The Evidence of Jesus – John 18:12-27
The evidence of Jesus, not the evidence for Jesus, but the evidence Jesus presents that challenges us and challenges our lives. The evidence that makes us ask serious questions about being a Christian in our world.
As we follow these events hour by hour, we ask ourselves what is this to us? How and why is my life different because of these events in Jerusalem?
Following Jesus’ arrest, we come this evening to Saint John’s account of Jesus appearing before Annas and Peter’s denial that he knew Jesus.
Annas was the high priest before the Roman authorities deposed him and appointed Caiaphas, his son-in-law, to take his place. Many devout Jews would have been angry that the authorities, whom they would have regarded as pagan and idolatrous, dared to interfere in their religion, and they would still have regarded Annas as the legitimate high priest. This explains why Jesus was taken to Annas, and also explains what sounds like confusion or contradiction in our bible reading. If we look at John 18:13: in verse 13 it says Jesus was taken to the house of Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest; then in verse 19 it says that the high priest questioned Jesus; looking at the footnote for verse 24 in some versions we see that in some manuscripts verse 24 had been rewritten to try to make verse 13 and verse 19 fit together, saying that by verse 19 Jesus was already before Caiaphas.
Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t mention Annas, why has John got this information? It is suggested that John himself was present. If you look at verse 15 it says that Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus and this other disciple got Peter into the courtyard. It’s not John’s style to name himself. In chapter 19, at the crucifixion, he describes himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved, and at the resurrection in chapter 20, he calls himself the other disciple. John appears to be known to the high priest, which enables him to mention a part of the story not included by the others.
What do we make of these religious leaders, these great men before who Jesus appears?
Caiaphas seems first and foremost a politician. It would be good for on e man to die for the people, he believes. Never mind truth or justice, if everything remains quiet on Caiaphas’ little patch, he will be happy.
Caiaphas is a Machiavellian sort of character. He is the sort of man who will say different things to different people to keep them happy and all the time he is building up his own power base.
Look at the contrast between the priests and Jesus. Jesus doesn’t deal in political horse-trading. Jesus deals in the truth and refuses to compromise. Jesus deals in openness and honesty. ’I have spoken openly to the world’, he says, and his enemies don’t like this.
If Caiaphas is a politician, cultivating his friendships with the Roman authorities on the one hand and the devout Jews on the other, his father-in-law, Annas, is little more than a bully. Look at verse 22 of chapter 18; Jesus has given an answer Annas know to be true and Annas’ only response is to allow one of his cronies to slap Jesus across the face.
The evidence of Jesus is that we need to be wary of people like Annas and Caiaphas. There are times when we will recognise them in the life of this country.
Annas cannot accept the right of others to differ from his viewpoint so resorts to violence. Annas is present in the thugs who use intimidation against anyone who happens to be different. Annas lives on in the gangs men who pin down young men and shoot them through the kneecaps. Annas lives on in those who use intimidation and threats of violence against anyone who would seek legal justice. Annas acts against Jesus under the cover of darkness and lives on in the darkness in our own times.
And what about Caiaphas? Can’t you just imagine Caiaphas at a political party’s Ard Fheis—rousing the crowd with a speech from the platform and then rubbing shoulders with the people he had denounced when they are all safely out of sight at some great reception or dinner? Caiaphas would have been a very shrewd and skilful politician.
Caiaphas and Annas would have sought what they believed to be security through political dealings and the use of force. The evidence of Jesus is that such security is false.
Peter fails to see the evidence. When Jesus is arrested, Peter resorts to violence and is rebuked by Jesus. Jesus arranges for his disciples to be allowed to escape to safety, if we read verse 8, we see this, but Peter trusts in himself and ignores Jesus.
What we see happening to Peter is what happens when we lose touch with Jesus: first he denies Jesus by his actions and then he denies him by his words.
Peter is drawn into the physical darkness of the courtyard. We can almost see the light and shadows caused by the fire. The flickering flames show the faces of those around. Peter is not supposed to be here. Jesus did not ask him to be here. Standing in the physical darkness, Peter is challenged three times about his connection with Jesus and three times he denies him and he is surrounded by the spiritual darkness.
Peter has lost touch with Jesus and he has become like those around him. Why had Peter followed Jesus here? What did he think he was going to do? Isn’t it possible that Peter was concerned with his own pride and his own thoughts regarding himself? The other disciple seems to be in the courtyard in safety; perhaps Peter didn’t want to be outdone.
The other disciple has drawn Peter into this situation. Peter had been standing outside in safety, but the other disciple uses his influence to get Peter in. It brings Peter into a place of a danger and it shows the danger of trading on influence with the enemies of Jesus. Jesus himself is very clear in saying that light has no fellowship with darkness. Christians must always be wary of dealing with those whose agenda is very different from our own. We can easily find ourselves like Peter, compromised and denying the very things we believe to be true.
Perhaps Peter believed he could do something to free Jesus. He still has his sword. Perhaps in the darkness of these extraordinary events, he thought he could do something to help. Perhaps he drew up close to the fire to try to hear what was being planned. Standing amongst the servants and the officials, Peter only puts himself further away from Jesus.
Peter has not understood the evidence of Jesus, he has not understood that Jesus has a different way of saving the world. Peter’s answer to the violence and aggression of Annas and Caiaphas is to use the same tactics.
Jesus has no time for political manoeuvring and underhand deals. He refuses to co-operate with the trial, which everyone present knew to be illegal. Jesus deals in light and truth, not in darkness and lies.
Jesus’ response to political ambition and violence and evil is the way of the Cross; the way of overcoming hate with love; the way of overcoming injury with forgiveness.
The evidence of Jesus about how his followers should deal with politics is that we must deal in light and truth and in love and forgiveness.
We must not make the mistake that Peter made and believe that good can come from confrontation and violence. The way of the Cross is a hard path to take, but it is the only way to God and the only way of life and peace.
The evidence of Jesus is that the security offered by this world is false and failing and that only with God do we find true security and assurance.