“I can’t deny him, and he can’t deny me.”
My dad would often say this about me when I was a child. I guess it was because people thought I looked like my dad. They’re right.
No matter what I could ever say, think, or feel, one look at me tells you I’m a son of Wiley Dorman. There’s no denying it.
But what about when it comes to Jesus? After all, when we believe in Him, we don’t get a new face. We get a new heart. That’s different from genetics. Genetics you can see; behavior is a bit tougher.
In our ongoing journey through John, Jesus has been arrested. Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Jesus has been questioned by Annas. Now, we continue in John 18:25-27:
In the narrative of John 18, Peter’s first denial is separated from his second and third denials by the events we saw last week. Last week, we saw Jesus standing before Jewish leaders in an illegitimate trial (John 18:19-24).
You’d be reasonable to ask why they are separated. We expect this kind of scene-to-scene change in movies but not so much in print. It seems the Holy Spirit is drawing a contrast between the reply Jesus made to His accusers and the replies Peter made to his. Jesus denies nothing, while Peter denies everything.
Peter had not gone far—maybe a few feet—from the first denial (John 18:15-18). People who gathered around the fire recognized Peter (from the very public ministry of Jesus) and asked him if he, too, was one of the disciples of Jesus.
“I am not” (verse 25b) was his simple reply. It was veiled, quiet, but sure.
Then came the third denial. A nameless, faceless person in the crowd did not make this. This person witnessed Peter’s presence in the garden where Jesus was arrested—just a few hours before. Moreover, this person was a relative of Malchus, the man whose ear Peter cut off (and Jesus healed).
Again…Peter denied it. Our author does not mention Peter’s oath and the swearing, as seen in the other Gospel accounts.
Here in John’s account, Peter’s denial was simply stated.
And right on cue, the rooster begins to crow, announcing the morning and sounding the klaxon that Peter could not die for Jesus until Jesus died for him.
It’s easy to criticize Peter.
He swore at the supper that he would die for Jesus, and at the first test of loyalty, he was willing to chop off an ear.
Here at the next tests of loyalty, it seems his courage was gone. His loyalty had eroded under the storm falling all around him. His Master, His father figure, was being tried by the religious leaders for blasphemy. Would he be next?
But we have denied Jesus, too, haven’t we?
Even if we haven’t used these exact words, have there been times when you have “gone along with the crowd” under some ill-conceived concept of “keeping the peace,” all the while speaking the words by your actions, “I am not…”?
Truthfully, it’s easier to understand Peter’s denials than ours. Peter didn’t have the Holy Spirit yet. That wasn’t happening until long after these events (see Acts 2). Peter had not witnessed the crucifixion yet. Peter had not seen the empty tomb yet. Peter had not experienced everything we read in the New Testament from this point in his life forward.
We have the Holy Spirit and see the risen Lord in our hearts. We have experienced Jesus in a way Peter hadn’t at this point.
Peter (at this point), I can understand. What’s our excuse?
Remember the warning by Jesus recorded in Luke 12:9 “but whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.” Why? Because we know better.
And Jesus isn’t ashamed of us. Hebrews 2:11 reminds us, “so Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”
The One who would never deny us was denied by Peter. The One who would never deny us also gets denied by us far more than we care to admit.
Peter had a rooster to remind him of how far he’d fallen.
We have the Holy Spirit to prevent us from even going there.
How can we live today to show the world that we belong to Jesus?