“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, 16 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. 17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” 18 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
Peter and John. Two of Jesus’ most faithful disciples. Peter would end up dying a martyrs death. John would simply ascend into heaven. Peter was brave, brash, rough and outspoken. John was a writer (i.e. this is his Gospel), he was sensitive, attentive and probably a good listener. The two men couldn’t have been more different.
Yet, they were two of the three of Jesus’ innermost circle of brothers and followers. They went with him everywhere. Sometimes they made good sensible decisions and other times, especially with Peter, they were foolish. This is one of Peter’s foolish moments as he was confronted with knowing Jesus to a servant girl.
John had already gone into the courtyard with Jesus. John might have been more sophisticated, he knew people, he had an air about him, educated and maybe a little stately. Peter, a fisherman, was gruff, wooly, rugged, blue collar. When John came back out to get Peter, a servant girl questioned Peter about being one of Jesus’ disciples. This was a moment of truth for Peter. He who was normally strong was weak, struggling, and much afraid. He spoke without thinking — “I am not.”
Peter’s statement, “I am not,” parallels Jesus’ statement from his previously recorded words — “I am he.” One was an admission, and one a confession. Jesus took a step toward faithfulness to God when he admitted he was willing to die for the world. Peter also took a step, but backward, when he confessed that Christ was not his rabbi.
Of course we remember Peter’s tremendous repentance near the end of this book, recorded by the same friend (John) who heard Peter say, “I am not (his disciple.)” John recorded his repentance, knowing the Peter was truly faithful but in this moment of despair he chose fear rather than faith.
Do we also deny God in moments of weakness? When we are tried and tested, do we sometimes reverse our commitment to the Christ? Do we run from faith because of fear? Do we abandon hope for self-adornment? It is not surprising to God that we do this. He doesn’t approve but he does forgive. Almost every character in the Bible (Moses, Abraham, Elijah, Noah, Job, Jeremiah) had moments of weakness.
Peters denial knowing the Lord propelled Christ to the Cross. It was for these sins, and ours, that he chose to die.
“O Lord, I am but a humble servant, unworthy of your love. I fall, I fail, I falter. But you remain faithful. Your journey to the cross was because of my sin! Your love is greater than all my failures. Your grace abounds beyond my ability to receive your love. Come now, Holy Spirit, give me the power to say yes to you. That I might follow you all the days of my life. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen