NextLevel Online: John

Session 9: John 18 & 19

To the Cross: Mount of Olives, all night trial, Peter denies Jesus, the Crucifixion and a sealed tomb.


Classroom Instructions

Materials: Lesson Outline

John 18

The Kidron Valley lies on the east side of Jerusalem, 200 feet below the level of the Temple courtyards. At the bottom is a dry streambed, with water only in the winter. As Jesus and the disciples climbed up the other side, they were on the Mount of Olives. (The Synoptics call the olive grove “Gethsemane.”)

Knowing this place, Judas brought the Roman soldiers and Jewish officials who were going to arrest Jesus. The “detachment” of soldiers was literally a “cohort,” which at full strength was 760 infantry and 240 cavalry, totaling 1000 in all. (The “captain” in v. 12 is literally “ruler of 1000.”) Even if only a third of that number was on duty during a given shift, there were still enough soldiers to be absolutely sure no rebellion could get out of hand.

Jesus was not taken by surprise. He went forward to meet his captors, but they stepped back and fell all over each other when he said, “It is I.” When they found the courage to arrest him on the second try, Simon Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant. (Peter likely swung sideways at the head; the man tried to dodge; all Peter got was the ear.)

The cohort bound Jesus and took him to Annas. (He had been high priest A.D. 6-15; his son-in-law Caiaphas was high priest A.D. 18-36.) Peter and another disciple (likely John himself) followed. Peter survived two easy challenges (“You're not a disciple, are you?”), but failed the third (“You are, aren't you?”). The 1st denial was at the gate; the 2nd and 3rd denials were at a charcoal fire (as in 21:9).

First Annas, then Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, conducted trials. This was illegal because:

  • They were conducted at night

  • The judge (Caiaphas) had already announced Jesus should die

  • No witness lodged any initial accusation

  • A court official struck Jesus

  • Jesus was tried, condemned, and executed all in the same day

At early morning Jesus was sent to the palace of the Roman governor. (The governor had no permanent dwelling in Jerusalem; wherever he happened to stay was called his “palace.”) The Jews themselves would not enter, for they would become unclean and therefore unable “to eat the Passover.” (While it is possible that Friday was the day for the seder and Jesus went to the cross while lambs were being slaughtered, the Synoptics insist that the previous night was that meal. So it is more likely that the priests were concerned about all the rest of Passover week, also called the Feast of Unleavened Bread.)

More concerned with legal correctness than the Jews were, Pilate began by asking for the charge. Unsatisfied, he next tried to remand the case back to the Jews. Then he interrogated the prisoner: “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus asked what kind of “king” Pilate meant—Roman or Jewish. (If Roman, then no; if in fulfillment of the Jewish covenant promises, yes.) Jesus did say he had a kingdom, but not of this world (v. 36). When Jesus said everyone on the side of truth would listen to him, Pilate said, “What is truth?” and walked out. Outside, he tried again to escape responsibility by asking, “I find no basis for a charge in him. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews'?” But no. They wanted the rebel Barabbas.

John 19

The Jews had a rule about flogging: no more than 39 lashes. The Romans had no such limit. Before crucifying a man they typically flogged him, using leather straps interwoven with bits of bone or metal. In many cases flogging was fatal. After Jesus was mercilessly flogged, the soldiers mocked him with a “crown” of thorns and a “royal” purple robe.

Putting all the Gospels together, one can count nine times Pilate tried to release Jesus. John 19:4 & 6, “I find no basis for a charge,” is number seven. Then, perhaps to try to evoke sympathy from the crowd, Pilate brings out the pathetic, bleeding captive and says, “Behold the man!” But they are not satisfied; they demand a crucifixion. After all, this man committed blasphemy by claiming to be the Son of God!

Frightened, Pilate went back inside with Jesus and asked, “Where do you come from?” (He surely did not mean a mere hometown; he was asking if Jesus was somehow divine.) Jesus said nothing—he had already told him the truth and Pilate had refused to listen (18:36-38). When Pilate tried to intimidate Jesus with his Roman authority, Jesus countered that his Father was the source of all authority. Still, Jesus blamed Caiaphas—“the one who handed me over to you”— more than Pilate.

Again (attempt number eight) Pilate tried to set Jesus free (v. 12), but the Jews threatened to report Pilate's disloyalty to Caesar. So finally, Pilate took the official judge's seat and condemned Jesus to death. It was the sixth hour, somewhere near midday. (This seems at first to disagree with Mark 15:25, which says Jesus was crucified at the third hour, somewhere around mid morning. However, if sentencing and beginning the process of taking him to be crucified occurred somewhere between 10:30 and 11:30, this would satisfy both Gospels.)

Carrying his own cross (likely the patibulum, or cross-bar) Jesus went out of the city to the place of the Skull (in Aramaic, Golgotha; in Latin, Calvarus=Calvary). To add to the humiliation, victims of crucifixion were usually stripped naked, but in Jewish areas the victims were allowed to keep a loin cloth. Victims were nailed at the base of the hand and sometimes also through the feet (See Ps 22:16; Lk 24:39). Above Jesus' head was a sign: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews (in many paintings, abbreviated in Latin as INRI). In spite of the Jews' objections, Pilate (bravely?) insisted the sign remain as written.

Three of the “seven sayings from the cross” are recorded in John. (1) “Woman, here is your son, etc.” as he commits her care to John, (2) “I am thirsty” as he prepares his throat for a final victory cry, and (3) “It is finished!” This final cry, tetelestai, is found in everyday Greek with meanings such as, “Paid in full,” and “Mission accomplished.” Then Jesus died.

Since it was late on Friday, the day of preparation for the Sabbath, the Jews wanted to hasten the deaths and take the men down before the Sabbath began that night.

So Pilate agreed to have the soldiers break the legs. (Death usually came by ultimate suffocation, when exhaustion no longer allowed the victim to pull up, relax the diaphragm, and breathe. With legs busted out from under them, this would happen quickly.) To verify that Jesus was already dead, a soldier rammed a spear into his side, releasing a flow of blood and water. (He who “became flesh” was fully man, indeed! See also 2 John 7.) When they did not need to break Jesus' bones, this fulfilled Ps 34:19-20, and possibly also Exod 12:46.

At some personal risk, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, two members of the Sanhedrin (Lk 23:51; Jn 3:1) secured the body for burial. They wrapped Jesus in strips of cloth and seventy-five pounds of spices, then laid him in a new tomb that belonged to Joseph (Mt 27:60). (Ancient tombs were often re-used many times. Six to twelve months after burial only the bones remained. These were stacked to the side and then another corpse could be interred.) The two men did not have the option of seeking a more distant tomb; as soon as it was too dark to tell a white hair from a dark hair, the Sabbath would officially begin.

About NextLevel Online

The vision of Ozark Christian College is to glorify God by evangelizing the lost and edifying Christians worldwide. The mission of Ozark Christian College is to train men and women for Christian service as a degree-granting institution of biblical higher education.