Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991.
“IV. Jesus’ Self-Disclosure in His Cross and Exaltation (13:1-20:31)” “E. The Trial and Passion of Jesus (18:1-19:42)” pp. 571-631.
Carson notes that all the Gospels push directly to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Scholars debate a relationship between John’s account and that of the Synoptics. Carson assumes that John was familiar with at least one of the Synoptics. However, he was not directly dependent on it (Carson 1991, 571). Though the differences are significant there is no reason to find them as contradictory. Carson discusses several areas in which commentators have attempted to create insurmountable challenges.
In John 18:1-11 Jesus is arrested (Carson 1991, 576). Jesus and his disciples have gone to an olive grove, well known to them. A large force of soldiers, possibly up to 600, but maybe smaller, more like 200, guided by Judas, came on the manhunt (Carson 1991, 577). When Jesus identified himself to the arrest party they fell back. Carson finds few adequate explanations for the situation (Carson 1991, 578).
Jesus is tried before Annas and then sent to Caiaphas. Carson notes that Annas had previously held the high priesthood but was removed and replaced by the Roman governor (Carson 1991, 580). During the trial, Peter, in the courtyard, denies knowing Jesus (Carson 1991, 581). By the end of verse 24, the interrogation of Jesus is complete. Jesus does not give much information but he does say his teaching is public (Carson 1991, 584). Meanwhile, Peter has continued to deny Jesus (Carson 1991, 586).
In John 18:28-19:16 Jesus is tried before Pilate, the Roman governor (Carson 1991, 587). Carson notes that it is difficulut to explain John’s knowledge of what happened inside Pilate’s court. He considers it entirely possible that Jesus may have given some details after the resurrection. It is also possible that John would have consulted the public records which were kept but have mostly been lost since the first century.
The Jewish leaders would not enter Pilate’s quarters. This would have incurred uncleanness and interfered with the Passover. Carson considers this situation and also the apparent discrepancy between John’s account and that of the Synoptics (Carson 1991, 589). Carson’s conclusion is that the Jews were considering the entire Feast of Unleavened Bread as part of Passover. The Jews expected that Pilate would go ahead with their plan to execute Jesus. Yet in verse 31 Pilate refused them, possibly simply to antagonize them (Carson 1991, 591). Yet, when Pilate questions Jesus, Jesus pushes him to make a conclusion. Is Jesus the king of the Jews? (Carson 1991, 593). By verse 36, Jesus is helping Pilate see that he is a king, over Pilate, but not of an earthly kingdom (Carson 1991, 594). Pilate is not eady to recognize this, so he calls off the interrogation (Carson 1991, 595).
After the crowd refuses to have Jesus released, John 19 begins with Jesus’ sentenceing. Jesus is mocked and beaten. Carson discusses the different types of flogging that Romans practiced. He does not have a clear opinion of which penalty was given (Carson 1991, 597). In 19:4-5 Pilate again presents Jesus to the people as a pathetic figure. Carson notes that Pilate’s mockery of the Sanhedrin is biting. Jesus doesn’t seem to be any sort of threat at this time (Carson 1991, 598). The response of the Jewish leaders is that Jesus claimed to be God’s son. This, Carson notes, creates fear in Pilate (Carson 1991, 600). If Jesus is divine in any sense, Pilate should fear for his life. He seeks relief by questioning Jesus more. Jesus eventually explains, in brief. Carson notes that Jesus shows that none of the events have happened apart from God’s authority. The person who turned Jesus over to Pilate was more guilty than Pilate. Humans are therefore responsible for sin in this event, though their sin accomplishes God’s purpose (Carson 1991, 601). Finally, Pilate tries to rescue Jesus and the Jewish leaders claim their allegiance to Caesar. It is an odd world (Carson 1991, 603).
Carson here considers the inconsistency about the date of the Passover and the crucifixion. This is in response to the “preparation” of John 19:14. Carson’s conclusion is that the accounts of John and Mark do conflict but for understandable reasons of approximation and emphasis (Carson 1991, 605). Pilate speaks mockingly about Jesus as the king. The chief priests react by denying any king but Jesus (Carson 1991, 606). John presents the incidnt as yet another time that people speak the truth in ignorance.
In John 19:16-30 Jesus is crucified. Carson observes that John gives several details which are not found in the Synoptic Gospels (Carson 1991, 608). He considers the route of the procession, possible locations of Calvary, and the actual logistics of a crucifixion (Carson 1991, 610). Pilate’s work with the sign agove Jesus continues to antagonize the chief priests (Carson 1991, 611). At the same time, it proclaims God’s glory to the whole world. At this point, Carson notes John’s move to explain the fulfillment of Scriptures, something John has rarely done (Carson 1991, 612). Finally, Jesus is crucified with a small band of witnesses (Carson 1991, 615). Among the witnesses Carson finds John and Mary, who becomes the ward of John (Carson 1991, 617). While numerous attempts have been made to establish symbolic meanings of the various events, Carson finds them tenuous at best. In 19:30, Jesus gives up his life. Carson reminds the reader that nobody took his life from him (Carson 1991, 621).
In John 19:31ff, the Roman soldiers, in light of the important upcoming Sabbath, break the legs of the criminals to hasten death. Jesus, appearing dead, is pierced witha spear, verifying his death (Carson 1991, 623). Carson sees John’s emphasis on the reality of Jesus’ death, rather than on the means. Various explanations of possible symbolism of the blood and water are less than compelling (Carson 1991, 624). Carson raises the question of the identity of “this” person, the truthful eyewitness to the events. There has been considerable debate of the identity. Carson concludes that it would appear to refer to the Evangelist John (Carson 1991, 626). The symbolism of verse 36 and none of Jesus’ bones being broken may be based on several Old Tstament passages (Carson 1991, 627). Many events in this passage happen for the stated purpose of fulfilling Scripture.
In John 19:38-42 Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both members of the Sanhedrin, obtain the body of Jesus and prepare it for burial. Carson notes the large amount of spice was not out of accord with other recorded first century burials. Jesus was laid in a new tomb in a nearby garden (Carson 1991, 630). Carson does think the location is very likely that pinpointed today by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Carson 1991, 631). This ends the account of the death of Christ.