"Come and See": A Web Commentary on the Gospel of John: Section 13. The Passion, Death, and Burial of Jesus (Jn 18.1-19.42)


In his 1892 study of the historic Jesus and the gospels, the German scholar Martin Kähler wrote, "To state the matter somewhat provocatively , one could call the Gospels passion narratives with extended introductions."1 This is an exaggeration, of course: although the "passion narratives" are a significant part of each gospel, the remaining stories and sayings amount to far more than introductions to the sections describing Jesus' passion, however extended. But it does underline for us the great importance of the stories of Jesus' passion in the gospels.

John is no exception to this. His passion narrative involves important thematic elements found elsewhere in his gospel and yet clearly draws on traditions about Jesus' passion that were used by the other evangelists as well. Here in this section of the gospel we see John's account of the events on that terrible night and morning when Jesus was arrested, held for questioning, and sent to Pilate for trial. John's account of the events supports Bauckham's argument that John should be read as correcting and supplementing Mark (see Bauckham, "Readers" and comments on Jn 3.24 and 11.2). Those among the gospel audience who had also read Mark would perceive an extra layer in John, because they would see how John incorporated corrections and supplementary traditions to Mark in his work. Bauckham calls attention to certain verses in John which, he argues, constitute signposts or pointers for readers of Mark now encountering John.

Among these verses is one that is part of the present section, Jn 18.24. As Bauckham has written, "for the most part (not, as we shall see, in every detail) readers/hearers of John who were already familiar with Mark could easily have read the two narratives as complementary" (Bauckham, "Readers", p 155). John had parted company altogether with Mark after the entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11.1-11/John 12.12-19). Not until John 18.24 do the two accounts begin to come together again: from that point on, John rejoins Mark (at Mark 14.53) to continue narrating the events of the trial of Jesus. But between the entry into Jerusalem and this point, John is either correcting the chronology of Mark (eg, by leaving out the cleansing of the Temple, which he has already redated to the start of Jesus' ministry, in the gap between Mark 1.13 and 1.14) or complementing his account with information Mark does not provide, such as the teaching component of the Last Supper, a fuller description of the location of Gethsemane, or Jesus' examination before Annas.

If read in conjunction with Mark's account of the same period of time, the corrections and complements will become clear and a composite picture will emerge, which could be compared with the accounts of Matthew and Luke, who likely knew only Mark (Luke seems to have known some traditions also available to the Fourth Evangelist, rather than the Gospel of John itself).

Interestingly John retains Mark's stylistic bracketing (the so-called 'Markan sandwich') of Peter's denial (in Jn 18.15-18 and 18.25-27) around the account of Annas' questioning of Jesus (Jn 18.19-24). Mark himself positions Peter in the high priest's courtyard in Mk 14.53-4, relates Jesus' questioning before the high priest in vv55-65, and then completes Peter's story in vv66-72. John does not normally use this pattern, but he follows it here, probably to make it easier for readers of Mark coming to read John to recognise that the accounts rejoin at Jn 18.24.

Return to the Outline

Return to the opening menu.

1 The So-called Historical Jesus and the Historic, Biblical Christ, trans and ed Carl Braaten (Fortress Press, c1964), 80 n 11.