“Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.” (John 18:15–18, ESV)
“Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.” (John 18:25–27, ESV)
In the last post we looked at Jesus’ arrest and Him being initially taken to Annas, as former and still powerful high priest and father-in-law of the current high priest, Caiaphas. Annas made no headway with Jesus, and he ordered Jesus to be taken to the current high priest, Annas. While all of this was going on John gives us a snapshot of what was going on around the edges. He wrote that Simon Peter and another disciple (presumed to be John himself who consistently referred to himself in the third person) followed Jesus upon His arrest. He wrote that this other disciple was known to the high priest, and being known he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest. But Peter did not. He remained outside at the door. Seeing that Peter did not come in with them, the disciple (John) went to the servant girl who was keeping watch at the door and he brought Peter in. Upon coming in the servant girl looked at him closely (Luke 22:56) and recognizing him she asked Peter if he wasn’t one of the disciples also. Peter told her that he wasn’t, denying that He was one of Jesus’ followers.
Looking back to John 13, Jesus responded to Peter’s strong claim of unfailing allegiance that before morning Peter would prove how weak his promise was. He told Peter that before the rooster crowed in the morning that he would deny Jesus not once, but three times. We read, “Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” (John 13:36–38, ESV)
And sure enough, having been brought inside it was not be long before the woman watching the door questioned him and he responded by denying Jesus for the first time. As we read on we see that Peter indeed did enter the courtyard while the proceedings were going on, and while he was there warming his hands with the others he was asked again by others if he was one of Jesus disciples. They had seemed to recognize him, but even being recognized Peter said for the second time, “I am not.” In baseball terms we would say “that’s strike two.” Peter was given his second chance to affirm his allegiance and again he refused to swing.
But this was not the end. Jesus said that Peter would deny Him three times, and sure enough there with them was one of the men who was in the garden when Jesus was arrested. This man was not just any man, but he was a relative of the man whose ear Peter cut off and he was in the garden with them when Peter did it. In my way of thinking Peter cutting off this relative’s ear in front of the man would have left an indelible impression on the man, making him all the more certain that he indeed had seen Peter in the garden with Jesus. But even when this man spoke up as an eye witness, Peter denied Jesus for the third time. Given three opportunities to affirm his allegiance Peter refused to do so, and his refusal was not just a refusal to respond but an outright denial.
John records for us that when Peter had denied being a disciple of Jesus this third time that the rooster indeed did crow just as Jesus had said. Remembering that they were in the courtyard of the high priest Annas where this confrontation was going on, Luke records for us about this third denial, “But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:60–62, ESV) Peter immediately knew what he had done. He had denied Jesus three times just as Jesus had said. Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen even down to how Peter would respond and the timing of that response. Remembering Jesus’ words Peter was broken, and he went outside and wept.
Thinking about what Peter had gone through and the remorse he felt after denying Jesus, I am incredibly amazed with what follows in chapter 21 where Jesus compassionately restores, affirms, and charges Peter to service. There is so much that I find exciting and encouraging in this chapter which I hope to get to very soon, but for me the highlight is that after Peter had denied Jesus three times Jesus asks Peter THREE times if he loved Him, and three times Peter affirmed that he did. And with each response Jesus told Peter to feed or tend His sheep. When Peter had denied Jesus three times, Jesus gives Peter three opportunities to reaffirm His love followed by three charges to take care of His sheep. Rather than being disqualified, Jesus told Peter clearly that He was chosen and expected to do just was He was chosen to do. Jesus finished this personal restorative encounter with Peter saying, “Follow me.” (John 21:19, ESV)
It is so easy to look at our failures and to get discouraged thinking that we may have messed up or missed our opportunity to stand with Jesus and have subsequently disqualified ourselves from serving Him in some way. Scripture loudly declares that we were chosen by God from before the foundation of the earth. He knows absolutely everything about us. This includes the good and the bad. He knows our fears and our doubts. He knows our moments of intimidation, our times of backing away, and everything else. There is not anything about us that God does not know, and yet He loves us so much that He sent His Son to bring us into a relationship with Him. Looking to Peter and to how He was handled by our Lord, we can be encouraged to know when we recognize these times in our own lives, even being broken to the point of tears and remorse, that God has not given up on us.
Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Three times Peter said, “Yes.” Three times Jesus commissioned Him to serve and then He said, “Follow Me.” Knowing the love of Christ and His forgiveness, we also know that we are His and that we are useful to Him for service. Jesus pointed Peter to His love of God and his need to love others. We are given the same command as our response to Him. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” (John 13:34–35, ESV)