John 18: “I AM” And They all Fell Down
“You say that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into this world, to testify, bear witness to the immutable truth. Everyone who is of the immutable truth hears in My voice.”
The beginning of the so called “Passion Narrative” John 18:1-19:42 (Matthew 26:30-27:61; Mark 14:26-15:47; Luke 22:39-23:56)
Yeshua’s words to the disciples following the Pesach (Passover) Seder (John 13) and prior to crossing the Kidron valley to Gat Sheminim (Gethsemane), which included an open prayer to the Father concerning protection and reassurances of purpose, now come to a conclusion. What follows takes place across the Kidron valley (east of Jerusalem) in the garden of Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives.
It’s interesting to note that the author of Yochanan’s gospel doesn’t include Yeshua’s anguished prayers in the garden or the inability of the disciples to stay awake and keep watch. However the reference to the cup of suffering (v.11) corresponds to the prayers in the garden (Luke 22:42).
John’s gospel which has been focused from the beginning on the all existing nature of the Messiah now reveals “God with us” as Lamb to slaughter. The impressive supernatural occurrence that results from Yeshua’s powerful declaration of identity in response to those seeking to arrest Him affirms His authority and illuminates further the convergent theme of Creator as Word having entered His creation.
Among other things the gospel writer focuses on the actions of his dear friend Kefa (Peter), a man who is fiercely protective of Yeshua and also suffers great emotional and spiritual turmoil over the denial of Him.
The motives of Pilate are illuminated in John’s gospel which implicitly alludes to his involvement in the arrest of Yeshua (v.3, 12), his nonchalant attitude toward Yeshua’s kingship (v.37-38) and his provocation of the Judean leaders (v.39). It’s worth noting that history records Pilate as a man who sought to provoke the Jews in order to justify harsh military response. He was not the innocent bystander that so many Christian commentators make him out to be.
1 Yeshua[H] (Iesous[G], Joshua, YHVH Saves, Jesus) spoke (epo[G]) these words, then He went forth with His disciples (talmidim[H]) over the valley (ravine) of the Kidron[H] (dark, from the root “kadar” to mourn) , where there was a garden (Gat Sheminim[H], press of olives), in which He entered with His disciples (talmidim[H]). 2 Now Y’hudah[H] (Praise, Judas Iscariot) also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Yeshua[H] had often met there with His disciples (talmidim[H]).
“These words” refers to the words taught, spoken, prayed over the last several preceding chapters (from chapter 13 to the present chapter) as Yeshua and His talmidim had walked through Jerusalem from the location of the Passover Seder meal, to the other side of the city (the east side).
The Kidron was known at least in part as a valley of refuse. The Levites had once cast the unclean things which had been cleaned out of the Temple into the Kidron valley at Hezekiah’s command to cleanse the Temple of idolatrous elements (2 Chronicles 29:16). There is a correlation here. Yeshua’s death and resurrection will ultimately cleanse the Temple to such a degree that God Himself and the Lamb will dwell in place of the Temple (Rev. 21:22).
“Kidron” means “darkness and mourning” and may be the physical valley that acts as figure for the “valley of the shadow of death” described in Psalm 23.“Gat Sheminim” means “press of olives (crushing of olives), an olive press”. It is fitting that Yeshua walk through “the valley of the shadow of death” to that place where He would firmly decide to drink the cup of wrath that the Father had given Him to drink. As a result of Yeshua being crushed He would resurrect, return to the Father and pour out the oil of His Spirit upon all who would believe.
There is a correlation to be made between the crossing of the Kidron by Yeshua and His disciples and the crossing of the Kidron made by king David and his retinue (2 Samuel 15:23). In the wake of Absalom’s betrayal of David (a prefigure of Y’hudah’s betrayal of Yeshua), David crosses the valley of darkness and mourning (Kidron) and into exile. In some respects this is what Yeshua is doing here: He will go into a temporary exile through death, but like David before Him He will return a conquering King and Ruler.
Gethsemane was a favourite meeting place of Yeshua and His talmidim. It was located not far from Bethany (the town of Lazarus, Mary and Martha) and was close to the city of Jerusalem (approx. 2.5 km away) so as to be a convergent point in the many travels of Yeshua and His talmidim.
There is another correlation here with respect to the garden. Just as the first Adam received sin into the world in Gan Eden (the garden of Eden [delight]) so too the Last Adam Yeshua (1 Corinthians 15:45) firmly decided to bring about the removal of sin from this world in and through Gat Sheminim (the pressing of olives [oil]).
3 Y’hudah[H] (Praise, Judas Iscariot) then, having received the 600-1000 strong cohort (speira[G], spiral) and servants from the chief priests (archiereus[G], hakohaniym[H]) and the P’rushiym[H] (Separate, distinct, chased ones, Pharisees), came there with torches (phanos[G]) and oil lamps (lampas[G]) and weapons.
“Speira” describes a Roman cohort. This means that Pilate was at least tacitly involved in the arrest of Yeshua. The cohort could not have been deployed without his full knowledge and approval. The Jewish Temple guard was smaller in number and thus could not qualify as a “cohort”. Further the cohort is said to be accompanied by the servants of the chief priests (predominantly Sadducees, some of whom would have been Temple guards) and representatives of the Pharisees (the sect controlling religious politics among the wider Jewish community). The Pharisees did not have their own guard, they were there purely as religious leaders. The full number of those who came to arrest Yeshua was approximately 1200. Matthew’s gospel calls those who came to arrest Yeshua “a great multitude” armed with “swords and long spears” (Matt. 26:47).
4 So Yeshua[H], seeing, perceiving (eido[G]) all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”
Yeshua had already seen these things completed outside of time and space in His position as Word Essence within the Godhead (John 1:1).
17 For this reason the Father (ho Pater[G], ha Av[H]) loves (oheiv[H]) Me, because I lay down My life, breath, soul existence (et-nafshiy[H]) so that I may take it up again. 18 No one, nothing (oudeis[G]) has taken it away from Me or separated (apo[G]) Me from it, but I lay it down on My own initiative, in My Own power, by My Own choice (exousia[G]). I have authority, power, choice (exousia[G]) to lay it down, and to take it up again. This commandment (entole[G]) I received from My Father (Pater mou[G], Aviy[H]).” -Yochanan (John) 10:17-18
The Messiah was prophesied to lay down His life for the people of Israel (Isaiah 53:1-12; Psalm 16:8-11).
Yeshua knew Whom they sought. His question was for their sake. We might understand Yeshua’s question as “You come in the authority of Rome and the Jewish religious politicians, but do you truly realise the authority of the Person Whom you seek?” This is partially revealed to them in the power that emanates from Yeshua in the proceeding verse.
5 They answered Him, “Yeshua[H] the Nasraya[A] (Nazarene, HaNatzriy[H], consecrated, devoted one, from netzer - branch).” He said to them, “I Am, I Exist (ego eimi[G]).” And Y’hudah[H] also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. 6 So when He said to them, “I Am, I Exist (ego eimi[G]),” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 Therefore He again asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Yeshua[H] the Nasraya[A] (Nazarene, HaNatzriy[H], consecrated, devoted one).”
It is literally true to say that based on the residence of His middle years Yeshua was from the town of Nazareth and was therefore, a Natzriy (Nazarene). It is also true to say that He is the Netzer (Branch) at the root of Natzriy and is come to fully fill prophecy concerning the Mashiach.
Although the speakers do not comprehend what they are saying, the response they give to Yeshua’s question, “we seek Yeshua the consecrated, devoted Branch”, is a prophetic statement of affirmation concerning the role that Yeshua fills as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah:
“Then a shoot will come forth out of the stem of Y’shai,
and a branch (nezter) will bear fruit out of His roots.
2 The Ruach of Adonai will rest upon Him,
the Spirit of wisdom and insight,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge
and of the fear of Adonai” -Y’shayahu (Isaiah) 11:1-2
Zechariah the prophet speaks a similar word concerning the Messiah but uses a different word for branch “tsemach”.
“Listen well, Joshua kohen gadol, both you and your companions seated before you, because they are men who are a miraculous sign—behold, I will bring forth My servant the Branch.” -Zakhariya (Zechariah) 3:8
“Then speak to him saying, “Thus says Adonai-Tzva’ot: Behold, a man whose Name is the Branch will branch out from his place and build the Temple of Adonai.” -Zakhariya (Zechariah) 6:12 TLV
By using different Hebrew words each prophet describes the strength of the branch at different stages of His ministry.
He said to them, “I Am, I Exist (ego eimi[G]).” (Ehyeh asher Ehyeh) [I have been Who I AM, I will be Who I AM, I AM Who I AM] By this statement Yeshua identifies as YHVH present within humanity and demonstrates power and authority over all things (Exodus 3:14; John 6:35; 8:58).
As Yeshua speaks these words power goes out from Him and causes those who have come to take Him to stagger backward and fall to the ground.
In Hebrew tradition the phrase “fall to the ground”, or “Strike to the ground” can refer to striking a person dead immediately, and is ascribed to God, who performs such acts via His angels, in particular Gabriel (Mighty One of God):
"let the master of thoughts come, (the blessed God,) and take vengeance on you; immediately Gabriel came, והבטן בקרקע, "and struck them to the ground"; and they died immediately.'' -Rav Simeon Ben Shetakh [F. Bavliy. Sanhedrin, fol. 19. 2.]
"if you transgress your father's command, immediately comes Gabriel, and "strikes to the ground".'' -Shemot Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 91. 2.
Therefore, among the religious Jews represented there would have been great fear at the blowing down of those who approached Yeshua. This fear would have been equally present among the superstitious Roman soldiers who witnessed the event. Those who had come to arrest Him were made acutely aware that they would not be successful in their endeavour unless Yeshua allowed them to bind him. All power was in Yeshua’s hands.
8 Yeshua[H] answered, “I told you that I Am, I Exist (ego eimi[G]); so if you seek Me, let these go their way,” 9 to make full (pleroo[G]) the word (ho logos[G], hadavar[H]) which He spoke, “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one.”
Yeshua declares “I AM” a second time but withholds the power which He had levelled at His pursuers in the first stating of His Divine nature. This is an act of mercy toward His jailors and a clear expression of His decision to lay down His life:
Re: John 10:17. Note that Yeshua lays down His life of His own fruition and power. Neither the thief, nor the wolf, nor any other power is able to take the life of the Messiah except that He allows it. The giving of His life is entirely His decision.
“Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one.” A quoting of John 6:39 which makes an exception of Y’hudah [Judas Iscariot] (who himself chose not to be chosen [given]).
10 Shimon K’fa[H] (Simon [heard] Peter [rock]) then, having a short sword (machaira[G]), drew it and struck the high priest’s (archiereus[G], hakohen hagadol[H]) servant (doulos[G]), and cut off his right ear; and the servant’s (doulos[G]) name was Malchus[H]([kingly] alt. Malchut[H] [kingdom]).
The so called synoptic gospel accounts of this event: Matthew 26:51-52; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:50.
John’s gospel is the only account to name both the perpetrator Peter and the victim Malchus. There are at least two reasons for this. First, John was known to the high priest [v.15-16] and his court and thus was probably personally acquainted with Malchus. Second, John loved and admired Peter’s tenacity and courage in seeking to physically defend Yeshua. John did not act in the same way, perhaps out of fear.
11 So Yeshua[H] said to K’fa[H] (Peter, rock) “Put the short sword (machaira[G]) into the sheath; should I not drink the cup (kos[H]) which the Father (ho Pater[G], Aviy[H]) has given Me?”
“should I not drink the cup which the Father has given Me?” Fits with the account of Luke 22:42.
The cup Yeshua must drink is the cup of God’s wrath against sin. This is the cup we sinners should drink from and yet He (the sinless One) chose to drink it on behalf of all who would receive His atoning work through death on a Roman cross and through His resurrection.
“God made him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” -2 Corinthians 5:21
“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” -Romans 5:9 NIV
12 So the 600-1000 strong cohort (speira[G], spiral) and the commander (chiliarchos[G]) and the servants of the Jewish religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]), arrested Yeshua[H] and bound Him,
The Greek “chiliarchos” translated “commander” refers to the Roman commander of a cohort of 1000 men. Thus, the Roman commander, the Jewish Temple guards and the religious leaders were jointly responsible for binding Yeshua. In short all present represented the major political and religious interests of both Jerusalem and the Roman Empire and therefore, were all equally culpable. It should be reiterated therefore, that Pilate was complicit in the arrest of Yeshua making His pretence at the subsequent trial all the more abhorrent.
We further note that at approximately 33 years of age Yeshua had shown that He had power to prevent His arrest and yet allowed them to bind Him. This correlates to Isaac, who at the same age allowed Abraham to bind him for sacrifice (Ha Akeidah [The Binding] Bereishit [Genesis] 22).
13 and led Him to Chananyah[H] (Gracious Yah [God], alt. Annas[G], humble) first; for he was father-in-law of Kayafa[A] (Caiaphas, attractive: Yoseph Ben Caiaphas), who was high priest that year.
John’s gospel alone tells of this preliminary hearing held before Annas (Chananyah) the father in law of the High Priest Caiaphas (Kayafa). Once again this makes sense given John’s relationship to the priestly class (v.15-16).
“High priest that year” is an indication that something other than Torah commanded priesthood was being practiced. The high priest of the Torah must be a descendant of Aaron and would be high priest until his death. In the early first century C.E. the priesthood had been defiled by Roman influence and the greed of certain Jewish religious power brokers, thus there was an albeit tenuous political relationship between the Jewish authorities of the time and the Roman Empire via her governor in Judea.
Annas had become high priest in 6 C.E. and reigned in that position until 15 C.E. In addition to Caiaphas many members of Annas’ family became high priest after him, including five of his sons. This was an apostate priesthood that existed in conjunction with Roman rule and was a desecration of the rightful priesthood of Israel. This in part is why Yeshua had set up His own Sanhedrin (Luke 10:1). Yeshua had confirmed the line of His priesthood (of all believers under Messiah) in His talmidim (disciples) as He ritually washed there feet during the Seder meal (John 13:4-17 see my article and note).
Caiaphas (Kayafa) [A.K.A Yoseph Ben Caiaphas] was appointed (contrary to Torah law) by Roman governor Valerius Gratus and served under him from 18 C.E. to 26 C.E. He then served under Pontius Pilate from 26 C.E. to approximately 37 C.E. In order to maintain his position political ties and compromise would have been necessary. He was not a legitimate (according to Torah law) high priest. He was chairman of the Sanhedrin which was made up predominantly of Sadducees. Ultimately Caiaphas held the position of high priest at the behest of Rome, making Pilate’s complicity in the arrest of Yeshua undeniable.
14 Now Kayafa[A] (Caiaphas, attractive: Yoseph Ben Caiaphas) was the one who had advised the Jewish religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of all the people (kol-ha’am[H]) [11:49-52]. 15 Shimon K’fa[H] (Simon [heard] Peter [rock]) was following Yeshua[H], and so was another disciple [the author John]. Now that disciple was known (gnostos[G]) to the high priest (haKohen hagadol[H]), and entered with Yeshua[H] into the courtyard of the high priest (haKohen hagadol[H]),
God honoured the prophetic nature of the words spoken by Caiaphas (11:49-52) not because Caiaphas was a legitimate high priest but because the role of high priest was one of mediation and revelation to the people of Israel. In fact the legitimate line of Aaron seems to lead us to Yochanan the Immerser as a more likely candidate for a legitimate high priest. Regardless, Yeshua will be raised the Highest Priest of an everlasting priesthood that both precedes and supersedes the priesthood of Aaron.
Verse 14 gives clear evidence in support of translating “Ioudaios” as “Jewish religious leaders or Judeans [in the sense of a sectarian noun]”. The text calls the nation of Israel (all Jews in the land) “the people” and explains that Kayafa (Caiaphas) had advised the Ioudaios (Jewish leaders) on behalf of all Jews Ioudaios (the people). Therefore, the word Ioudaios must be translated according to context and not in an arbitrary manner.
The most obvious candidate for the unnamed disciple is the author Yochanan (John). Based on the inference of the text we can deduce that John was not only in relationship with some members of the Sanhedrin but was also known to the high priest personally. The fact that John was allowed entry based on his relationship to the priesthood and that he was afforded the right to gain entry for Peter (v.16) shows that there were those among the Sanhedrin and Pharisaic sect that remained sympathetic to Yeshua. As is so often the case this pretrial of Yeshua was subject to the loudest voices rather than the correct mode of Torah justice. It is very likely that many in the room disagreed with how Yeshua was treated.
16 but K’fa[H] (Peter) was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple [the author John], who was known (gnostos[G]) to the high priest (hakohen hagadol[H]), went out and spoke to the doorkeeper (thuroros[G]), and brought K’fa[H] (Peter) in. 17 Then the young girl (paidiske[G]) who kept the door (thuroros[G]) said to K’fa[H] (Peter), “You are not also one of this man’s disciples (talmidim[H]), are you?” He said, “I am not.”
Many are quick to pass judgement on Peter for his denial, and of course it was to his shame, however, who among us would have confessed our allegiance to a man accused of capital crime while we stood among his many accusers and at the risk of losing our lives? Peter had just risked his life for Yeshua by cutting of the servant Malchus’s ear in the midst of close to 1000 Roman soldiers and 200 Temple servant guards and Pharisees, was this the act of a coward? Was John questioned? Did John make an effort to physically protect Yeshua? And yet we laud John and decry Peter. Nonsense! Both were righteous, both acted according to their roles.
It is a mistake to presume that John’s gospel seeks to show Peter as a coward. To the contrary, John depicts his dear friend Peter in all the fullness of his humanity and with admiration.
18 Now the servants and the attendants were standing, having made a fire of coals, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and K’fa[H] (Peter) was also with them, standing and warming himself. 19 The high priest (hakohen hagadol[H]) then questioned Yeshua[H] about His disciples (talmidim[H]), and about His teaching, doctrine, instruction (didache[G]).
The pretrial that follows is illegal according to both Roman and Torah law. There were no legitimate witnesses as to a crime, the accused was not treated with respect or given an advocate, two or three corroborating witnesses were not presented and so on. That a man of such religious authority and political influence as Annas would conduct such a trial shows a lack of integrity and is an abhorrent misuse of power, compounded by the fact that Annas had recently been in the role of high priest and would surely influence Caiaphas in regard to Yeshua’s conviction at the hands of Pilate.
20 Yeshua[H] answered him, “I have spoken openly, unreservedly, without ambiguity (parrhesia[H]) to the world (ho kosmos[G], ha olam[H]); I always taught in the gathering places, the synagogue (sunagoge[G]) and in the house of the temple (ho hieron[G], beiyt hamikdash[H]), where all the Jews (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. 21 Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said.”
Due to context we see that “Ioudaios” is used here to refer to all Jews (Israelis), this being an exception to its more regular usage as a reference to the Jewish religious leaders and or the Judean religious sect of first century Judaism.
Yeshua shines a bright light on the illegitimacy of the pretrial and invokes Torah instruction with His answer.
“Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.” -Shemot (Exodus) 23:1
A judge “must not commit unrighteousness!” -Vayikra (Lev.) 19:15
A judge “must not show favour to or be partial to a litigant!” -Vayikra (Lev.) 19:15
A judge “must not take vengeance or bear a grudge!” -Vayikra (Lev.) 19:18
22 When He had said this, one of the attendants standing nearby struck Yeshua[H], saying, “Is that the way You answer the high priest?” 23 Yeshua[H] answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?”
Yeshua had not disrespected the authority (albeit illegitimate) of Annas, rather He had simply demanded that Torah law be followed and appropriate witnesses be presented in order to validate any accusations being levelled against Him.
Note that the One Whose word had sent men reeling and falling to the ground less than 40 minutes prior nonetheless allows himself to be struck. “Like a lamb to the slaughter…”
For the powerless man humility comes easy, but true humility is proved in the gentle response of a strong man.
The striking of one who speaks the truth warrants a weighty fine according to Mishnaic law:
The servant of the high priest who struck Yeshua should have been corrected by the Council, and made to pay the two hundred zuzim, fine required by Mishnaic law for such an offence, this fine could be substantially higher if the dignity of the person abused was deemed laudable. Perhaps in this case as much as 400 zuzim? (Mishnah Bava Kama, c. 8. sect. 6.)
It is interesting to note that the Mishnaic fine due Peter for cutting a man’s ear was four hundred zuzim. (Mishnah. Bava Kama, c. 8, sect. 6.) Given Yeshua’s status the unpaid fine due His offender might be considered to cancel out Peter’s debt.
24 So Chananyah[H] (Gracious Yah [God], alt. Annas[G], humble) sent Him bound to Kayafa[A] (Caiaphas, attractive) the high priest (hakohen hagadol[H]). 25 Now Shimon K’fa[H] (Simon [heard] Peter [rock]) was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also of His disciples (talmidim[H]), are you?” He denied it, and said, “I am not.”
Interestingly Yochanan (John the gospel writer) doesn’t record the details of the trial before Caiaphas nor the subsequent meeting of the Sanhedrin the following morning. It seems that Yochanan is more interested in conveying the meta-narrative of Yeshua’s Divinity and redemptive purpose than he is in giving a blow by blow account. He is clearly aware that there are others who have recorded the detail of these events (Matthew 26:59-68, 27:1-2; Mark 14:55-65, 15:1; Luke 22:66-23:1) and is content with conveying the gospel according to the inspiration that the Holy Spirit has afforded him.
It seems that Annas was at least partially convicted by Yeshua’s words. The act of sending Yeshua to Caiaphas places the responsibility of His conviction in the hands of another. However, like Pilate, Annas is complicit and will ultimately be held to account by God.
Sadly the Talmud Bavliy outright lies concerning the events of Yeshua’s trial claiming that after Yeshua was found guilty, a herald went before him forty days declaring his crime, and signifying, that if anyone knew anything worthy in him, to come and declare it (Talmud Bavliy Sanhedrin, fol. 43. 1.). Ironic that this is written in the tractate “Sanhedrin”. This is an unqualified revisionist lie concerning the history of events surrounding Yeshua’s trial. Our rabbis should be ashamed for this false witness against our King Messiah! The polemic nature of their lie is palpable.
Peter’s second denial comes as the trial of Yeshua begins to heat up and the stakes become clearer. This is a life and death moment in time for all associated with Yeshua.
26 One of the servants of the high priest (HaKohen Hagadol[H]), being a relative of the one whose ear K’fa[H] (Peter) cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” 27 K’fa[H] (Peter) then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed.
The final denial by Peter comes in the face of direct confrontation by a witness to his act of defence in the garden of Gethsemane. One has great compassion for Peter at this point given the compounding of the accusations against him and the very real threat of death by association. The rooster crows according to Yeshua’s prophetic words (13:38).
Note that Yochanan does not dwell on Peter’s denial. He simply records it as fulfilling the prophetic word of Yeshua. Peter is dear to Yochanan.
28 Then they led Yeshua[H] from Kayafa[A] (Caiaphas, attractive) into the Praetorium [praitōrion[G]] (Governor’s court room), and it was early, daybreak (proia[G]); and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, become ritually unclean (miaino[G]), but might eat the Pascha[G] (Paskha[A] Passover sacrifice).
The ritual uncleanness or defilement mentioned here is not to do with Torah observance but with extrabiblical law that considered an observant Jew to be unclean after entering the home of a gentile. This is why Peter was given the vision of the heavenly cloth filled with all kinds of animals (Acts 10:28).
"the dwelling houses of Gentiles", or idolaters, "are unclean" - Mishnah Oholot, c. 18. sect. 7.
"if the collectors for the government (Romans) enter into a house to dwell in, all in the house are defiled.'' - Maimonides. Mishcab & Mosheb, c. 12. sect. 12.
According to both the Mishnah and Yarhci it was unlawful to to rent out a house in Judea to a pagan or to assist in building a Basilica for them. The Basilica is explained to be a palace, in which judges sit to judge men. (Mishnah. Avoda Zara, c. 1. sect. 8; Yarchi & Bartenora in ib. sect. 7.)
The “Paskha” or festival offering mentioned here is not the Passover meal of the previous evening but the Chagigah (festival sacrifice) made on the day of the Passover during the first century Temple period. Therefore, those who claim that the Seder meal in John’s gospel is not a Seder meal are in error based on a lack of understanding of first century Temple practice (Mishnah Pesachim 6:4 re. the eating of the Chagigah until the intervening night [15 Nisan]).
As further evidence of my assertion: King Josiah is said to offer for the Passovers (plural) three thousand bullocks, and the priests three hundred oxen, and the Levites five hundred oxen (2 Chronicles 35:7). Yarchi interprets these as the peace offerings of the Chagigah (Festival offering), which in second book of Chronicles are called Passovers (plural).
1 Esdras 1:7-9 mentions three thousand calves, besides lambs, that Josiah gave for the Passover; and three hundred by some other persons, and seven hundred by others: Deuteronomy 16:2, is explained of the "Chagigah", in both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Hieros. Pesacb. fol. 33. 1. Talmud Bavliy Pesachim, fol. 70. 2.)
Therefore, besides the Passover lamb, other sacrifices were slain, "in the name of the Passover” (Mishnah Pesachim, c. 6. sect. 5.)
The present text then is referring to the aforementioned Passover sacrifices which the observant first century Jewish men in question were to eat that day, and therefore were being careful not to defile themselves according to the Mishnah.
It should also be noted, that all the seven days of the festival were called the Passover; and those who eat the matzot (unleavened bread), say:
"Let everyone that is hungry, let him come and eat all that he needs, "and keep the Passover".'' - Haggadah Shel Pesach. p. 4. Ed. Rittangel.
29 Therefore Pilate (Pilatos[G], meaning: armed with a spear) went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?”
Knowing what we do about Pilate’s actions during his role as governor of Judea and the fact that a Roman cohort was sent to arrest Yeshua (this could not have happened without Pilate’s approval), it is extremely difficult to take Pilate’s words as a genuine enquiry. He clearly already knew what some of the religious leaders who opposed Yeshua wanted. Therefore, Pilate’s question is a deception. In short, Pilate is a fraud and is complicit in the plan to put Yeshua to death.
Spotlight on Pilate
Pilate had sought to offend and provoke the Jews from the outset. His modus operandi was to provoke and then decimate those whom he saw as the Jewish agitators in Roman occupied Israel. Josephus tells us that Pilate provoked both Jews and Samaritans to riot “in order to abolish Jewish laws,”.
The gospel records Pilate mixing the blood of Galilean Jews with their sacrifices (Luke 13:1). This desecration alone was abhorrent but it was not the only action of its kind perpetrated by Pilate.
(see appendix A. for more details of Pilate’s actions)
30 They answered and said to him, “If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.”
The religious leaders and their adherents had no evidence of evil doing. This was a false and unsupportable claim.
31 So Pilate (Pilatos[G]) said to them, “Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your Torah[H], law (nomos[G]).” The Jewish religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) said to him, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death,”
One must hold in a loud and sardonic guffaw (gut wrenching laugh) at the reading of this. Pilate, whose modus operandi was to seek to “abolish Jewish laws” (Josephus), says “Judge Him according to your Torah”. Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried. Pilate is a two faced hypocrite, a liar, and a hater of both the idea of a Jewish Messiah and the Jewish people as a whole.
“We are not permitted to put anyone to death,” According to first century Roman law the Jewish leaders were not authorised to carry out the death penalty except in very rare cases. Therefore, because their false accusation concerned a crime for which they believed the Torah required capital punishment, they were seeking Pilate’s judgement and sentencing of Yeshua. Bottom line, without Pilate’s approval, tacit or otherwise, Yeshua could not be crucified. The washing of his hands would not be sufficient to clean the guilt of Pilate’s unrepentant soul.
32 to make full the word of Yeshua[H] which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die [John 3:14-15; 12:32]. 33 Therefore Pilate (Pilatos[G]) entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Yeshua[H] and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews (HaMelekh HaYehudim[H])?”
Yeshua’s word prophesying the type of death He would die (John 3:13-15; 12:32) was significant in that He would not die by stoning, the Torah prescribed method of death for the crime of blasphemy (Vayikra [Lev.] 24:16). This was to fulfil the figure of the snake on the pole held up by Moses to offer a means of redemption to those Israelites suffering snake bites during a plague against their disobedience as they wandered the desert toward the land of Israel (Bamidbar [Num.] 21:8-9; John 3:14-15).
We note that the previous events had taken place outside the Praetorium and that Pilate now brought Yeshua inside in order to talk to him away from the listening ears of the Jewish religious authorities.
Pilate’s question is one that seeks to find grounds for an accusation of insurrection. Anyone claiming to be a king was in direct opposition to the Roman Emperor and was therefore subject to the death penalty. Pilate had already killed Galilean Jews for similar reason (Luke 13:1). It seems clear that Pilate saw killing Yeshua as a win, win. First, he would be putting down a possible Messianic insurrection and second he would gain a large political favour from the subservient Jewish religious authorities, making his job as governor much easier (at least for a time). Of course history tells us that he did not manage to restrain himself after Yeshua’s death, and was reported to the Emperor by the Samaritans whom he had sought to decimate on Mount Gerizim in 36 C.E.
34 Yeshua[H] answered, “Are you saying this from your own soul (men nafshakh[A], alt. on your own initiative), or did others tell you about Me?” 35 Pilate (Pilatos[G]) answered, “I am not a Jew (Ioudaios[G]), am I? Your own people (ethnos[G]) and the chief priests (archiereus[G], HaKohaniym[H]) delivered You to me; what have You done?”
Yeshua knows Pilate’s motives and the influence the religious leaders have had upon him. By addressing Pilate’s own soul Yeshua’s question affords Pilate an opportunity to repent but Pilate does not take the opportunity to do so.
Pilate’s reaction to Yeshua’s words is disingenuous, he lies to both Yeshua and himself. Pilate had okayed the sending of the cohort to assist the Jewish authorities in arresting Yeshua, therefore, he is lying in his pretence regarding the delivery of Yeshua by the chief priests. Notice that Pilate says “your people”. Pilate’s character as exhibited in the history of his actions as governor of Judea tells us that he detested the Jews, Yeshua being one of them.
36 Yeshua[H] answered, “My kingdom is not of this world (ho kosmos[G], haolam[H]). If My kingdom (malchutiy[H]) were of this world (ho kosmos[G], haolam[H]), then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jewish religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]); but as it is, My kingdom (malchutiy[H]) is not from this place, not of this side (enteuthen[G]).”
Yeshua is King of all and will reign over the renewed heavens and earth, a world devoid of sin. He is not saying that He is not King over this present world, rather He is saying that His Kingdom is not of (born of, seeded by) this sin affected world. His Kingdom is of the heavens, of God Himself. Yeshua will return to reign forever. Pilate was unable to comprehend Yeshua’s response because he was deeply rooted in a kingdom of this world (the temporary Roman kingdom).
Note the Hebrew “Malchutiy” My Kingdom. It sounds familiar because it shares its root with the name of the servant of the high priest “Malchus” kingdom. The temporal and fallen kingdom of Malchus (representing the apostate priesthood. A kingdom of idolatry) was deaf to the Word of Yeshua and His Kingdom everlasting.
One Jewish commentator agrees that the Messiah is not of this world:
"the Messiah is separated from the world, because he is absolutely intellectual; but the world is corporeal; how then should the Messiah be in this world, when the world is corporeal, and ענין המשיח הוא אלהי לא גשמי, "the business of the Messiah is divine, and not corporeal?" - Rav Y’hudah Bezaleel Nizeach Israel, fol. 48.
37 Therefore Pilate (Pilatos[G]) said to Him, “So You are a king?” Yeshua[H] answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into this world (ho kosmos[G], haolam[H]), to testify, bear witness (martureo[G]) to the immutable truth (aletheia[G], haEmet[H]). Everyone who is of the immutable truth (aletheia[G], haEmet[H]) hears in My voice (phone[G], bekoliy[H]).”
“So you are a king” Pilate is hoping to confirm a legitimate reason to put Yeshua to death.
Yeshua holds Pilate accountable for his assertion “You say I am a King.” Then Yeshua proves Pilate with the words “Everyone who is of the immutable truth hears in My voice.” And Pilate confirms his true nature by saying, “What is Truth?”
38 Pilate (Pilatos[G]) said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jewish religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) and said to them, “I find no reason to punish Him.
This performance places Pilate in the ultimate position of power. He has assured himself that he has a legitimate reason to kill Yeshua based on Roman law concerning insurrection and at the same time knows he can achieve this by passing the buck onto the Jewish religious authorities thus killing two birds with one stone. Therefore, Pilate is lying when he says “I find no reason to punish Him”. Pilate had sought the reason by asking that specific question concerning Yeshua’s Kingship.
The Talmud asks the same question Pilate has asked but gives an authoritative answer:
"What is truth?" and the answer is “the living God, and the King of the World!” - Talmud Hieros Sanhedrin, fol. 18. 1.
Therefore, the better question is “Who is Truth”. God defines Truth and truth reflects the character of God.
39 But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Pesach[H] (Passover); do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews (HaMelekh HaYehudim[H])?”
This next question of Pilate which is posed to some of the Jewish religious leaders is insidious, duplicitous, he knows that the Jewish religious authorities are already enraged at the idea that Yeshua might be the King of the Jews. Added to this is the specific inference “King of the Jewish religious leaders, the Judean sect Ioudaios”. Pilate is intentionally rubbing their noses in it and provoking the result he wants. He knows that by using this title he will bait the Jewish religious authorities into choosing someone other than Yeshua to set free according to the governor’s Passover concession.
Bear in mind that there were not more than a thousand Jews present alongside the Roman cohort and Praetorium staff. By far the majority of Jews in Israel at the time were opposed to the political manipulation of the religious leaders and their plan to put Yeshua to death. The majority of Jews at the time (as testified to by the gospel narratives) if they were not certain that Yeshua was the promised Messiah, they were at least convinced He was Elijah, or the prophet Moses spoke of, or one of the other prophets, risen and active in the land. They believed this based on the miraculous signs He worked and the righteous teaching He proclaimed concerning the reconciliation of the Kingdom.
40 So they cried out again, saying, “Not this Man, but Bar-abbas[A] (Covenant son of the father/daddy).” Now Bar-abbas[A] was a robber (lestes[G]).
What a heart wrenching irony that the man set free is named Covenant Son of the Father? As well as dying as a substitution for all who would receive Him, Yeshua literally dies in place of a Jewish robber named Covenant Son of the Father.
Copyright 2020 Yaakov Brown
Philo of Alexandria, The embassy to Caligula 299-305
Pilate was an official who had been appointed prefect of Judaea. With the intention of annoying the Jews rather than of honouring Tiberius, he set up gilded shields in Herod's palace in the Holy City. They bore no figure and nothing else that was forbidden, but only the briefest possible inscription, which stated two things - the name of the dedicator and that of the person in whose honour the dedication was made.
But when the Jews at large learnt of this action, which was indeed already widely known, they chose as their spokesmen the king's [Herod the Great] four sons, who enjoyed prestige and rank equal to that of kings, his other descendants, and their own officials, and besought Pilate to undo his innovation in the shape of the shields, and not to violate their native customs, which had hitherto been invariably preserved inviolate by kings and emperors alike.
When Pilate, who was a man of inflexible, stubborn and cruel disposition, obstinately refused, they shouted: "Do not cause a revolt! Do not cause a war! Do not break the peace! Disrespect done to our ancient laws brings no honour to the emperor. Do not make Tiberius an excuse for insulting our nation. He does not want any of our traditions done away with. If you say that he does, show us some decree or letter or something of the sort, so that we may cease troubling you and appeal to our master by means of an embassy."
This last remark exasperated Pilate most of all, for he was afraid that if they really sent an embassy, they would bring accusations against the rest of his administration as well, specifying in detail his venality, his violence, his thefts, his assaults, his abusive behaviour, his frequent executions of untried prisoners, and his endless savage ferocity.
So, as he was a spiteful and angry person, he was in a serious dilemma; for he had neither the courage to remove what he had once set up, nor the desire to do anything which would please his subjects, but at the same time he was well aware of Tiberius' firmness on these matters. When the Jewish officials saw this, and realized that Pilate was regretting what he had done, although he did not wish to show it, they wrote a letter to Tiberius, pleading their case as forcibly as they could.
What words, what threats Tiberius uttered against Pilate when he read it! It would be superfluous to describe his anger, although he was not easily moved to anger, since his reaction speaks for itself.
For immediately, without even waiting until the next day, he wrote to Pilate, reproaching and rebuking him a thousand times for his new-fangled audacity and telling him to remove the shields at once and have them taken from the capital to the coastal city of Caesarea [...], to be dedicated in the temple of Augustus. This was duly done. In this way both the honour of the emperor and the traditional policy regarding Jerusalem were alike preserved.
Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War 2.169-174
Pilate, being sent by Tiberius as prefect to Judaea, introduced into Jerusalem by night and under cover the effigies of Caesar which are called standards.
This proceeding, when day broke, aroused immense excitement among the Jews; those on the spot were in consternation, considering their laws to have been trampled under foot, as those laws permit no image to be erected in the city; while the indignation of the townspeople stirred the countryfolk, who flocked together in crowds.
Hastening after Pilate to Caesarea, the Jews implored him to remove the standards from Jerusalem and to uphold the laws of their ancestors. When Pilate refused, they fell prostrate around his palace and for five whole days and nights remained motionless in that position.
On the ensuing day Pilate took his seat on his tribunal in the great stadium and summoning the multitude, with the apparent intention of answering them, gave the arranged signal to his armed soldiers to surround the Jews.
Finding themselves in a ring of troops, three deep, the Jews were struck dumb at this unexpected sight. Pilate, after threatening to cut them down, if they refused to admit Caesar's images, signalled to the soldiers to draw their swords.
Thereupon the Jews, as by concerted action, flung themselves in a body on the ground, extended their necks, and exclaimed that they were ready rather to die than to transgress the law. Overcome with astonishment at such intense religious zeal, Pilate gave orders for the immediate removal of the standards from Jerusalem.
Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.55-59
Now Pilate, the prefect of Judaea, when he brought his army from Caesarea and removed it to winter quarters in Jerusalem, took a bold step in subversion of the Jewish practices, by introducing into the city the busts of the emperor that were attached to the military standards, for our law forbids the making of images.
It was for this reason that the previous prefects, when they entered the city, used standards that had no such ornaments. Pilate was the first to bring the images into Jerusalem and set them up, doing it without the knowledge of the people, for he entered at night.
But when the people discovered it, they went in a throng to Caesarea and for many days entreated him to take away the images. He refused to yield, since to do so would be an outrage to the emperor; however, since they did not cease entreating him, on the sixth day he secretly armed and placed his troops in position, while he himself came to the speaker's stand. This had been constructed in the stadium, which provided concealment for the army that lay in wait.
When the Jews again engaged in supplication, at a pre-arranged signal he surrounded them with his soldiers and threatened to punish them at once with death if they did not put an end to their tumult and return to their own places.
But they, casting themselves prostrate and baring their throats, declared that they had gladly welcomed death rather than make bold to transgress the wise provisions of the laws. Pilate, astonished at the strength of their devotion to the laws, straightway removed the images from Jerusalem and brought them back to Caesarea.
Josephus on Pontius Pilate and the Aqueduct Riots
Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War 2.175-177
"On a later occasion he provoked a fresh uproar by expending upon the construction of an aqueduct the sacred treasure known as Corbonas; the water was brought from a distance of seventy kilometres. Indignant at this proceeding, the populace formed a ring round the tribunal of Pilate, then on a visit to Jerusalem, and besieged him with angry clamour.
He, foreseeing the tumult, had interspersed among the crowd a troop of his soldiers, armed but disguised in civilian dress, with orders not to use their swords, but to beat any rioters with cudgels. He now from his tribunal gave the agreed signal.
Large numbers of the Jews perished, some from the blows which they received, others trodden to death by their companions in the ensuing flight. Cowed by the fate of the victims, the multitude was reduced to silence."
Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.60-62
"He spent money from the sacred treasury in the construction of an aqueduct to bring water into Jerusalem, intercepting the source of the stream at a distance of thirty-five kilometres. The Jews did not acquiesce in the operations that this involved; and tens of thousands of men assembled and cried out against him, bidding him relinquish his promotion of such designs. Some too even hurled insults and abuse of the sort that a throng will commonly engage in.
He thereupon ordered a large number of soldiers to be dressed in Jewish garments, under which they carried clubs, and he sent them off this way and that, thus surrounding the Jews, whom he ordered to withdraw. When the Jews were in full torrent of abuse he gave his soldiers the prearranged signal.
They, however, inflicted much harder blows than Pilate had ordered, punishing alike both those who were rioting and those who were not. But the Jews showed no faint-heartedness; and so, caught unarmed, as they were, by men delivering a prepared attack, many of them actually were slain on the spot, while some withdrew disabled by blows. Thus ended the uprising."
© 2020 Yaakov Brown
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Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,