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John 18:12-24 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 5 mins 25 secs

Six Trials


We must remind ourselves about how John writes. He was an old man by the time he wrote this Gospel, probably in his nineties. He had thought for fifty or sixty years about the things that had occurred during the time that he was with our Lord. He was a witness to the events surrounding the arrest and the trials of Christ and over the years had reflected upon what had taken place. Probably in his thinking he had come to understand a lot of things that were going on in God's plan and the outworking of all of the details, that in the sovereignty of God he as working through many details and orchestrating the events so that everything was accomplished the way that God had planed it. As John writes he is writing to an audience that he assumes were familiar to the events in the synoptic Gospels. John builds on that, he adds details that aren't in the other Gospels, and he is also reflecting more theologically on what was going on and was not writing simply to inform us of events that transpired but wants us to see in the way he organises those events the doctrinal principles that are being illustrated.


John 18:12 NASB "So the {Roman} cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him." He didn't knock them down with His hands, He just spoke. There is tremendous humour here in man's attempt to confine the omnipotent God of the universe. In these verses John has organised his material like a fine drama. You can picture it as a stage drama where there are two different scenes working together where they are playing off of one another. On the one side we see the spotlight on Jesus and there are two or three verses where we see Jesus arrested and taken to Annas the high priest who is going to interrogate Him. Then the spotlight comes onto the other side of the stage and we see what is taking place with Peter and his denial in the courtyard. Then the spotlight comes back on Jesus. We see Jesus answering the questions, then that scene stops and it transfers back to Peter. John wants us to see something in all of this. He is playing this back and forth for a purpose, to illustrate something. We must ask what it is that John and the Holy Spirit wants us to see here.


On the one hand we see Peter outside on the temple grounds. He is disguised, hoping against hope that no one will recognise him as a follower of the Lord, and also hoping that somehow he will find out what is happening to his Lord and somehow be able to help Him. On the other side we see the Lord courageously facing His accusers and answering their questions. Together these scenes are going to emphasise for us the majesty of God's gracious provision of salvation on the one hand, and the total human failure to solve man's problems on the other side. On one side we see God's impersonal love in contrast to man's unworthiness. We see man's lack of dependability and total failure in being able to maintain any relationship with God on his own terms. On the one side we see the faithfulness of God and other the other side we see the fickleness of man. On one side we see the stability of divine love and other the other side we see the complete rejection of God on the part of man. Together they portray the riches of God's grace and what it means to love one another as Christ has loved us.


The model, the pattern for the unique kind of Christian love that we are to have in the body of Christ for one another is based on the kind of love that Christ has for us. We are all expected to demonstrate that kind of love. So the pattern is set between chapter eighteen and chapter twenty. That is where Christ demonstrates the "as I have loved you." What we see here is the demonstration of Christ's impersonal, unconditional love for Peter and Peter's unfaithfulness and rejection of the Lord, and the Lord continues to love him despite Peter's abandonment of the Lord. That is the thrust of the whole Gospel, that man has rejected God but God loved the world so much that he sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life. The point is that to understand this kind of love—what we call unconditional or impersonal love—is to understand how we are to relate to one another. The reason we call it impersonal love is because it doesn't necessitate a personal knowledge or relationship with the object. We can exercise this love for someone we do not know and someone with whom we do not have a relationship. We call it unconditional love because it is not based on any conditions in the object of love.


John 18:13 NASB "and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year." There are six trials of Jesus, not two. None of the Gospels deal with all of them in the same place. The first three trials can be organised together as the religious trials. These are the trials before the Jews and they focus on the charge against Jesus of blasphemy which was a capital crime under Jewish law. It was supposed to be punished by stoning as outlined in the Mosaic law but because they were under the control and domination of Rome the Jews were unable to give a capital sentence, they had to get permission from rhe Romans in order to do that. The first is not really a formal trial as such, it is more of an interrogation and arraignment, and that is before the former high priest who still has all the power. Annas is the great political-religious crime boss of Judea at this time. His son-in-law, Caiaphas, is now the serving or acting high priest because Annas has paid enormous amounts of money to keep his kin in that position. The trial of Caiaphas is expounded on in Matthew 26:57-68, and then there is the trial before the entire Sanhedrin in Matthew 27:1, 2. That comprises the three religious trials. Then there are three criminal trials, once before Pilate in John 18:28-30, then before Herd, the tetrarch of Galilee, Luke 23:6-12, and then Herod doesn't want to take responsibility for this so he sends Jesus back to Pilate in John 18:39-19:6. 


The interesting thing that we see is the blindness of everyone here, from the soldiers who have just been impressed with the power of Jesus Christ and they just act as if they didn't see anything, the religious leaders who are ignorant of who he is and ignore all of the miracles and everything else. They are blinded. This is the function of Satan and the cosmic system—2 Corinthians 4:4 NASB "in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." Here they have the Light of the world in their presence and they don't see it. Satan appeals to human arrogance and the sin nature in combination with the various philosophies and religions of the earth and uses all of those thought systems to blind men to the truth. Man is in arrogance and self-deception and so they are, as Paul says in Romans chapter one, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. What gives them the rationale to do that is the cosmic system, the thought system that Satan has developed, whether it is religious systems, philosophical systems, or what ever the rationale or self-justification might be, it is there so that men can grab hold of it and somehow justify their rejection of Jesus Christ.


What we see when Jesus is bound and taken to Annas is a fulfilment of what is called typical prophesy. There are two types of prophecy in the Scriptures. First, there is predictive prophecy. This would be a passage such as Micah 5:2 which states that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem Ephratha. The second category is based on typology. The word "type" is based on an example. It comes from rhe Greek word tupos [tupoj] and it means an example or a physical representation. For example, the Passover lamb. It is a typological prophecy of the Lord Jesus Christ, a picture that shows what the Lord will do. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. For example, Psalm 118:27 NASB "The LORD is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar." The sacrifice was bound. Jesus is bound. This is the portrayal of the fact that the ultimate sacrifice would be bound when taken to the cross. Genesis 22:9 gives us another example of this when Isaac is going to be offered by Abraham to God. NASB "Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood." God provided a substitute which is a picture of the substitutionary work of Christ. But before Abraham knew God had provided that substitute he bound his son Isaac. His being bound is a typical prophecy, a type of the way in which Christ would be taken to the cross.


In John 18 there is a bit of a conflict because Annas is not really the high priest. Caiaphas is the one who is high priest. Then we skip down and read about the interrogation starting in verse 19 NASB "The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His teaching." There are some who come along and say well the high priest is Caiaphas, not Annas, so this interrogation in vv. 19-23 must be the same trial as the one before Caiaphas mentioned in Matthew. The problem with this is v. 24 NASB "So Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest." So at the conclusion of this interrogation Annas is going to send Jesus to Caiaphas. Annas is called the high priest in a couple of other different passages of Scripture, and he is called that because of his past position as the high priest. He was appointed high priest. Under the Mosaic law a high priest is appointed for life if he is a descendant of Aaron. But Annas had become too powerful, so Rome pressured him to step down. He had served as high priest for nineteen years but he had amassed such great political power in Jerusalem that the Romans did not want him to continue in that position so they had him step down. He is also called high priest in Luke 3:2 and Acts 4:6 even though from AD 15 on he no longer had that as his official title. But under the Mosaic law the Jews would still think of him as the high priest. From his wealth he had bought the title of high priest for five of his sons between the time that he stepped down in AD 15 up until almost 40 AD. What we discover at this time the office of high priest and the function of the upper levels of the priesthood were the most corrupt, crooked, illegal operation in Judea. Evil men controlled it and they bought and sold influence everywhere. It was based on a bribery system. Because of his effective power and his corruption he was able to control all the crime that went on in Judea. He also controlled the concessions for the sacrifices in the temple. He is the one who gave people the licence to be able to open a booth out in the court of the Gentiles and to sell the doves and the other animals that were used in the temple sacrifices. He arranged it so that no one coming in could bring their own sacrificial animal. If they did it was either found to be unworthy or they had to pay a large amount of money to have the sacrifice of their own animal which they brought with them. They usually sold the sacrifices at about five times market value and when Jews came from other parts of the empire and they had different types of money and had to exchange it they couldn't buy the sacrifices with anything other than local Jewish currency, so in order to exchange their currency for local currency he charged about a two hundred per cent exchange rate so that he guaranteed a good profit for those people who were the money changers in the temple.


Remember that when Jesus began His ministry the first thing he did was to go into the court of the Gentiles of the temple and completely clean it out from all these crooks. This made Him very popular because the people realised the corruption that took place and how this was wrong. But, of course, it angered Annas and immediately made him Jesus' enemy. Then when Jesus returned to Jerusalem at the end of His ministry, just after the triumphal entry, the first thing he did at that point was to go into the temple and clean it out again. Annas hated Jesus just about as much as the Jews hated Annas. These are the men before whom Jesus is brought for the trial.


The trial itself is highly illegal, according to Jewish law. But they are not concerned with legality at this point, they are concerned with really saving their little power base. A capital trial could not occur under darkness. A guilty verdict in a capital trial had to be given the following day. They could not meet in the morning and then return a guilty verdict that afternoon. They could return an innocent verdict the same day but not a guilty verdict. Since the Jewish day goes from sundown to sundown they are meeting in the morning and are giving the verdict the same day in violation of rabbinical law. A capital trial could not be held on the eve of a Sabbath or a feast day and, of course, this is on the eve of the Passover. The reason they had that law was so they wouldn't rush to judgment. The accused had to be confronted with at least two witnesses whose testimony agreed. From Matthew's account we see that when Jesus is brought before Caiaphas they brought in all kinds of witnesses and nobody could agree on the same story. Finally, Caiaphas broke down and said: "They say that you are the King of the Jews, what do you say?" That violates the next point that a witness could not incriminate himself. Trials were to take place only in the regular meeting place of the Sanhedrin, not in the palace of the high priest, and at least 23 members of the Sanhedrin had to be present. In a capital trial the accused had to be presumed innocent. Then the eighth point of violation, in a capital trial the accused could not be a witness against himself. These are just eight ways in which the trials violated rabbinical procedures, thus the Jewish phase was completely illegal.


John 18:15, the scene shifts from inside the palace of the high priest. NASB "Simon Peter was following Jesus…" The verb here is the imperfect active indicative of akoloutheo [a)kolouqew]. There is possibly a little tongue-in-cheek humour here because that is the word that Jesus used when he called the disciples. Peter was a follower of Jesus and he is getting ready to deny. The imperfect tense means that this was continuous action in past time, and he is in the process of following Jesus. "…and {so} {was} another disciple [John]…" In the Greek it literally reads, "Simon Peter and another disciples were following Jesus." "… Now that disciple [John] was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest." John was able to gain entry to the house of the high priest because he was known by the guards outside and by the slaves who kept the door, but Peter is left outside.


John 18:16 NASB "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." Notice the detail. Only somebody present would go into this kind of detail.


John 18:17 NASB "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'." There seems to be some level of discrepancy between the various accounts of Peter's denial. His first denial is given in this verse and the parallel is Matthew 26:69; Mark 14:6; Luke 22:56. He denies in relationship to a servant girl. Matthew identifies here as "a certain servant girl," and the second one as "another servant girl." There are two servant girls involved. Mark identifies one as a servant girl, the other as a maid, and Luke simply identifies the first as a servant girl and the second one as another. What we have here is the first denial to a servant girl. Peter is outside and this is the servant girl who keeps the door. She keeps looking at Peter and there is something that touches off a little bell inside of her head and she thinks she recognises him. The way her question is structured in the Greek indicates that she expects a negative answer, but she is pretty sure that she recognises him. Peter's answer is a strong negation. Peter's denial is mentioned in all four Gospels. John has clearly mentioned in 13:38 that Peter would deny Christ three times. He is going to give the three denials but there is a bit of a conflict with the other Gospels. The second denial is to another servant girl, Matthew 26:71; Mark 14:69, and simply "another" in Luke 22:58, and this one is not recorded in the Gospel of John. Then there is the third denial and Matthew says that the bystanders began to look at Peter and recognise him. John sort of divides that up as this group interacting with Peter; John focuses on two of them.


John 18:18 NASB "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." Now we stop action. He has denied once and he is standing by the fire warming himself.


Now the scene shifts. John 18:19 NASB The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His teaching." We are back inside, the high priest here is Annas. He is continuing his interrogation trying to find something to accuse Jesus of.


John 18:20 NASB "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'." Notice: the high priest asked Him about His disciples and about His teaching. He is concerned that there might be some kind of revolt going on. Secondly, he asks Him about His teaching, His didache [didaxh], His doctrine. Jesus ignores the first, the issue of the disciples, and he focuses on content. And three times He emphasises the first person singular" "I have spoken openly," "I have taught in synagogues," "I spoke nothing in secret." Where are we? Under cover of darkness, there aren't any witnesses, there is no one else here, there are just a couple of Roman guards; we are doing this is secret under cover of darkness, this is a conspiracy, "but I did everything in the open." So the emphasis is on how open He was in contrast to the cloaked secrecy of this interrogation.


John 18:21 NASB "Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said. [22] When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, 'Is that the way You answer the high priest?'" It is not in Jesus' manner that He is showing disrespect, he is just reiterating the law, and yet the officer standing there thought that this was disrespect. Jesus points this out. [23] "Jesus answered him, 'If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?'" He challenges his very authorisation to hit Him.


So here we see the picture, the contrast. Jesus is calm, relaxed, interacting with the interrogator on the basis of His doctrine; we see the rejection and the hostility of the guard. And how does Jesus respond? He doesn't respond in anger, He responds calmly on the basis of doctrine. That is how we are to respond in a crisis. He is thinking. As soon as we start to react in anger we quit thinking and start operating on emotion, and from that point on we are out of fellowship and from then on everything is going to be self-destructive. A point that we see here, both with the guard and with Peter, is the rejection of Christ. Peter is going to deny Him again.


John 18:24 NASB "So Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest." Then the scene shifts. [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'." There is not just one person talking here, there are probably several who said this. [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."


What do we see going on here? On the one hand we see Jesus' steadfastness, His faithfulness, ready to go to the cross, and on the other hand, we see His rejection.


Summary on the doctrine of rejection


1.  Rejection can be real or perceived. If you have a tendency towards hypersensitivity then somebody may just say something, not meaning anything at all, and you might react and think they've slighted you or ignored you and so you perceive rejection.

2.   How you handle rejection, real or imagined, depends on the doctrine in your soul.

3.  The first option is to react on the basis of your sin nature and to become self-absorbed with the fact that your feelings have been hurt, and as you nurture those hurt feelings the result is resentment. As resentment continues then you begin to do two things: reject the person and start to react in anger towards that person. You are now engaged in a chain reaction that becomes more intense as each moment goes by, and therefore it becomes more and more destructive. It is the result of a failure to understand and apply any of the problem-solving devices.

4.  The second option is to respond with the problem-solving devices, primarily the use of grace orientation which involves humility and the use of impersonal love.

5.  Impersonal love for all mankind involves numerous attributes. It is sacrificial, it is not self-seeking, it seeks what is best for the object of love. It exercises initiative even when the object is in reaction and in a state of animosity and hostility. Impersonal love always seeks to treat the object in kindness, in gentleness and in patience. It does not react in anger on the basis of self-absorption and self-justification.

6.  Impersonal love always does what is right and responds with the right internal attitude which then produces the correct external actions of words. So it begins with a mental attitude orientation towards grace.

7.  It lets bygones be bygones. There is true forgiveness. Forgiveness means you are going top forget what happened and not take it into account in terms of future action. There is not going to be a harbouring of resentment or hostility or anger.

8.  Grace orientation never returns evil for evil. Two wrongs never make anything right. Grace orientation and impersonal love always take the high ground and always responds in gentleness, kindness, patience.


This is the picture of our salvation. Jesus Christ went to the cross to die for us when we were in rejection and hostility toward Him. God in His grace did everything necessary to save us. it was based on a character of virtue and not on who and what we are. Therefore if we are going to apply impersonal love it begins by having a clear understanding of who God is and what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross.