Trial Before Annas
Peter and John Follow (Matthew 26:58; Mark 14:53-54; Luke 22:54; John 18:13-16)
Even though Caiaphas was technically the High Priest, John makes it clear that this first assembly occurred at Annas’ home. Annas was High Priest years earlier, but was replaced by the Roman government. However, the High Priest is supposed to serve for life, so this caused dissension as to who was truly the High Priest. While numerous men were appointed as Annas’ replacement, he managed to get his five sons appointed as his replacements and now his son-in-law occupied the position. Though Caiaphas was the High Priest, it is apparent that Annas was the power behind the office.
Gathered at Annas’ house were the high priest, the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes. John reminds us that Caiaphas had advised the Jews to kill Jesus so that we, as readers, will realize that there wasn’t hope of a fair trial.
Peter and possibly John followed at a distance, thus avoiding arrest. John has been referring to himself in the third person. Some wonder how another fisherman from Galilee was known to the high priest and not questioned as Peter was. Because of this it is argued that another unnamed disciple is being referred to. But of course that leads to the question of why his name was avoided. Most likely it was John. Recall that John’s family had servants so they were well off and it is possible that John’s family was known to Annas. John was able to enter the home. Peter waited outside. John then came back out, having secured his privilege for being there, spoke to the doorkeeper, and got Peter permission to enter. Peter then went into the courtyard, but stayed in the lower area, near a fire and away from those actually trying Jesus.
Peter’s Denial (Matthew 26:69-70; Mark 14:66-68; Luke 22:55-58; John 18:17-18)
The doorkeeper asked Peter if he wasn’t also a disciple of Jesus. By saying “also” it appears she knew John to be a follower of Jesus. But Peter, probably wanting to remain anonymous lied and denied knowing Jesus. Mark mentions Peter leaving the courtyard to go to the porch area. He probably went there because there would be fewer people, less light there, and an easier path to escape if necessary.
Mark also mentions that a roster crowed at this time. It should have served as a warning to Peter, but he ignored it.
Later, man also thought he recognized Peter and accused him of being with Jesus. This causes some confusion as Matthew’s account states it was another servant girl who accused him the first time. Likely a man recognized Peter and reported it to one of the servants, who then came to charge Peter a second time. Thus both accounts would agree, just the focus of the details are different. Peter again denied being a follower of Jesus.
Jesus Examined by Annas (John 18:19-23)
Annas began asking Jesus about his teachings and who were his disciples. It is obvious that Annas was fishing for evidence to bring a charge against Jesus. He also wanted a list of his disciples so they too could be tried. But Jesus pointed out that all his teachings had been in the open where they and other Jews could have heard, so if Annas wanted to know what he taught or who was with him he could ask those among their own number who witnessed these events.
This actually violated Jewish law since Annas and those present are members of the Sanhedrin and judges of any charges against Jesus. Judges are to listen to evidence, not to find things to charge a person with doing. In addition, Jewish law did not allow self-incrimination, though they were attempting to avoid this by not yet officially holding trial. That they were meeting at night in a private home and not openly also shows the corruption of these men. This stands in contrast to Jesus’ statement of teaching openly.
One of the officers took offense to Jesus’ reply. Though Jesus had answered the High Priest, because he did not give the answer sought and implied that the High Priest was violating the law the guard struck the defendant who was not even charged with a crime. This too violated Jewish law. Jesus told the officer that if he had a charge to bring against him, he should say so and not strike him.
Having failed to get the evidence he wanted, Annas sent Jesus to Caiaphas’ for trial.
Peter’s Final Denials (Matthew 26:71-75; Mark 14:69-72; Luke 22:59-62; John 18:25-27)
The questioning at Annas appears to have lasted about an hour. Near the end, another man was certain he recognized Peter being in the company of Jesus. He was a relative of Malchus and thus had an interest in seeing this particular disciple punished. He even pointed out that Peter was a Galilean and all knew that Jesus was from Galilee. His speech also gave him away, either by his accent or it is likely that Peter did not talk as most did with curse words punctuating his sentences. As Peter flatly denied even knowing what the man was talking about and cursing to show that his speech wasn’t different from anyone else, the rooster crowed the second time to announce the dawn.
Jesus simply turned and looked at Peter. It reminded Peter of all his claims of never forsaking Jesus and Jesus’ prophecy that he would deny him three times before dawn. Ashamed, Peter fled in tears.