18. Trial

Jesus is betrayed by Judas, arrested and taken to Annas (18:1-14).

After offering this prayer, Jesus went across the Kidron ravine to an olive grove. We went with him.

Judas knew about the grove because Jesus had often met there with us. So he led a squad of Roman soldiers and some temple guards (supplied by the Jewish authorities) to the grove. They arrived on the scene carrying torches, lanterns, and weapons. Although Jesus already knew what was going to happen, he stepped forward and asked, "Who are you looking for?"

"We are looking for Jesus the Nazarene," they answered.

"I am he," said Jesus.

Judas, the betrayer, was standing there with the soldiers. When Jesus said "I am he," they all shrank back and fell to the ground.

Garden of Gethsemane

Again Jesus asked, "Who are you looking for?"

"Jesus the Nazarene," they answered.

"I have already told you that I am Jesus. Since I am the one you're looking for, let these men go." Jesus said this so the words of his prayer -- "Father, I have not lost a single one of those you gave me" -- might come true.

Simon Peter had brought along a sword. He drew the sword and swung it at Malchus, the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. "Put your sword back where it belongs!" commanded Jesus. "Shall I not drink the cup of suffering the Father has given me?"

The Roman soldiers, along with their commanding officer and the temple guards, arrested Jesus and tied him up. Then they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. (It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jewish authorities that it would be better to have one man die for the people.)

Peter denies that he is a follower of Jesus (18:15-18).

Simon Peter and I followed the soldiers as they took Jesus to Annas. Since I was well known by the high priest, they allowed me to enter the courtyard with Jesus, but Peter had to stay outside near the gate. So I went back out and spoke to the servant girl on duty at the gate. She let Peter come in, but asked him, "Aren't you also a disciple of that man Jesus?"

Trunk of ancient olive tree

"No, I am not," answered Peter.

Since it was cold, the servants and temple guards had made a charcoal fire and were standing around the fire warming themselves. Peter went over and joined them.

Jesus is questioned by Annas (18:19-24).

Meanwhile, inside the house the high priest was questioning Jesus about us and about what he had been teaching. Jesus told him, "I have always taught openly where all could hear -- in synagogues and in the courts of the temple where people are free to meet. "I have said nothing in secret. So, why are you questioning me? The people who have listened to me know what I have been teaching. Why don't you ask them?"

When Jesus said this, one of the guards reached out and slapped him in the face. "How dare you speak to the high priest like that!" he demanded.

Jesus replied, "If I've said something that is not true, produce the evidence. If not, why did you strike me?" So Annas sent him, still in chains, to Caiaphas the high priest.

Peter denies Jesus two more times (18:25-27).

Out in the courtyard, Simon Peter was still standing by the fire warming himself. "Aren't you one of Jesus' disciples?" they asked.

Again Peter denied it, saying, "I am not!

Ancient inscription with Pilate's name

One of the high priest's servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, spoke up. "Did I not see you in the olive grove with that man Jesus?"

"Absolutely not!" denied Peter. Right then a rooster began to crow.

Jesus is tried before Pilate, who finds no basis for a charge against him. His attempt to release Jesus according to Jewish custom backfires when the crowd demands Barabbas rather than Jesus (18:28-40).

It was early in the morning when Jesus was taken from the house of Caiaphas to the headquarters of the Roman military governor. The Jewish authorities did not enter the Roman garrison because it was considered ceremonially unclean and would disqualify them from eating the Passover meal.

So Pilate came out to them. "What charges do you bring against this man?" he asked.

"If this man were not a criminal," they said, "we would not be bringing him here to you."

"Take him away and try him according to your own law," Pilate told them.

"We can't do that," said the Jewish authorities. "We aren't permitted to put anyone to death." This took place in order to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he would die.

So Pilate went back inside his headquarters, called Jesus over, and asked, "Are you the king of the Jews?"

Jesus answered, "Is that something you want to know, or did others ask it about me?"

Model of headquarters of Roman garrison

"Do you take me for a Jew?' said Pilate. "It was your own chief priests and people who brought you here to me. You must have done something wrong."

Jesus answered, "My kingdom doesn't belong to this world. If it did, my followers would have fought against the temple guards when they came to arrest me. No, my kingdom is not a political kingdom."

"Aha! So you are a king after all!" exclaimed Pilate.

Jesus answered, "You are the one calling me a king. My purpose for coming into the world was to declare the truth. Everyone who is on the side of the truth pays attention to what I say."

Pilate dismissed the issue with a curt, "And what is truth?" Then he went back outside to the Jewish authorities and reported, "I find no basis for a charge against him. But you have the custom of setting a prisoner free during Passover, so shall I release for you the king of the Jews?"

The accusers shouted back, "No, not that man! Give us Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.