Last week we saw how Jesus was in total control of even His arrest. Not only does the Scripture clearly show that Jesus knew that Judas had gone out to betray him and could have simply gone somewhere than the garden, but John 18:6, where all of the soldiers and officials fell backwards when they heard Jesus' reply of "I AM" shows that He had the necessary authority to have stopped the arrest altogether. The Lord of Heaven is also the Lord of the Cross.
This should for ever end the argument who was responsible for the death of Jesus. As we saw, the Jewish officials and servants along with a cohort of Roman soldiers "arrested" Jesus. The next day, the people would shout "Crucify Him!" But the very fact that Jesus was in complete control of the situation shows that He was in a sense responsible for His own death. He took the cup willingly. He was not the victim of fate. Truly, here is the case of "God in the hands of Angry Sinners".
Exposition of the Text
13 The text says that they bound him and took him away to Annas' house first. He was the father-in-law to the High Priest, Caiaphas. In a sense though, he was the power broker as he himself had been high priest for many years previously. But in this fateful year, Caiaphas was the High Priest. Previously we had read in John 6:15 that the people tried to seize Jesus (ἁρπάζειν) and make Him king. But Jesus would have none of this. If the people could make Him, king, they could unmake Him king as well. But Caiaphas did not run from the same set of scruples. The office of the High Priest was totally in the control of Rome who dished it out as a plum to whosoever they wished and received a handsome cut of the action as well. Caiaphas could be made a High Priest, and he could be, and was unmade as well. But no one could make Jesus king, and no one is able to take away his crown. He was willing to wear the crown of thorns rather than to submit to being crowned king according to the ideas of the Jewish people.
14 Caiaphas, no doubt, wanted to look the part for the trial. He wanted to control the proceedings. But even in a previous proceeding (John 11:47-53) he had unwittingly uttered a prophecy. God had used him, even though he was utterly unfit and unqualified to even be High Priest. He could turn Him just as easily as he turned Pharaoh in Moses' day. Again, God's sovereignty is demonstrated. Even though it would be of no profit to Caiaphas, God got the glory.
15 Not all of the disciples had fled at this point. John and Peter kind of followed, but in a way not to attract attention. They were deeply concerned and confused about what was happening to Jesus, but weren't going to put themselves at risk by identifying with Him. John simply refers to himself as "another disciple". Here the Greek (ἄλλος) indicates that he was another disciple like Peter rather than another kind of disciple. After the resurrection, both he and Peter would be disciples of a different sort (Greek ἕτερος). It says here that John was know to the High Priest (γνωστὸς). The Greek word can range in meaning from "acquaintance to friend". This has led some to believe that this secret disciple is someone else than John such as the learned Nicodemus. Elsewhere, John is called a Galilean Acts 2:7 and unlearned elsewhere (Acts 4:13 ἀγράμματοί, without formal training in letters). So it is difficult to see how John would even be able to mix in the same social circles. But the may have been acquainted with the High Priest through his father, Zebedee's fish business, who sold fish to the High Priest's household. At any rate, this arrangement was by God to let these two disciples come to the trial.
16 Peter was not at first led into the courtyard. But John used his influence to get him admitted. This shows more than a casual relationship between John and the household of Caiaphas. Perhaps this may have worked into favor for the early church in Acts in that there seemed to be a reluctance to punish Peter and John more than they did, such as death. But this is speculation. God is not limited in how he protects His own. Last week, he commanded the soldiers to release them. After the experience of falling backward, they were more than willing to comply. If the Father notices the very falling of the sparrow and the loss of a single hair on the head, He certainly is able to take care of us in every adversity, even if we are unaware of it.
17 The servant girl who kept the door put two and two together. She must have John was one of Jesus' disciples. And if John was bringing Peter in, then Peter must have been a disciple also. Perhaps she heard Peter's voice, had seen him before, or something about his appearance gave him away. We cannot be sure, but we can be sure that she was convinced that Peter was one of the disciples. The negative Greek particle μὴ gives the first half of the phrase the translation, "Certainly you aren't one of the disciples, are you?" The second half of the phrase confirms that she is sure when she says "You are of that man." The use of "that man" indicates that she is distancing herself from Jesus. Peter quietly denies the charge, hoping not to attract any more attention from those around him.
18 It can get quite cool at night during spring in Palestine. The natural thing to do was to huddle up to the fire. What a temptation it must have been for Peter to shy away. But he was drawn by the heat of the fire. It was not a good time to be in a crowd. Already someone had recognized him as a disciple. It also must be remembered in this that John was laying pretty low as well. One must wonder if the cold was made worse by the circumstances. Peter and John were growing cold to the Lord. He was going to warm himself by the fire and the light of this world, even as his heart grew cold as stone.
19 Thus begins the trial of Jesus. Any claim to legitimacy of this trial has to be challenged on two bases. The first is that it was conducted with prejudice. The outcome had already been determined in a council which had been held earlier without the defendant being present (John 11:47-53). The second thing was that this trial was held at night. This is also symbolic of the evil and darkness of the leadership of the Jews. One remembers the words of Jesus in John 3:18-20. They were about to condemn Jesus, but the irony of it is that in doing so, they really condemned themselves. The concern of Caiaphas in John 11:47 would come home to roost. They were afraid that if they did not do away with Jesus that the Romans would come and take both the Holy Place and their positions of power away. If only they had realized that the only was to have saved their nation and plush positions of power was to have accepted this Jesus. But, alas, as predicted by Jesus (Luke 21 and other places), Rome came and destroyed the Temple as well as the priesthood. The Saduccees were dissolved and have never returned.
20 Jesus in His answer to Annas and the others seems to allude to this illegal secret trial by night. He tells them that He, unlike them, had spoken all of his words and done his works in the open for everyone to see. Jesus had nothing to hide. He had come to reveal the Father and to do His works. By contrast, he was exposing the evils of this very proceeding. It must be realized, though, that even here the Lord Jesus is in total control, not Annas. The Greek perfect λελάληκα, have spoken, indicates that the words Jesus spoke in the world have abiding results. The Temple, the Sanhedrin, Annas, Caiaphas, and the priesthood, their words would soon stand silent forever, other than in infamy. But the words of Jesus shall stand forever.
21 The purpose of Annas' questioning was to get Jesus to testify against himself, either to force him to recant what he said and lose all credibility, or to get Jesus to speak words which could be used against Him to convict Him. No credible court system forces a person to testify, and especially not to incriminate one's self. So Jesus refuses to directly answer the question, challenging the court to bring forth their witnesses (at least two in agreement) to testify about Him. This was not a ploy on Jesus' part to escape. He could have ended this trial at any time. Instead, he was forcing the court to have at least a little respect for God's law in conducting the trial. In a way, it was the court's last chance to repent and recant. To disregard the Law of God which they were sworn to uphold was to become judgment upon themselves. By not following this Law, they were denying themselves and everything they claimed to be. They were clearly saying that they were not God's people because of their actions.
22 The Jewish leaders failed their trial. They thought they were trying Jesus, but in a very real sense, it was they who were on trial before God. Not only did they fail to repent when Jesus reminded them that they were required to conduct this trial according to the Book of the Law which God gave Moses, but they further broke the Law when they struck Jesus who was at this point uncondemned. How blind does the rage of evil make one to the truth to treat the Truth with such disrespect. Do note that this is still at Annas' house. And he is called the High Priest by the attendant, even though he had been replaced by the Romans with his son-in-law Caiaphas.
23 Again Jesus reminds them of their infraction of the Law. In a sense, there is an ironic application of John 3:16 which can be made here. God was not willing that the Jewish state perish, but would instead come to repentance. His love even to those who hurled such hate at Him in this trial required Him to remind them that they were putting themselves in the severest jeopardy by disregarding God's Law. But they were so hardened by this time and set in the course of action they had undertaken that they were stone cold deaf to Jesus' warnings. He had warned them and the Jewish people to repent time and time again in the open. He was in a sense warning them for the last time.
24 In order to properly bring charges to the Romans, the accusation had to come from the one the Romans considered to be the High Priest, Caiaphas. So Annas sent Him next to Caiaphas' house.
25 During the intermission of the trial of Jesus, we are brought back into another courtroom, that is the courtyard where Peter and John were warming themselves by the fire. Several of them asked Peter this time if he was a follower of Jesus. the other Gospels show that his accent was giving him away. The same degree of certainty was in their voice. Peter again denied it. The Gospel of John does not show a change in the forcefulness of his denial of Jesus, but the other gospels show an increasingly angry response, resulting in cursing and swearing.
26 Now another servant who was related to Malchus, whose ear Peter had struck off with the sword came and said with surety that Peter was indeed one of them. He had seen Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane.
27 Peter was caught dead to rights, but denied anyway. Everyone knew that Peter was a disciple of Jesus, but Peter. The rooster crowed, ending the trial. Peter had failed the trial. So did John Again, where is John in all this? This rooster had told on them. It had crowed twice before, but they weren't listening. Luke 22:61-62 tells the rest of the story. Jesus looked at him. Peter remembered, broke down and wept, and then fled the scene. Jesus was more concerned for Peter than He was for Himself.
So often when we think about this passage, and their parallels in the other Gospels, we think about the trial of Jesus and all He suffered for us. But as we have noted throughout, Jesus was in total control of the situation. He chose not to take any extraordinary measures to save Himself. For this hour He had come into the world. He was single in His devotion to doing the will of the Father regardless of the personal cost, even the terrible and humiliating death on a cross. This was the only way by which fallen human beings could be saved. He had already looked at the cross as a done deal (John 17:4). the work was already finished. He was already looking forward with joy to the reunion in glory with the Father. We have quoted Hebrews 12:2 several times in the sermons on the farewell discourse of John 13-16.
There are two other trials going on here. The first of them is the trial of the Jewish nation. Their rejection of Jesus had fatal consequences. The Romans came less than 40 years later and destroyed Jerusalem, the Temple, the government, the priesthood, and carried most of the inhabitants who survived as slaves Thousands died. If Paul in Romans 9-11 was anguished over Israel's rejection of the Messiah, and this even before the destruction of the Jewish state, how much more did Jesus Himself weep over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). Here even in the midst of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus wept bitter tears rather than the tears of joy. Jerusalem had failed the trial. Jesus knew what was about to happen. and He wept. He was not willing that the nation perish. He loved it far more than the Sadducees and the other Jewish leaders did. Yet their rejection of the gospel sealed their fate.
Do not think that anyone else, or any nation can escape the judgment of God just because God is not willing anyone perish. Do not presume on God's mercy. If He did not withhold judgment on His own people for unbelief, neither will he hold judgment against us if we fail to believe. This is a most serious thing to consider. Don't we presume too much on God's grace. Does not this nation presume too much on its being a "Christian Nation." God may indeed weep for us, but still judgment will come. Are we on trial in this respect, even as they were. Let us not harden ourselves to God, but come to Him seeking His mercy, for it is abundant toward us who will confess and repent of sin and turn from unbelief to faith.
The second trial was that of the disciples Peter and John. They wanted to follow Jesus in His time of trial, but at a distance. Judas had betrayed Him. The other disciples had already scattered in fear. There was at least some sense of courage in them. They were trying to do the right thing. But the Telltale Rooster told a tale on them. They too had failed the test. But thanks be to God, for these disciples, and the ones who ran away outright, had a future. Jesus would not forget them. After He arose, He sought them out. He did chide them for their unbelief, but forgave them and restored all but Judas, of course who really was not one of them at all. Jesus look after His own. I cannot tell you why these disciples fared better than the first group on trial. God knows. He knows every heart. There was something different about them. Even though they failed in the time of trouble, even though they had proven themselves utterly undependable, Jesus forgave an restored them.
We who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ are on trial by the court of public opinion. It used to be an "in thing" to be a Christian. but now things are becoming more hostile. We are tempted to hide our testimony under a bushel basket. We are tempted to hide our faith. Yet the world will soon find us out because our speech and way of life betrays us. Whether we like it or not, the true Christian always bears the tattoo of the cross, even if it isn't a physical one. Be sure the world will come and put our faith to the test, and try to get us to deny ourselves or become so much like them, like John, that no one can tell the difference. But if we do, there is a Telltale Rooster in your future who will tell on us. No, not a literal rooster, but the Heavenly Dove, the Holy Spirit, who will smite you. The face of Jesus looking at us will melt our hearts with bitter tears. But if we get into that condition, look up, for the Lord will forgive if we only come and confess to Him, and confess Him to the world.