Denials, John 18:15-27, 25 August 2013

Big Idea: We are all capable of heinous acts, but by the grace of God.

The biography of Jesus by His close friend, John, brings us to the final hours of the life of Christ before the crucifixion. Last week we studied the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Now the focus will include Peter.


Peter is one of the dominant figures in the Gospels, the good news accounts of Jesus. Jesus’ inner circle consisted of John, James, and Peter. Simon Peter was a fisherman who walked with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee. He was never shy about speaking his mind or expressing his emotions as he did in last week’s text by cutting the ear off a slave in the midst of Jesus’ arrest. We are about to see another famous—or infamous— episode featuring Peter.

Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

Who is “the other disciple?” John. He got Peter a backstage pass!

It was early in the morning. There was a fire. It is dark (remember, this is before electricity!). The servant girl recognized Peter as being from Galilee.

“You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.

He replied, “I am not.”

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. (18)

Now the scene shifts from Peter to Jesus.

Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. (19)

“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” (20-21)

Jesus was asking why they questioned His public ministry.

When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

The violence has begun. Actually, it began in the garden with Peter cutting off the ear of Malchus.

What would you do if someone slapped you in the face? Notice what Jesus does. He is under complete control. In the midst of injustice, He is calm and non-violent. What a powerful example for us when we were mistreated or persecuted.

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. (23-24)

No trial is to begin or end at night. They are breaking their own law. Since Caiaphas is not presiding here, this is more like a police interrogation than an actual trial. Annas is here as a witness in case Jesus does say something incriminating.

The probing of Jesus by Annas is obviously unsuccessful which is why He is sent to Caiaphas.

Now we go back to Peter.

Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?” (25)

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. (26-27)

I doubt Peter ever heard a sound as horrifying as that rooster, between 3 and 5 in the morning. If you recall, several chapters ago Jesus predicted this very event.

Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! (John 13:38)

Jesus stands up to those that question Him and denies nothing.

Peter cowers in the face of those that question him and denies everything.

Jesus tells the truth. Peter tells lies.

So What?

Can you imagine denying Jesus? Can you imagine denying Him three times?

It’s easy to criticize Peter for abandoning his best friend during His hour of greatest need. What was he thinking?

I’ve had similar thoughts about Adam and Eve. One rule! One, simple rule! Avoid one tree’s fruit! When I was a child, my least-favorite chore was pulling weeds. On hot, summer days while my friends were playing or swimming I would silently curse Adam and Eve for their sin that resulted in weeds I had to pull!

But I would do the same thing.

Sin is common to all of us. We are born with it. Contrary to some naive authors, children are not born good. That’s why their first word is usually, “No!”

We all sin. Listen to what the writer of the Gospel of John said later…

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

This is why we need grace. This is why Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested and killed…in order to offer us forgiveness and grace, unmerited favor.

Maybe you think you’ve screwed up, big time. You’re in good company! Peter denied Jesus three times…and became the first Pope and one of the greatest Christians in history. Another guy, Saul, was in charge of murdering some of the first Christians…and wrote much of the New Testament after He encountered Jesus and became Paul.

Nothing you can do can make God love you more.
Nothing you can do can make God love you less.

Every day we make choices. Every day we choose to follow God or the world. Every day we face temptations that lead us to God or away from Him. What will you choose?


Reflection Time

What is God saying to you?
What are you going to do about it?

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