We start out with the conclusion of the victim speech from the last chapter. (God needs a better editor.) Then Jesus continues on his soapbox, talking about the holy spirit again. It’s just meaningless babble to me – nonspecific promises about intangible rewards and no evidence for any of it.
After that (v 16), Jesus plays the ‘now you see me, now you don’t’ game again. Why can’t he just explain what he means? Why all the doublespeak? In v 23-24 he again promises unlimited rewards. Why don’t believers see how impossible (and how testable) this is? And there’s just nothing else to say about this chapter – it’s devoid of any meaningful content.
Jesus prays, just as he prayed in all the other gospels before his trial and crucifixion. But in John, it’s quite a different prayer. No Garden of Gethsemane, no disciples with him, no regrets or appeal for god to take the cup of suffering away (Mark 14:36). Nope, John’s Jesus is a superhero, a man on a mission. Bring it on!
To me the whole prayer is just blah blah blah, but I’ll point out a few verses that stuck out when I read them. He’s pretty smug and self-focused (v 3-5). He only prays for his own followers, and to heck with the rest of the world (v 9). V 12 refers to fulfilled scripture regarding Judas’ betrayal, but there is no OT scripture cited, not in the SAB nor my annotated NLT, and not in my apologist commentary either. Fail! Then there’s a rehash of ‘the world hates us’ (v 14-16), followed by a prayer that Jesus’ future followers will be united (v 21-23) – fail! Yada yada yada to the end.
Speeches are over, folks. We’re back to comparing gospels. Remember, this last section is the one that has $1000 challenge from Dan Barker resting on it. Be the first person to reconcile all the different accounts into a feasible narrative and collect your prize!
So here goes. It seems that Jesus and his disciples are now in the Garden of Gethsemane, so we’re back on track with the other gospel accounts. V 3 just isn’t plausible to me – chief priests, Pharisees, and Roman soldiers cooperating with each other? But let’s move along. John’s SuperJesus doesn’t need anyone to identify him with a kiss; he steps right up to the plate and not only owns his identity, asks that his disciples be released, and lets all the responsibility fall to himself (v 4-8). Then Simon Peter slashes off the ear of the high priest’s slave – oops, no, it was an anonymous disciple, or possibly just a bystander (Mark 14:47, Matthew 26:51; Luke 22:50). Then Jesus is hauled away to Annas, although every other gospel says he was taken directly to Caiaphas.
Now we get to the scene where Peter denies Jesus. I’m just not going there again. How many times did that stupid cock crow? Did the cock crow before or after Peter denied Jesus? To whom did Peter deny Jesus? It’s a nightmare – all the details are different in every gospel. Start comparing them if you want to drive yourself crazy.
Next, Jesus appears before the religious council. Interesting that in the other gospels he gives vague, evasive answers to the accusations, or remains silent altogether. But not in John! SuperJesus just can’t stop talking, and he’s bold and defiant (v 19-23).
The chapter ends with the trial before Pilate. John gives a brief account of it, with Jesus totally in control and doing most of the talking (again, unlike all the other gospels). Pilate comes across as a benevolent, patient man (v 37-38) – but the history books show that he was cruel and ruthless, casting doubt on this account. And lastly – that well-known tradition of releasing one prisoner each year at Passover (mentioned in all the gospels) – there’s no historical record of any such policy, and it’s kind of laughable given the government in question, no? And Barabbas – there is no historical evidence of any such real person, and the name is a play on words (it means ‘son of the father’ in Aramaic). So was the story of his release just a literary device, some kind of symbolism? If you reread Leviticus 16, the parallels become obvious – in the OT there are 2 goats; one dies as a sin offering, the other is released. And in the NT, there are 2 guys, one is the Son of the Father, and the other’s name means ‘son of the father’; one dies as a sin offering, and the other is released. Hmmmm.
These are just a few more fascinating insights into all the implausibilities and contradictions in the life of Jesus, I found in David Fitzgerald‘s book Nailed. I highly recommend it. You’ll also find him discussing the subject on YouTube.