Richard Burridge: John Chapters 18-19

John 18:1-9. Unlike the Synoptics, John has Jesus in control of events, so there is no agonising. Only John mentions soldiers; a Speira, a Roman cohort of 600-100 men or a maniple of 200, accompanied by the Temple police which the Pharisees and priests - not used to working together - have sent; thus all the forces are united against Jesus. He uses "I am" without addition.

John 18:10-18. Again Chiliark refers to an officer of 1000 men. John's references to gate and gatekeepers remind us of the sheepfold.

John 18:19-21. After his trial in the first half of the Gospel, Jesus is not tried formally by the Jewish authorities in John. Annas, the father-in-law of the High Priest Caiaphas, is head of the family that has a monopoly of the Temple animal trade, so would have been upset by the 'driving out' of the traders. Jesus, in control, does not betray his Disciples and says all his teaching has been public. Technically, Jesus is right because under Jewish law he could not be convicted on the basis of his own testimony.

John 18:22-27. Peter is trapped into denial; there is no cursing.

John 18:28-29. The irony of judicial murder and dietary niceties; they want to eat lamb but kill The Lamb. Seven scenes: 1. Outside: the Jews demand death 2. Inside: Kingship 3. Inside: Jesus innocent 4. Inside: Mocking and Flogging 5. Outside: Jesus innocent 6. Inside: power 7. Outside: Jews obtain sentence.

John 18:29-40. The Jews lost the power of execution c30 AD so they could not stone Jesus; they wanted crucifixion to make him accursed (Deuteronomy 21:23) but for the Romans this implied a serious political offence.

John 19:1-8. roman corporal punishment ranged from beating to scourging with a whip of leather thongs with metal spikes: Matthew and mark suggest the latter prior to crucifixion; John suggests the former as a precursor to release. The Sun God was depicted with crown radiating light (cf Statue of Liberty); palm spikes would provide a "painful parody"; Purple was the imperial colour; and "Ave Caesar" was also parodied. Ecce Homo with Jesus a sham king suggests he is a simpleton but john also echoes Isaiah 53.5-6; but the parody king strategy backfires and angers the crowd. The leaders alter their charge from revolutionary to blasphemer (Leviticus 24:16). They allege Jesus claim to be the "Son of God" which set off all kinds of Graeco-Roman resonances. Pilate might have been frightened of what he had done to such a demi-god or frightened of the Jews.

John 19:9-15. The word for power is exousia and there is ironic play on the theme of the relative power of Pilate and Jesus. "Friend of Caesar" was an official title; at this time the paranoid Emperor Tiberias had deposed his Chief Minister, Sejanus, a friend of Pilate. At noon on Friday when the Passover lambs are being slaughtered, the Lamb of God is sentenced. The Jewish "we have no king but Caesar" denies that their only king was supposed to be God (Judges 8:23; 1 Samuel 8:7) or his anointed (Psalm 2:2).

John 19:16-24. Again, Jesus in control means there is no Simon of Cyrene. Golgotha or Calvary, probably the place of a rocky outcrop shaped like a skull. Crucifixion, being roped or nailed in an upright position collects body fluids in the chest, causing 'drowning' could take days and was so horrible it was only for slaves and local criminals, not Romans. INRI - Jesus Nazareth Rex Judaeorum. Josephus says that the priest's tunic was seamless, made from a single thread, because of the law's prohibition of mixing different kinds of cloth (Leviticus 16:4; Exodus 39:26 cf Psalm 22:18).

John 19:25-30. Jesus might have committed his mother to John if Salome was his mother's sister, wife of Zebedee and mother to John, the "beloved Disciple"; this would make John Jesus' cousin; his brothers had left him (John 7:5). Hyssop unlikely word, perhaps relates to the plant used to sprinkle blood at the first Passover (Exodus 12:22-23).

John 10:31-35. Bodies could not be left exposed at the Passover (Deuteronomy 21:22-23; Joshua 8:29). Breaking the legs lowered the torso and hastened the 'drowning'. John is clear that Jesus died but the Docetists (from docein "appeared to be") denied this, as do Moslems (Qur'an Sura 4.156-59). Out flows the blood of the lamb (2 Chronicles 35:1) and the living water.

John 19:35-42. Scripture is fulfilled (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20; Zechariah 9:9; 11:16; 13:7-8). Yet amid the lamentation (Zechariah 12:30) there is a future (Zechariah 13:1). Pilate granting the body to Joseph implies Jesus' innocence.

Taken from:

Burridge, Richard: John: The People's Bible Commentary, The Bible Reading Fellowship, revised 2008, ISBN 978 1 84101 570 5.


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