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The Gospel of John: Manifesting God’s Glory Book 5

Jesus manifested God's glory through 8 miraculous signs in the gospel of John. These are a revelation of the feast of tabernacles.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 4

Jesus’ Trial before Annas and Caiaphas

John 18:12-14 says,

12 So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him, 13 and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.

The NASB adds the word Roman, which is not in the original text. If Roman soldiers came, they were merely assisting “the officer of the Jews,” in case Jesus’ disciples resisted. A Roman cohort was anything from 300-600 soldiers, but if this was a Jewish cohort, it may have been far less than that. The gospel writers give us no figures.

We do know, however, that Jesus was arrested and brought to “Annas first,” indicating that he played a prominent role in Jesus’ arrest. Caiaphas may have been present at the arrest, if he was among “the chief priests” who came with the soldiers (Luke 22:52).

As I wrote earlier, the high priest’s slave, Malchus, was there as well, suggesting the presence of his master, Caiaphas. However, Matt. 26:57 says they brought Him to “Caiaphas, the high priest, where all the scribes and the elders were gathered together,” omitting the fact that Jesus was first brought to Annas (John 18:13).

Perhaps John realized that those who had read the gospel of Matthew had assumed that Jesus was brought to Caiaphas first. Matthew does not say that, but John clarifies this detail. No doubt Caiaphas was preparing himself for the formal trial while Annas was questioning Jesus.

Annas had been the high priest from 6 to 15 A.D. He was appointed high priest by Quirinius, the governor of Syria (which included Judea), who earlier had been the temporary, acting governor in 2 B.C. when Jesus was born. Annas was deposed in 15 A.D. and replaced by Annas’ son, Eleazar for two years. Then Caiaphas was made high priest in 18 A.D., holding that position until 37 A.D.

Annas, however, continued to be greatly influential in Judea, although “Jewish sources label the regime of Annas as corrupt” (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary). Many people still considered him to be the legitimate high priest, knowing that the Romans had no divine authority to appoint the high priests. His official title was Sagan of the priests, i.e., “Ruler.”

John’s statement that Caiaphas “was high priest that year” indicates that the Romans had licensed the high priests and that they had to reapply every year to retain their position. Caiaphas was high priest for 19 years. At any rate, if the Roman commander had issued the arrest warrant, the soldiers would have brought Jesus to him, rather than to Annas or Caiaphas.

John and Peter Attend Jesus’ Trial

When the disciples all fled to avoid arrest (Mark 14:50), Peter and John (John 18:15) followed at a distance (but not together) to see where they would take Jesus. However, only John was allowed to enter the courtyard. Being of a priestly family, he knew these priests as well as the doorkeeper (a slave-girl) whose job it was to bar the general public from entering the courtyard.

John then gives us details not found in the other gospels.

John 18:15, 16 reads,

15 Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple [i.e., John himself]. Now that disciple was known to the high priest and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, 16 but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper and brought Peter in.

The doorkeeper knew John and allowed him to enter the courtyard where, after being questioned by Annas, the trial was held by Caiaphas. A fire was lit in the courtyard to give light and heat. John then saw Peter’s face outside the gate, and he went to the doorkeeper and asked her to allow Peter to enter the courtyard. Then she recognized Peter as being one of Jesus’ disciples.

Peter’s Denials

John 18:17 reads,

17 Then the slave-girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you? He said, “I am not.”

This was Peter’s first denial as he fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 26:34,

34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows [i.e., before the watchman blows his bugle], you will deny Me three times.”

John 18:18 continues,

18 Now the slaves and the officers were standing there, having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter was also with them, standing and warming himself.

Drawing near to the fire, Peter would soon be recognized by others. But first, John tells us the most notable exchange as Annas questioned Jesus. John 18:19-21 says,

19 The high priest [Annas] then questioned Jesus about His disciples and about His teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. 21 Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard which I spoke to them; they know what I said.”

John here calls Annas “the high priest,” although he did not hold this title officially. Annas apparently wanted Jesus to testify about His own teachings, so that he might find fault with Him. But Jesus deferred, telling him to ask those who were witnesses of His teaching. Annas had not adjured Jesus to speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so Jesus was not compelled by law to give Annas a summary of His teachings.

An officer of the court, however, took offense at Jesus’ answer. John 18:22, 23 says,

22 When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, “Is that the way You answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?”

Since the trial had not yet begun, Jesus knew that His appearance before Annas was just a political show to honor Annas. Jesus did not intend to satisfy his curiosity. John 18:24 continues,

24 So Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

As the soldiers were getting ready to lead Jesus away, the servants of Annas began to put out the fire, where Peter had come to warm himself. Someone else recognized Peter. John 18:25-27 says,

25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” 27 Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed.

Apparently, these last two denials occurred close together. The third and final denial came when a relative of Malchus recognized Peter from the garden. But Peter “denied it again.” John was content to leave it at that, showing how Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled, but Luke 22:61, 62 adds,

61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

Both Matt. 26:69-75 and Mark 14:66-72 seem to indicate that Peter denied Jesus at the conclusion of the trial in Caiaphas’ court, while John indicates that it took place in the courtyard of Annas before Jesus had even gone to an official trial. Luke’s account is unclear, telling us only that it occurred at “the house of the high priest” (Luke 22:54, 55), who might have been either Annas or Caiaphas.

If it occurred at Annas’ house, it is probable that the bugle (called a “cock”) was blown at midnight, the end of the second watch and the beginning of the third. If, however, the denials occurred at Caiaphas’ house, the bugle probably sounded at 3:00 a.m. at the start of the fourth watch.

Peter’s Faith Stands Firm

Although some details are unclear, we know that Peter was greatly humbled by this. No doubt it haunted him for the rest of his life. But years later, at the end of his life, he did not deny Jesus and was led to the cross, where he was crucified upside down in Rome. Jesus had prayed that Peter’s faith would be secure, saying in Luke 22:31, 32,

31 Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.

Simon Peter’s faith did not fail in the end, on account of Jesus’ intercession. The story is told in Clement’s Miscellanies, Book VII, quoted later by Eusebius, the fourth-century bishop of Caesarea:

“We are told that when blessed Peter saw his wife led away to death, he was glad that her call had come and that she was returning home, and spoke to her in the most encouraging and comforting tones, addressing her by name: ‘My dear, remember the Lord.’ Such was the marriage of the blessed, and their consummate feeling towards their dearest” (Ecclesiastical History, III, xxx).