John 18:13-27 (ESV)
13 First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. 15 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, 16 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. 17 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.” 18 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. 19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22 When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” 24 Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. 25 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.” 26 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?” 27 Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.
In the last passage, we read about Jesus' arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. We know from that passage there was a moment of chaos when Peter struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his ear. In Mark’s Gospel, we know that as Jesus was arrested, all the disciples fled Jesus (even though they all had affirmed, along with Peter, that they would never desert Jesus).
As we read this passage, we should be a little surprised that there are two disciples who are still following Jesus. Peter is keeping his distance as he seeks to see what is happening as Jesus is brought to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest. But who is this other disciple that is known to the high priest and given such freedom of access? There is some debate regarding this person’s identity, but most scholars agree that it is John himself, the author of the Gospel, and we will see his presence in several ways as the Passion progresses although his name is never given.
We’re easily drawn into this narrative as it unfolds. The focus in this passage is on Peter. It’s absolutely clear that Peter deeply loves Jesus, but it’s also equally clear that Peter hasn’t really grasped half of what Jesus has been doing and teaching during the last couple of years. Peter has heard the messages and invitations regarding God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness, but those words of Jesus are shoved to the back of his mind right now. Peter acted rashly in the garden with an act of violence and now he acts in his own self-interest when asked if he is a disciple of Jesus; “I am not.” is his flat response.
Meanwhile, Jesus is being interrogated about His teaching and His disciples. The questioning is a farse as we know that the leadership has already made up their minds to be rid of Jesus. They rejected Jesus' open teaching in the synagogues and at the Temple, so why would we think that they are ready to listen now?
It’s interesting when you think about the two scenes as they unfold. Jesus is inside speaking the truth, while Peter is outside desperately telling lies.
As we read this passage, we should feel uncomfortable. We’re uncomfortable because of what’s happening to Jesus and the violence that is beginning to unfold against Him. Clearly, Jesus is innocent, but His innocence did not stay the hand that struck His face.
However, I think the uncomfortableness that we are experiencing is most likely because we can see ourselves in Peter. No, you’ve probably not denied Jesus outright like Peter is doing here, but we can all recall too many times when we didn’t pay attention to the voice of Jesus and quietly made a small compromise in our faith.
Jesus knew Peter’s betrayal would happen as Peter stood around the warming fire that night. There will be a great moment of healing, forgiveness, and restoration later on around another fire.
But here’s the thing. Just like Peter, Jesus knows your failures and mine, and just like with Peter, He is waiting to heal, forgive, and restore any brokenness between you.
God bless you and know that you are constantly in my prayers.