John 18 Study Notes


18:1-19:42 John’s Passion Narrative appears in these chapters. The familiar sequence of events includes Jesus’s betrayal by Judas (18:1-11), his informal hearing before Annas (18:12-14,19-24), Peter’s denials (18:15-18,25-27), Jesus’s Roman trial before Pilate (18:28-19:16a), and his crucifixion and burial (19:16b-42). Only John among all the Gospels featured Jesus’s appearance before Annas, and his Roman trial is covered in more detail in John. On the other hand, John did not provide an account of Jesus’s formal Jewish trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin.

ego eimi

Greek pronunciation [eh GOH ay MEE]
CSB translation I am
Uses in John’s Gospel 76
Uses in the NT 153
Focus passage John 18:5

The words ego eimi occur numerous times in the NT, but in John’s Gospel they have a special meaning with two related connotations. First, I am often refers to Jesus’s claim to be the Messiah. This is clear in Jn 4 where the woman at the well referred to the coming Messiah (v. 25) and Jesus responded, “I . . . am he [ego eimi]” (v. 26). This meaning of ego eimi also occurs in Jesus’s words to the disciples, “I am telling you now before it [Judas’s betrayal] happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am he [ego eimi]” (13:19). Jesus’s foreknowledge of Judas’s betrayal provided evidence for the other disciples that he was indeed the Messiah. Second, ego eimi often refers to Jesus’s claim to deity. Instances like 8:58 probably reflect the burning bush episode when God revealed himself to Moses as “I am” (Ex 3:14), as well as the use of ego eimi by God in the Greek of Isaiah (e.g., 41:4; 43:10; 48:12).

18:1-2 The Kidron Valley is mentioned frequently in the OT (2Sm 15:23; 1Kg 2:37; 15:13; 2Kg 23:4,6,12). The garden is called “Gethsemane” in the Synoptic Gospels (Mt 26:36; Mk 14:32). Went into it may suggest that it was a walled garden.

18:3 The company of soldiers was dispatched to prevent rioting. The officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees were the primary arresting officers. Lanterns and torches were needed to track down a suspect hiding in the dark garden. The presence of weapons shows that the arrest party anticipated resistance.

18:4 Jesus’s supernatural knowledge is mentioned several times in the Gospel (e.g., 1:47-48; 2:24-25; 4:17-18).

18:5 I am he connotes deity (see note at 6:35,48). This is shown by the soldiers’ reaction in the following verse.

18:6 Falling to the ground was a common reaction to divine revelation (Ezk 1:28; 44:4; Dn 2:46; 8:18; 10:9; Ac 9:4; 22:7; 26:14; Rv 1:17; 19:10; 22:8).

18:7 Jesus drew attention on himself and away from the disciples.

18:8-9 Jesus’s statement summarized 17:12, which harks back to 6:39 and 10:28. Jesus is portrayed as the good shepherd who chose death to save his sheep (10:11,15,17-18,28).

18:10 Peter’s sword was short and could be hidden under his robe (Lk 22:38). The name Malchus (stated only in John) indicates a servant of Arabic origin.

18:11 Drink the cup is a metaphor for death.

18:12 Tied him up is a customary expression in conjunction with arrest or imprisonment (Ac 9:2,14,21).

18:13 Annas, apart from being the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, also had been high priest during AD 6-15. He continued to wield considerable influence.

18:14 On this description of Caiaphas, see notes at 11:49,50-51.

18:15-16 Another disciple was probably “the one Jesus loved” (20:2; see note at 13:23).

18:16-17 The girl who was the doorkeeper was probably one of the high priest’s servants.

18:18 The Roman soldiers had returned to their barracks, entrusting the task of guarding Jesus to the officials (see note at v. 3). Another charcoal fire was lit at Peter’s restoration in 21:9.

18:19 High priest refers to Annas (see note at v. 13). Questioning Jesus about his disciples and his teaching suggests that the primary concern was theological. Political charges were later added (19:7,12).

18:20 Jesus’s words I haven’t spoken anything in secret echo God’s words in the book of Isaiah (Is 45:19; 48:16). Jesus did not mean that he never spoke in private with his disciples but that his message was the same in private as in public; he was not leading a conspiracy. John recorded instances of Jesus teaching both in the synagogue (cp. 6:59) and in the temple.

18:21 Jesus’s response is understandable, especially if the questioning of prisoners was considered improper in his day. Note also the legal principle that a person’s own testimony about himself was inadmissible (see note at 5:31).

18:22 One of the officials standing by was probably one of those who helped arrest Jesus (vv. 3,12). The slapping was likely a sharp blow with the flat of one’s hand (Is 50:6, LXX; cp. Mt 26:67; Ac 23:1-5). The question, Is this the way you answer the high priest? may refer to Ex 22:28: “You must not blaspheme God or curse a leader among your people” (quoted by Paul in Ac 23:5).

18:23 When challenged about his response to the high priest, Jesus alluded to the law of Ex 22:28 and denied having violated it.

18:24 Before Jesus could be brought to the Roman governor, charges had to be confirmed by the official high priest, Caiaphas, in his function as chairman of the Sanhedrin (see note at 3:1).

18:25 Now (Gk de) could also be rendered “meanwhile.” Warming himself, repeated from v. 18, picks up the story from there.

18:26 On one of the high priest’s servants, see note at 18:10.

18:27 On the crowing of a rooster, compare 13:38.

18:28 The governor’s headquarters may refer to Herod’s palace on the western wall of the temple or the Fortress of Antonia northwest of the temple grounds. Early morning probably means shortly after sunrise, when the Sanhedrin met in formal session and pronounced its verdict (Mt 27:1-2). The reference to Passover may mean the entire Festival of Unleavened Bread, which lasted seven days (cp. Lk 22:1: “the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called Passover”). Eat the Passover probably means “observe the Festival” (see 2Ch 30:21).

18:29 Pilate was appointed by Emperor Tiberius, and he served as governor of Judea from AD 26 until 36/37. The famous “Pilate inscription,” discovered in Caesarea in 1961, identified Pilate as prefect of Judea.

18:30 The Jews were evasive because of the weakness of their case against Jesus.

18:31 Like Gallio after him (Ac 18:14-15), Pilate was not interested in judging internal Jewish disputes. The Sanhedrin did not have the power of capital punishment.

18:32 Crucifixion horrified Jewish sensibilities. It was considered to be similar to hanging (Ac 5:30; 10:39), for which Mosaic law enunciated the principle, “Anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse” (Dt 21:23; cp. Gl 3:13). If Jesus had been put to death by the Sanhedrin, he would have been stoned, the method of execution for blasphemy (Lv 24:16; cp. Jn 10:33; Ac 7:57-58).

18:33 On the headquarters, see note at v. 28. King of the Jews had political overtones. Pilate’s question aimed at determining whether Jesus was a threat to Rome’s imperial power.

18:34-35 Pilate was exasperated because he didn’t want to get involved in Jewish affairs.

18:36 Jesus’s description of his kingdom echoes passages in Daniel (Dn 2:44; 7:14,27; cp. Jn 6:15).

18:37 On testify and truth, see notes at 5:31-47; 14:4-6.

18:38 Ironically, the man charged with determining truth in the matter glibly dismissed the relevance of truth in the presence of the one who is truth incarnate (see note at 14:4-6). Pilate’s comment may reflect disillusionment, if not bitterness, and a pragmatic viewpoint. On he went out to the Jews again, see vv. 28-29. Pilate exonerated Jesus three times (cp. 19:4,6), but Jewish pressures convinced him to press the prosecution (19:12-16).

18:39 At the Passover refers to the entire festival (see note at v. 28).

18:40 Barabbas means “son of the father” (Gk bar-abbas). Ironically, people wanted Barabbas released rather than the true Son of the Father—Jesus. Revolutionary refers to an insurrectionist or domestic terrorist, perhaps engaged in Zealot-style political extremism (Mk 15:7; Lk 23:19).