Tuesday, September 18, 2012

John 18:12-23

In our reading today, the “camera” of John’s gospel shifts its focus back and forth between the scene with Jesus before Annas, the former high priest and father-in-law of Caiphas the high priest at that time, and the scene with Peter, who followed Jesus from a distance.

Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. 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 Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people. (John 18:12-14)

The first thing that Jon Courson notes here is that what bound Jesus was not chains or ropes, but His love for us. We need to remember that Jesus was in complete control at all times. He could have called down a legion of angels at any time if He wanted to save Himself. But He didn’t come to save Himself - He came to save us! Also, how ironic is Caiphas’ statement that one man should day for the people! He had no idea!

The camera angle widens to show Peter and John coming into the scene:

Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus 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 girl on duty there and brought Peter in. “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” 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. (vs.15-18)

Matthew tells us that Peter followed Jesus at a distance (Matt 26:58). So, while Peter did not scatter with the rest, he was not close to Jesus at this point - which, we will see, was a problem. John, the “other disciple” mentioned here, apparently knew the high priest, so he was able to witness the events from the inside. He manages to get Peter in the courtyard. As Peter enters, a young girl questions Peter directly about his affiliation with Jesus, and Peter makes hi first denial, just as Jesus predicted. Then Peter cozies up to the fire in the courtyard and warms himself with the enemies of Jesus. Can’t you almost hear the warning beep because he’s too close?

Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 

“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret.  Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” 

When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. 

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”  Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest. (vs. 19-23)

It’s interesting that, according to Jon Courson, Jewish law had an equivalent stipulation that made it illegal to have a defendant incriminate himself, much like our Fifth Amendment. So, even at the outset, the trials of Jesus were illegally handled. In reminding the High Priest that witnesses could be called, Jesus was implying that the proceedings were illegal, which is why the official struck him across the face. Courson reminds us that his would be just the first of many blows that would disfigure him to the point that he was beyond recognition. (Isaiah 52:14)

I don’t know about you, but reading the endings of each of the gospels always makes me tense up. It’s so horrifying to me to read of His treatment at the hands of religious leaders. But we will see ourselves in these scenes. Whether an unbeliever outright rejects, scoffs at, or violently persecutes Christ, or a believer denies Him with words or actions, ALL of us placed Him on that cross. Tomorrow we will look at the mercy shown to Peter after he denies Christ for a second and third time. It will be painful - but so hopeful!  

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