The Denials at the Trials1
Peter couldn’t stay away. Both he and John had a change of heart, and turned back to follow the mob. Peter followed at a distance, while John went ahead and rejoined Jesus.2 Peter couldn’t get into the palace of the high priest on his own, so John came back out and talked to the girl who served as a doorkeeper, and convinced her to let Peter in.3 But soon afterwards, she said, “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples, are you?” And Peter said, “I’m not.”4
After a little while had passed, another girl saw Peter, and told the men around him that “This man is one of them.”5 One of those men (the others being in agreement) then made the accusation at Peter, who replied, “Man, I’m not.”6
About an hour later, a servant of the high priest who was also a relative of Malchus (whose ear Peter had cut off) confidently said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with Him? Truly you were also with Him: for you are a Galilean, and your speech betrays you!”7 After this eyewitness accuses him, Peter denies loudly and vehemently, “Man, I don’t know what you’re saying! I don’t know the man you’re speaking of,”8 and he cursed and swore to emphasize the point9—as he lied to them.
This is all happening as Jesus is being questioned, mocked, and abused by the Sanhedrin. False witnesses all came to speak against Him10—what was Peter thinking during this time? Did he ever have to fight the urge to stand up and scream, “They’re lying!”? Peter saw Jesus being beaten, slapped, and spat upon,11 but didn’t stand up for the Lord—instead, he hurt Him further by denying Him. As Peter made his final denial, Jesus turned, momentarily ignoring the questioning and accusations He was enduring, and looked at Peter. Then the weight of what Peter had done came crashing down on him, and he remembered how bold he had been, proclaiming how he would never deny Jesus; and remembering how Jesus had foretold that he would deny Him three times—then Peter went out of the palace and wept bitterly.12
It is possible that this was the last time Peter saw Jesus alive—until after the resurrection, that is.13
-Bradley S. Cobb
1 John’s account (chapter 18) shows that Peter’s first denial took place when Jesus was being tried by Annas, while his final denial took place when Jesus was being tried by Caiaphas.
2 Luke 22:54 shows Peter followed from a distance. This is no surprise, considering he had just sliced off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest—he was curious, but also fearful for his own safety. Meanwhile, John 18:15 shows that by the time Jesus entered the palace of the high priest, John accompanied Him.
3 John 18:16.
4 John 18:17. Robertson and Vincent both point out that the question is phrased in such a way that the girl expected a negative answer. Vincent gives it as “thou art not, art thou?” Luke’s account (Luke 22:55-57) shows that Peter had already sat down by the fire inside before the girl came and asked him this question.
5 Mark 14:69.
6 Luke 22:58 shows one man making the accusation, while John 18:25 shows that there was a group of men who asked if he was one of Jesus’ disciples.
7 The first part of this quotation comes from John 18:26, while the second can be found in the other three gospel accounts: Matthew 26:73; Mark 14:70; Luke 22:59.
8 The quotation given here is an amalgamation of Luke 22:60 and Mark 14:71.
9 Matthew and Mark both mention Peter’s cursing and swearing. Some confusion exists regarding what exactly this is. Some have said that it is basically cussing—as no one who was truly a follower of Jesus would be seen publicly cussing. Others have said that these were oaths: that Peter was calling down curses on himself if he was lying, vowing to God that he was telling the truth. Either explanation shows the great lengths that Peter went to in order to convince people that he wasn’t associated with Jesus—which was far worse than Judas’ betrayal.
10 Mark 14:56-59.
11 Mark 14:65.
12 Luke 22:60-62. Luke is the only one who mentions that Jesus actually looked at Peter after the third denial. Their eyes must have met, and Jesus almost assuredly showed a look of disappointment.
13 This is the last time Peter is mentioned until after the resurrection. It is possible that he came and watched Jesus on the cross from afar, but if he did, none of the gospel writers saw fit to mention it. It’s possible that he couldn’t bear to let Jesus see him again, out of shame, and that he found the rest of the apostles and stayed with them (except for John, who was at the cross).