”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. Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in.” (John 18:12-16)
The events of Jesus’ arrest, trial, conviction, crucifixion, burial and resurrection reads like an unfolding news story, or at least like an episode of Law and Order. While additional details are added, or withheld, by each of the four gospel accounts, the core events remain consistently true and realistic.
To begin with, Jesus was arrested. A band of soldiers came to Gethsemane with their captain and the officers of the Jews and bound Him. A band of soldiers (σπεῖρα; speria) was a Roman military unit of 600 soldiers. A captain (χιλίαρχος; chiliarchos) was in charge of 100 of the 600. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that at least 100 soldiers were in the garden to formally arrest Jesus. A sizable band to be sure. The officers (ὑπηρέται; hyperetai) of the Jews were servants of the Pharisees and the chief priests (John 18:2-3).
These then led Jesus first to Annas. John identifies him as Caiaphas’ father-in-law. Caiaphas was officially the high priest at the time of Jesus’ arrest. John adds the comment that it was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. Why did these officers, etc. take Jesus to Annas first and not Caiaphas?
Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “Annas held the high priesthood office from A.D. 6–15 when Valerius Gratus, Pilate’s predecessor, removed him from office. In spite of this, Annas continued to wield influence over the office, most likely because he was still regarded as the true high priest, also, because five of his sons, and his son-in-law Caiaphas, each held the position at different times. Two trials occurred: one Jewish and one Roman. The Jewish phase began with the informal examination by Annas (vv. 12–14, 19–23), probably giving time for the members of the Sanhedrin to hurriedly gather together. A session before the Sanhedrin was next (Matt. 26:57–68) at which consensus was reached to send Jesus to Pilate (Matt. 27:1–2). The Roman phase began with a first examination before Pilate (John 18:28–38a; Matt. 27:11–14), and then Herod Antipas (“that fox”—Luke 13:32) interrogated him (Luke 23:6–12). Lastly, Jesus appeared again before Pilate (John 18:38b–19:16; Matt. 27:15–31).”
Next, John indicates that only two disciples followed Jesus: Peter and another disciple; probably John himself. John states that “Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in.”
One commentary states that, “John gained admission to the courtyard immediately because he was known to the high priest (v. 15), probably because he was from a family with some wealth. (John’s family employed some hired servants; see Mark 1:19–20.) The servant girl guarding the door to the courtyard let Peter in after John spoke with her, presumably to secure Peter’s admission (John 18:16). But if Peter hoped to hide among the crowd, he would not succeed. The girl called him out, eliciting the first of Peter’s three denials of Jesus (vv. 17–18; see vv. 25–27).”
While we might initially believe Jesus, and the disciples, were victims of circumstances beyond God’s control, nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus was in complete control during His arrest. We will see that He remained so during His trial.
What was true during these events in Jesus’ life are also true for believers today. God remains in control of everything we encounter. Take heart and do not be discouraged.
May God’s truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!