THE PASSION OF OUR LORD:
DETAILING THE EVENTS OF OUR LORD’S SUFFERING AND DEATH
Session #12 (Most quotes are NIV)
EARLY FRIDAY, APRIL 7, 30 A.D. THE ARREST—continued
When Judas and the cohort arrive to arrest Jesus, all four Gospels tell us that Peter thought that he was Errol Flynn, drew his sword, and took an ear off of “some guy.” John’s Gospel is the only one who tells us “some guy’s” name: Malchus, the slave of the High Priest, Caiaphas. It’s as if John is saying “These are facts. If you don’t believe me, here’s the man’s name—check it out for yourself.” It’s a little reminder to us all that we are getting the true history of this arrest in all its details, details which would hold up under any cross-examination!
Have you ever asked yourself why Malchus was there with Judas and the Temple Guards? Caiaphas undoubtedly sent him along so that he could bring back a first-hand report. The High Priest wouldn’t dirty his sandals traipsing around in the Garden, but this way he can be involved at an arm’s length.
This detail about Malchus tells us something about the “arresting officers.” Trained soldiers would be prepared to stop an incident like this, and they wouldn’t carry “clubs and staves.” This cohort of Temple Guards isn’t the Seal Team; it is a step or two up from Shopping Mall Cops. They’re good enough to handle this job, but not good enough to stand up against a Roman Legion (as later history will show when Rome destroys Jerusalem completely in 70 A.D.).
Speaking of Roman Legions, Matthew is the only Gospel which gives us (26:53) Jesus’ reminder to his disciples: “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?“ A full legion is 6,000. If my 3rd grade math serves me well, that’s 72,000 angels—more than enough to handle a cohort of Temple Guards. In this way, Matthew focuses on the complete control Jesus possesses over this entire procedure. (John’s Gospel said the same thing with “I AM” knocking these men to the ground.) This whole ordeal is forecast in the Old Testament, and being fulfilled one step at a time. And all this time, people who “think they are in control” are just being used to fulfill God’s will.
John now adds a detail not found in the other Gospels. 18:12 says “Then the detachment of soldiers with its commanderand the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him….” The word in Greek for “the commander” is ὁ χιλίαρχος (the Chiliarch) which literally means “One who is over 1000.” At the time of Alexander the Great, it was a full 1000 men. At the time of Jesus, the military rank had become less exact. But it still indicated a significant officer above the rank of centurion (over 100 men). The Temple Guards had apparently adopted some of the Greek/Roman technical terms to describe their organizational make up.
The other phrase “the Jewish officials” is difficult to determine precisely. Οἱ ὑπηρέται τῶν Ἰουδαίων certainly doesn’t mean “Jewish officials” (NIV) or “servants” (King James rendition) of the Jews. It is a highly technical term which points to an assistant (not a slave or a servant) who has a dedicated position involving the support services either for the Temple or the Jewish Council itself. We don’t know which, because we are not told.
The final act of the arrest is to “put the cuffs on Jesus.” In other words, they “bind” or “secure” the prisoner which any good arrest would include.
OH YES, THEY CALL HIM THE STREAK
Not to be outdone in the details, Mark’s Gospel provides the odd incident of the “young man who flees naked.” (Mark 14:51-52). Most commentators make no sense of this “streaker.” He was NOT one of the 12 disciples. However, in his new commentary on Mark, vol. 2, p. 1076, James Voelz says “…there are probably too many good possibilities.” Jim’s bottom line however: it makes a good metaphor for the cowardice of the disciples. They ran!
THE FOUR TRIALS—but ONE ILLEGAL MESS!
Did you know that the Jewish leaders put Jesus on trial four different times? They did. Each trial served some purpose in their minds, so we will look at them, one at a time.
TRIAL #1: EARLY FRIDAY, APRIL 7, 30 A.D. ILLEGAL TRIAL AT THE PALACE OF ANNAS
Jewish law forbade a trial at night—it was illegal to question a prisoner unless it was daytime. But after the arrest in the middle of the night, the Guards take Jesus to the palace of Annas. Many a question needs answering here.
First, who is “Annas?” Annas ben Seth (son of Seth) was appointed by Quirinius, the governor of Syria (remember him from Luke 2 and the Christmas story?). Annas served as the High Priest from 6 A.D. to 15 A.D. But Valerius Gratus replaced Quirinius in 15 A.D. as Procurator of Judea (we’ll explain “procurator” under the Pontius Pilate section) and proceeded to put an end to the Jewish practice of “High Priest for Life!” He often replaced High Priests, starting with Annas, until Valerius was replaced by Pontius Pilate in 26 A.D.
But just saying “Annas used to be High Priest” doesn’t really explain who this man is. He had five sons and a son-in-law who all served as High Priest BECAUSE he never really stopped being the big power broker. Annas was all-powerful in the Jewish State, “The Man,” the Prince of Darkness himself, wielding power-politics in the shadows for decades.
Secondly, where is the location of Annas’ “palace?” Archeologists have located palace foundations in the southwest corner of the upper city of Jerusalem. This location avoided the smell of the garbage dump of Jerusalem and provided a nice breeze during the heat of the day. We know that Annas, Caiaphas and Herod Agrippa all had palaces in this quadrant of the city. Some archeologists claim to have found Annas’ palace, but we aren’t sure. What we can be sure of is that the rich get the pick of the best locations. I saw this same thing when I visited Ephesus: the “Beverly Hills” of the city was located where the breezes off of the Aegean Sea could be enjoyed! Real Estate is still “location, location, location!”
There isn’t much point in asking “Why did they bring him to Annas?” But it behooves us to ask “How did John get in?” St. John strolls in the door like he owns the place, takes notes of all the illegal stuff going on, and tells us in the Gospel what happened precisely! Beyond this, he goes to the slave girl at the locked front door and tells her to let his buddy Peter inside. (You can read this in John 18:12-23.) This is a rattlesnake den; the door is locked for good reason (what they are doing is illegal) and yet John doesn’t fear for his life. What chutzpah!
There have been many suggestions about John’s status in the house. Was he a relative? Did the family fish business give them access to the rich in Jerusalem? (Remember James and John, sons of Zebedee, left dad’s fishing fleet to follow Jesus? Matt. 4 and Mark 1) There’s a good answer, but we don’t have it! Nonetheless, John is our inside source for this trial.
Annas asks Jesus questions illegally. Jewish law forbids questioning of a prisoner before his formal trial OR at night. (John 18:19 “The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.” Jesus responds by saying “I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” (18:20-21) Notice the slap at Annas? YOU are asking in secret. I did everything above board, not like you! Oh, Ouch! Jesus got slapped for that one. (No Roman soldier slaps a prisoner without prior approval. This is a Temple Guard.)
Why are they holding this illegal trial? There’s no point to it! OH YES THERE IS! This is still in the middle of the night. The Council is sleeping. These leaders are buying time. This is a “holding action” while the Chief Priests round up Jewish Council members (at least the ones who favor killing Jesus!) to meet next door at Caiaphas’ palace for the real trial.