John 18: 12-14, 19-24
Jesus before the High Priest
So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.
The High Priest Questions Jesus
Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 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. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ 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?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’ Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
There is a second story inserted between these two passages; we will come back to Peter. The soldiers and temple police bind Jesus and lead him to Annas – who was the father-in-law of the High Priest, Caiaphas. It seems somewhat confusing – the author says that they took him to Annas, then talks about the High Priest questioning him, and then says Annas sent him on to Caiaphas, the High Priest. What is that all about? Well, essentially, it is about the political intrigue of Judea under the Romans. Annas had been high priest from CE 6 – 15, when he had been removed by the Romans. He still wielded considerable power, and retained the title of High Priest for his life-time, just as a former president is still called, “Mr. President.” Thus, when in this passage the author says the High Priest questioned Jesus, it is Annas who is doing the questioning.
Annas is seeking to trip Jesus up, make him say something that will warrant having him killed. But notice, it is the middle of the night; this is not a trial; Annas has no legal standing. When Jesus answers him, one of the police step up and slap him for answering – perhaps he thought the answer insolent. Jesus responds that if he is wrong, then testify to the wrong; but if he is right, then why had he been struck? What was the reason for the guard’s action? Following this questioning, Annas sent him to the current high priest, Caiaphas (the one who had said it was better for one man to die for Israel – in 11:47 – 53.)
I attached the Garden of Gethsemane picture, and also one of stone steps leading up to Caiaphas house, dating from the first century, perhaps the very steps the soldiers led Jesus up.