March 20 Sermon Resource

Peter’s Denial

  • Main Text: John 18:12-27
  • Accompanying Text: Psalm 17:1-7


John often records different details from the synoptics but, at the beginning of John 18, he is in parallel with them. He omits the Gethsemane story, but perhaps he alludes to it in John 18:11, “shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (ESV) Before the garden prayer, Christ told the disciples that he was about to fulfil Zechariah 13:7, “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered”. Peter protested, “‘Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!’ And all the disciples said the same” (Matthew 26:32-35).

“Jesus’ words come to fruition immediately after Judas betrays Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Guards take Jesus to the high priest’s house to stand trial. Peter follows, waits in the courtyard, and is approached by three people (John mentions two) who ask if he knows Jesus. Just as Jesus has predicted, when questioned, Peter denies knowing Jesus, even after the is identified as a Galilean by his speech — and is recognised as a disciple by a relative of the high priest’s servant (Luke 22:59).

The third time Peter denies knowing Jesus, the rooster crows. Luke’s Gospel also says that at that Jesus turns to look at Peter through an open window, as if acknowledging His words coming to pass; all accounts, however, describe how Peter weeps once he realises what he has done…The crowing of the dawn rooster signifies not only the breaking of dawn, but also that Jesus’ fate has been decided upon…the coming of dawn is significant for another reason; trials were required to take place after daybreak if the Sanhedrin were to sentence the defendant to death…

The Gospels gave no reasons for the betrayal. Peter and the disciples are human and may be afraid that they, too, will be arrested…Their fallibility, however, shows that one does not need to be perfect to be a servant of Jesus”. [1] 

Thoughts re application today

Jesus told Peter to put away his sword when Peter cut off Malchus’ right ear, and later Jesus explained to Pilate that Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world. “Ecology, peace among peoples and nations, economic justice, racial equality, and refugees and land rights are all political issues that have to do with this world and are thus beyond the scope of the concerns of the Christian faith.  But such is not the case if we pray ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth.’  The oft quoted saying of Jesus ‘My kingdom is not of this world’ (KJV) is better translated ‘My kingdom is not from this world.  If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting’ (Jn 18:36 NRSV, italics added).  The origins and inner dynamics of the kingdom of God do not evolve out of the culture and politics of this world.  But the kingdom is on earth and thereby is deeply concerned for the earth and all that happens to the people who live on it – even though we never absolutize place and nation because we have no abiding city here (Hebrews 13:14)”. [2]

A study of the life of the Apostle Peter provides us with opportunities both for inspiration and reflection. Although he denied him at the cross and would later in practice deny the grace found in the Acts 15 ecclesiastical decree (see Galatians 2:11-17), Peter was bold in preaching and in his missionary work. In his Pentecost sermon Peter proclaimed “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know — this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:22-23). Jesus looks beyond our faults and shortcomings, and he sees the potential of the life of his Spirit within us. What happened to Peter demonstrates this, as we read in John 21 at the breakfast conversation between him and Jesus. “Jesus puts on a beach barbecue with the specific intention of helping Peter. Flaky Simon will become rock-like Peter…the breakfast barbecue comes complete with charcoal fire, echoing the one Peter stood by only a few days before, saying ‘I am not a disciple of that man’. After the food, Jesus and Peter go for a walk to have a chat…Jesus repeatedly questions Peter: do you love me?…Jesus repeats the question to get Peter to repeat the answer. It is a moment of healing…He (Peter) is having to face his failing while at the same time being invited to step free of his failing. Helping a person get free from past mistakes is often painful and so has to be done with great love and good skills, both of which Jesus possesses”. [3]

Some other Scripture Resources

  • Matthew 26:30-35, 51-53,69-75
  • Mark 14:26-31, 46-50, 66-72
  • Luke 22:31-34, 54-62

GCI resources

Footnotes and references

  1. The Bible Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained by various contributors, published by DK:Random House Publishers, UK, 2018:256-257.
  2. Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, published by SPCK, London, 2008:118.
  3. Ian Galloway, Called to be Friends: Unlocking the Heart of John’s Gospel published by Hodder & Stroughton, UK, 2021:324
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