The Passion—The Supreme Testimony[a]
Jesus Gives Himself Up Freely.[b] 1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples and crossed the Kidron[c] valley. He and his disciples entered a garden there. 2 This place was known to Judas, his betrayer, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 Therefore, Judas went to that garden with a detachment of soldiers,[d] together with temple guards provided by the chief priests and the Pharisees, equipped with lanterns and torches and weapons.
4 Then Jesus, fully aware of everything that was going to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” 5 They answered, “Jesus the Nazorean.”[e] Jesus replied, “I am.” Judas who betrayed him was standing with them.
6 When Jesus said to them, “I am,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 Again, he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus the Nazorean.” 8 Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am. If you are looking for me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word he had spoken, “I did not lose any of those you gave me.”[f]
10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, slicing off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. 11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its scabbard! Am I not to drink the cup[g] that the Father has given me?”
12 Jesus and Peter at the Hour of Bearing Witness.[h]Then the detachment of soldiers, their commander, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus and bound him. 13 They took him first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was the high priest that year. 14 It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it was better for one man to die for the people.
15 Peter’s First Denial. Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. That disciple was known to the high priest, so he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter remained standing outside at the gate. The other disciple who was known to the high priest went out and spoke to the woman who was in charge of the gate, and he brought Peter inside.
17 The woman said to Peter, “Are you not one of this man’s disciples?” He replied, “I am not.” 18 Since it was cold, the servants and the guards had made a charcoal fire, and they were standing around it, warming themselves. Peter was also standing there and warming himself.
19 The Inquiry before Annas.[i]The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20 Jesus answered,
“I have spoken openly
for the world to hear.
I have always taught
in synagogues and in the temple
where all the Jews congregate.
I have said nothing in secret.
21 Why do you ask me?
Interrogate those who heard
what I said to them.
They know what I said.”
22 [j]When he had said this, one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that any way to answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus replied, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to my error. But if I have spoken rightly, why did you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas, the high priest.
25 Peter’s Second and Third Denials. Meanwhile, as Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, “Are you not also one of his disciples?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26 Then one of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had sliced off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Again, Peter denied it. And at that very moment, a cock crowed.
28 Jesus Handed Over to Pilate.[k]Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium.[l] It was early in the morning, and they did not enter the praetorium in order to avoid becoming defiled and thus be able to eat the Passover meal.
29 Therefore, Pilate went out to them and asked, “What charge do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not allowed to put anyone to death.” 32 This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.
33 The First Hearing before Pilate. Then Pilate went back into the praetorium, and having summoned Jesus he asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own, or have others told you about me?” 35 Pilate said, “Am I a Jew? Your own people and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus replied,
“My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my followers would have fought
to prevent me from being handed over to the Jews.
The fact is that my kingdom is not here.”
37 Pilate then said to him, “So you are a king!” Jesus answered,
“It is you who say
that I am a king.
For this was I born,
and for this I came into the world:
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who is of the truth
listens to my voice.”
38 Pilate responded, “What is truth?”
Barabbas Preferred to Jesus. Then, having said this, he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no evidence of a crime in this man. 39 But according to your custom, I release one prisoner to you at Passover. Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40 They shouted, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a thief.[m]
- John 18:1 Jesus does not submit passively to what happens; he controls his life and his sufferings; he even wills them and defines their meaning. The fourth Gospel, more than the others, emphasizes his sovereign freedom. Jesus is not, however, only pretending to share the human condition: he is a human being who suffers hostility, violence, and death, and the Passion Narrative demonstrates this. John, no less than the Synoptics, emphasizes the realistic character of the events; in fact, some details are even peculiar to him. In the fourth Gospel, the Passion and cross are an exaltation or uplifting of Jesus, a glorification by the Father, and a manifestation of all his love for humanity. By traveling the way of the cross with full awareness and on his own initiative, Jesus makes the truth of God shine forth.
- John 18:1 Fear and disgust have no place in this account of the arrest. From the beginning, Jesus manifests his sovereign liberty to enter upon the Passion; it is his initiative and his destiny. The betrayal by Judas and his wicked cohorts cannot take away the liberty of Jesus, any more than the violence of Peter can defend it. Jesus depends only on his Father; he gives his life willingly.
- John 18:1 Kidron: a brook, fed by the rains, divided the hill of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.
- John 18:3 Detachment of soldiers: this refers to a complement of Roman troops—either 600 (a cohort) or 200 men, hinting at Roman complicity in the plot against Jesus even prior to his trial before Pilate. Lanterns and torches: these may stress that the hour of darkness has come.
- John 18:5 Nazorean: this is the form found in Mt (2:23 and 26:71) and Acts (e.g., 2:22), not the Nazarene of Mark. I am: probably intended by John as an expression of divinity (see note on Jn 4:26).
- John 18:9 The citation may refer to Jn 6:39; 10:28; or 17:12.
- John 18:11 Cup: symbol of a person’s calling and, above all, of his tragic destiny (“lots” were shaken in a cup); here it signifies the bitter hour of the Passion (see Mt 22:39).
- John 18:12 In the fourth Gospel, the trial before the Jewish authorities is told in a few swift strokes; throughout his public ministry Jesus has spoken about his ministry and the mission he has undertaken; the trial is already over. Annas, who appears here, was a high priest removed from office by the Romans, but by his influence he controlled Jewish life. Another disciple (v. 15): John, the one “whom Jesus loved.”
- John 18:19 It is not very probable that this nighttime inquiry before Annas, mentioned only by John, is the same as the trial before Caiaphas mentioned by the Synoptics (at night by Mt and Mk and in the morning by Lk).
- John 18:22 Jesus remains calm and self-restrained throughout the entire Passion. He responds to the guard’s aggressiveness with meekness, but he does not fail to defend the legitimacy of his behavior and to point out the injustice done to him. Hence, Christians’ defense of their rights is compatible with meekness and humility (see Acts 22:25).
- John 18:28 We should try to imagine the scene. A Roman official, Pontius Pilate, had been governor of restless Judea since A.D. 26 (we are now in the year 30). He had two guiding principles: to keep public order at any cost, and not to compromise his own reputation with Emperor Tiberius. The Jewish authorities wanted to rid themselves of Jesus in a legal way, thereby saving their own good name. Jesus himself did not want to disappear in an uprising, but had decided to go forward even to torture and execution on the cross (see Jn 18:32). In seven successive steps, dealing now with the Jews, now with Jesus, the governor is led to seek, find, and proclaim the truth. Jesus is in fact innocent; he claims the title of king, not in order to dominate but in order to give. This man, whose innocence the governor asserts three times and whom he wishes to set free, says that he is Son of God, and explains his present subordination to an earthly authority as a phase in a divinely willed plan over which the imperial official has no power (Jn 19:10-11).
The Gospel notes that this event took place around midday on the day of Preparation for the Passover; it was the hour when they began to slaughter the lambs for the feast. The new Passover, marking God’s deliverance of humanity, is at hand; the new Passover Lamb is about to offer the true and final sacrifice.
- John 18:28 Praetorium: the residence of the Roman procurator. Passover meal: unlike the members of the Sanhedrin, Jesus has already celebrated the Passover supper (Mt 26:20-29).
- John 18:40 Barabbas . . . thief: the word for thief can also mean revolutionary (see note on Mk 15:9).