A garrison of Roman troops and Temple guards arrest Jesus bind Him and take Him from Gethsemane to the palace of Annas, the most powerful Jew in Jerusalem at the time. This episode develops the possible route taken by Jesus and the crowd and looks at the differences in John's narration of the scene compared to the other three Gospels.
Hey everyone, Josh Hawkins here, welcome to Episode 135 of Opening Up the Gospels. In the last episode I talked about Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane from Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 18. A large crowd of perhaps hundreds of soldiers had come out late in the night to arrest Him. Judas went into the garden and betrayed Him with a kiss, and Jesus goes out to the crowd to willingly give Himself over to them. Peter, in his zeal to defend the Messiah from capture, cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. And what does Jesus do? He heals one of the very men who came out to arrest Him. Oh, His compassion and kindness knows no bounds. In today’s episode we’re going to look at John’s record of what immediately follows after Jesus is led away from Gethsemane and all His disciples flee. Let’s read from John 18: "So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people." (John 18:12–14 ESV) Now before we develop the details of the text, I want to remind you of something I’ve talked about several times through this series, because it’s very pertinent to what we’re looking at today. As we become more and more familiar with the Passion narratives from the Gospels, we’ll notice that John’s account is very different from the others. For example, John alone is including the detail that Jesus was first led to Annas’ house. As we’ll see, John alone records the private inquisition of Caiaphas, and will completely skip over the entire scene where Jesus stands before the Sanhedrin, something all 3 of the other Gospels include. So is this somehow in tension with the other Gospels? I don’t think so. As I’ve said before, John’s Gospel is complementary to the others. He is adding things that they don’t include. And if it wasn’t for the supplemental information in the other Gospels, omitting some of the most important details of Jesus’ final night would have to be viewed as a massive oversight on John’s part. It doesn’t have to do with his ignorance either, because he was around for so many of the events of the night as an eyewitness. John is once again being intentionally complementary here. So let’s talk about the text. Jesus and the crowd who had come out to arrest Him proceeded down the slopes of Olivet, through the valley of Kidron, and back up into the city of Jerusalem. John says that He was first led to the house of Annas. Let’s take a look at a map. The palace of Annas was likely here, in this very wealthy residential area. Likely the crowd, composed both of Roman soldiers and Jewish temple guards, would have headed toward the Antonia Fortress. They would probably have avoided the Temple complex so as to not cause a stir from anyone seeing a huge mob with the well-known prophet from Galilee. They wanted to get him off the streets as soon as possible because this entire proceeding was completely against the Jewish law. I’ll talk about that a bit more in the next episode. Upon entering the city without incident, the Roman soldiers would probably have headed back to the Antonia fortress, and the Jewish guards would have taken Jesus to Annas’ house. Now who is Annas? History says some things about him, and John says specifically that he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was the high priest that year. From the human perspective, Annas was the most powerful Jew in the nation at the time of Jesus. He had been the high priest in the past from 6 to 15AD under Quirinius, and five of his sons would succeed him in that office. He was the head of the Sadducean family that essentially controlled the priesthood and thus a good portion of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of elders and priests in Israel. Now after he was the high priest, he hand picked the next 5. So he was really the guy running the show in Jerusalem behind the scenes. Because of that, the Temple was basically his domain. He was so rich and was benefiting so much from the entire Temple system. Annas was likely the one who secured the detachment of Roman troops to go with the Temple guards to arrest Jesus. As a Sadducee, he had no religious convictions at all that would keep him from gaining as much favor as he could from the Romans. History would later record the gruesome death of his house in the Jewish War. Now why would Jesus be led to Annas’ house first? Well, the reason is not clear from the text itself, but I think that we can assume with confidence that it was because of Annas’ power and influence in the city. Author Samuel Andrews says: Various causes have been assigned why He should have been taken to Annas, as that his house was near at hand, and here the Lord might be kept safely till the council assembled; that he was president or vice-president of the Sanhedrim, and so had a legal right to examine Him; that he occupied the same palace with Caiaphas; that he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, and therefore this mark of respect was shown him. To this latter relationship the Evangelist gives special emphasis, (v. 13) and seems to make it the cause why Jesus was led before him. It is apparent from Josephus, as well as from the Evangelists, that he was for many years a man of great influence, and virtually the ecclesiastical head of the nation. It is in this personal reputation and authority, that we find the explanation of the fact that Jesus was taken to him first. As the former high priest, as father-in-law of Caiaphas, as an experienced and able counsellor, a wish on his part to see so noted a prisoner, aside from other reasons, would sufficiently explain why the Lord was led before him. - Andrews, Samuel James: The Life of Our Lord Upon the Earth; Considered in Its Historical, Chronological, and Geographical Relations. Now Andrews makes the assumption that Annas occupied the same palace with Caiaphas, however, we know that’s actually not the case as we’ll see in a moment. Nonetheless, the rest of what he said I believe is true. If the Roman guards had left at this point, and though it was late in the night and much of the activity in the city had come to a close, it would still be to their advantage to get Jesus off the streets and behind closed doors as soon as possible. And also, as Andrews mentioned, it would have been necessary to wake the members of the Sanhedrin to come to the house of the high priest, Caiaphas, for Jesus’ “trial”. This would take some time, and even a brief delay at Annas’ house would have given time for that. Well, let’s keep reading from John 18: "The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 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 in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” 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?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest." (John 18:19–24 ESV) So what happened at Annas’ house? Well, we’re not sure. Perhaps Jesus was just held there silently or maybe there was some mocking and sneering going on. The Gospels remain silent. But it seems like John in the verses we just read is describing Jesus at Caiaphas’ house, not Annas’. There’s a couple of things that I think can give us that confidence. First, Caiaphas is mentioned as the high priest six times in the Gospels, and John calls Caiaphas the high priest three separate times (John 11:49, 18:13, 18:24). And secondly, Matthew, Mark, and Luke don’t say anything at all about Jesus going to Annas, and John then goes on to record Peter’s denial directly after this, which Matthew, Mark, and Luke all say is in the courtyard of the house of Caiaphas. But you might be thinking, what about verse 24? Doesn’t that say that Annas then sent Jesus to Caiaphas the high priest? Well, the word here in Greek is “apesteilen” and is translated by the King James version as “had sent”. Several commentators agree that this should be translated in that way, not as “then sent”. In the King James, the verse reads: "Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest." (John 18:24 KJV) Samuel Andrews says: All here depends upon the point whether απεστειλεν can be translated, as in our version, “had sent.” It is easily comprehensible that John, not having explicitly mentioned this sending to Caiaphas, should give this supplementary statement. This is why I believe John is simply inserting a kind of parenthesis, a notice after his account of Peter’s denial in the courtyard of Caiaphas, to say that that Annas was the one who had sent Jesus bound to Caiaphas. Does that make sense? Otherwise, we have conflicting information between the Gospels. Again, I think it’s extremely important that we understand how John is being complementary to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Alright, so with all that said, let me summarize what’s happened so far. Jesus is arrested in Gethsemane by a huge garrison of Roman soldiers and Temple guards. They head down the slopes of Olivet and back up into the city. The Roman troops likely remain in the Antonia Fortress and a small detachment of Temple guards, wanting to quickly get Jesus off the streets and behind closed doors, go to the house of Annas, the most powerful Jew in Jerusalem at the time. Members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, are awakened and begin coming to Caiaphas the high priest’s house. And at some point, Jesus is sent bound to Caiaphas’ house by Annas. It’s there, in the courtyard of Caiaphas, where Peter and John are, and where Peter denies Jesus three times. In the next episode we’ll take a look at the inquisition of Caiaphas as well as the larger interrogation of Jesus after the rest of the Sanhedrin arrives. If you’ve missed any of the past episodes in this series, you can find them all on my website - www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless, and come back next time.