Harmony of the Gospels


(26) First Examined By Annas

Scripture: John 18:12-14, 19-23

Tom Lowe



After being arrested at Gethsemane, the Savior is taken to the house of Annas, who was the real power behind the high priest, Caiaphas. There He was questioned about His doctrine and Apostles.

12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him,

It was dark and late at night when the Lord calmly surrendered and allowed himself to be their prisoner, not because he could not escape, but because he would not. One would have thought the cure of Malchus’s ear would have made them give up, but nothing would stop them. We should take note of three things:
1. How they seized him: They took Jesus. Only a few of them could lay hands on Him, but all of them share the blame, because they were all aiding and abetting.
2. How they secured him: They bound him. As soon as He was taken, He was bound; tradition says, "They bound him with such cruelty that the blood started out at his fingers’ ends; and, having bound his hands behind him, they clapped an iron chain about his neck, and with that dragged him along.’’
3. He did not resist: You will notice that Jesus did not resist arrest. He is the Lamb of God who offers no resistance… “as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). The dignity our Lord shows at this time is absolutely amazing.

This was the first time that wicked men had been able to lay hold of Jesus and to tie up His arms. They bound the One who had come to set them free ([1]John 8:36). This shows the extent of His persecutors hatred of Him. Why did they tie Him up?
a) So they could torment him, and inflict pain.
b)  So they could disgrace him, and put him to shame.
To the onlookers it must have seemed like a lost cause for the Lord Jesus. But at this very moment He may well have been saying:

For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me,
He shall set me high upon a rock.
--Psalm 27:5

c) So they might prevent his escape. Judas told them to hold him fast. But it was pure foolishness for them to think they could bind that power which they had just now witnessed and that proved His omnipotentness.
d) They bound him as if He was already condemned, because they were resolved to prosecute him and condemn Him to death, and that He must die like a fool, that is, as a criminal, with his hands bound. Christ had bound the consciences of His persecutors with the power of His word, which galled them; and they wanted their revenge, so they tied Him up.

He was already bound to the horns of the altar with the cords of His own love for man, and by His duty to his Father; mere physical ropes never would have held him. We were bound with the cords of our iniquities (Proverbs 5:22), and with the yoke of our transgressions, (Lamentations 1:14). We owe our liberty to His bonds; therefore the Son maketh us free. Paul’s salutation to his friends is “Christ’s to us all”: "Remember my bonds” (Colossians 4:18). Christ’s bonds for us were designed to make our bonds for him easy for us. These bonds enabled Paul and Silas to sing in the stocks, and Ignatius to call his bonds for Christ spiritual pearls.

There is one more thing that is important for us to note. Remember in previous incidents, when the enemies of our Lord Jesus tried to close in on Him, He hid Himself. Apparently, He could just disappear miraculously. Now He lays Himself wide open to being taken.

13 And led him away to  [2]Annas first; for he was father in law to  [3]Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year.

They took Him to Annas, first. Caiaphas was the high priest whom the Roman government accepted, but the real head of the religious group was Annas. According to Jewish law the office of high priest was for life, but the Roman government could not accept all that concentration of power in the hands of one man so they frequently changed high priests. Secular History records that Annas was one of the most brilliant, one of the cleverest, and one of the most satanic of all the high priests.

Only John gives us the details of this hearing before Annas; as apparently he was in a position to see something the others did not. Although Annas was not the high priest at this time, he had a great influence over the  [4]Sanhedrin. Christ was taken there for a preliminary examination. Annas would then give his advice to Caiaphas; however, Caiaphas had already drawn a conclusion regarding Christ’s destiny. It was Caiaphas who had previously given counsel to the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die for the people ([5]John 18:14). Though Christ’s enemies planned to have Him lifted up on a cross between heaven and earth, our Lord Himself was anticipating another kind of lifting up:

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.
--Psalm 27:6

This is strange optimism, for a Man on trial for His life and knowing that the outcome would be His execution! Yet even now He was delighting Himself with anticipations of glory. Didn’t He say to Caiaphas, “Hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64)?

Jesus stood trial before both the religious and civil authorities. The religious trial was illegally convened during the night; but it confirmed its decision after daybreak. Even at that, the whole matter was a mockery of justice.

The Holy Spirit has not given us all the details of the trials of Jesus; of which there were six (see Text Box A).

Text Box A
Jesus’ Six Trials

Religious Trials
Before Annas                                                                                                              John 18:12-14
         Before Caiaphas                                                                                                         Matthew 26:57-68
  Before Sanhedrin                                                                                                         Matthew 27:1-2
Civil Trials
 Before Pilate                                                                                                                John 18:28-38

Before Herod                                                                                                               Luke 23:6-12
     Before Pilate                                                                                                                John 18:39-19:6

From the house of Annas, our Lord was taken to the house of Caiaphas, who had already convened a court and was expecting him. They led him away in triumph, as a trophy of their victory, as if he had been the worst and vilest of criminals; and they led him as a lamb to the slaughter. They hurried him along with violence, acting as Satan’s agents and instruments. It was now about midnight, and one would think that they would have put him in lock-up, until it was the proper time to convene a court.

14 Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.

John explained that the high priest was the same Caiaphas who had prophesied that one man should die for the people (see [5]John 11:50). He was now about to take part in the fulfillment of that prophecy. James Stewart writes: “This was the man who was the accredited guardian of the nation’s soul. He had been set apart to be the supreme interpreter and representative of the Most High. To him was committed the glorious privilege of entering once every year into the holy of holies. Yet this was the man who condemned the Son of God. History provides no more startling illustration of the truth that the best religious opportunities in the world and the most promising environment will not guarantee a man’s salvation. "Then I saw," says John Bunyan, closing his book, "that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven.”

The wickedness of Caiaphas toward the Lord is evident when he repeats what he said earlier, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.  This goes to show:
1. What a bad man he was.
2.  What cruel treatment Christ was likely to meet with in his court. His case was judged before it was heard, and they had already decided what to do with him; he must die. A trial would be only for show, a farce.
3. It is a testimony to the innocence of our Lord Jesus, from the mouth of one of his worst enemies, who thought that He should be, sacrificed for the public good.

19 The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine.

The trial process our Lord was going through was both illegal and unfair. It was illegal since Jewish law required that witnesses be called before the prisoner is questioned. It is unfair, because He was arrested like He was a criminal, and a dangerous one at that. But now that He is their prisoner, they have nothing to charge Him with.  Looking back at this confrontation, from today’s point in time, we notice that there is no prosecutor; but the judge himself will be the prosecutor, and the Prisoner Himself the witness, and, against all reason and justice, our Lord is to be His own accuser.

Since the high priest had already made up his mind that Christ must be sacrificed under the pretense of it being for the public good, He then interrogated Him concerning two issues:
1. His disciples. They will charge Him with sedition, and then represent him as dangerous to the Roman government, as well as to the Jewish church. The high priest asked the Lord who were his disciples—how many were there—what country did they come from—what were their names and what kind of character did they have? Some think his question concerning His disciples was, "What has become of them all? Where are they? Why aren’t they here to stand up for you?’’ Through lecturing Him about their cowardice in deserting him, they were adding to the hurt that it caused Him. It is not clear that Annas planned to prosecute the apostles too. Most likely He planned to get a confession that these men were being prepared for revolutionary activity.
2. His doctrine. They intended to charge him with heresy, and to bring him under the penalty of the law concerning false prophets ([6]Deuteronomy 13:9, 10). They could not prove that any of His doctrine was false, but they hoped He would say something they could distort and use against Him ([7]Isaiah 29:21). They did not say anything to him concerning his miracles, since they had done so much good, and they proved his doctrine was true. The thing that Annas wanted to come out of this hearing was some kind of evidence on which to base an accusation that would lead to a verdict of capitol punishment.

20 Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.
 21 Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said.

Christ does not answer the question directly. Instead, He appeals to the fact that He taught His doctrine openly. He answered their question with a question of His own; “Why askest thou me?” Christ refused to be a witness for Himself. Instead, He asked the high priest to produce witnesses who could testify about His teaching. Failure to produce reliable witnesses (them which heard me) would make the trial illegal. Most likely there were some in the crowd that day who had heard His teaching or they could have sent for others that heard Him.  For sure some of those who were there to Judge Him heard His words with their own ears. The same was true of the soldiers. Those who had heard Him speak could say what His doctrine was and whether it was dangerous for the people to hear.

Notice that Christ said nothing about His disciples, because it was an impertinent question. But if his doctrine was sound and good, the fact that He had disciples to teach it to was nothing more than was practiced by their own doctors.

As for his doctrine, he had nothing in particular to say, but in general He said that those who heard Him speak could say what His doctrine was. They were impartial witnesses and could not be assumed to say anything in His favor. Some think he pointed to them, when he said, Behold, they know what I said, referring to the report which they had made of his preaching; “Never man spoke like this man” (John 7:46).
Here there are two paradoxes:
1. “Why askest thou me? concerning my doctrine, when you have already condemned it?’’ They had made a court order to excommunicate all His followers ([8]John 9:22), had issued a warrant for His arrest; and now they ask what his doctrine is! Consequently, when He was condemned for His doctrine, they still could not tell you what it was.
2. Why askest thou me? Must I accuse myself, when you have no evidence against me?’’
One of the crimes He was charged with was secretly spreading dangerous doctrines ([9]Deuteronomy 13:6). His defense for this charge was His manner of preaching; “I spake openly to the world…and in secret have I said nothing.” He spoke clearly and in public to anyone who would listen— high or low, learned or unlearned, Jew or Gentile, friend or foe. He usually preached in the Synagogues on the Sabbath-day. However, when he came up to Jerusalem, he preached the same doctrine in the temple at the time of the solemn feasts, and though he often preached in private houses, and on mountains, and by the sea-side, to show that his word and worship were not to be confined to temples and synagogues, what he preached in private was the very same as what he delivered publicly.

22 And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so?

While the judges were examining Him, the servants that stood by were abusing Him. When one of the soldiers struck Christ, it was an act meant to show dishonor and disrespect for our Lord. He may have spoken calmly and given convincing evidence, but then this insolent fellow struck Jesus with the palm of his hand. He probably slapped Jesus on the side of his head or face, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? As if he had been rude to the court. As if the blessed Jesus were not good enough to speak to his master, or not wise enough to know how to speak to him. Some think that the blow was administered with a rod or wand, or with the staff which was the badge of his office. Now the scripture in Isaiah 50:6 was fulfilled; I gave my cheeks, to blows. And Mic. 5:1 says, They shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek. Also, we are told in Job 16:10, They have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully. Striking One who had done or said nothing wrong cannot be justified, for any reason. It was cowardly to strike a person that had his hands tied; and uncivilized to strike a prisoner who was on trial. It was wrong by Hebrew tradition and yet the judges tolerated it.

23 Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?

Christ did not react in anger to the blow He received. Instead, He endured the pain insult with wonderful meekness and patience. He wanted to make sure that the onlookers understood what had happened, so He answered the blow with "If I have spoken evil, then bear witness of the evil." In other words, if I have said anything that was not true, tell the court about it and let them judge it. But if I spoke the truth, why smitest thou me?’’ In essence, Christ was asking for a fair trial, while His opponents who had already decided on the sentence, had no intention of providing one. Christ could have answered him with a miracle of wrath, could have struck him dumb or dead, or have withered the hand that was lifted up against him. But this was to be a day to show His patience and suffering, and so He answered him with the meekness of wisdom, to teach us some important lessons.

We should not attempt to avenge ourselves, but rather bear insult with the innocence of the dove as our Savior did here, and just like Him, we should report the incident and appeal to the magistrate concerning them. Notice that Christ did not turn the other cheek in this case.  [10]Matthew 5:39, is not to be understood literally; since a man may turn the other cheek, and yet have his heart full of hatred. But, if we compare Christ’s teachings with his actions, we learn:
(1) We must not be our own avengers or our own judges in our own causes, but we are allowed to defend ourselves, but not to avenge ourselves. The magistrate (if it is necessary for keeping the peace and restraining the evil-doers) is to be the avenger ([11]Romans 13:4).
(2) We must remain rational when expressing resentment for the injuries done to us, like Christ did here; when he suffered, he reasoned, but did not threaten.
(3) When we are called on to suffer for Christ, we must accept out suffering state with patience, and be prepared to receive even more, and to make the best of it.

The phrase “bear witness of the evil,” calls their attention to the fact that what they were doing was illegal and contrary to the Mosaic Law. They have no witness that He has done anything illegal and yet they have hit Him. They are the ones who are breaking the Law. For one thing the Law stated that no trial should begin at night nor end at night. A trial is not to begin and end on the same day. They are not to strike a prisoner who has not yet been proven guilty.

In the next verse it says, “Now Annas had sent him bound unto the high priest.” John puts this little verse here to tell us again that it was Annas who bound Him. Annas is the one who plotted and planned this entire diabolical plot.

____________________Special Notes_______________________

  [1](John 8:36) “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” There is no question that the word Son in this verse refers to Christ Himself. Those who are made free by Him are made free indeed. This means that when a person comes to the Savior and receives eternal life from Him, that person is freed from the slavery of sin, legalism, superstition, and demonism. 

  [2]ANNAS [AN us] (grace of the Lord) — one of the high priests at Jerusalem, along with CAIAPHAS, when John the Baptist began his ministry, about A.D. 26 (Luke 3:2). Quirinius, governor of Syria, appointed Annas as high priest about A.D. 6 or 7. Although Annas was deposed by Valerius Gratus, the Procurator of Judea, about A.D. 15, he was still the most influential of the priests and continued to carry the title of high priest (Luke 3:2; Acts 4:6).

After his removal, Annas was officially succeeded by each of his five sons, one grandson, and his son-in-law CAIAPHAS, the high priest who presided at the trial of Jesus (Matt. 26:3, 57; John 18:13–14). During His trial, Jesus was first taken to Annas, who then sent Jesus to Caiaphas (John 18:13, 24). Both Annas and Caiaphas were among the principal examiners when Peter and John were arrested (Acts 4:6).

  [3]CAIAPHAS [KY uh fuhs] — the high priest of Israel appointed about A.D. 18 by the Roman procurator, Valerius Gratus. Caiaphas and his father-in-law, Annas, were high priests when John the Baptist began his preaching (Matt. 26:3, 57; Luke 3:2). Caiaphas also was a member of the Sadducees.

After Jesus raised LAZARUS from the dead, the Jewish leaders became alarmed at Jesus’ increasing popularity. The SANHEDRIN quickly called a meeting, during which Caiaphas called for Jesus’ death. As High Priest, Caiaphas’ words carried great authority, and his counsel was followed (John 11:49–53). Subsequently, Caiaphas plotted the arrest of Jesus (Matt. 26:3–4) and was a participant in the illegal trial of Jesus (Matt. 26:57–68).

 [4] (Sanhedrin) SANHEDRIN [SAN hee drun] (a council or assembly) — the highest ruling body and court of justice among the Jewish people in the time of Jesus. Headed by the high priest of Israel, the Sanhedrin was granted limited authority over certain religious, civil, and criminal matters by the foreign nations that dominated the land of Israel at various times in its history. The Sanhedrin was exercising this limited power when it charged Jesus with the crime of blasphemy but then sent him to Pilate, the Roman official, for a formal trial and sentencing.

  [5](John 18:14) "Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people."  John 18:50 is the reference: “Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”

  [6](Deuteronomy 13:9-10) 9 “But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 10And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” This is the penalty  for being a false prophet.

  [7](Isaiah 29:21) That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.

  [8](John 9:22) “These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.” They had heard that any man confessing that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. This excommunication was a very serious matter for any Jew. They were not willing to pay such a price. It would mean the loss of a means of livelihood, as well as a loss of all the privileges of the Jewish religion. 

  [9](Deuteronomy 13:6) If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; 

  [10](Matthew 5:39) “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Jesus went beyond the law to a higher righteousness by abolishing retaliation altogether. He showed His disciples that, whereas revenge was once legally permissible, now non-resistance was graciously possible. Jesus instructed His followers to offer no resistance to an evil person. If they were slapped on one cheek by someone, they were to turn the other to him also. If they were sued for their tunic (an inner garment), they were to surrender their cloak (an outer garment used for covering at night) as well. If an official compelled them to carry his baggage for one mile, they were to voluntarily carry it two miles. 

  [11](Romans 13:4) “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”  The ruler, whether president, governor, mayor, or judge, is a minister of God in the sense that he is a servant and representative of the Lord. He may not know God personally, but he is still the Lord’s man officially. Thus David repeatedly referred to the wicked King Saul as the Lord’s anointed (1 Sam. 24:6, 10; 26:9, 11, 16, 23). In spite of Saul’s repeated attempts on David’s life, the latter would not allow his men to harm the king. Why? Because Saul was the king, and as such he was the Lord’s appointee. 

Do you have any questions and comments?

"Like" if you read  "First Examined By Annas."

 After World War II, some German students volunteered to help rebuild a cathedral that had been damaged by enemy bombs. The English church had a large statue of Jesus that was badly damaged. The students worked diligently to restore the entire statue, but had trouble deciding how they would handle the delicate restoration of the hands. After great deliberation, they agreed to make a statement by leaving the statue without hands. The statue’s inscription stands to this day: “Christ has no hands but ours.”

Baptist Beacon, May 23, 1996, p. 5

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