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Trials and Denials

John 18:12- 27

In John’s account of Jesus’ betrayal, trial and crucifixion, Jesus’ dignity, courage and complete mastery of the situation are on full display. Despite the degrading circumstances, Christ is exalted by John’s placement of Christ’s trial in juxtaposition with Peter’s denial. The two dramas bring into sharp focus opposite truths foundational to all Christian doctrine: the glory of Christ and the sinfulness of man. We see the contrast between Christ’s faithfulness and Peter’s faithlessness; His courage and Peter’s cowardice; His sacrificial love and Peter’s self-preserving lies. Our text bounces back and forth between Jesus and Peter so we’ll view the scenes like acts in a drama.

First, we see Jesus’ trial (act one)(18:12-14). Both the Jews and Romans feared that arresting Jesus might spark a riot by the militantly nationalistic crowds gathered for Passover, who only a few days earlier had hailed Jesus as the Messiah. They bound Jesus, standard Roman procedure when making an arrest, but with a deeper significance; just as Isaac (Gen 22:9) and the Old Testament sacrifices (Ps 118:27) were bound, so the Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice would be bound.

Jesus endured three phases of religious trials before the Jewish authorities before being sent to Pilate for His civil trial. The trial before Annas was more like an informal hearing. Annas had been the high priest before he was deposed by the Romans because of rampant corruption. This “trial” was illegal and brutal. Imagine a guard being allowed to strike a prisoner! Or a man who does not hold an office interrogating a prisoner! Annas was a proud, ambitious, and notoriously greedy man. He became rich by skimming from the proceeds of the sacrificial animals at the temple. He also received a percentage from the money changers who exchanged foreign currency for the Jewish coinage that was required to pay the temple tax. So infamous was his greed that the outer courts of the temple were known as the Bazaar of Annas. Remember Jesus had disrupted this corrupt business twice when He cleansed the temple. (John 2; Matt 21). Annas no doubt gloated over the chance to belittle Christ.

But we also see in “Act One” Peter’s denial (18:15-18). A slave girl was keeping the door (this was a private residence, not the temple) otherwise it would have been temple police. She asked Peter a question, and in the Greek text, it anticipates a negative answer. Following her cue, Peter blurted out, “I am not.” Peter’s multiple denials serve as a warning to all who would claim self-confidently that they would follow Jesus to death. Boasting in our abilities is an invitation to failure. Personal humility and divine dependence are necessities for faithful Christ-followers. A fire was burning and Peter sought warmth and hoped to blend in with the high priest’s slaves and officers. Ironically, Peter like Judas earlier wound up standing with the enemies of Jesus. If your goal is to blend in with the world then you certainly won’t stand up for Christ.

In Act Two, we see Jesus’s trial. Jesus’ trial before the Jewish authorities was a sham, since His fate had already been determined– “They determined to kill Him” (John 11:53). This was not an attempt to determine His guilt or innocence, only to put a veneer of legality on His murder. Jewish law demanded that witnesses be called before a prisoner was examined. Annas defied this law, and eventually hired false witnesses to testify. Instead of bringing evidence to substantiate the charges of insurrection and blasphemy, Annas attempted to get Jesus to incriminate Himself. Jesus’ response (20, 21) was not that of a condemned man lashing out, but a demand that the requirements of the law be observed, that the charges be

stated, witnesses appear, and evidence be given. But for that appeal, He was illegally struck! Jesus is the ultimate example to us of how to suffer wrongfully (I Peter 2:19-25; 4:12-19). He was never defiant or hateful.