This week I am starting something new which I hope to continue on a weekly basis. I am calling this weekly article Notes from the Study. The focus of this article is to share with you some things I have studied for the upcoming Sunday morning sermon which I would not have time to cover in the sermon itself. It may be most helpful to read this after listening to the sermon, but I am putting it online before the sermon because the material is more on my mind right now than it will be next week, when I am working on another sermon. So here is the first installment, from John 18:15-27.
Sermon Summary: This Sunday’s sermon is entitled, So Close and Yet So Far. It is about the denials of Peter and the trial of Jesus recorded in John 18:15-27. Jesus’ glory in His trial before the religious leaders is contrasted with Peter’s sinfulness in his denial of Jesus. The title references the fact that though Peter was so close to Jesus, he was so far away from him in his heart. The application of the message will revolve around seeing and being satisfied with the glory of Christ and avoiding the slide to denial which characterized Peter.
Issues of Interest From This Passage:
1. What is the identity of “another disciple” in verse 15?
Peter went with another disciple to the courtyard and this disciple was able to get access to the courtyard because he was known to the high priest. He had connections. The short answer to this question is that we can not know who this disciple was, for he is not named here or elsewhere. Many believe it is John, because it seems that John does not name himself elsewhere, but calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Some object that it can’t be John because a lowly fisherman would not have access to such powerful people from the religious realm. But we must remember that John’s father had employees and it appears from what we can tell that the family fishing enterprise was quite prosperous. In our own culture we often see people from different fields or places in life coming together because of connections. It is not unreasonable to believe that John may have had such a connection. But it is far from certain that John is speaking of himself here. Others have suggested that this may be Nicodemus or even Joseph of Arimathea. As members of the Sanhedrin, this would make some sense and easily explain how they could have such a connection. Nevertheless, the eyewitness details that spring from the passage lead me to believe that John led Peter into the courtyard, but I hold that view very loosely. In the sermon, I say that this is probably John, but I do not go into any detail about this issue.
2. Will the Real High Priest Please Stand Up?
Who is the high priest in this passage? Is it Annas or Caiaphas? Where did Jesus go at the beginning of this passage? Though some have accused John of being confused, I believe this is a very simple issue. Annas ruled from 6-15 AD and was removed from office. His son-in-law Caiaphas took over and ruled for many years as high priest, from 18-36 AD. Several other members of Annas’ family served as high priest as well. It is easy to imagine that Annas may have continued to have a hand in matters even after his time in office ended. In addition, this was considered a lifetime office, so there would have been no concern in calling both Annas and Caiaphas high priest, much as we still call former Presidents by their title even after they have left office. It makes perfect sense to me that the soldiers would have brought Jesus to the house of Annas for an arraignment while preparations were made for a more official trial with Caiaphas and the full Sanhedrin. This is an interesting subject, but did not feel it was worthwhile to deal with in the sermon because it did not seem to be of importance to the overall themes of the passage.
Was Jesus’ Trial a Mockery of Justice?
Yes. I simply state this in the sermon but give very little evidence in this regard so as to not sidetrack the main ideas of the passage. There are numerous places online where you can see the ways in which Jesus’ trials were a travesty of justice. Just search “trials of Jesus” or “were Jesus’ trials illegal?” to find out more. Of course, God’s sovereign hand worked through all of that illegality for His own purposes.
Is the striking of Jesus a fulfillment of Micah 5:1?
John 18:22 When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?
In a sermon on this passage, John MacArthur points to the word “struck” and points out that it can mean to strike with a hand or to strike with a stick or club. The ESV translators take it as hand and so does the KJV. Therefore they include the word “palm” or “hand” in the translation. MacArthur argues that this was a strike with a club, since temple soldiers like the ones who had come for Jesus carried clubs. He then states that this is a fulfillment of prophecy from Micah 5:1, “with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek.” He goes on to make the point that the phrase “judge of Israel” is particularly appropriate given that Jesus is facing trial here, but is really the true judge, in complete control of the situation. So the question is, is this a valid interpretation of John 18:22? I am hesitant to say that it is and did not include this point in the sermon, for the simple fact that the best Greek lexicons, though allowing for the word to include the idea of beating with a club, were very uncertain that this was a valid definition of the word. In other words, it may be that the only valid meaning for this word is to slap with the hand. If this is the case, it seems John chose a word which rules out this prophecy as being applied in this instance. There are other cases in the passion narrative where rods are used to beat Jesus, and these may be seen to fulfill Micah 5:1, but I was too uncertain to make that application in the case of John 18:22. But John MacArthur is a great preacher and teacher and he may have it right, I just was not quite persuaded enough to include it in the message for Sunday.
So there are a few of the issues I am thinking about coming out of preparation for Sunday. I don’t think most of these things are particularly earth-shaking, but they may be questions that come to your mind as they did to mine as I read this passage.