Jesus Restores: Peter’s Denial (Part 2)
Peter faithfully followed Jesus as they fished for men.
Jesus was in the process of being arrested when Peter remembered the words he shared with Jesus earlier that day, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33)
Of course Jesus replied to these comments saying, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:34)
In this moment Peter is ready and willing to fight for Jesus, and if necessary to die with Jesus. The text says, “Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear.” (John 18:10)
First of all, the ear? Really Peter? Clearly you are a fisherman and have no military training. Awful aim.
But Jesus rebukes and disarms Peter with these words, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11)
In the Gospel of Luke we see that Jesus actually heals the soldiers ear, and it would seem this miracle keeps Peter from being arrested.
Peter and John followed Jesus and the arresting party to the house of the high priest.
The family of John had some kind of connections with the high priest which allowed John to go inside while Peter had to wait outside the door.
“The other disciple (John), who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in. ‘You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?’ she asked Peter. He replied, ‘I am not.’” (John 18:16-17)
Here we see the first denial of Peter. This may have been a very quick rebuttal that was simply centered on not being stopped at the gate.
The first person Peter lies to is of low stature. She is identified as “a servant girl,” which means position, gender, and youth are all working against her in light of the cultural setting.
It is important that we visualize the scene where this takes place before we cover the next two denials.
It is likely that Jesus is standing on a balcony with his back turned to the courtyard as he faces his accusers.
We know from the text that, “It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.” (John 18:18)
The fire pictured in this story will be important in a future blog post, but for now lets visualize them all standing around the fire looking up at Jesus.
We are told that Jesus, was answering questions when, “one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face.” (John 18:22)
While those in the courtyard may not have been able to hear the questions and follow the interrogation, they would’ve known by Jesus getting slapped that it wasn’t going well for him.
Maybe it is at this point that Peter starts to understand the stakes.
We must remember that what Peter is about to do is quite possibly what any one of us would do in a similar situation. When following Jesus might cost us everything, including our life, would we proclaim that we follow Jesus?
Let us not quickly judge Peter for his lack of faith, when we aren’t even sure how we would respond being placed in a similar situation.
John 18:25-27: Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.
Peter’s third denial is also recorded this way, “Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!’ Immediately a rooster crowed.” (Matthew 26:74)
This is the equivalent of Peter saying God can curse him if he is lying.
And of course we know that Peter is lying.
This is why Peter is so incredibly broken when he hears the rooster crow and remembers the words of Jesus from just earlier that day.
The Gospel of Mark says that Peter, “broke down and wept.” (Mark 14:72)
The Gospel of Luke may contain the most haunting record of Peter’s denial, it says that after the third denial of Peter, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” (Luke 22:61)
Remember, Peter is looking up at the balcony at the back of Jesus, and as soon as the rooster crows Jesus looks at him. How painful for Peter to have Jesus staring at him in his most shameful moment. In a moment where he just called a curse upon himself if he was lying. Then the Gospel of Luke agrees with Mark when saying, “he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:62)
And this is where we are left; Jesus is heading to the cross, and his disciples are going into hiding.
They are in fear, and in the case of Peter, there is deep shame and guilt. Peter said he would die with Jesus, and now he finds himself in a place where he has valued preservation over proclamation.
In the next post we will see a foot race, scared disciples, and a frustrated step backwards. Stay tuned.