"Peter's Denial of Jesus"
John 18:15-27 Bible Study


Peter's Denial of Jesus

Peter in the Courtyard by the fire.

Peter's denial of Jesus is the very opposite of his portrayal throughout the Gospels.

Three times he denies knowing Christ, and even attempts to blend in with the very ones who had arrested his Master.

Verse 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 court of the high priest,"

Though some disagree, the other disciple has traditionally been identified as the Apostle John, the writer of this Gospel. John repeatedly refers to himself in the third person. 

We are not told how he was known to the high priest.

Verse 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.

John, being acquainted with the high priest, may have hoped to have some influence on Jesus' behalf. By bringing Peter into the situation there would be two witnesses, John and Peter.

Peter did not enter the court room, and we are not told if he was denied entry, or simply refused to enter.

Peter is recognized by a Servant Girl

Peter's First Denial of Jesus

Verse 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.”

Later teaching shows that, under special circumstances, Jewish people were permitted to deny their Jewishness if it would save their lives. However, what Peter did was not a matter of "Jewishness," but a denial of the Messiah.

Peter's denial of Jesus seems strange in that he had fought for Jesus only a short time ago, and had followed as He was led away.

Although Peter denied being associated with Jesus, John himself shows no concern about the feelings of others regarding his discipleship. 

Verse 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."

Peter appears to be an absolute coward, standing by the fire denying that he knew Christ, and blending in with the very ones who had arrested his Master.  

Jesus  is Questioned by Annas

Verse 19: "The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

It was a violation of the Jewish law for the accused to be interrogated, (lest he incriminate himself). Guilt must be established by witnesses.

Nevertheless, Jesus was seized, with no witnesses, and no valid charge.

Verses 20-21: "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. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said."

It was a Jewish tradition, that one must teach the law openly, but false prophets often taught in secret. Jesus had not taught in secret, and requested His accusers to ask others what He had said.

Verse 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?" 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?"

As Annas unlawfully questioned Jesus, he allowed the others to violate the law by striking Him, probably on the face or the side of the head.  According to Matthew Henry,  this officer may have been Malchus, whose ear was healed by Jesus.

This is an indication of how abusive and uninterested in any form of legality Annas was; his interest was political, not legal.

This action served to fulfilled still more prophecies:

  • I gave my cheeks, to blows," (Isaiah 50:6).               
  • "They shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek," (Mic 5:1).
  • "They have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully," (Job 16:10).

Jesus is Taken to Caiaphas

Verse 24: "Annas then sent Jesus bound to Caiaphas the high priest."

Still another reason this trial was not legal is that it was held at night. Proceedings involving the death penalty were not permitted to be conducted on a single day. 


Peter's Second Denial

Verse 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."

A few hours earlier Peter had said he would die for Jesus, but now, for the second time, denies any association with Jesus, even as He is being mistreated.


Peter's Third Denial

Verse 26-27: "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?" 27Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed."

The third person to question Peter was a relative of Malchus, whose ear he had cut off. And once again Peter denied knowing anything about Jesus.  

 In John 13:38, Jesus had said to Peter: " The rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times,"

And, in the book of Luke:  “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail..." (Luke 22:31-32).

Many believe that Satan not only wanted Peter, but all the disciples. However, Jesus, aware of Satan's petition, was not about to allow him to win this battle.

Some compare this with when Satan tormented Job,     (Job 1:6-12).  

However, we must consider that, in the case of Job, God actually challenged Satan with Job's godly lifestyle.

With Peter, it appears that Satan approached God and "Demanded to have him." He intended to destroy Peter's faith by "Sifting him as wheat." 

Isn't it amazing that Satan would/could place such a demand? 

We are told that Jesus prayed and thus intervened, but does not this convey the possibility that a "mighty battle between God and the wicked rulers and authorities in High Places" may have taken place.

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, (Eph 6:12 ESV).

Jesus said to Peter, "I have prayed for you." Jesus prayers were "All Mighty," that commanded His desired outcome into being.

Peter had been warned to guard against the "wiles of the devil;"  yet repeatedly denied knowing anything about Jesus, even until the third crowing of the rooster.

This was totally out of character for Peter, but this was perhaps the greatest challenge he and the other disciples had faced to this point.

However, Jesus was in complete control, and as we will see in a future study, Peter was totally restored. 

It appears that the Apostle John was intentionally gentle in his account of Peter's denials, even making no mention of  his oaths, cursing, or the  bitter tears, as did the other Gospels

This concludes our study of, Peter Denies Jesus


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