Summary: Jesus and Peter are being questioned simultaneously after Jesus' Arrest and Peter's triple denial is recorded by John's eyewitness account.
“Simultaneous Interrogations” John 18:12-27
We closed our last study with John 18:12: “Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him.” (There really was no need to bind Jesus; He had given no resistance but here we see the Christ, who had immeasurable omnipotent sovereignty at His disposal, going willingly where the Father wanted Him to go.) 13 And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year. 14 Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.”
Jesus’ first interrogation is by Annas, a High Priest who had been deposed by the Romans, but was still known by this title among the Jews. The proceedings here were marked by irregularities and violations of Jewish law. First of all, they should not have met at night. Second, the death penalty (which would be declared shortly) could not to be declared on the day of the trial. Third, false evidence and false witnesses were utilized. Fourth, Jesus received corporal blows during the trial/hearing. It was also illegal for the Sanhedrin to meet for a capital case on the eve of a Sabbath or feast day. All these things demonstrate the injustice and hypocrisy of the Jewish authorities which made Jesus’ condemnation a travesty of justice.
Verse 14 is referring to Caiaphas’ accurate but unknowing prophecy which he proclaimed in John 11:50: “It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish." He suggested that executing an innocent man may be excused if it secured an advantage for the nation. Little did Caiaphas realized that in his words, the purposes of God were being stated, and that the death of Jesus was expedient for the salvation, not only of the Jews, but for the elect of the entire world. Now his “prophecy” would be fulfilled in our Savior’s death on the Cross.
Peter Questioned and Denied
Look at verse15: “And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple (probably John) was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest. 16 But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in. 17 Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, "You are not also one of this Man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not." 18 Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself.”
There are simultaneous interrogations going on in this part of our text. Jesus is being interrogated by the high priest concerning His teaching, and Peter is being questioned, not by a high official or religious leader, but by a slave girl, concerning His relationship with Jesus. Her question is posed in a way that prompts a negative response, but Peter was not under pressure to deny Jesus; as a matter of fact, Peter denies knowing Jesus to a slave girl, who is the least threatening of all people. Yet when the girl asks: “You are not also one of this Man's disciples, are you?" Peter answers emphatically, "I am not."
While Peter is having this conversation and being warmed by the fire with the servants and officers, Jesus is still bound and speaking to Annas in verses19-24:
Jesus before Annas
“The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine. 20 Jesus answered him, "I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. 21 Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said." 22 And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, "Do You answer the high priest like that?" 23 Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?" 24 Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.”
Here Jesus is being questioned by Annas without the testimony of witnesses who will attest to Jesus’ guilt, and yet Jesus remains bound and assumed guilty without establishing a presumption of guilt. This was highly irregular conduct by the religious leaders.
It is not surprising that Annas begins his interrogation by asking Jesus about His disciples. The Jewish political and religious leaders were always concerned about public opinion and success in the eyes of others and so his line of questioning hints to Jesus’ success among His followers, and not first of all to the content of His teaching.