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.
|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.
18:7 Jesus drew attention on himself and away from the disciples.
18:11 Drink the cup is a metaphor for death.
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.
18:16-17 The girl who was the doorkeeper was probably one of the high priest’s servants.
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).
18:28 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.
18:32 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).
18:34-35 Pilate was exasperated because he didn’t want to get involved in Jewish affairs.
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).
18:40 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).