Good Book Club: John 18:15-40
15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. 17 The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.
19 Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20 Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22 When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
28 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” 32 (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. 39 But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 40 They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.
I am happy to write to you from St. John’s Cathedral Church in Albuquerque. Members of St. John’s advocate for the hungry and the needy in downtown ABQ in the name of the "undefended Jesus." Joanne Gray
The high priest questions Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. "Ask those who heard me," Jesus answers, but no one speaks up. The undefended Jesus—defender of the poor, the outcasts—says nothing in his own defense.
Peter, ill at ease in the high priest’s courtyard, huddles with others around a charcoal fire. Disoriented, Peter is afraid for his master and for himself. Questioned, Peter insists he does not know Jesus. Three times he does this! Then Peter spies Jesus being led away. Their eyes meet… then Jesus is gone. Was it the pungent charcoal smoke that made Peter tear up? He stumbles away from the warmth and light into the utter darkness of self-loathing. Has any one of us not been there?
Jesus stands before the Roman procurator. Pilate’s tentative question, "Are you the King of the Jews?" is answered with: "Do you ask this on your own or did others tell you about me?" Pilate asks directly: "What have you done?" Jesus’s answer is enigmatic. He seems a harmless dreamer. Pilate asks the crowd. Many in the crowd do know what Jesus has done: healed them, fed them, taught them. They do not defend him but speak the words that condemn Jesus to death.
This story ends in death and despair. But watch for it… a whiff of smoke from a charcoal fire, a living Lord… there is hope—for Peter and for us!