John 18

The Word Made Fresh

1Having said these words, Jesus went with his disciples across the Kidron Valley and entered a garden. 2Judas, the one who betrayed him, knew the place because Jesus often met with his disciples there. 3So he brought a platoon of soldiers and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, and they came with lanterns and torches and swords. 4Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, stepped forward and asked them, “Who have you come for?”

5“Jesus of Nazareth?” they answered.

Jesus replied, “I am.”

Judas, who had betrayed him, was with them. 6When Jesus answered, “I am,” he stepped back and fell to the ground.

7Jesus asked again, “Who have you come for?”

And again, they answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

8“I told you who I am,” Jesus said. “If I’m the one you’re looking for, let these other men go.” 9He said this so that it all happened just as he had promised, “I watched over them, and none of them were lost.”

10Then Simon Peter, who was carrying a sword, swung it, and cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant, whose name was Malchus.

11Jesus told Peter, “Put your sword away; aren’t I supposed to drink the cup the Father has given me?”

12So, the soldiers, their officer and the Jewish police put Jesus under arrest and tied his hands. 13First, they took him to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest for that year. 14Caiaphas was the one who told the Jews that it was better to have one man die for the people.

15Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. The other disciple was known to the high priest, and was able to go with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16while Peter was left standing outside the gate. This other disciple who was known to the high priest went and spoke to the woman guarding the gate, and brought Peter in. 17The woman said to Peter, “Aren’t you one of this man’s disciples?”

Peter replied, “No, not me.”

18The servants and the police had started a fire with charcoal because it was cold, and they stood around it to warm themselves, and Peter stood with them.

19The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20Jesus told him, “I have openly spoken everywhere; I’ve always taught in synagogues and in the temple where all the Jews gathered. I haven’t said anything privately. 21But, why ask me? Ask some of the people who heard me speak, since they will know what I have said.”

22When Jesus said this, one of the officers standing near him slapped his face and said, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”

23Jesus replied, “If I have said something wrong, say so. But if I have spoken the truth, why did you slap me?”

24Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest.

25Meanwhile, Simon Peter was standing near the fire warming himself. Someone asked him, “Aren’t you one of his disciples?”

“I am not!” he replied.

26One of the high priest’s servants, who happened to be related to the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked him, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?”

27Peter denied it again, and then the rooster crowed.

28Next, they took Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium, Pilate’s headquarters. It was still early in the morning. They didn’t actually enter the praetorium so they wouldn’t be defiled and unable to eat the Passover dinner. 29So, Pilate went out to them. He asked, “What charges do you bring against this man?”

30They said, “We wouldn’t have bothered you with him if he weren’t a criminal.”

31“So, take him yourselves,” Pilate retorted. “Judge him according to your own laws.”

They said, “We don’t’ have the authority to pass a sentence of death.” 32Thus, they fulfilled what Jesus had said when he had spoken of the kind of death he was to die.

33Then Pilate returned to the praetorium and summoned Jesus. He asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34“Are you asking me on your own, or did someone else tell you about me?”

35“Do I look Jewish to you?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”

36“My kingdom isn’t in this world. If it were, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being turned over to the Jews, but my kingdom is not from here.”

37“So, you are a king?” Pilate asked.

Jesus said, “You can say I am a king. This is why I was born; this is why I came into the world – to be a witness to the truth. Everyone who knows the truth will listen to what I have to say.”

38“What is truth?” Pilate retorted. Then he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no case against him. 39You have a custom that allows me to release someone for you at your Passover. Do you want me to release the King of the Jews?”

40They yelled, “Not him! Barabbas! Release Barabbas!” Barabbas was a rebel.


1-11: The scene in the garden beyond the Kidron Valley, called Gethsemane elsewhere (Matthew 26:36, Mark 14:2), is described a bit differently than in the other gospels. Jesus does not go apart from the others to pray. When Judas arrives with a posse cobbled together from Jesus’ antagonists, Jesus readily presents himself. When he answers, “I am,” those words mean more than just, “that’s me;” they are a Messianic designation, and the force of the words literally bowls over his enemies. He asks them to take him and let the others go, upon which request Peter draws his sword and attacks, chopping off the ear of Malchus. Jesus steps between them, stopping the fight before it can erupt, and tells them that his arrest is his destiny.

12-14: Jesus is bound and taken to the house of Annas, father-in-law of the high priest Caiaphas (see 11:49), and his predecessor in that office (see Luke 3:2).

15-18: Peter and another disciple follow. The other disciple is unnamed and may not in fact be one of the twelve. Some have speculated that it may be Joseph of Arimathea, since he is a believer and also apparently an acquaintance of Nicodemus (see 19:38-40), who is a member of the council (see 3:1, 7:50) and through him Joseph may be known to the high priest. Whoever the unnamed disciple is, he manages to get himself and Peter into the private courtyard. Peter makes his first denial.

19-24: Annas interrogates Jesus, and when Jesus insists that he has done everything publicly (meaning he is not secretly plotting a coup), a guard strikes him and remonstrates with him for speaking so boldly to the high priest. Jesus answers him boldly as well. Annas apparently is convinced that he isn’t going to get much out of him and sends him on to Caiaphas.

25-27: Peter’s second and third denials take place outside in Annas’ courtyard.

28-32: Caiaphas sends Jesus directly to Pilate, who at first refuses to hear the case, but the Jews insist that Jesus is to die and only Pilate can give the death sentence. This is a bit curious, since on two occasions they have started to stone Jesus to death (8:59, 10:31).

33-37: Pilate goes back into the praetorium and has Jesus brought in to stand before him, thus subjecting him to the ritual defilement the Jews had avoided in verse 28. He questions Jesus, who denies that he is the King of the Jews, and tells Pilate his kingdom is not of this world. I’m sure Pilate didn’t understand a word of it.

38-40: I’ve always thought that Pilate’s response, “What is truth?” is probably just his way of saying, “What’s going on here?” He decides he doesn’t really care and takes Jesus back out to them, refusing to condemn him but giving them the option of letting him die in somebody else’s place. They pick a thief named Barabbas.


The Son of God, with extraordinary courage, willingly went to the cross for you and me and all who believe he truly is God’s Son. The story has no power for those who don’t accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. For those who do, there is the gift of life everlasting. No matter what happens to us in this life, the life to come will be blessed beyond our imagination. There will be nothing to fear, and nothing to lose, and loved ones with whom to reunite.