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 29th, 2010

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.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, fathers of the church, liturgy, Meditations, Notes on the Gospel of John, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, SERMONS, St Thomas Aquinas | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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.”


The [New] Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted. Notice of copyright must appear on the title or copyright page of the work as follows:

“Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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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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