Title: Gospel of John [18:25-27]. Christ's trials, part 3. Peter's second andthird denials.
First trial - interview with Annas.
Second trial - the evening trial before the court with Caiaphas.
We don't know if the trial had yet started when Peter gave his first denial. The second denial was during the proceedings and then the third followed an hour after the second, when the proceedings were over. We place the second denial somewhere in the middle of the proceedings.
After the first denial to the servant girl, Peter walked away from the gathering around the fire and slumbered around the portico or porch. We can imagine him getting colder and colder and more uncomfortable and so judging that enough time has gone by that he could safely return to the fire.
He was first accosted by one man, and then a maid, and then they all around the fire turned upon him, each one charging that he was also one of the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth.
And a little later, another saw him and said, "You are one of them too!" But Peter said, "Man, I am not!"
Peter responds "Man," the masculine of anthropos, so we can be sure this was a man.
And when he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." And again he denied it with an oath, "I do not know the man."
The term "servant-girl" has been added and is not in the original. But the feminine of allos is used meaning another and this is a girl. From Mark's account it seems that this was another person around the fire who was a maid.
And the maid saw him, and began once more to say to the bystanders, "This is one of them!" But again he was denying it.
JOH 18:25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said therefore to him, "You are not also one of His disciples, are you?" He denied it, and said, "I am not."
So after returning to the fire after the first denial, trying to blend in, warming up but nervous with that "don't look at me" face, one of them, probably the man first, recognizes him and says, "You are one of them too." This prompts the maid to give Peter a good look and then to agree, "This is one of them." If we put an inflection on "is" we can picture it well. And then she turns to the others and says, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." Now they all peer at Peter intensely, and you can imagine the angst rising in Peter the whole time, and "they" from John's account say to him, "You are not also one of His disciples, are you?"
Man: You are one of them too.
Peter: Man, I am not!
Maid: This IS one of them.
Peter: I am not!
Maid to others: This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.
Peter: I do not know the man!
Others: You are not also one of His disciples, are you?
Peter: No! I am not!
It is not stated but it is likely that after this even tenser exchange, after Peter thought it was safe to return to the fire, that he went for another walk around the porch. According to Luke, about an hour went by before the next person approached Peter.
We had already noted that when Annas asked the Lord about His disciples in JOH 18:19 he was probably quite angry that the soldiers let the other disciples get away and wanted to know who they were so that he could arrest them. The servants recognize Peter but they do not know his name and so Annas likely doesn't know their names either. If Peter admits to knowing Christ he will likely get arrested and this is what he is trying to avoid even though he stated very boldly that he would go to prison with the Lord.
And he said to Him, "Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!" And He said, "I say to you, Peter, the cock will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me."
But in this situation, strange environment, being called to take a moral stand in alone identifying himself with Christ, he becomes weak and afraid.
Christ prayed that his faith would not fail. This shows us that isolated failures do not mean a failure in faith.
We all would have failed here if we were Peter in this situation. Satan wants Peter to get so heart stricken that he quits on his Lord for good. This Peter will not do.
To illustrate this, let's fast forward to the third time the Lord appears to the disciples together after His resurrection at the Sea of Galilee. He instructed them to go to Galilee where He would meet them. Peter will again find himself in the midst of people around a charcoal fire, but this time, it's very different.
JOH 21:1 After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way.
JOH 21:2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples.
JOH 21:3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will also come with you." They went out, and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.
Some think it was wrong for Peter to want to go fishing since he was taken from this life and was to be an apostle. How preposterous! They were told to go to Galilee and that He would meet them there. Are they just supposed to just sit idle? I can imagine that Peter would take comfort in performing a skill of which he was a master and occupying his mind from the anticipation of waiting. Plus, they each have wives and likely children so they have families to support.
I wonder if they are joking about the time they were out all night and caught nothing and then the Lord got in Peter's boat and they reluctantly went out again and caught a great amount? It seems to me that that was the last time they were out since they followed Him right afterwards.
JOH 21:4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
JOH 21:5 Jesus therefore said to them, "Children, you do not have any fish, do you?" They answered Him, "No."
JOH 21:6 And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find a catch." They cast therefore, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.
They likely protested a bit as they did the last time.
Commands must be obeyed if the harvest is to be realized.
It's been about three years since this same scene unfolded to these same disciples (Peter, Andrew, James, and John) and it seems that they still don't recognize it's the Lord until they pull in the huge catch. We all quickly forget what the Lord has done for us and to us, but He does not tire in reminding us. As we mature our sweet memories of His miracles in our lives will come quicker to our stream of consciousness.
JOH 21:7 That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord." And so when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.
JOH 21:8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.
JOH 21:9 And so when they got out upon the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid, and fish placed on it, and bread.
JOH 21:10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish which you have now caught."
We will explore this fully when we get here, but I want you to notice that Jesus has some fish and He asks them to bring some of the fish that they caught.
Jesus has His harvest that He shares with us and we have some harvest, given only through His miracles, that we share with Him and one another.
JOH 21:11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn [none are lost].
JOH 21:12 Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast."
This is a completely different Peter around a fire that is filled with friends, brothers in Christ, and the Lord Himself and they dine in fellowship and in full recognition of His victory over death. He feeds them and they rejoice with Him and they are coming to know that He will always be with them. The other fire was only a few weeks ago, but the resurrection of Christ has changed everything.
And so we go back to the third denial.
The Sanhedrin has broken up and the officers, guards, and servants of the priests, Pharisees, and scribes begin to hail revolting insults and injuries upon the Lord of glory.
And yet these insults, taunts, and blows which fell upon that lonely Sufferer, not defenseless, but not defending, not vanquished , but not contending, not helpless, but majestic in voluntary self-submission for the highest purpose of love - have not only exhibited the curse of humanity, but also removed it by letting it descend on Him, the Perfect Man, the Christ, the Son of God.
Not a word escaped His lips, not a complaint, nor murmur, nor utterance of indignant rebuke, nor cries. He was slowly drinking the cup which the Father had given Him.
After they had gotten weary with insults and blows, at last they leave Jesus alone, perhaps in the covered gallery or porch, or at one of the windows that overlooked the court below. About one hour had passed since Peter's second denial and we can be sure that Peter is breathing a sigh of relief after being left alone for so long.
What had happened inside to Jesus is definitely being repeatedly passed around the courtyard and Peter is getting a pretty good picture of what his Lord has just endured. Maybe Peter even talked with some of them and then a fellow-servant and relative of Malcus recognized him. This one is the hardest of all to deny because this man was with the mob in the garden and he witnessed Peter descend upon his kinsman Malcus with his sword and he asserted that he actually recognized him.
Let's read the accounts from the three synoptic gospels.
MAT 26:73 And a little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Surely you too are one of them; for the way you talk [Galilean accent] gives you away."
MAT 26:74 Then he began to curse and swear, "I do not know the man!" And immediately a cock crowed.
MAT 26:75 And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, "Before a cock crows, you will deny Me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.
MAR 14:70 And after a little while the bystanders were again saying to Peter, "Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too."
MAR 14:71 But he began to curse and swear, "I do not know this man you are talking about!"
MAR 14:72 And immediately a cock crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, "Before a cock crows twice, you will deny Me three times." And he began to weep.
LUK 22:59 And after about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, "Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too."
LUK 22:60 But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are talking about." And immediately, while he was still speaking, a cock crowed.
LUK 22:61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, "Before a cock crows today, you will deny Me three times."
LUK 22:62 And he went out and wept bitterly.
Both Matthew and Mark state that Peter began to curse and swear. In English we see these words and we think of profanity, but that is not the Greek usage.
The Jews had a practice of laying themselves under a curse if what they professed to do was not done or if they were making a statement. Like we would say, "May the Lord strike me dead," or "On my mother's soul."
Peter declared to bring a curse (anathema) down on Himself if he was lying and he made an oath (swear) that he was telling the truth.
It must have been amusing to the hearers who realize that this particular servant recognized him as being in the garden and Peter denying it with oaths and self-curses in his Galilean accent which they all recognized.
JOH 18:26 One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, "Did I not see you in the garden with Him?"
JOH 18:27 Peter therefore denied it again; and immediately a cock crowed.
Slave: Did I not see you in the garden with Him?
Bystanders: Surely you too are one of them; for the way you talk gives you away.
Peter: I swear to you that I do not know the man! May God curse me if I am lying!
Another man: Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.
Peter: Man, I do not know what you are talking about.
The echo of his words had scarcely died out, echoing in his own mind and conscience when loud and shrill the twice cock-crowing was heard. Its harsh persistence of sound also wakened his memory. He now remembered the words of warning prediction which the Lord had spoken. He looked up; and as he looked, he saw, how up there, just at that moment; the Lord turned around and looked upon him. It would have been pretty close to morning. Maybe the first hints of light were showing themselves on the eastern horizon or maybe it was the darkest time of the night, just before the dawn. Our Lord looked at him as did all those around him, bystanders and the eye witness servant who placed him in the garden, all knowing that he was lying and himself knowing that he did exactly as the Lord said he would - all eyes upon Peter. Peter's eyes said it all. His illusion vanished, his barrier of lies broken down, his defenses gone, and his weakness borne wide open for all to see, including himself. All looked upon that weakness; some with scorn, some with delight, and One with the greatest of love and compassion. His Lord had no condemnation or mocking laughter in His eyes. He had love and compassion in His face and we can imagine that He said to Himself, "I will restore you Peter and you will lead your brethren, but there is something greater to accomplish first. I will see you again in a few days."
But Peter cannot see this in the Lord's face because his own words followed by the cock crowing pierced through him, all self-delusion gone, full of shame and fear, the man who was a lover of Jesus had denied Him, it would seem to him, before the whole world and even the Lord Himself. The agony of self-condemnation, shame, guilt, burning heart-sorrow gave him only one thought - run.
Out he rushed into the night weeping bitterly; a hollow shell of the man that he thought he was.
The first person Christ appeared to after His resurrection was Mary Magdalene at the tomb. She went to tell the disciples. Up to this point all Peter saw was the empty tomb. They rejected her witness. Next Christ appeared to the other women who were with Mary when the angel had told them that Jesus was resurrected. They had not yet seen Him and went to tell the disciples what the angel had told them. Their testimony was also rejected and Jesus appeared to them after they returned from the disciples. He told them to go back to the disciples and tell them to go to Galilee where they would see Him. This was His second appearance. His fourth appearance would be to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The fifth would be to ten of the disciples all at once in Jerusalem, minus Thomas. The sixth appearance was to all eleven with Thomas present. The seventh to the seven disciples on the Sea of Galilee. He would then appear to five hundred. Then He would appear to His brother James and then His tenth appearance was to the eleven on the mountain in Galilee in which He would give them their great commission. He would then ascend from the Mount of Olives.
I give you this so that you can see the third appearance of Christ in the context of the rest. In His third appearance, after appearing to Mary Magdalene and then the women who were with her, the Lord makes an appearance to Peter before He appears to the other 10. Concerning this there are no details, but it is most significant that Christ first sought out Peter.
He told the two en route to Emmaus that He had appeared to Peter.
"The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon."
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.
The Lord can restore anyone who is willing to hear Him and be comforted by Him in grace, no matter what they have done.