Friday, November 21, 2008
The Trial (John 18:19-24)
Note: I have intentionally skipped verses 15-18 for now. I'll come back to them next week.
19 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.
Even though Annas was not actually serving as the high priest that year, St. John still refers to him by that title, because he had once held it (in the same way that we still refer to former presidents as “President Reagan,” “President Clinton,” etc.).
Annas opens the hearing by asking Jesus “about His disciples and His doctrine.” In doing so, he was not seeking information, for he already knew very well exactly what Jesus had been teaching, and who his disciples were. Rather, Annas was hoping to bait Jesus into saying something inflammatory or blasphemous, so that he could be quickly condemned. In Fr. Farley’s words, “he was looking for ammunition to use against Jesus” (306). Perhaps Jesus might say something that the Romans might see as treasonous.
But Jesus refuses to play the game. He instead points out what he knows that Annas already knows: He had spoken openly; his teaching had been public. Everyone knew the essence of his message (even if few fully understood it!). There was no need for Jesus to repeat it. If Annas would like a refresher course, let him ask those who had heard Jesus! And Jesus’ public teaching did not contain any talk of overthrowing Rome. In short, Jesus had no secret plans or hidden agendas.
As Fr. Farley states, “Such upfront and forthright refusal to be bullied did not go down well. It was hoped that a private interrogation before Annas, the power behind the Temple authorites, would cow the Nazarene or at least provoke Him into making some ill-advised reply. But Jesus was refusing to be bullied” (307). And, as a result of Jesus’ boldness of speech, one of the attendants slapped him across the face (Imagine the blasphemy involved in this act! Clearly he knew not what he did). Those who speak the truth often have to suffer for it.
The attendant “accuses Jesus of being disrespectful and insubordinate. It is ever thus. A bully cannot abide being stood up to” (Farley, 307).
Note Jesus’ reaction. He refuses to be intimidated. “Though slapped in hostility, He does not retaliate in anger, nor respond with hostility. He maintains His inner peace and composure and simply says, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, witness to the wrong, but if I have spoken well, why do you beat me?’ That is, he calls the erring attendant to account and challenges him to repent” (Farley, 307).
This is also how we should react to those who mistreat us.
Finally, Annas gives up, sending him to Caiaphas and the whole Sanhedrin. Perhaps they will have better luck in finding a way to condemn Jesus.