An Illegal Arrest
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 18:12a (Holman) Then the company of soldiers, the commander, and the Jewish temple police arrested Jesus . . .
Despite the grandeur of His miracle (v.6) and the tenderness of His love (healing Malchus’ ear), the soldiers arrested Jesus. Knowing He was no ordinary prisoner, they moved with haste. The whole group agreed to the arrest. The company and commander were Gentiles (Romans); the police were Jews. The whole world was thereby pictured as having a hand in Jesus’ death.
This arrest was illegal. More than one person had to provide incriminating evidence to justify an arrest, but this band had proceeded on the word of only one man, Judas Iscariot. This was the first of many illegal acts the accusers made through this ordeal.
John 18:12b . . . and tied Him up.
They tied His hands that had just healed the wound of an enemy, had healed lepers, touched the bier on which a widow’s son was raised to life, held Jairus’ daughter and raised her to life, touched blind eyes and gave sight, touched the tongue of the mute and restored speech, blessed little children, reached down into the miry pit and lifted me up.
Hands full of mercy were bound, and would soon be pierced with nails.
Samson snapped such bonds; Jesus could have done the same, but chose not to.
Ropes bound His hands, but what constrained His power? Invisible cords of love, not fetters, bound Jesus. His pity, not their power, constrained Him. He went with His tormentors voluntarily.
John 18:13 First they led Him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.
The arresters led Him away “as a lamb to the slaughter.” They soon treated Him with violence, the way He could have justifiably treated them. He received from them what they deserved to receive. He was arrested that we might be freed, bound that we might be released, led captive that we might have liberty.
Since Jesus’ “crime” dealt primarily with religion, He was taken first to the religious leaders. John is the only Gospel writer to tell us Jesus was brought before Annas. This side-stop gave Caiaphas more time to summon the Sanhedrin into session.
Annas was “the” elder statesman of Israel. He had served as High Priest (A.D. 7-14), but Rome feared his influence and replaced him. Since the High Priesthood was to be an appointment for life, many Jews considered the defrocking of Annas null and void. Others held the position legally, but to many Annas was the only real High Priest.
The office of High Priest had degenerated into a position of intrigue and bribery, a seedbed of corruption, going to the highest bidder or to the one making the biggest promises to Rome. While men were undermining one another for the High Priesthood, God was in the process of rejecting and overturning them all. The position was about to be invested once and for all time in their Victim (I’m sure Jesus was considered a “dark horse” candidate).
Through the years of intrigue and espionage, Annas had successfully held a tight rein on the office of High Priest. He secured the position for five of his sons, a son-in-law, and a grandson. He was always the power behind the scene.
This brief encounter probably gave Annas a smug sense of satisfaction. He had a personal gripe against Jesus. The Galilean peasant had upset a major financial enterprise belonging to Annas. The sellers and money-changers of the Temple worked for Annas. In fact, the people called this enterprise “The Bazaars of Annas.”
These merchants were extortioners who exploited the people. The whole scam had made Annas extremely wealthy. When Jesus attacked the system by cleansing the Temple, He hit Annas where it hurt – in the bank account.
Annas may have gloated over the downfall of this disturbing commoner. He probably relished being Judge of this Victim. Someday Annas will meet Jesus again, but then their roles will be reversed.
John 18:14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was advantageous that one man should die for the people.
Annas could have interviewed Jesus, but since he was not officially High Priest, Caiaphas would have to serve as “Judge” on the Sanhedrin. Lest we forget, John reminded us of a previous statement by Caiaphas (John 11:50).
Caiaphas had long ago decided it would be good for Jesus to die. Jesus was being brought before the court not to be judged, but to be condemned. The verdict had been rendered before the trial began.
There was no doubt what sort of trial Jesus could expect. Caiaphas was not an impartial law-abiding judge. He was an evil cunning politician who would do anything necessary to keep his job.
Right or wrong, guilty or innocent – these facts did not matter. The only consideration was expediency. The trial would be a jest.
For these wicked men to treat Jesus fairly would have been impossible. It would be like expecting a mole to evaluate a Rembrandt, a bat to analyze sunshine, a worm to pass judgment on the open air, or a fish to assess dry land.
They were thirsty for Christ’s blood, as vultures racing to a corpse. Their ravenous lust recalled the bloodthirstiness of Hannibal, who after a battle, seeing a pit full of human blood, said, “Oh beautiful sight!”
Stephen Gardiner refused to sit down to eat till news came that the good bishops had been burned at Oxford. When word arrived, he came out rejoicing and said to the Duke of Norfolk, “Now let us go to dinner.”
These sinners could neither understand nor appreciate the Holy One of God. They were unfit to cast a negative reflection on the Pure One. What a farce! Intense mockery marked the whole scene. The travesty is repeated constantly. Sinners still set themselves up as judges worthy to reject Jesus.