Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

“Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.”

We seem to default to denying things.

“Did you take a cookie?”

“Did you lie to me?”

“Do you really believe all that stuff in the Bible?”

As we saw last week in John 18:2-14, Jesus was arrested.  He was taken to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of the official High Priest, Caiaphas.

We continue in John 18:15-18:

Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

“You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.

He replied, “I am not.”

It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.  

John 18:15-18
New International Version

Peter is identified directly, but who is this “other disciple” known to the High Priest?  This disciple must have come from a family of some prominence because he knew the High Priest’s family.  In our 21st-century Western culture, it’s easy to assume an ordinary fisherman would have nothing to do with someone as important as the “Pope” of the Jewish faith.  But that’s imposing our culture onto theirs.

This “other disciple” could have come from a family with significant contacts because some fishermen were wealthy.  In addition, the fact that he is unnamed is another clue.  Only one other disciple uses this type of anonymity: our human author of this Gospel, the young John the Apostle.

And this access to the inner workings of the Jewish political system by John’s family allows us to see an event recorded in all four Gospel accounts: Peter’s denials.  While there are three in total, we see today the first one.

When Peter enters the courtyard, the servant girl (whom John spoke with to get Peter in the door) asks him in verse 17, “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” 

Did you catch what she said?  Guess what that means John did.  He at least identified himself as one of Jesus’ disciples, or at least it was common knowledge.  It certainly stands to reason that if Peter also wanted to be there, he must have had more than a passing interest in Jesus.  Her assumption was reasonable.

Her question’s Greek wording (the underlying words behind our English translation) suggested she was being cynical, not hostile.  Nevertheless, Peter, standing in the courtyard of the High Priest—surrounded by the intimidating tapestry of the Jewish religion—answered her simply, “I am not.”

Peter’s first denial occurred hours after Jesus predicted it, and Peter denied it would ever happen.

It was shortly after he had pulled a sword and tried to defend Jesus in the Garden.

Yet here we are.  The brazen fighter Peter crumpled under the question of a servant girl.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

It’s easy to pick on Peter at this juncture.  After all, he did deny being one of Jesus’ disciples—and Peter was the leader of the disciples!

But before we pick up our stones to throw at Peter, consider the number of times simple questions about Jesus were answered with denial.

How often have we backed off the truth of Who He is and what He has said?
How many denials have we made in action?
How often have we discussed the weather when we should have discussed Jesus?

May the Lord help us to have the courage to answer the questions with “I belong to Jesus.”