John 18:15–18, 25–27; 21:15–19 comment (0)
May 15, 2014
By Catherine Lawrence
Related Scripture: John 18:15–18, 25–27; 21:15–19
Bible Studies for Life
Department of Religion, Samford University
John 18:15–18, 25–27; 21:15–19
These verses detail Peter’s denial of Jesus. In the presence of His disciples, Jesus had been arrested in the garden of Gethsemane by a contingent of Roman soldiers and Jewish temple guards. They took Him to be questioned by Annas, a former high priest and the father-in-law of the current high priest, Caiaphas. Peter and another disciple followed Jesus to Annas’ home. Because the other disciple knew the high priest, Peter was allowed into Annas’ courtyard. There Peter found himself being questioned about his association with Jesus. First the woman who guarded the courtyard gate asked if he was one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter denied that he was. Next as Peter warmed himself by the fire, other servants of the high priest and members of the Jewish temple guard asked Peter if he was one of Jesus’ disciples. Again Peter issued a denial. Finally one of the high priest’s servants who had been present at Jesus’ arrest in the garden thought he recognized Peter. But Peter denied having been with Jesus. And at the moment Peter denied Jesus for the third time, the cock crowed. This entire sequence of events took place exactly as Jesus had previously told Peter it would happen (John 13:38).
Of all the disciples, is it not remarkable that Peter was the one guilty of these denials? He was a member of the disciples’ inner circle, along with James and John. None of the disciples had had more access to Jesus or had seen and heard more of Jesus’ astonishing teaching and miraculous deeds than these three. Peter had made the glorious confession concerning Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16), and he had further declared with confidence that he would lay down his life for Jesus (John 13:37). Yet now, only a short time later, Peter repeatedly denied any association with Jesus.
Peter’s actions in John 18 remind us that even those closest to Jesus during His earthly ministry struggled with failure. The Gospels are filled with accounts of Jesus’ disciples failing in various ways: they failed to understand many things Jesus told them (Mark 9:30–32); they argued among themselves about who was the greatest (Luke 9:46–48); they fell asleep in the garden as Jesus prayed before His arrest (Matt. 26:36–46) and they deserted Jesus at the most crucial moment of His life (Mark 14:50). In our capacity to fail, Christians today are no different than Jesus’ first disciples. We also fail despite our best intentions to be faithful followers of Jesus. Thankfully we learn from Peter’s experience that Jesus meets even our worst failures with grace and offers hope for our future.
After His resurrection Jesus appeared to His disciples at least three times (John 21:14). The third appearance described in John’s Gospel took place by the Sea of Galilee, where Peter and a few of the other disciples had gone out to fish. While gathered with these disciples over breakfast (John 21:12, 15) Jesus had a conversation with Peter in which He asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me” (John 21:15–17). Jesus’ asking him this question three times is surely significant in light of Peter’s earlier triple-denial. To each question Peter responded that he did love Jesus. Jesus then took the opportunity after each response to commission Peter to shepherd Jesus’ followers (“Feed My sheep”).
The scene in John 21 reveals the forgiveness and grace with which Jesus met Peter’s failure. When Peter failed, Jesus did not shun or discard him. Instead Jesus restored Peter and entrusted him with the task of ministering in Jesus’ name. God’s grace offers hope to all followers of Jesus who fail, no matter how often failure occurs. Even when we are overwhelmed by our failures, God renews our hope by His great grace. God continually forgives and restores, and He continues to entrust us with the task of ministering in His name.