So the Roman cohort and the commander, and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him,
JOH 18:13 and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.
Only John mentions the fact that He was first taken to Annas. The discrepancy with the synoptic gospels has led to many attempts to harmonize them.
John has Jesus going to Annas first and then Peter entering the outer courtyard of Caiaphas' house and being questioned by the slave-girl at the gate. All the gospels mention her but only John identifies her as the gate keeper. Then John states that Jesus was questioned by the high-priest and then, in verse 24, being led off bound to Caiaphas. The problems are that Peter is mentioned as entering. It does not seem at all probable that Peter went to both houses and was questioned at both. The antagonist is identified as the high-priest, however, as an ex-high-priest Annas was likely still addressed this way. The monkey wrench so to speak is JOH 18:24. Since none of the other gospel writers mention Annas and John does not mention a trial in front of Caiaphas, which the other three gospel writers do, makes for some questions. We must remember that John's gospel was written last. So then it is not hard to accept that he left out certain well known things that were in the other gospels and included what he deemed through the Holy Spirit necessary for the church that was as of yet not recorded. Like the upper room discourse, John has quite a bit of information recorded that is not in the other three gospels.
So either we have no record of Jesus' interview with Annas and if we do it is recorded in vv. 19-23. If that's true then Peter's appearance in the courtyard is out of place in John's account, or that Annas was in fact at Caiaphas' house and interviewed Jesus in another room. The whole thing is minor and not worth getting worked up about. I tend to agree with the interpretation that Annas was in the house of Caiaphas, interviewed Jesus to get whatever information he could against Him and assess for himself if Jesus was an actual threat and then sent Him over to Caiaphas while he silently slipped away. I would think that the unknown behind the scenes boss would not want a scene at his own house. There is no way to decide the issue so we just stick to the important parts of Jesus' trials and Peter's denials.
Jesus was unfairly tried and blasphemously treated. While He was saying that He was the Christ, dooming His sentence, Peter was denying that he knew Him, trying to save his own skin.
This is a great contrast between the Lord and ourselves.
JOH 18:14 Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.
Caiaphas, whose personal name was Joseph, held the office for eighteen years - a longer period than any other high priest in New Testament times.
The fact that Pilate, Gratus's successor as prefect of Judaea, did not replace Caiaphas when he came to the province in AD 26, may suggest that Caiaphas made it worth Pilate's while to leave him in office. This may explain the ease with which Caiaphas was able to get Pilate to hear Jesus' case.
JOH 11:45 Many therefore of the Jews, who had come to Mary and beheld what He had done [raised Lazarus], believed in Him.
JOH 11:46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done.
JOH 11:47 Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, "What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs.
JOH 11:48 "If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."
JOH 11:49 But a certain one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all,
JOH 11:50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish."
JOH 11:51 Now this he did not say on his own initiative; but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
JOH 11:52 and not for the nation only, but that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
JOH 11:53 So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.
Satan, aware of this, entered Judas and Judas went to the chief priests to discuss terms for the delivering of Jesus to them.
JOH 18:15 And Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple [John or a disciple from Jerusalem who knew Peter?]. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest,
JOH 18:16 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 in Peter.
Peter steps in and now finds himself in the coils of the serpent. And Satan, in his timing, will tighten that coil.
There is some debate as to the identity of the "other disciple." It would seem that most believe it to be John, but there is the question of his relationship to the high priest. Some suppose that he is a disciple of Jesus from Jerusalem, known to the high priest and so likely known by the people hovering around in the outer court of his house, which are mostly made up of soldiers and servants of the house. Knowing him and the fact that such a person would not have been a Galilean would explain why he wasn't questioned. Neither suggestion can be proven.
Whoever he was, he was able to walk in unquestioned; then, when he found that Peter, not presuming to enter, had stayed outside, a word from him to the servant-girl who was attending to the door was sufficient to gain admission for Peter too.
JOH 18:17 The slave-girl therefore who kept the door said to Peter, "You are not also one of this man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not."
Luke's account shows us that he was warming himself by the fire and so the girl who witnessed him walk in sees his face clearly in the light of the fire.
And a certain servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight, and looking intently at him, said, "This man was with Him too." But he denied it, saying, "Woman, I do not know Him."
In Luke's account the girl states this to one of the other bystanders. This accounts for the varying accounts since we don't have to assume that in each denial Peter was only questioned once. The Lord told Him the number of denials, not the number of questions or the number of times he would state it. If on the first questioning, if he said, "No, no, no!" would we count that as three denials? It seems clearer to me that there were three instances of denial by Peter in which he may have been pressed more than once and in which he offered up a continual denial.
The other two accounts vary slightly…
And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him, and said, "You, too, were with Jesus the Nazarene." But he denied it, saying, "I neither know nor understand what you are talking about." And he went out onto the porch.
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a certain servant-girl came to him and said, "You too were with Jesus the Galilean." But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you are talking about."
"You are not one of His disciples, are You?"
"No I am not."
"You too were with Jesus the Galilean."
"I do not know what you are talking about."
(To another) "This man was with Him too."
"Woman, I do not know Him."
"You, too, were with Jesus the Nazarene."
"I neither know nor understand what you are talking about."
And he went out onto the porch.
Two and four look like they might be the same. Whether the accounts are summaries of one thing that Peter said or if he in fact said all four is of no real importance. In fact, neither of them would have confined themselves to such short sentences. But I wanted to present all four so that the picture of the scene is clearer in your mind. The important part of this is his denial.
He denied it before all in Matthew's account.
Had Peter been called to go with the Master to judgment and death, probably he would have gladly done so. The trial came in an unexpected form, and discovered a weak point — his lack of moral courage.
Could the servant girl have known that the "other disciple" was a follower of Jesus and then seeing Peter, an obvious Galilean, said to herself, "Oh no, not another one, and of Galilee no less, how many of them are going to come in here? Could there be a riot or could they be attempting a rescue?" Conjecture for sure.
When she asks the question she phrases it in the form expecting the answer 'No,' and Peter seizes the cue and gives that answer.
I'm quite sure that Peter was not accustomed to entering the headquarters of persons in high society, and the unfamiliarity of these surroundings added to the general sense of uneasiness that made him lose his nerve. All his confidence held during his declaration in the upper-room is now gone.
Satan knows that uncomfortable surroundings and circumstances can assist in weakening the believer's resolve. We are to remember that God is in us and He rules everything.
JOH 18:18 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 also was with them, standing and warming himself.
JOH 18:19 The high priest therefore questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His teaching.
It would seem that Caiaphas or Annas was trying to ascertain the number of Christ disciples or maybe just those who were with Him in the garden. Since he wanted to present Christ as a usurper of the government who was conceiving a seditious plot to create a riot during Passover he would have wanted to know how many disciples Christ had. He was likely, also, pretty mad that the other disciples in the garden didn't get arrested and may have wanted their names in order to track them down. It is not mentioned if Jesus answered about His disciples. He may have been protecting them.
Since he and those in the Sanhedrin with him want Jesus' death and they cannot rule on a capital crime they plan to arraign Him on sedition to Caesar which is more plausible when there is a large following.
Why does Annas or Caiaphas want to know about His teaching and if he did want to because he didn't know it would have been very easy to find out since Jesus taught all week, each day, in the temple. For years He has taught in the temple and in the synagogues of Galilee. Jesus states this and then states a precedent of the law, which the high priest isn't following. A person cannot condemn himself. Two or three witnesses must be found who agree in separate testimony for a person to be incriminated. And on top of that, a trial should begin with a clear statement of the crime alleged.
JOH 18:20 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.
Why arrest Me if you haven't already found out what I have said and done? Again, this is a plea to the consciences of those in the room to consider Him as Savior and not as a criminal.
If His doctrine had tended to excite sedition and tumult, if He had aimed to overthrow the government, He would have trained His friends in secret; He would have retired from public view, and would have laid His plans in private.
This is the case with all who attempt to subvert existing establishments. Instead of that, He had proclaimed His views to all. He had done it in every place of public concourse in the synagogue and in the temple.
JOH 18:21 "Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; behold, these know what I said."
Such simple and courageous speech was alien to that place, which knew only the whining, smooth flatteries, and diplomatic phrases all for the purpose of acquittal.
JOH 18:22 And when He had said this, one of the officers standing by gave Jesus a blow, saying, "Is that the way You answer the high priest?"
This blow may have been with an open hand or fist or with a rod.
JOH 18:23 Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?"
This is for the servant. He's been under the corrupted thumb of Annas or Caiaphas for a long while and has had his own mind corrupted.
This is a corrupted official. Bad company corrupts good morals. Christ appeals to him in justice that he might recognize truth in the midst of corruption.
Why do you do this? Does your conscience not see the injustice in your hand? Consider that I am innocent and then maybe you may consider that I am the Son of God.
This man gave a blow to the perfect Savior of the world, the Messiah, the Lord, and the Lord took the indignity and in a few hours He will offer Himself for the judgment of it and every other sin this man has committed.
JOH 18:24 Annas therefore sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.