St John’s Gospel (39) - The Betrayals of Jesus
John 18:1–40 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. 2 Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. 3 Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, *came there with lanterns and torches and weapons….
Have you ever played the "trust game" - falling backwards into someone's arms, trusting them to not let you hit the ground? The term, betrayal means, “ to give into the hands (of another)” - have you ever entrusted yourself to others?
John 18 richly narrates the events of Jesus in the Garden, His arrest, and the various betrayals. The details of the location of this Garden subtly foreshadow Good Friday. Like David before (2Sam. 15:23ff), Jesus crossed “over the [bloody] Kidron” as He was being betrayed and went to pray. The arrest of Jesus highlights His sovereign control (10:18). As many as 600-1000 armed men came with torches t0 search Him out, as if He would hide. But Jesus “went forth” presenting Himself without fear (v4), answering, “I AM” (ego eimi/Yahweh! Ex. 3:14), fully prepared to drink the Father’s cup (v11). So they bound Jesus (like Isaac before) and led Him to sham courts to be denied worldly justice (v11).
The remainder of the chapter provides four interwoven examples of “betrayal.”
1) The first and explicit example of betrayal was Judas. John referenced this coming event repeatedly (“about to betray” 6:71, 12:4 vs. “was betraying” 18:2, 5). John pictures the disloyalty as Judas “standing with them” (v5). Judas is a case of the betrayal of a close friend (13:18; Ps. 41:9). What are the motivations here?
2) In a literary masterpiece, John weaves the betrayal of the Jews via their High Priesthood together with the betrayal of Peter. “Godfather” High Priest, Annas disregarded the Law he was sworn to keep by starting the preceding at night, requiring Jesus to incriminate Himself, and abusing Him (v19). Jesus did not violate the Law, but answered the question which should have been asked - Since I taught openly, where are the witnessed to my false teaching? “Testify” (credible witness) of My wrong-doing (v20, 23). Annas sent Him to son-in-law, Caiaphas, the High Priest in office for more sham justice and to make the proceeding legal. What are the motivations here?
3) The betrayal of Peter is told in parallel with the rejection of the High Priesthood. This the betrayal of the devotee or disciple (6:68, 13:6, 9, 37, 18:10). Peter is prepared to defend Jesus unto death (13:37, 18:11); but then stumbles in a much lesser trap: “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He replies, “I AM not” (ouk eimi, v17). This betrayal led to Peter “standing” with “them” (v18). The narrative addresses Peter again as “standing and warming himself” (v25) at their “charcoal fire” for the second denial. Then Peter denied it (again), thus betraying Jesus again for the third and final time (13:38, v27) and “immediately a rooster crowed” (v27). What are the motivations here?
4) The final betrayal of Jesus is the “world’s” rejection through Pilate. “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (1:10). Pilate represents the world’s denial of Jesus. The world sees through the religiousity of the hypocrite “Jews,” but then have no more truthfulness. Pilate judged Christ as innocence of capital crimes multiple times (v38). But, he was the political compromiser. Jesus here offers Pilate the Truth (v37). Despite Pilate’s growing fear (19:8) and attempts to explicate himself from killing Jesus (19:12), his fear of King Jesus was outweighed by the fear of being “no friend of Caesar” (19:12). What are the motivations here?