The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for March, 2010

Videos: The Passion of Christ

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 31, 2010

Fr. Tom Welbers has up a number of videos on the Passion of Christ according to Paul and the Gospels.  I haven’t viewed these yet so I cannot speak concerning their quality, interest, etc.  Let me know what you think in the combox.  I’ve embedded the first three videos below, the remaining 14 can be found here.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Lectures on the Passion | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Commentary On The Passion According to John (18:1-19:42) By St Cyril Of Alexandria

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2010

Posted in Bible, Catechetical Resources, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, fathers of the church, Lectures on the Passion, Notes on the Gospel of John, Quotes, SERMONS | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Post #4~Notes On John 18:1-19:42 For Good Friday (This Post on 19:16-22)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2010

19:16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

19:17 So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha.

19:18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

St John Chrysostom: “‘Successes’ have terrible power to cast down or draw aside those who take not heed. Thus the Jews, who at first enjoyed the influence of God, sought the law of royalty from the Gentiles, and in the wilderness after the manna remembered the onions. In the same way here, refusing the Kingdom of Christ, they invited to themselves that of Caesar. Wherefore God set a king over them, according to their own decision. When then Pilate heard these things, he delivered Him to be crucified. Utterly without reason. For when he ought to have enquired whether Christ had aimed at sovereign power, he pronounced the sentence through fear alone. Yet that this might not befall him, Christ said beforehand, “My kingdom is not of this world”; but he having given himself wholly up to present things, would practice no great amount of wisdom. And yet his wife’s dream should have been sufficient to terrify him; but by none of these things was he made better, nor did he look to heaven, but delivered Him up. And now they laid the cross upon Him as a malefactor. For even the wood they abominated, and endured not even to touch it. This was also the case in the type; for Isaac bare the wood. But then the matter stopped at the will of his father,4 for it was the type; while here it proceeded to action, for it was the reality.” For more on the Isaac typology see comments on vs 17.

16 Then he handed him over to be crucified.

St Augustine: “For “the chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified.” For he would have every appearance of acting against Caesar if, on their declaration that they had no king but Caesar, he were wishing to impose on them another king by releasing without punishment one whom for these very attempts they had delivered unto him to be put to death. “Therefore he delivered Him unto them to be crucified.” But was it, then, anything different that he had previously desired when he said, “Take ye him, and crucify him;” or even earlier still, “Take ye him, and judge him according to your law?” And why did they show so great reluctance, when they said, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death,”11 and were in every way urgent to have Him slain not by themselves, but by the governor, and therefore refused to receive Him for the purpose of putting Him to death, if now for the same purpose they actually do receive Him? Or if such be not the case, why was it said, “Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified?” Or is it of any importance? Plainly it is. For it was not said, “Then delivered he Him therefore unto them” that they might crucify Him, but “that He might be crucified,” that is, that He might be crucified by the judicial sentence and power of the governor. But it is for this reason that the evangelist has said that He was delivered to them, that he might show that they were implicated in the crime from which they tried to hold themselves aloof; for Pilate would have done no such thing, save to implement what he perceived to be their fixed desire. The words, however, that follow, “And they took Jesus, and led Him away,” may now refer to the soldiers, the attendants of the governor. For it is more clearly stated afterwards, “When the soldiers therefore had crucified Him,”12 although the evangelist properly does so even when he attributes the whole to the Jews, for they it was that received what they had with the utmost greediness demanded, and they it was that did all that they compelled to be done. But the events that follow must be made the subject of consideration in another discourse).”

17 So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha.

And he went out indicates, following as it does the words they took Jesus that It is ultimately our Lord who is in charge of his destiny.

Protestant Commentator Matthew Henry:Now was the Son of man delivered into the hands of men, wicked and unreasonable men. By the law of Moses (and in appeals by our law) the prosecutors were to be the executioners, Deu_17:7. And the priests here were proud of the office. His being led away does not suppose him to have made any opposition, but the scripture must be fulfilled, he was led as a sheep to the slaughter, Act_8:32. We deserved to have been led forth with the workers of iniquity as criminals to execution, Psa_125:5. But he was led forth for us, that we might escape.

Bearing his own cross.

Father Haydock’s Commentary: “St. John makes no mention of what took place on the way to Calvary, when Jesus, being worn out by fatigue, could not proceed any farther, and they were obliged to relieve him of his burden, and to give it to a man, named Simon, of Cyrene, to carry for him, as is related in St. Matthew xxvii. 32. and St. Mark xv. 21. (Calmet) — For the honour paid in the early ages to the holy cross see St. Cyril, lib. vi. cont. Julian.; St. Jerome, ep. xvii.; St. Paulin. ep. xi.

The Protestant reference work Vine’s Word Study: “His cross (τὸν σταυρὸν αὑτοῦ). The best texts read αὑτῷ or ἑαυτῷ, “bearing the cross for Himself.” John does not mention the impressment of Simon of Cyrene for this service. Compare Mat_27:32; Mar_15:21; Luk_23:26.

John’s emphasis on Jesus “bearing the cross for Himself” stands in contradiction to the synoptic accounts, which tell us that a certain Simon of Cyrene was forced to help Him carry the cross. Various proposals have been advanced to explain the differences.

Theophylactus: “But as there Isaac was let go, and a ram offered; so here too the Divine nature remains impassible, but the human, of which the ram was the type, the offspring of that straying ram, was slain. But why does another Evangelist say that they hired Simon to bear the cross?

Protestant Matthew Henry: “Now Christ carrying his cross may be considered…As answering the type which went before him; Isaac, when he was to be offered, carried the wood on which he was to be bound and with which he was to be burned.”

St Augustine: “Great spectacle, to the profane a laughing-stock, to the pious a mystery. Profaneness sees a King bearing a cross instead of a scepter; piety sees a King bearing a cross, thereon to nail Himself, and afterwards to nail it on the foreheads of kings. That to profane eyes was contemptible, which the hearts of Saints would afterwards glory in; Christ displaying His own cross on His shoulders, and bearing that which was not to be put under a bushel, the candlestick of that candle which was now about to burn.”

St John Chrysostom: “He carried the badge of victory on His shoulders, was conquerors do.”

The place of a skull…Golgotha.

Explanations for the name are legion, but Scripture gives no reason as to why the place was so named.

The Protestant reference work The International Standard Biblical Encyclopedia: “Four reasons have been suggested for the name Golgotha or “skull”: (1) That it was a spot where skulls were to be found lying about and probably, therefore, a public place of execution. This tradition apparently originates with Jerome (346-420 ad), who refers to it in order to condemn it, and says that “outside the city and without the gate there are places wherein the heads of condemned criminals are cut off and which have obtained the name of Calvary – that is, of the beheaded.” This view has been adopted by several later writers. Against it may be urged that there is no shadow of evidence that there was any special place for Jewish executions in the 1st century, and that, if there were, the corpses could have been allowed burial (Mat_27:58; Joh_19:38), in conformity with Jewish law (Deu_21:23) and with normal custom (Josephus, BJ, IV, v, 2). (2) That the name was due to the skull-like shape of the hill – a modern popular view. No early or Greek writer suggests such an idea, and there is no evidence from the Gospels that the Crucifixion occurred on a raised place at all. Indeed Epiphanius (4th century) expressly says: “There is nothing to be seen on the place resembling this name; for it is not situated upon a height that it should be called (the place) of a skull, answering to the place of the head in the human body.” It is true that the tradition embodied in the name Mons Calvary appears as early as the 4th century, and is materialized in the traditional site of the Crucifixion in the church of the Holy Sepulcher, but that the hill was skull-like in form is quite a modern idea. Guthe combines (2) and (3) and considers that a natural skull-like elevation came to be considered, by some folklore ideas, to be the skull of the first man. One of the strangest ideas is that of the late General Gordon, who thought that the resemblance to a skull lay in the contours of the ground as laid down in the ordinance survey map of Jerusalem. (3) That the name is due to an ancient pre-Christian tradition that the skull of Adam was found there. The first mention of this is by Origen (185-253 ad), who himself lived in Jerusalem 20 years. He writes: “I have received a tradition to the effect that the body of Adam, the first man, was buried upon the spot where Christ was crucified,” etc. This tradition was afterward referred to by Athanasius, Epiphanius, Basil of Caesarea, Chrysostom and other later writers. The tomb and skull of Adam, still pointed out in an excavated chamber below the traditional Calvary, marks the survival of this tradition on the spot. This is by far the most ancient explanation of the name Golgotha and, in spite of the absurdity of the original tradition about Adam, is probably the true one.

18 there they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

Father McIntyre: “ The punishment was invented to make death as painful and as lingering as the power of human endurance. First, the upright wood was planted in the ground. It was not high, and probably the feet of the sufferer were not above one or two feet from the ground. Thus could the communications described in the Gospels take place between Him and others; thus also, Might His sacred lips be moistened with the sponge attached to a small stalk of hyssop. Next the transverse wood was placed on the ground, and the sufferer laid on it, when His arms were extended, drawn up, and bound to it. Then (this not in Eygypt, but in Carthage and in Rome) a strong sharp nail was driven, first, into the right, then into the left hand. Next, the sufferer was drawn up by means of ropes, perhaps ladders; the transverse either bound or nailed to the upright, and a rest or support for the body fastened onto it. Lastly, the feet were extended, and either one nail hammered into each, or a larger piece of iron through the two. And so might the crucified hang for hours, even days, till consciousness at last failed.”

Fathers Nolan and Brown: “Whether Jesus was nailed to the cross while it was lying upon the ground, or whether the cross was first erected and He then was raised up to it by ropes and ladders, is disputed.

As to the shape of the cross, too, on which He was crucified, there is a slight difference of opinion. Setting aside the crux sumplex, which was merely an upright stake, the crux compacta, so called from the parts being joined together, was threefold: decussate (cut into two equal parts), like the letter X; commissa, like the letter T, and immissa, often called the Latin Cross which looks like our lower case letter t, which differs from the commissa, by having the long upright beam projecting over the transverse bar. The almost unanimous tradition of the fathers holds that Christ died upn the Latin cross, and there is no reason to doubt that this is correct.

Protestant Scholar Matthew Henry: “ There they crucified him, and the other malefactors with him (Joh_19:18): There they crucified him. Observe (1.) What death Christ died; the death of the cross, a bloody, painful, shameful death, a cursed death. He was nailed to the cross, as a sacrifice bound to the altar, as a Saviour fixed for his undertaking; his ear nailed to God’s door-post, to serve him for ever. He was lifted up as the brazen serpent, hung between heaven and earth because we were unworthy of either, and abandoned by both. His hands were stretched out to invite and embrace us; he hung upon the tree some hours, dying gradually in the full use of reason and speech, that he might actually resign himself a sacrifice.

and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Vine’s Word Study (Protestant): “All the Synoptists describe the character of the two who were crucified with Jesus. Matthew and Mark, robbers; Luke, malefactors (κακούργους). All three use the phrase, one on the right, the other on the left, and so, substantially, John: on either side one. John says nothing about the character of these two, but simply describes them as two others.

Fathers Nolan and Brown: “It may possibly have been to add to his disgrace and shame that these others were punished with Jesus. ‘And the Scripture was fullfilled which saith: And with the wicked he was reputed (Lk 22:37, see Isaiah 53:12).

St Cyril of Alexandria: “And we may take the condemned criminals, who hung by Christ’s side, as symbolical of the tow nations who were shortly about to be brought into close contact with Him, I mean the children of Israel and the Gentiles. Because the Jews were condemned by the Law, for they were guilty of transgressing it; and the Gentiles by their idolatry, for they worshiped the creature more than the Creator.

And after another manner those who are united with Christ are also crucified with Him; for enduring, as it were, death to their old conversation in the flesh, they are reformed into a new life, according to the Gospel. Yea, Paul said: And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh, with the passions and the lusts thereof; and again, speaking of himself in words applicable to all men: For I, through the Law, died unto the Law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ: yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me. And he exhorts also the Colossians: Wherefore, if ye died from the world, why do ye behave yourselves as though living in the world? For, by becoming dead unto worldly conversation, we are brought to the rudiments of conduct and life in Christ. Therefore the crucifixion of the two robbers, side by side with Christ, signifies in a manner to us, through the medium of that event, the juxtaposition of the two nations, dying together, as it were, with the Savior Christ, by bidding farewell to worldly pleasures, and refusing any longer to live after the flesh, and preferring to live with the Lord, so far as may be, by fashioning their lives according to him, and consecrating them in His service. And the meaning of the figure is in no way affected by the fact, that the men who hung by His side were malefactors; for we were by nature children of wrath, before we believed in Christ, and were all doomed to death, as we said before.”

St Thomas Aquinas: “I answer that Christ was crucified between thieves from one intention on the part of the Jews, and from quite another on the part of God’s ordaining. As to the intention of the Jews, Chrysostom remarks (Hom. lxxxvii in Matthew) that they crucified the two thieves, one on either side, “that He might be made to share their guilt. But it did not happen so; because mention is never made of them; whereas His cross is honored everywhere. Kings lay aside their crowns to take up the cross: on their purple robes, on their diadems, on their weapons, on the consecrated table, everywhere the cross shines forth.”

As to God’s ordinance, Christ was crucified with thieves, because, as Jerome says on Matthew 27:33: “As Christ became accursed of the cross for us, so for our salvation He was crucified as a guilty one among the guilty.” Secondly, as Pope Leo observes (Serm. iv de Passione): “Two thieves were crucified, one on His right hand and one on His left, to set forth by the very appearance of the gibbet that separation of all men which shall be made in His hour of judgment.” And Augustine on John 7:36: “The very cross, if thou mark it well, was a judgment-seat: for the judge being set in the midst, the one who believed was delivered, the other who mocked Him was condemned. Already He has signified what He shall do to the quick and the dead; some He will set on His right, others on His left hand.” Thirdly, according to Hilary (Comm. xxxiii in Matthew): “Two thieves are set, one upon His right and one upon His left, to show that all mankind is called to the sacrament of His Passion. But because of the cleavage between believers and unbelievers, the multitude is divided into right and left, those on the right being saved by the justification of faith.” Fourthly, because, as Bede says on Mark 15:27: “The thieves crucified with our Lord denote those who, believing in and confessing Christ, either endure the conflict of martyrdom or keep the institutes of stricter observance. But those who do the like for the sake of everlasting glory are denoted by the faith of the thief on the right; while others who do so for the sake of human applause copy the mind and behavior of the one on the left.”

19:19 Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Fathers Nolan and Brown: It was usual to indicate in some such way the name and offense of those crucified, and so Pilate had an inscription placed over the head of Jesus, giving His name, and the reason why He suffered. We should have expected, however, that Pilate would have caused to be written: Jesus of Nazareth who claimed to be king of the Jews. But no, either to annoy the Jews, or by an over-ruling Providence, Pilate wroted “King of the Jews,” thus proclaiming Christ’s royal dignity even while he crucified Him.”

Vine’s Word Study (Protestant): “Only here and Joh_19:20, in the New Testament. John uses the technical Roman term titulus, a placard or notice. Used for a bill or notice of sale affixed to a house. Thus Ovid, of a heartless creditor: “She sent our household goods under the placard (sub-titulum);” i.e., put the house and furniture up for sale (“Remedia Amoris,” 302). Meaning also the title of a book; an epitaph. Matthew has αἰτίαν, accusation; Mark, ἐπιγραφὴ τῆς αἰτίας superscription of the accusation; Luke, ἐπιγραφὴ superscription. John alone mentions the fact that Pilate wrote the inscription.

Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews

The wording of the title is differently given by each Evangelist.

Matthew: This is Jesus the King of the Jews.

Mark: The King of the Jews.

Luke: This is the King of the Jews.

John: Jesus the Nazarene the King of the Jews.

The essential element of the superscription, King of the Jews, is common to all. It expressed, on its face, the main intent of Pilate, which was to cast contempt on the Jews. “In the sense of the man Pilate, it meant: Jesus, the King of the Jewish fanatics, crucified in the midst of Jews, who should all be thus executed. In the sense of the Jews: Jesus, the seditionary, the King of the rebels. In the sense of the political judge: Jesus, for whose accusation the Jews, with their ambiguous accusation, may answer. In the sense of the divine irony which ruled over the expression: Jesus, the Messiah, by the crucifixion become in very truth the King of the people of God” (Lange).

Father Hyadock: “He is the king, not of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also. But it is not without reason, that he is called king of the Jews. For they were the true olive (Romans xi.); and we, the wild olive, have been ingrafted, and made partakers of the virtue of the true olive. Christ, therefore, is the king of the Jews, circumcised, not in the flesh, but in the heart, not according to the letter, but the spirit. (St. Augustine, tract. 118. in Joan.)

19:20 Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.

Theophylactus: “The title written in three languages signifies that our Lord was King of the whole world; practical, natural, and spiritual. The Latin denotes the practical, because the Roman empire; was the most powerful, and best managed one; the Greek the physical, the Greeks being the best physical philosophers; and, lastly, the Hebrew the theological, because the Jews had been made the depositories of religious knowledge.

19:21 The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “Do not write, `The King of the Jews,’ but, `This man said, I am King of the Jews.'”

St Augustine: “O ineffable working of Divine power even in the hearts of ignorant men. Did not some hidden voice sound from within, and, if we may say so, with clamorous silence, saying to Pilate in the prophetic words of the Psalm, Alter not the inscription of the title? But what say you, you mad priests: will the title be the less true, because Jesus said I am the King of the Jews? If that which Pilate wrote cannot be altered, can that be altered which the Truth spoke? Pilate wrote what he wrote, because our Lord said what He said.”

19:22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

St Cyril of Alexandria: “We may remark that it was very providential, and the fruit of God’s inexpressible purpose, that the title that was written embraced three inscriptions-one in Hebrew, another in Latin, and another in Greek. For it lay open to the view, proclaiming the Kingdom of our Savior Christ in three languages, the most widely known of all, and bringing to the crucified One the first-fruits, as it were, of the prophecy that had been spoken concerning Him. For the wise Daniel said that there was given Him glory and a Kingdom, and all nations and languages shall serve Him; and, to like effect, the holy Paul teaches us, crying out that every knee shall bow; of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth; and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore the title proclaiming Jesus King was, as it were, the true firstfruits of the confession of tongues.”

Jamieson Fausset, and Brown (Protestant): “And thus, amidst the conflicting passions of men, was proclaimed, in the chief tongues of mankind, from the Cross itself and in circumstances which threw upon it a lurid yet grand light, the truth which drew the Magi to His manger, and will yet be owned by all the world!

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, fathers of the church, liturgy, Notes on the Gospel of John, Quotes, St John Chrysostom, St Thomas Aquinas | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Post #3~Notes On John 18:1-19:42 For Good Friday (this post is on 18:28-19:16)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 30, 2010

All biblical citations not found in passages quoted from other authors are taken from the RSV translation.  See copyright notice at the end of this post.

Some scholars see a concentric arrangement in this section of the Passion Narrative based upon the “outside” to “inside” movement of the characters.  Peter F. Ellis, in his book THE GENIUS OF JOHN outlines it as follows:

A1. Outside, The Jewish leaders ask Pilate to condemn Jesus to death (18:28-32).

B1. Inside, Pilate questions Jesus about kingship (18:33-38a).

C1. Outside, Pilate declares “I find no crime in him” (18:38b-40).

D.  Inside (???), Jesus is scourged and mocked by the soldiers as “King of the Jews” (19:1-3).

C2. Outside, Pilate declares “I find no crime in him” (19:4-8).

B2. Inside, Pilate questions Jesus about his power (19:9-11).

A2. Outside, Pilate gives in the Jewish leaders and condemns Jesus to death (19:12-16a).

The A1 section focuses on the leader’s desire to have Jesus condemned, while the closing section (A2) shows this desire coming to fruition.  sandwiched between the opening and closing of the context is the account of how this desire was achieved.

In concentric arrangements (also called “chiamus”) the center section (D in the above outline) often provides an interpretive clue to the section, or a reason for it’s content.  At the beginning, (A1) no specific reason is give by the leaders for their desire to have Jesus condemned; the charge comes at the end (A2): “Everyone who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar.”  They insist (or at least claim) that Jesus’ kingship is political in essence, but this charge has already been refuted in the section where Pilate interrogates Jesus about the nature of His Kingship (B1) and about power (B2).  Pilate’s proclamation of Jesus innocence in the C1 and C2 sections highlights the nature of the leaders evil desire (A1) based upon their false charge (A2).  The hinge around which the parallels are built (D) show both the absurdity of the Jewish leaders charge, and the complete an utter lack of justice exhibited by Pilate.

18:28. Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the praetorium. It was early. They themselves did not enter the praetorium, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover.

John tells us nothing concerning what may have taken place between Jesus and Caiaphas.

The praetorium.

The Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture: “The praetorium to which Jesus was brought from Caiphas was the residence of the governor. The procurators of Judaea, who were subordinate to the imperial Legate of Syria, resided habitually at Caesaraea, but came to Jerusalem for the great festivals or whenever a concourse or other circumstances endangered public tranquility. About Pilate’s place of residence at Jerusalem there has been a difference of opinion. The Herodian palace near the present Jaffa Gate would seem to be naturally indicated as the Jerusalem residence of the supreme Roman magistrate, and we know from Josephus (BJ 2, 14, 8; 15, 5) that a quarter of a century later the governor Gessius Florus lodged there. Pilate also by the famous incident of the shields would have signified his intention of doing so. On the other hand, the arx Antonia or vast fortress-palace built by Herod at the NW. angle of the temple area was undoubtedly the most central and best post of vigilance. Especially, when the air was electric, it would be the proper place for the Governor to lodge. Since the 13th cent. the Via Dolorosa has begun from there, and excavations made between 1927 and 1932 in the property of the Sisters of Sion seem to have given reasonable grounds for connecting this place with the Lithostrotos (stone pavement) of Joh_19:13. Probabilities in favour of the Antonia have therefore decidedly grown in recent years.”

It was early.  The Greek is proi, the last watch following cockcrow.  According to the Roman author/philosopher Seneca, this was not an unusual time for Roman legal action.   Most scholar assign a time of about 6 AM.  The reference to Caiaphas and the allusion to cockcrow may be intended to draw a connection with the previous verses, especially the sword wielding and denial of Peter.  In His response to Pilate’s question, “are you King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews” (18:36).  In an earthly kingdom, Peter’s sword play would have earned him a commendation, while his cowardice would have earned him an execution.

They themselves did not enter the praetorium, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover.

Their is nothing in the Law of Moses concerning this, but it was a standard practice as the time of Jesus (see Acts 10:28), as Delitzsch has shown in his Talmudic Studies.  The irony strike the reader of John’s Gospel like a hammer.  Jesus is the Paschal Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, a fact unrecognized by the leaders, perhaps willfully by some of them.  Their desire to avoid ritual impurity as a feast celebrating life and liberty looms stands in sharp contrast to their having taken away Jesus’ freedom, and their attempt to have Him put to death.

Augustine: “O impious blindness! They feared to be defiled by the judgment hall of a foreign prefect, to shed the blood of an innocent brother they feared not. For that He Whom they killed was the Lord and Giver of life, their blindness saved them from knowing.”

18:29  So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”
18:30  They answered him, “If this man were not an evildoer, we would not have handed him over.”
18:31  Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” 18:32  This was to fulfill the word which Jesus had spoken to show by what death he was to die.

29. So Pilate went out. The Protestant reference work The Pulpit Commentator states: “He (Pilate) is represented by Philo as a proud, ungovernable man;…Philo speaks of Pilate’s “ferocious passions,” says that he was given to fits of furious wrath, and that he had reason to fear that complaints laid before Tiberius for “his acts of insolence, his habit of insulting people, for his cruelty, and murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never-ending inhumanity,” might bring upon him the rebuke which ultimately the emperor gave him, in consequence of his endeavor to force from the Jews assent to his placing gilt shields in the palace of Herod.”

What accusation do you bring against this man? The Jewish leaders would not have been able to approach Pilate directly due to the Roman chain of command; a request must have been made through a subordinate of Pilate’s.  This would explain how Pilate knows they have a prisoner with a charge against him, and, also, how he knows the specific charge against Jesus (18:33).  Furthermore, recall that a Roman cohort had been sent to arrest Jesus, the order probably having been given by Pilate or an officer under his command.  Either way, Pilate could not have been ignorant of the charge against Jesus, a fact seen in verse 33.  The question “what accusation do you bring,” should be seen as a legal formality.  Father John McIntyre: “Pilate demands, as Roman law required, a formal indictment against the accused.  The Jews had evidently expected an immediate sentence on our Lord.”  This expectation is not hard to understand in light of what was said about Pilate earlier.

The Jewish leaders testy, non-specific reply (next verse) makes sense if they know Pilate has already been informed.  If all this is so, then we are justified in seeing a contrast between the leaders meticulous observance of religious law, and their annoyance with judicial ritual.  According to the first century Jewish historian, Josephus, the often heated animosity that existed between Pilate and the Jews was to be blamed on both sides.  The testy response of the leaders could not but have tweaked Pilate’s anger, and he will do some tweaking of his own.

30. They answered him, “If this man were not an evildoer, we would not have handed him over.”

A blatant lie.  Early, before Annas, Jesus had spoken of his open and public teaching which many could witness to; just as easily, many could witness to the evil designs of the leaders (7:25-26; 11:56-57).  But St John almost certainly wants us to think of Caiaphas’ prophecy and its circumstances (11:45-53).

Some see in the response an attempt to railroad Jesus without a formal trial.  The Pulpit commentator: “This was somewhat audacious.  It was as much as to say, ‘We have judged, you have only to register our decision.  We are not bound to go through our evidence before you.'”

The reference to the leaders handing Jesus over to Pilate here in the A1 section is reversed in the A2 section (19:16).  As the Jewish leaders manipulate the Roman leader he manipulates justice, thus both he and they become guilty.

31.  Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.”

Irony!  Pilate tells them (perhaps not without contempt) to judge Jesus by the Law of Moses, but they in their turn appeal to the law of Rome, a foreshadowing of their cry in the A2 section: “We have no king but Caesar” (19:15).

32 This was to fulfill the word which Jesus had spoken to show by what death he was to die.

Father’s Nolan and Brown: “Their refusal to judge Jesus according to their own law came to pass, adds St John, that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, in which He had foretold that He should die the death of the cross (Jn 3:14; 12:32-32; Matt 20:19).  Had He been punished according to Jewish law, having been judged a blasphemer, He should have been stoned to death, according to Leviticus 24:14~’Bring forth the blasphemer without the camp, and let them that heard him put their hands upon his head, and let all the people stone him.'”

18:33  Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
18:34  Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”
18:35  Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?”
18:36  Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.”
18:37  Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”
18:38a  What is truth?

33-34.  Are you the King of the Jews?…Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?

I’ve never seen a biblical scholar make this connection, but I believe these verses should be seen in relation to passages such as 5:19~”Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.””  Also, 5:27~ “and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man.”  And 5:30~””I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.””  As Jesus will point out in this sections parallel (B2 19:9-11), Pilate would have no power over Jesus if it had not been given him from above.  Pilate is not here acting in accord with the governmental power bestowed by God on princes and kingdoms (Rom 13:1ff), rather, he is acting in accord with his own caprice.

Theophylactus: “He intimates here that Pilate was judging blindly and indiscreetly: If you say this thing of yourself, He says, bring forward proofs of My rebellion; if you have heard it from others, make regular inquiry into it.”

35. Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?”

Am I a Jew? Here we see Pilate’s bigotry and animosity towards the Jews, which would eventually lead to his deposition as Procurator.  His question is emphatic, demanding an answer of “no,” for the mere thought of the other response sickens him.

Pilate insists that what is taking place is a thoroughly Jewish matter, but the mere presence of Jesus at the interrogation makes that a lie; indeed, handed you over to me and what have you done witness against Pilate’s claim.

36. Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.

Recalls the action and subsequent rebuke of Peter in the garden.

Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture: “Jesus does not answer this (i.e., Pilate’s) question, except by clearly defining what his kingship is. It is not of terrestrial origin. If it were, his guards— the military force which in that hypothesis he would have had—would have striven against his arrest. Consequently his kingship is not ‘from hence’ (translated “this world”)— terrestrial—and therefore he is no Palestinian rival of the majesty of Roman Tiberius”

St John Chrysostom: “He means that He does not derive His kingdom from the same source that earthly kings do; but that He has his sovereignty from above; inasmuch as He is not mere man, but far greater and more glorious than man: If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews. Here He shows the weakness of an earthly kingdom, has its strength from its servants, whereas that higher kingdom is sufficient to itself, and wanting in nothing. And if His kingdom was thus the greater of the two, it follows that He was taken of His own will, and delivered up Himself.”

For a fuller treatment of the significance of our Lord’s words, consult The Passion Of Jesus In The Gospel Of John, by Father Donald Senior, pages 80-81.  The emphasis is not on space (heaven up there, earth down here), rather the differing realities of this world and the one “from above” are being described in spatial categories.

37. So you are a king…you say that I am a king.  Pilate’s accusation/question is parried by our Lord, who basically admits to being a king, just not in the sense posed by Pilate.

St Augustine: “He did not fear to confess Himself a King, but so replied as neither to deny that He was, nor yet to confess Himself a King in such sense as that His kingdom should be supposed to be of this w world. He says, you say, meaning, you being carnal say it carnally. He continues, To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that 1 should bear witness to the truth.”

Fathers Nolan and Brown: “In response to Pilate’s question…Jesus proceeds to explain that His is not that mighty temporal kingdom for which the Jews had hoped, and which the Romans might well fear; if it were, His followers would surely have striven that He should not be delivered to the Jews; but in truth it was not a temporal Kingdom.  My kingdom is not from hence; i.e., is not of this world, not a temporal kingdom.  In this world it was, and is; but of this world it is not (see 17:15-16).”

“For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”

St Augustine: “But when Christ bears witness to the truth, He bears witness to Himself; as He said above, I am the truth. But inasmuch as all men have not faith, He adds, Everyone that is of the truth hears My voice: hears, that is, with the inward ear; obeys My voice, believes Me. Every one that is of the truth, has reference to the grace by which He calls according to His purpose. For as regards the nature in which we are created, since the truth created all, all are of the truth. But it is not all to whom it is given the truth to obey the truth. For had He even said, Everyone one that hears My voice is of the truth, it still would be thought that such were of the truth, because they obeyed the truth But He does not say this, but Everyone that is of the truth hears My voice. A man then is not of the truth, because he hears His voice, but hears His voice because he is of the truth. This grace is conferred upon him by the truth.”

Father Lapide writes that Christ came to bear witness “To evangelical truth, which mainly consists in these things—(1.) In the true knowledge of God, namely, that He is One in Essence, and threefold in Person.

“For every being is true, that is a true and not an imaginary thing, and is true in itself. Wherefore God, who is Very Being (I am that I am) is also truth, and good itself. Because His essential Being is Truth and Goodness. Again, the Son who proceedeth from the Father, as His Word, is Truth Itself, not merely of existence but of mind. Whence S. Augustine says, when Jesus bears witness to the truth, He bears witness to Himself, for He Himself is truth.

“(2.) In the knowledge of the Incarnation; namely, to know that the Son was sent into the world in the flesh, that He might save the world, and that no one can be saved, except by faith in Him (see John xvii. 3).
(3.) In the knowledge of true blessedness: viz., that it consists not in wealth, honours, &c., but in the kingdom of heaven, i.e. in the vision and possession of God. For the sum of Christ’s preaching was, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mat_3:2).

“Christ says that He was born to bear witness to the Truth. (1.) To keep Pilate from wondering that He owned Himself to be a King, for it was but speaking the truth. (2.) That Pilate might learn the innocence and candour of Jesus; for in this truth consists. (3.) To remind him of the justice with which he ought to decide His cause, and that he should not be so moved by the false charges and clamours of the Chief Priests, so as to condemn Him against truth and justice.

“Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice. Those, i.e., who are studious and desirous of the truth; who earnestly and with their whole heart seek the Truth, i.e., the true God and the true Messiah, true happiness and salvation. And who when they have found it embrace it before all things beside. They are opposed to those who are “of contention” (Rom. ii. 8), who, like the philosophers of that time, are ever striving to contend, dispute, and argue. To be, then, “of the truth” is the same as being “of God.” For the Son of God is the Son of the Truth; for God is truth, according to Joh_8:47, “He that is of God heareth God’s words. Ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” Because, though ye are “of God” by creation, yet ye are not “of Him” by election, faith, and grace. “He commended,” says S. Augustine (in loc.) “that grace which calls according to His purpose.” For he that hath received his testimony (the testimony of the Baptist) “hath set to his seal that God is true” (Joh_3:33). And how true it is, is shown by the statements of enemies. For Josephus (Antiq. xiv. 8) writes, “At that time lived a wise man called Jesus, if indeed it is allowable to call Him a man, for He performed wonderful works, and taught those who willingly received the truth.” (Most scholars consider this an interpolation into Josephus)

“Christ tacitly answers Pilate’s objection, viz. “If Thou bearest witness to the truth, why do the Scribes and Pharisees, who profess the truth, hear Thee not—nay more, persecute Thee even to the death?” He answers, “Because they themselves are not of the truth, but of a lie. For they follow the false opinions of wealth, honours, &c., which the devil suggests to them.” See Joh_8:44.”

38a  what is truth?

Down through the ages this question by Pilate has received a multitude of interpretations; but surely Father Senior is correct when he notes that the question must be seen in relation to Jesus’ words about the truth in the previous verse.  He writes: “But following on Jesus’ words about the meaning of truth and the Gospel’s portrayal of Jesus himself as the Truth sent from God to illumine the world, Pilate’s words are self-condemning.  He joins ranks with the religious leaders; he cannot understand Jesus or his words because he is “not of God” (8:47).”

18:38b  After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again, and told them, “I find no crime in him.
18:39  But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover; will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?”
18:40  They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

38b  I find no crime in him. In light of Pilate’s question, “what is truth,” we must see this declaration of innocence as worthless in improving Pilate’s character.  Notice what immediately follows the declaration of innocence: “But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover, will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?”  Only a man with no shred of decency, no commitment to truth and justice could act like this.  His words are seen in an even worse light later, when he says: “Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” (19:10).

39.  “But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover; will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?” The custom of giving pardon to a condemned criminal at Passover is not known outside of Scripture

40 They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber. See comment below.

19:1  Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him.
19:2  And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe;
19:3  they came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.

The unwillingness of the leaders to be placated is matched by Pilate’s unwillingness to act with justice.

19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him.

Lapide: “That is after he had said (Luk_23:22), “I will chastise Him and let Him go.” The tradition is that He was first scourged with thick ropes, then with knotted ropes and iron scorpions, then with chains, and lastly with rods of thorns. But Ribera says that these traditions are of little account, as the inhabitants of the country have so often charged, and the old traditions were not kept up.”

The fact that a robber is released while Jesus is scourged is ironic when seen in relation to the cleansing of the temple.   Jesus had formed a scourge to chase the money-changers from the Temple and now a money robber goes free as he faces scourging.

2. And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe; Probably a faded red military garment, purple was quite expensive.  On the other hand, scarlet (Matthew’s description) and purple may have been used interchangeably.

Bede: “For instead of a diadem, they put upon Him a crown of thorns, and a purple robe to represent the purple robe which kings wear. Matthew says, a scarlet robe, but scarlet and purple are different names for the same color. And though the soldiers did this in mockery, yet to us their acts have a meaning. For by the crown of thorns is signified the taking of our sins upon Him, the thorns which the earth of our body brings forth. And the purple robe signifies the flesh crucified. For our Lord is robed in purple, wherever He is glorified by the triumphs of holy martyrs.”

19:4  Pilate went out again, and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him.”
19:5  So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”
19:6  When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him.”
19:7  The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God.”
19:8  When Pilate heard these words, he was the more afraid;

4. “See, I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him.” Brilliant!  Then why did you have him scourged like the commonest of criminals?

5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” The man concerning whom they had just said: “not this man, but Barabbas!”

6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him.” The crime he stood accussed of, at least as far as Pilate knew, was that he had claimed to be a king; a charge that could have a very different meaning between Jews and Romans.  I speculated earlier that the charge of being a king came to Pilate via a subordinate who would have approached him to announce that the Jewish leaders had business with him.  Whatever the case may be, the true charge now comes out:

7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God.” See 5:18; 10:33, 36).

Claiming to be Son of God was not punishable under Roman law, but claiming to be a king might just get one killed by the Romans.  Among the Jews, “Son of God” and “king” could be taken as synonymous terms.  The fact that the Jewish leaders understood the nature of Jesus’ claim to sonship suggests that their original reticence about bringing this specific charge (Son of God) against him in a legal action involving Rome was manipulative.

8 When Pilate heard these words, he was the more afraid.

Injustice towards a man may be one thing, but injustice towards a god is another, except in Christianity, where they are closely associated and reprehended.  The pagan heart of Pilate must have skipped a few beats.

19:9  he entered the praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer.

St John Chrysostom: “Pilate, agitated with fear, begins again examining Him: And went again into the judgment hall, and says to Jesus, Where are you? He no longer asks, What hast you done? But Jesus gave him no answer. For he who had heard, To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, and, My kingdom is not from here ought to have resisted, and rescued Him, instead of which he had yielded to the fury of the Jews. Wherefore seeing that he asked questions without object, He answers him no more indeed at other times He was unwilling to give reasons and defend Himself by argument, when His works testified so strongly for Him; thus showing that He came voluntarily to His work.”

19:10  Pilate therefore said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?”

St John Chrysostom: “He remaining thus silent, Then says Pilate to Him, Speak you not to me? know you not that I have power to crucify you, and have power to release you? See how he condemns himself. If all depends upon thee, why, when you find no fault of offence, do you not acquit Him?”

19:11  Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin.”

Lapide: “Thou wouldest have no power against Me, unless it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin. The best explanation of this passage is that of Jansenius, Cajetan, and Ribera. Thou couldest have no power over Me, both because I am innocent, and because I could deliver Myself, if I so willed; But My Father willed that I should submit to thee, in order to the work of redemption, and accordingly permitted thee to give way to the Jews in this matter, and to exercise thy power over Me. But this thou wouldest not have done, unless they had accused Me. Their sin is therefore greater than thine.”

19:12  Upon this Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend; every one who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar.”

Lapide: “He had sought to do so before. But he now more especially did so, after he had heard that He was the Son of God; fearing to incur the vengeance of God on condemning Him. The fear of Cæsar, however, prevailed over the fear of God. The Gentiles reckoned many sons of the gods, whom they worshipped as demigods.”

19:13  When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, and in Hebrew, Gabbatha.

The Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture has this on verses 12-13~”12. After the last word of Jesus—’And from this’ is both temporal and logical—Pilate tried to release him. He is deterred by the threat of denunciation to the emperor. Not to be ‘a friend of Caesar’ was a serious matter, when the Caesar was Tiberius who, as Suetonius informs us, was atrociously severe where there were suspicions or charges of treason’judicia maiestatis atrocissime exercuit’ ( Vita Tiberii, 58). ‘If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar’s friend. For whosoever maketh himself a king declares against Caesar’—this was decisive. 13. Pilate had Jesus brought out and set up his tribunal—the folding curule chair of a Roman magistrate—’in the place . . . called Lithostrotos’ (from the remarkable pavement), but also known by the Hebrew (Aramaic) name of Gabbatha, meaning a height or eminence rather than a bare front (also etymologically possible).  Pilate caved in to peer pressure and knowing Jesus was innocent,he had Jesus Scourged and then  condemned an innocent man to a most gruesome  death.”

19:14  Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”

According to Exodus 12:6 the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed at the evening twilight, but with the establishment of the Temple and the large influx of pilgrim this became impossible, and so by Jesus day the sacrificing began at the sixth hour, (noon).

Behold your king! Having been cowed by a fear of his ruler Caesar, Pilate mocks the leaders by proclaiming Jesus their King, though he had once insisted that Jesus what innocent of that (political) charge.

19:15  They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”
19:16  Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

St Augustine: “But Pilate is at last overcome by fear: Then delivered he Him therefore to them to be crucified. For it would be taking part openly against Caesar, if when the Jews declared that they had no king but Caesar, he wished to put another king over them, as he would appear to do if he let go unpunished a Man whom they had delivered to him for punishment on this very ground. It is not however, delivered Him to them to crucify Him, but, to be crucified, i.e. by the sentence and authority of the governor. The Evangelist says, delivered to them, to show that they were implicated in the guilt from which they tried to escape. For Pilate would not have done this except to please them.”


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Resources For Good Friday

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2010

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lectures On John 18-19.

Exegetical homilies On The Passion According To Luke. By St Cyril of Alexandria.  A series of homilies explaining the Passion as narrated by St Luke..

St Cyril Of Alexandria’s Commentary On St John’s Passion.

My Notes On The Passion According To St John.

  • More notes forthcoming.

The Navarre Bible. Text and commentary on the Good Friday readings.

Word Sunday.  Notes on the readings.

HomiliesMost of these are based upon the readings used in the Extraordinary Form of the Rite.

On The Passion Of Our LordConsiderations to exhort us to meditate on the Passion.  Orignally preached on Palm Sunday, but fitting for Good Friday.

The Dereliction of Jesus on the CrossA homily on Matt 27:46.

Christ’s Sufferings For The Salvation Of Mankind. On the Creed’s He suffered under Pontius Pilate.

The Mental Sufferings Of ChristScroll down page to find.

The TrialOn Psalm 21:7 (22:7).

The Passion of Christ Moves us to Repentance. Fr. Tommy Lane.

More homilies forthcoming.

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Post #2~Notes On John 18:1-19:42 For Good Friday (this post is on 18:12-27)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2010

Except for citations within quoted authors, all biblical texts are taken from the RSV translation.  See copyright notice at bottom of post.

18:12 So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him.
18:1 3 First they led him to Annas; for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.
18:1 4 It was Caiaphas who had given counsel to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.

Judas, his treacherous role now complete, disappears from the scene.  Verse 12 forms an inclusio with verse 3 which helps explain the purpose of the intervening verses (4-11); the success of the action against Jesus ultimate rests-not on Judas, or on the soldiers,-but on the will of Jesus as was pointed out several times in Post #1.

Seized Jesus and bound him.  Augustine writes: “They took Him Whom they did not draw nigh to; nor understood that which is written in the Psalms, Draw nigh to Him, and be you lightened. For had they thus drawn nigh to Him, they would have taken Him, not to kill Him, but to be in their hearts. But now that they take Him the way they do, they go backward. It follows, and bound Him, Him by Whom they ought to have wished to be loosed. And perhaps there were among them some who, afterwards delivered by Him, exclaimed, you have broken My chains asunder.”

Though Caiaphas was the High Priest in the year Jesus was crucified the band that arrested Him took Him first to Annas, the former High Priest and father-in-law of Caiaphas.  Annas had functioned as High Priest from 6 to 15 A.D., at which time he was deposed by the Romans; yet according to historians, he still exerted a great deal of influence.  Five of his sons would serve as High Priest.

The Protestant reference work The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia has the following on Annas: “an´as (Ἄννας, Ánnas; Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek Hannas; Josephus Ananos, the Greek form of Hebrew חנן, ḥānān; “merciful,” “gracious”; compare Neh_8:7, etc.):
(1) A high priest of the Jews, the virtual head of the priestly party in Jerusalem in the time of Christ, a man of commanding influence. He was the son of Seth (Josephus: Sethi), and was elevated to the high-priesthood by Quirinius, governor of Syria, 7 ad. At this period the office was filled and vacated at the caprice of the Roman procurators, and Annas was deposed by Valerius Gratus, 15 ad. But though deprived of official status, he continued to wield great power as the dominant member of the hierarchy, using members of his family as his willing instruments. That he was an adroit diplomatist is shown by the fact that five of his sons (Ant., XX, ix, 1) and his son-in-law Caiaphas (Joh_18:13) held the high-priesthood in almost unbroken succession, though he did not survive to see the office filled by his fifth son Annas or Ananus II, who caused Jas the Lord’s brother to be stoned to death (circa 62 ad). Another mark of his continued influence is, that long after he had lost his office he was still called “high priest,” and his name appears first wherever the names of the chief members of the sacerdotal faction are given. Act_4:6, “And Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest.” Annas is almost certainly called high priest in Joh_18:19, Joh_18:22, though in Joh_18:13, Joh_18:24 Caiaphas is mentioned as the high priest. Note especially the remarkable phrase in Luk_3:2, “in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,” as if they were joint holders of the office. The cases In which Josephus gives the title “high-priest” to persons who no longer held the office afford no real parallel to this. The explanation seems to be that owing to age, ability and force of character Annas was the virtual, though Caiaphas the titular, high priest. He belonged to the Sadducean aristocracy, and, like others of that class, he seems to have been arrogant, astute, ambitious and enormously wealthy. He and his family were proverbial for their rapacity and greed. The chief source of their wealth seems to have been the sale of requisites for the temple sacrifices, such as sheep, doves, wine and oil, which they carried on in the four famous “booths of the sons of Annas” on the Mount of Olives, with a branch within the precincts of the temple itself. During the great feasts, they were able to extort high monopoly prices for theft goods. Hence, our Lord’s strong denunciation of those who made the house of prayer “a den of robbers” (Mar_11:15-19), and the curse in the Talmud, “Woe to the family of Annas! Woe to the serpent-like hisses” (Pes 57a). As to the part he played in the trial and death of our Lord, although he does not figure very prominently in the gospel narratives, he seems to have been mainly responsible for the course of events. Renan’s emphatic statement is substantially correct, “Annas was the principal actor in the terrible drama, and far more than Caiaphas, far more than Pilate, ought to bear the weight of the maledictions of mankind” (Life of Jesus). Caiaphas, indeed, as actual high priest, was the nominal head of the Sanhedrin which condemned Jesus, but the aged Annas was the ruling spirit. According to Joh_18:12, Joh_18:13, it was to him that the officers who arrested Jesus led Him first. “The reason given for that proceeding (“for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas”) lays open alike the character of the man and the character of the trial” (Westcott, in the place cited). Annas (if he is the high priest of Joh_18:19-23, as seems most likely) questioned Him concerning His disciples and teaching. This trial is not mentioned by the synoptists, probably because it was merely informal and preliminary and of a private nature, meant to gather material for the subsequent trial. Failing to elicit anything to his purpose from Jesus, “Annas therefore sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest” (Joh_18:24 the King James Version is incorrect and misleading) for formal trial before the Sanhedrin, “but as one already stamped with a sign of condemnation” (Westcott). Doubtless Annas was present at the subsequent proceedings, but no further mention is made of him in New Testament, except that he was present at the meeting of the Sanhedrin after Pentecost when Peter and John defended themselves for preaching the gospel of the resurrection (Act_4:6).”

The Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture: “(The) narrative (i.e., 18:13-27) raises a difficulty which must be treated briefly here. 24 suggests that Peter’s first denial, 15-18, and the first examination of Jesus, 19-23, took place in the house of Annas, who in this hypothesis, is called highpriest in 15, 16, 19, whereas in 13 and 24 the title is given (as elsewhere in Joh_11:49) to Caiphas. As the Synoptists place Peter’s denials in the house of Caiphas, one part of the difficulty has been met by supposing that Annas lived in the same pontifical palace as his son-in-law, the Pontiff of the year. Hence the courtyard of Caiphas was also the courtyard of Annas. As there is no trace of a topographical tradition marking a distinct palace of Annas before the 14th cent., this supposition is tenable; but what of the title ‘high-priest’ being given to Annas? Luk_3:2 and Act_4:6 are appealed to, but the appeal does not clear the Johannine narrative of confusion. A transposition of 18:24 after 18:13 rectifies the situation. This transposition is not purely arbitrary, for it has the support of the Syro-Sinaitic MS, of Cyril of Alexandria, and (it is said) of a minuscule codex 226, which, however, puts 24 in the middle of 13. Certain reasons of internal criticism drawn from the omission or fluctuation of a particle (de+´ or ???) at the beginning of 24 are also alleged. However, the transposition, though not devoid of probability, does not seem to stand before the united voice of the MSS and versions. The difficulty can be satisfactorily met (even without supposing one palace), by understanding ‘high-priest’ of Caiphas only and taking 24 as introductory to a resumption of the history of Peter’s denials. The whole passage is so evidently a series of reminiscences, that 24 (though seeming to be out of its logical place) is quite characteristic of the evangelist’s style. Jn alone mentions that Jesus was brought to Annas first. It was an act of courtesy, for the old man was a political power and notoriously shrewd in managing business affairs. Called Hananus (Hananya=the Lord is merciful) by Josephus, he had attained the highpriesthood through Quirinius in 6 b.c., was deposed by Valerius; Gratus in a.d. 15, but still succeeded in having five of his sons (Eleazar, Jonathan, Theophilus, Matthias, Ananus the Younger) elevated to the highpriesthood. Luk_3:2 sets him before Caiphas (the actual high-priest) in marking the pontifical year, and in Act_4:6 he is also named first. Jn gives as reason for this present act of deference to Annas that ‘he was the father-in-law of Caiphas, the high-priest of that year’. 14. Caiphas, whose personal name was Joseph, was altogether 17 years high-priest, 18-36, and was also, as Joh_11:50 reveals him, a politician rather than a priest. Jn here cites the Pontiff’s decision of some weeks earlier, to show that the case of Jesus was prejudged.”

It was Caiaphas who had given counsel to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.  See 11:50.  Without knowing it, Caiaphas had uttered a prophecy in 11:49-50~”You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”  The irony is that Caiaphas intended the words in a sense far different than the prophetic reality they contained.  It was Caiaphas who knew “nothing at all.”

18:15  Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. As this disciple was known to the high priest, he entered the court of the high priest along with Jesus,
18:16  while Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the maid who kept the door, and brought Peter in.
18:17  The maid who kept the door said to Peter, “Are not you also one of this man’s disciples?” He said, “I am not.”
18:18  Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves; Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

There is a reason why the last pericope (vss 12-14) ended with a reference to the unwitting prophecy of Caiaphas.  Jesus, with full knowledge uttered a prophecy regarding St Peter’s three denials, and that prophecy begins its fulfillment here (see 13:36-38).

Peter followed Jesus…now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold…Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

Peter is following Jesus, an act of discipleship, as if he is determined to-in spite of our Lord’s prophecy-fulfill his boast “I will lay down my life for you” (13:37 NAB).  But all is not well, as we soon see Peter denying knowledge of his Lord and standing with those who had arrested Jesus, as Judas had stood with them to betray Him.  But Peter’s fate is not the same as that of Judas; as the Gospel ends Peter will be found standing in the presence of the Risen Lord, before a charcoal fire, and he will be given the task the feeding the lamb and tending the sheep of the Lord’s flock.  His threefold denial will be reversed with a threefold confession of love (21:15-17); and his desire to follow Jesus to death will finally be realized (21:18-19), as Jesus had predicted (13:36);  and the unfallen Peter, who spent much of the second half of the Gospel playing second fiddle to the other disciple(13:21-24; 18:16; 20:4, 8) will now be followed by that disciple (21:20)-such is the paradox of the Gospel.

G.K. Chesterton: “When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its comer-stone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob a coward–in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.”

18:19  The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
18:20  Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together; I have said nothing secretly.
18:21  Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me, what I said to them; they know what I said.”
18:22  When he had said this, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”
18:23  Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”

Notice how the beginning of Jesus’ interrogation (18:19-24) is sandwiched between the first (18:17) and subsequent denials of Peter (18:25-27).  This forces the reader to see the events as closely connected.

Jesus had given His disciples an opportunity to avoid what was to befall Him, knowing that they could not withstand it at that time, but Peter, in his pride had refused to take advantage, and was now paying the price.  Meanwhile, Jesus is portrayed as defending Himself.  Father Donald Senior: “While Jesus boldly proclaims his identity and mission before the high priest, Petr crumples in fear and denies his discipleship.”

19. Questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. The Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture: “The questions of Caiphas have reference to two points—disciples whereon a political charge might be grafted, and teaching, in view of religious consequences.”

St John Chrysostom: “As they could bring no charge against Christ, they asked Him of His disciples: The high priest then asked Jesus of His disciples; perhaps where they were, and on what account He had collected them, he wished to prove that he was a seditious and factious person whom no one attended to, except His own disciples.”

20. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together; I have said nothing secretly.

Notice that the Lord makes reference only to his teaching, not to the disciples whom He is intent on protecting.  Rather than involve them He notes the open, public presentation of His teaching and indicates that many could witness to its content, not just His disciples.  His words are a criticism of the private nature of the plot against Him, which forced Him to no longer go about in public (11:54), and perhaps also they criticize the fact that some in the room may have believed in Him but refused to acknowledge it (see 12:42-43).

St John Chrysostom: “To establish the matter, however, upon superabundant evidence, He adds, Why ask you Me? ask them which heard Me what I said to them; behold, they know what I said to them: as if He said, you ask Me of My disciples; ask My enemies, who lie in wait for Me. These are the words of one who was confident of the truth of what He said: for it is incontrovertible evidence, when enemies are called in as witnesses.”

22. When he had said this, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”

Was this man one of those whom the Pharisees (and apparently the chief priests as well) had previously sent to arrest our Lord (7:32-35)?  They had not done so, a fact which caused the Pharisees and chief priests to question and castigate them (7:45-49).  This contingent of temple officers are mentioned in the same context as one of the authorities who secretly believed in Jesus, Nicodemus (see 3:1; 7:50; 19:39; also recall my note on the authorities mentioned in verse 20).  Theophylactus attributes the officer’s action to such a motive: “When Jesus had appealed to the testimony of the people, an officer, wishing to clear himself, and show that he was not one of those who admired our Lord, struck Him: And when He had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answer you the high priest so?”

Alcuin: “Here is fulfilled the prophecy, I gave my cheek to the smiters. Jesus, though struck unjustly, replied gently: Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smite you Me?”

23. Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”

Theophylactus suggests another possible motive for the officer’s action besides the one quoted earlier: “As if to say, If you have any fault to find with what I have said, show it; if you have not, why do you rage? Or thus: If I taught any thing unadvisedly, when I taught in the synagogues, give proof of it to the high priest I but if taught aright, so that even you officers admired, why smite you Me, Whom before you admired?”

Father  Lapide: “S. Augustine (in loc.) having enumerated many punishments which a slave deserved, says, “But which of these could He not have commanded (to be inflicted on the one who struck Him) by His power (since the world was made by Him), unless He preferred to teach us patience by which the world is overcome?” See on Mat_26:59. Moreover, Christ turned not the other cheek, lest He should appear to admit His fault. As S. Paul, too, when smitten unjustly said, in his zeal for justice, “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall” (Act_23:3). “He offered not,” says S. Augustine, “His other cheek to the smiter, but made His whole Body ready for being nailed to the Cross, in order to confirm His own teaching, by His example” (Mat_5:39).”

18:24  Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
18:25  Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said to him, “Are not you also one of his disciples?” He denied it and said, “I am not.”
18:26  One of the servants of the high priest, a kinsman of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?”
18:27  Peter again denied it; and at once the cock crowed.

Jesus, bound not only by tethers, but also by the truth, stands in marked contrast to Peter who is free to roam among the enemies of his Lord, and free to deny Him two more times.

As Jesus is led away, the once ambitious Peter, who had bragged he would lay down his life for His Lord, remains standing by the fire; a nuance not lost on St John Chrysostom: “He means that the once fervid disciple was now too torpid, to move even when our Lord was carried away: showing thereby how weak man’s nature is, when God forsakes him. Asked again, he again denies: They said therefore to him, Are not you also one of His disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not.”

27. Peter again denied it; and at once the cock crowed.

St Augustine: “Lo, the prophecy of the Physician is fulfilled, the presumption of the sick man demonstrated. That which Peter had said he would do, he had not done. I will lay down my life for your sake, but what our Lord had foretold had come to pass, you shall deny Me thrice.”


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Post #1~Notes On John 18:1-19:42 For Good Friday (this post is on 18:1-11)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2010

I am using the RSV translation in this post.  See the copyright notice at the bottom.

18:1  When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples across the Kidron valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.

The famed Jesuit scholar Lapide: “Jesus had now finished that glowing, and long discourse, in which He bade His disciples farewell, and was hastening to His Passion and Death. In fact, He offered Himself to it, voluntarily, by going into the garden, and there waiting for Judas and the Jews, by whom He knew He was to be taken. He gave thus an example of boldness of mind, by first choosing for Himself the very spot in which He was about to contend with death, sin, and the devil, as though sure of victory and triumph.”

These words is almost certainly to be understood as a reference to the entire discourse and not just the immediately preceding “High Priestly Prayer” of our Lord in chapter 17.

He went forth with his disciples.  Literally, went out, which recalls the defection of Judas who “went out” in 13:30-31 (see note on verse 3, below).  With his disciples, excepting,  of course, Judas.

The brook Kidron.  Also sometimes spelled Cedron.  St John notes specifically in Greek “the storm swollen Kidron,” indicating that the rains which marked the Paschal season had come.  The Kidron, According to Father Calmet’s Dictionary of the Holy Scripture is “a brook in the valley east of Jerusalem, between the city and the mount of Olives, and which discharges itself along the valley of Jehoshaphat, and winding between rugged and desolate hills through the wilderness of St Saba, into the Dead Sea.  It has generally but little water, and often none; but after storms, or heavy rains, it swells, and runs with much impetuosity.   A branch of the valley of Kidron was the sink of Jerusalem, and here Asa, Hezekiah, and Josiah burnt the idols and abominations of the apostate Jews of their day (2 Kings 23:4).  The blood poured out at the foot of the altar in the temple, ran by a drain into the brook Kidron”.  The Protestant reference work Vine’s Word Study: “The Kidron is the brook over which David passed, barefoot and weeping, when fleeing from Absalom (2Sa_15:23-30). There King Asa burned the obscene idol of his mother (1Ki_15:13). It was the receptacle for the impurities and abominations of idol-worship, when removed from the temple by the adherents of Jehovah (2Ch_29:16); and, in the time of Josiah, was the common cemetery of the city (2Ki_23:6). In the vision of Ezekiel (Eze_47:5, Eze_47:6, Eze_47:7) he goes round to the eastern gate of the temple, overhanging the defile of Kidron, and sees the waters rushing down into the valley until the stream becomes a mighty river.”  According to Josephus, at Paschal time the Kidron ran red with the blood of the lambs which flowed down into it from the temple mount.

Lapide, commenting on the storm swollen Kidron: “The torrent signifies the violence of the attack made on Christ at His Passion. And He passed through the torrent, to signify that He was going into a torrent of sufferings, says Jansenius, as the Psalm has it, “He will drink of the Brook in the way” (Psa_110:7). And hence some think that Jesus was brought back through the Brook, and thrown into it (see Adricom. num. 207), as in PS. 69″

There was a garden which he and his disciples entered. Many scholars see the garden as an allusion to Genesis and the theme of Jesus as the Second Adam.

John begins his Gospel with the same words that open Genesis, and, at the beginning of both books the theme of creation and God’s word (Word) are major motifs.  The battle Jesus wages in his Passion is against the devil (12:31-33; 14:30) and his offspring (8:44) which calls to mind the conflict spoken of in Genesis 3:15.  Jesus will die immediately outside a garden, be buried with in it, and there rise to new life: “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid” (19:41).  Finally, Mary mistakes the Risen Lord for a gardener, recalling the motif of Adam as priest of the garden temple who was put there to guard and keep it (concerning which, see here).

Lapide on the garden: “Because Adam sinned in a garden, Christ began to expiate His sin in a garden. “For all things had to revert to their pristine state,” says S. Cyril. S. Chrysostom adds, “For He tarries in the garden, as in a prison.” “To save trouble,” says Theophylact, “to the Jews who were seeking Him;” adding also another reason, “for He used to seek solitary places which gender silence,” that we should do the same. (See Matt. xxvi.)”

18:2  Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with his disciples.

St John Chrysostom: “He goes and crosses the brook, and hastens to the place which was known to the traitor; thus giving no trouble to those who were lying in wait for Him, and showing His disciples that He went voluntarily to die.”

Who betrayed him.  The Greek employs a present participle: “Now Judas, who was in the very act of betraying him,” &c.

St John Chrysostom: “That it might not be thought that He went into a garden to hide Himself, it is added, But Judas who betrayed Him knew the place: for Jesus of often resorted there with; His disciples.”

Also knew the place.  St Augustine tells us that Judas’ time spent with the Lord and the disciples during the public ministry was permitted by the wise counsel of Christ just for this moment: “Judas, that wolf in sheep’s clothing, was permitted by the deep counsel of the Master of the flock to go among the sheep learning in what way to disperse the sheep and ensnare the shepherd.”

18:3  So Judas, procuring a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.

In his very first mention of Judas (6:7071), the Apostle John had identified him as a demonic traitor, and Father Daniel Senior, C.P., is certainly correct when he writes: “Johns Gospel has no sympathy whatsoever for Judas and sees behind his terrible apostasy the face of the demon” (The Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of John, pg. 48).  Judas, the demonic presence in the garden who, by virtue of his hostility towards Jesus is the son of him who “was a murderer from the beginning” (8:44), calls to mind the prophecy of Genesis 3:15, as mentioned earlier.

A band of soldiers.  Fathers Nolan and Brown: “if “the band” here means a whole cohort, it was the tenth part of a Roman legion, and contained about six hundred infantry, with thirty cavalry.  The words of this verse, as well as the presence of the “tribune” (verse 12), who was the commander of a cohort, justify the belief that a whole cohort was present on this occasion.  Very likely the authorities were afraid that a strongly-supported attempt might be made to save or rescue Christ from them.  This large body of soldiers, strengthened by servants or officers of the temple who were sent by the chief priests and Pharisees, came furnished with arms and lights.  As it was now full moon, this being the night of the 14th of the lunar month Nisan, it might seem that the lights were unnecessary, but probably the garden was considerably shaded by trees, and no doubt it was feared that Jesus might try to hide in some dark nook or lurk beneath the shrubs or trees.”

Whatever the literal, historic motivation for the lights and torches might have been, it is hard not to see in so symbolically charged a work as this Gospel a deeper meaning.  Jesus is the true light who enlightens all (1:9), and the one who follows him does not walk in darkness (8:12);  but Judas had ceased to be a follower of Jesus and, going forth from him, went out into the night, in every sense of that ominous word (13:30).

Weapons.  The mention of such instruments stands in marked contrast to the love and peace Christ spoke of in his final discourse (13:34-35; 14:21-30).

18:4  Then Jesus, knowing all that was to befall him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”
18:5a  They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.”

Then Jesus, knowing all that was to befall him.  This has already received a great deal of attention in John’s Gospel, but the Evangelist wont let up on it because it contains two points he wishes to emphasize: “Christ’s foreknowledge is pointed out, both to prove His Divinity, and to show His readiness to suffer.  For, though aware of the sufferings He was to endure, He did not seek to escape from them.  He who had before withdrawn from His enemies (8:59; 12:36), now that His hour has come, went forth to meet them” (Nolan and Brown).

Adam fell into sin among the trees of the garden of Paradise and hid himself from a merciful God; Christ is held to be a sinner but he refuses “to hide in some dark nook or lurk beneath the shrubs or trees” from the merciless mob.  Having come with lanterns and torches to ensure that their fugitive would be found, they are found and confronted by him, for He knew “all that was to befall him,” and for this reason He “came forward.”

Came forward.  Our Lord now confronts the disciple who “went forth” from Him (13:30).

Whom do you seek? The Greek zeteo (seek) may be used here ironically.  In the Greek Septuagint the word is often used for seeking God with sacrifice (Ps 14:2; Hosea 10:12; Isa 58:2).  The term would also call to mind the previous hostility towards Jesus (e.g., 5:16-18; 7:19-20, 25, etc.), and His dire warnings as well: “Again he said to them, “I go away, and you will seek me and die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come”” (8:21; see 7-34-36).  John may also wish us to recall the words Jesus spoke to His disciples immediately after Judas left: “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going you cannot come” (13:33; see also His words to Peter in 13:36-38).

Jesus of Nazareth?  Just who Jesus of Nazareth is can only be grasped by those who have believed in what the prologue teaches (1:1-18).  When Philip told Nathaniel that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, the latter asked: “can anything good come from Nazareth?”  But the Messiah’s coming from Nazareth was only part of the story, for before He came from Nazareth He came down form heaven and by the power of the Holy Spirit was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.

18:5b Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.
18:6  When he said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Note the contrast between Jesus going forward (vs 4) and the drawing back of his persecutors.  The phrase recalls the reaction of many disciples after his Bread of Life discourse, which states literally: “They went away back” (6:66).  Jesus came to “draw all men” to Himself (12:32), but some will not have it so: “Those who reject him place themselves in the camp of the prince of this world, the great adversary of Jesus, who will be cast down as Jesus is raised up on the Cross and in the resurrection” (Father Raymond Brown, The Gospel of John and the Johannine Epistles, pg. 64.  See 3:19 and 12:31)

I am he.  Literally, “I Am,” the Divine name. Father Franz Xaver Poezlz: “Why did Jesus ask ‘Whom seek ye?’  The following incident supplies the answer: His enemies were forced to acknowledge publicly that they were seeking the Messiah, and were at the same time to learn the divine power of the Master whom Judas had just betrayed.  They replied, ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ and on hearing the words, ‘I am he,’ they shrank back and fell to the ground.  The evangelists record many events in our Lord’s life which showed that the manifestation of His divine power overcame all human resistance, and the force of His words deeply stirred the hearts of men.  In Gethsemane such an astounding effect was produced by the utterance of the words, ‘I am he,’ as to prove in a convincing manner that Jesus of Nazareth possessed divine power, and was indeed God.  St Leo in speaking of this miracle says: quidnam poterit majestas ejus judicatura, cujus hoc potuit humilitas judicanda?‘”

Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. As Father Poelzl writes: “This short term is very significant.  When the evangelist calls Judas a traitor and says that he stood with Christ’s enemies, he means that Judas, who had just hypocritically kissed his Master (according to the Synoptics), was then making common cause with his foes in order to show that he had done his work.

They drew back and fell to the ground.  Calls to mind Psalm 56:9~”Then will my enemies be turned back in the day when I call.”  Also Psalm 27:2~”When evildoers assail me, uttering slanders against me, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall.”

It also calls to my mind Psalm 41:9-13~ “Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me.  But do thou, O LORD, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may requite them!  By this I know that thou art pleased with me, in that my enemy has not triumphed over me.  But thou hast upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in thy presence for ever. Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.”  Judas, who shared Jesus bread and then lifted his heel against Jesus is the one who stumbles and falls, while Jesus is upheld by the Father.

Father Cornelius a Lapide writes: “As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward. They did not fall forward on their breasts, lest the power which threw them down should seem to have come from behind, but they fell backward, to make it plain that they were thrown down by the power of Christ’s words, and that they could not bear to behold His face or hear His words. For the words “I am” reminded them of what God said to Moses (Exo_3:14) “I am that I am: this is My Name;” and I can annihilate you if I will. And therefore ye are those who are not: for all your being ye receive not from yourselves, but directly from Me. The tropological and allegorical meaning I have given Mat_26:50.”  See Tropological and Allegorical below.

St Gregory: “Why is this, that the Elect fall on their faces, the reprobate backward? Because every one who falls back, sees not where he falls, whereas he who falls forward, sees where he falls. The wicked when they suffer loss in invisible things, are said to fall backward, because they do not see what is behind them: but the righteous, who of their own accord cast themselves down in temporal things, in order that they may rise in spiritual, fall as it were upon their faces, when with fear and repentance they humble themselves with their eyes open”

Tropological and Allegorical:

Tropologically: Here is represented the fall of the reprobate, for they fall on their back so that they cannot arise; but when the elect sin, they fall on their face, because they are soon touched by God, and rise up in penitence. “We fall on our face,” says S. Gregory (Hom. viii. in Ez.), “because we blush for our sins, which we remember to have committed.” And also (Mor. xiii. 10), ‘To fall on the face is for every one to acknowledge his own faults in this life, and to bewail them with penitence. But to fall on the back, where we cannot see, is to depart suddenly out of life, and to know not to what punishment we are brought.’
“Again, “The righteous fall on their face, as looking on those things that are before; but sinners fall on their back, as seeking for those things which are behind and pass away, and are soon gone.” “For everything which passes away,” says S. Gregory (Mor. xxxiii. 23), “is behind, while everything which is coming and is permanent is before.”

Allegorically: This fall of Judas and his followers signified the comparable fall of the Jews, who would be obstinate in their unbelief, and well-nigh incapable of salvation. “Their fall is an image of all those who oppose Christ.” S. Cyr. Alex. in John 18. and S. Augustine in loc. “Where is now the band of soldiers, the terror and defence of weapons? A single word, without a weapon, struck down, smote, laid prostrate that crowd, fierce in hatred and terrible in arms. For God was veiled in flesh. What will He do when He comes in judgment, who wrought this when He came to be judged?”

The text itself does not indicate whether in fact the mob fell backward or forward.  Given the connections between Genesis and John mentioned above, I like to think that they fell forward: “upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life” (Gen 3:14).  Judas refused to eat the Bread of Life, the fruit of the Tree of Life, the Cross.  (Note: according to John 6:4 the bread of life discourse took place at Passover time.  In Jesus’ day the synagogue readings at this time included the following texts: Genesis 2-3; Exodus 16; Numbers 11.  Read these texts, especially from Genesis, and note how often the themes of life and death are associated with the theme of eating).

18:7  Again he asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
18:8  Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he; so, if you seek me, let these men go.”
18:9  This was to fulfil the word which he had spoken, “Of those whom thou gavest me I lost not one.”

The Passion of our Lord cannot start without His consent, and this is bound up with His promise of preserving the Disciples (see 17:12; see also 6:39; 10:28).

Father Lapide: “If therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way. Why was this? (1.) That He might by His own death alone redeem the world. “He removed His disciples out of danger,” says S. Cyril, “as knowing that the contest and the work of our salvation pertained to Him alone, as being the work of a ruler and not of one under him.” (2.) Because He destined the Apostles to succeed Him, and spread His truth over the world after His death and Resurrection. (3.) To show His great love and care for them, as a shepherd careth for his sheep, as S. John suggests in the next verse.”

The Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture On verses 7-8: “The same question having been asked again and answered, Jesus demanded free departure for his companions—not calling them disciples, in order to save them more surely from arrest.”

The same on verse 9:  “A word of Jesus, 17: 12, had guaranteed the eleven against their moral destruction (which could have happened if they had been arrested), and so Jn does not seem to extend the word unduly to preservation from physical destruction.”

18:10  Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.
18:1 1 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?”

John gives more detail than the Synoptics regarding this episode, though it lacks the account of His healing the wound (see Luke 22:51).

Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it.  According to some authorities, the carrying of any weapon on the major Jewish feasts was forbidden by Roman law.

Like all those prone to violence or anger, Peter’s energy would have been better spent praying Psalm 3.

Jesus was to draw all men to himself (12:32), through the Church, and the drawing of a sword is detrimental to that purpose. The Greek word used here for the drawing of the sword is the same as that used in 12:32 (ἑλκω, Helko).  A related word is used in the fishing story at the end of the Gospel (21:11); There, at the command of Jesus, Peter goes aboard the ship and “hauls” (ἑλκύω, helkuo) the net full of fish to Jesus, an eschatological image of the Church’s mission.

The name Malchus means “about to reign,” and is derived from the Hebrew word for king (Melek).  Jesus is about to enter upon his reign, but not like so many other kings, who have come to their reign by the sword.

Combining the ear cutting of John with the healing of Luke, St Augustine writes: “The name Malchus signifies, about to reign. What then does the ear cut off for our Lord, and healed by our Lord denote, but the abolition of the old, and the creating of a new, hearing in the newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter? To whomsoever this is given, who can doubt that he will reign with Christ? But he was a servant too, has reference to that oldness, which generated to bondage: the cure figures liberty.”

Also combining the two, Theophylactus writes: “Or, the cutting off of the high priest’s servant’s right ear is a type of the people’s deafness, of which the chief priests partook most strongly: the restoration of the ear, of ultimate reenlightenment of the understanding of the Jews, at the coming of Elias.”

St John Chrysostom commenting on the words Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me? writes: “He not only restrained Him however by threats, but consoled him also at the same time: The cup that My Father gives Me, shall I not drink it? Whereby He shows that it was not by their power, but by His permission, that this had been done, and that He did not oppose God, but was obedient even to death.”

Unlike Mark’s reference to the cup (Mk 14:36) which is explained in reference to the mention of the cup in Mk 10:39, the reference in John seems to come out of no where; but it only seems so.

In the episode at Samaria (4:4-38), Jesus, being wearied (literally, “worked out”), sat down at a well and asked a woman for a drink.  Later in the episode, the “worked out” Jesus defined his food as doing the will of God and accomplishing His work.  Jesus food, and by implication, His drink, is to do the salvific will/work of the Father.  This he does by offering His flesh and blood as real food and drink to the world (6:53:58).  As He hangs upon the Cross Jesus will proclaim His thirst (19:28).


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