Peter’s Denial

While Jesus is in the high priest’s house being interrogated, Peter and another disciple have followed from a distance. This other disciple seems to be known by the servants of the high priest, since he arranges for Peter to be allowed into the courtyard. This “other disciple” could be the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” the apostle John. That is the simplest answer, but it is strange that John would not identify himself as the eyewitness to this sequence of events.

Peter's DenialIn addition, some find it odd that a Galilean fisherman would have access to the courtyard of the high priest and be known by the servants. One suggestion is that John is not a laborer, but rather a wealthy owner of a fishing business. He may have delivered fish to the high priest’s home in the past and had access to the grounds.

Peter has an opportunity at this point to speak up and declare his loyalty to Jesus, but does not (John 18:15-18). The girl who asks him if he was a follower of Jesus is a young girl using a diminutive form of the word for servant (παιδίσκη). The fact that Peter swears he does not know Jesus when confronted by a young girl stands in contrast to his words at the last supper and his attempt to defend Jesus in the Garden.

Peter denies his Lord twice more while warming by a fire himself in the courtyard (18:25-27). The third denial was to a relative of the man Peter had attacked in the garden! Perhaps Peter knew this and he feared that he would be arrested as well. Regardless, he wastes no time in denying that he was a follower of Jesus.

Immediately he heard the crow of a rooster and the words of Jesus at the last supper were fulfilled. It has only been a few hours since Peter swore loyalty to Jesus, and even less time since he pathetically tried to defend Jesus in the Garden. Yet while Jesus was inside bearing witness to the truth before the highest Jewish and Gentile authorities, Peter was on the outside denying that he even knew the man.

It is easy to relate to Peter as the “silent bystander” who witnessed a crime and said nothing. It is actually a bit worse than that in Peter’s case because he not only was silent, he contributed to Jesus; isolation by denying him three times. I have pointed out that Peter is perhaps the most faithful of the disciples since he was at least there – but when the moment for him to bear witness to his Lord he failed.

We have an advantage over Peter, we serve a risen Savior, we know how the story ended and that Jesus did in fact have victory over sin and death. We have the promised Holy Spirit to strengthen us and to enable us to stand up to persecution.

This is why our silent denials are even more scandalous than Peter’s.

11 thoughts on “Peter’s Denial

  1. Wow that’s powerfully convicting. Recently I have been working on an expository sermon centered around recognizing the Spirit of Truth from the spirit of falsehood and I touched a bit on the fact that we ignore the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. The last sentence of your blog is exactly the reasons why we can not ignore the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives. I know I am straying from the topic a little bit, but I find it interesting to look at the shift of Peter from himself without the Holy Spirit to himself with the Holy Spirit. They are two totally different people, honestly. Peter was cowardly and defensive without the Holy Spirit and wouldn’t even stand up for Jesus after telling Him explicitly that He would. Afterwards, however, Peter goes on to birth the Church and courageous defend the faith again and again. It’s incredible to see this shift happen in Peter’s life, but also that of the other followers of Jesus. In a song by Twenty One Pilots, called Ode to Sleep, the singers remark, “I asked forgiveness three times, the same number that I denied.” Every time I listen to that song I think of this story of Peter’s denial and how later on in the Gospel of John, Jesus reinstates Peter by asking him three times “Do you love me” (John 21:15-18). It’s a paralleling I think John is trying to get us as readers to reflect on and consider. I too have denied Christ many more times than I want to think of, but the powerful part is there is forgiveness and love when we turn back to Him. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us and strengthen us, so why should we be silent? I want to be like Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit and boldly following Christ.

  2. It is very easy to look at Peter and think that he had little faith because he denied Jesus. We sometimes even think, “If I were Peter, I wouldn’t have denied Jesus”. But the reality of this is that Peter had full confidence that he wasn’t going to betray Jesus. In fact, Matthew 26:35 says, “But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same” (NIV). He had the right mindset but he didn’t have the power to carry this out when persecution came his way. All of the disciples agreed with Peter and they were not even found by the crowd because they were hiding. I do agree that we have advantage over Peter because we serve a risen Savior. Now that we have the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we can be strengthened in times like these. This is proven because Peter didn’t have the strength to admit he knew Jesus, but after he received the Holy Spirit he did great works for him. In Acts, Peter is found preaching to a crowd and proclaiming the name of Jesus. Acts 2:38 says, “Peter replied, ‘each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (NIV). After this preaching, about 3,000 of those who believed Peter were baptized and added to the church.

  3. I would have to agree with your statement that our silent denials are even more scandalous than Peter’s. Often the people in the church, and myself included, will ask “How in the world could Peter deny Jesus? I would never deny Jesus”. What does a denial of Jesus look like in the church today? Is it hiding the fact that you are a Christian to some people? Is it committing a sin when you know that it is wrong an example of denying Jesus? Though our sin does not separate us from God or his love (Romans 8:39), it is still an act of denying our savior. The Holy Spirit has been granted to the believer to strengthen him in the time of temptation, and to show him a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). Sin is a silent declaration that we choose the world over choosing freedom in Jesus. Instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to comfort us, we allow the world to comfort us. So, before we start to question why in the world Peter would ever deny Jesus, we need to start asking the question why do we deny Jesus.

  4. Peter’s denial gave him faith. He remembers the words of Jesus. They echo in his mind after the rooster crows. Peter’s faith had to have been made strong after being a vessel that fulfilled Jesus’ word. How can we just assume Peter is this liar for denying Christ? John the Baptist, the man who baptized Jesus, the cousin of Jesus, the one living out his faith questions whether or not Jesus is really the Messiah (Luke 7:20). I think of my own life and when those times of doubt happen there is always a period of strengthened faith afterwards. With out that strengthening and with out that denial would Peter have ever been who he turned out to be.

  5. I always think of a kid going to an amusement park on the ride there he or she will always brag saying that they will ride the biggest roller coaster in the park, and that they aren’t scared at all. Then once they get there and they see the roller coaster they get scared and go for the kiddie roller coaster instead. It’s like with Peter too, it is easy to talk big when you have nothing to be challenged with, and when you do things are different and you sort of back up on what you said. In agreeing with your last sentence, we shouldn’t be afraid to speak up about Jesus. I know it was different with Peter, because all Peter knew is that Jesus was dying and he had no clue that Jesus was going to rise up from the dead in three days; along with Peter being next in line to die if he confesses about being loyal to Jesus. For us we know the end of the story, we know what is going to happen, and so in agreeing with you our silence/denial is bigger and worse than Peter’s denial.

  6. “Jesus’ resurrection went hand in hand with his preaching of the kingdom of God. The arrival of God’s kingdom meant that the last days had begun and that God was about to intervene in human history to judge the righteous and the wicked” (Strauss, 522). Jesus’ death and resurrection proclaimed the reign of God’s kingdom, of victory over sin, death, and darkness in the world. Peter did not know the risen Lord yet. Therefore, like you said his denial is significant but maybe not as significant as ours is, as we know the risen Lord. Jesus Himself says in Luke 12:48, “to whom much is given, much is expected.” We have been given a wealth of knowledge of what our Lord has already accomplished and the victory we have in Christ. I think that because of this we are held to a higher standard when asked about our Lord and His dominion and rulership on over the earth.

  7. This is a very eye opening blog. When we look at the story of Peter and how he denied Jesus three times, we look down on him. But like P. Long said, today we have it much easier because Jesus has defeated death on the cross and has proven to be who he is. Yet, we still have a hard time witnessing to other people about him. Much like Peter, a lot of us today find it hard to do something once we are challenged to do it. We can talk and say that will do things, and then end up not doing what was requested from God.

  8. Peter’s denial is just one of the many examples throughout the new testament that modern Christians scoff at. In John 14, Philip tells Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus becomes frustrated and answers, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” We have the full word of God, and are so ignorant to recognize even the most obvious traits of our Lord. On a daily basis we are silent bystanders, and we ought to think more about how every time we “stay silent”, we are rejecting God.

  9. A couple things come to mind. I’ve never heard of the proposition of John being a wealthy fishing business owner. Also, I’ve never really reflected on the fact that our silent denials are more disgraceful than Peter’s. We don’t really have an excuse, the story has been written. “He contributed to Jesus’ isolation by denying him three times”. That makes me assert the viewpoint that Jesus was fully human and fully alone taking up the cross. He didn’t have the strong support group backing up his responses to the chief priests or anything like that. It’s super hard to have a good “meaty” blog post on this subject.

  10. It is so easy to become very prideful reading this passage about Peter denying Jesus and thanking God that I am not Peter, but the intention of this passage was to show that I can be like Peter. I am like Peter. Peter, like every human, falls short of the glory of God, and needs forgiveness. Peter was an amazing apostle and disciple of Jesus that stood by his side during His ministry, but he was not perfect and still committed the same sins that people commit today. Instead of looking at this passage with pride and thinking that Peter was a terrible disciple of Jesus, the passage points us to the saving work of Jesus. “But God being rich in mercy, because of the great with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2: 4, 5

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