Peter’s Fail

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 disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

“You are not one of His disciples, are you?”  The girl at the door 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.

John always refers to himself as “the other disciple,” though I’m not sure why exactly.  I’ve heard the argument that it was common practice to never mention one’s own name in writing because it was considered bad manners.  My take is everyone knew who he was talking about so he just did it as a fun thing or humorous reference.  Whatever the case, he was known to the high priest, which begs the question as to how?

I read one Christian novel based on the story of Mary of Magdalene that suggested his family were Pharisees and of the priests.  This might explain it but Caiaphas was a Sadducee so the connection might be there but it wouldn’t necessarily follow that John would be allowed into his house as a familiar face.  Whether John was of priestly class or not is immaterial, really, the main fact is he was known to the high priest’s household and let in without objection.  Another fact is he had enough influence with the servant girl at the door to get Peter in as well.

The focus, of course, is Peter’s denial, yet something I’d never noticed before stands out at the same time:  John witnessed Peter’s first denial because he was at the door with him!  One of the reasons why I love following Jesus so much is there’s no gloss painted over the mistakes of the Bible’s heroes.  Their failure to live up to their own standards gives us hope that God accepts everyone without question—and has even gone out of His way to make a place for us.  Peter’s failure to stand against the social pressure,though, probably had more to do with his warrior instincts than fear of being found out.

I’ve heard Peter called a coward for his denial of Jesus, but let me point out that he was the only one who pulled out a sword to fight for his Master.  No, cowardice wasn’t the problem, his grasp of what was at stake was, however.

In a war between nations or even within a nation, the battlefield is never just blood, guts and glory for it happens that infiltrating the enemy camp, bribing government officials and spying becomes necessary in order to win.  Peter entered the courtyard with the stories of heroes of the past ringing in his head.  In his eyes, he was standing with Jesus as a spy for their side not out of fear.  I’m thinking he wanted to be near Jesus, though he knew he couldn’t do so openly as a follower, so his education, background and delusions of grandeur taught him intrigue as a legal and God-approved method of infiltration.  The fact he accompanied a known disciple must have caused him consternation but he dealt with it by denying any ties at all to Jesus and inferring he was simply with John.

This was war now, and he was here to see if he could do anything for his Master.

Before I go on, I need to say there’s no proof of what was in his mind at the time.  The fact that he was afraid to be found out may or may not have had anything to do with cowardice like many have taught from the pulpit and in written form.  My take here is based on Peter’s past actions.

So Peter wasn’t a coward.  He was the one who walked on water, though the wind and waves caught him off guard to the point of fear.  He was the one who cut off the ear of one of the men arresting Jesus.  He, along with one other disciple, followed Jesus to the Annas’ home and stood in the courtyard by the fire just to be near Him.  My take is his denial grew out of a sense of cloak and dagger thinking rather than fear of being found loyal to a known enemy of the state.

But even if this is the reasoning behind Peter’s lie, he still denied Jesus lordship of his life.  Jesus preached about truth, His teachings revealed truth, and anyone who lied or believed a lie followed the enemy.  Peter’s denial of Christ unfolded in two forms.  First, he lied about being associated with Him; next, the fact that he lied at all denied Jesus’ lordship over his life and actions.  His lie itself denied godliness access or power over his own character and choices, which means he justified lying in this one instance for what he considered a greater cause, but in doing so he imitated the enemy of truth.

In a war of cloak and dagger, Peter’s choice wouldn’t seem all that out of the ordinary really, for we humans see it as a necessary evil to gain advantage over our enemy.  Yet in the world where Christ’s teachings rule the heart, Peter rejected those teachings by playing a human game; he employed human methods where only God’s purpose held any sway at all.  It’s highly possible one of his main reasons for secrecy was self-preservation, but I think he understood things like we do.  His Master was taken prisoner, arrested on bogus charges and set to be sentenced to death.  Peter wanted to disguise himself enough so no one would suspect his real reasons for being there—to be near Jesus and help Him if the opportunity arose.

Whatever his reasons for denial, he betrayed his Master, and his betrayal came in the form of conforming to base human thinking and methods over the clear guidelines laid out for him in Jesus’ life.  He failed to conform to the mind of Jesus in practice as well as thought, and in this way his denial goes deeper than a mere fear of being found out.


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3 Responses to “Peter’s Fail”

  1. John Says:

    Re: I’ve heard the argument that it was common practice to never mention one’s own name in writing because it was considered bad manners.

    Like many false teachings, this idea totally fails when it is subjected to biblical scrutiny — unless one is intending to argue that John exhibited “bad manners” when he repeatedly referred to himself by name in the Book of Revelation or that Paul was exhibiting “bad manners” when he repeatedly identified himself by name in his writings.

    Ps. 118:8, Pr. 30:5-6 and many other verses warn against putting the authority of God’s word in subjection to non-Bible sources. But as the saying goes, one has to take off their own shoes before they can take a walk in someone else’s moccasins, and similarly, when it comes to cases of The Bible vs. Tradition, one has to be willing to let go of the traditions of men in order to see the truth that is hidden in plain sight in the text of scripture. has a free eBook that just compares scripture with scripture in order to highlight the facts in the plain text of scripture that are usually overlooked about the “other disciple, whom Jesus loved”. You may want to weigh the testimony of scripture that the study cites regarding the one whom “Jesus loved” and may find it to be helpful as it encourages bible students to take seriously the admonition “prove all things”.

    • jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

      I heard it in a sermon or from a theology teacher somewhere talking about the exegesis of John. The suggested he might be referring to himself this way because of his audience, who were mostly gentile. I don’t know what his reasons were and it really doesn’t matter to me. I just thought it was interesting as a side note, but thanks for your input.

  2. tlc4women Says:

    I have always wondered what Peter was thinking. In my mind’s eye, I imagine that he thought that had he admitted being one of the disciples, then he risked being taken prisoner as well. Fighting from the outside would have made more sense, again in my way of thinking, in his eyes. Peter was not a coward, the denial of Christ in those moments must have come from a gut reaction because he was stunned when it was prophesied and stunned when he did it.

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