Yesterday we saw the first of the four scenes that John uses to tell the passion story of Jesus. And this first scene takes place in a garden on the other side of the Kidron Valley, it is during this first scene that Jesus is arrested and brought to the home of Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest for that year Caiaphas. Which then brings us to the second scene that we are going to see today. And it is in this second scene that we see two different interrogations. We see Jesus being interrogated by Annas and we see Peter being interrogated by those who have gathered outside the home of Annas. But we also see two different reactions to being interrogated. We see Jesus being truthful, open and honest with his interrogators and we see Peter being fearful, secretive and dishonest with his interrogators.
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.—18:15-18
Another disciple accompanied Peter into the courtyard. John does not identify the disciple or indicate how he knew the high priest. But more importantly, when Peter was asked his identity by a servant girl, he crumbled in fear and denied he was a follower of Jesus. We then see that he joined Jesus’ enemies, warming himself by the fire. It is important to note that Peter’s three denials, recorded in all four Gospels, made a deep impression on the early church. And what we are about to see in the next part of this scene will illustrate the huge difference between the way Peter handled being interrogated by his enemies and the way Jesus handled being interrogated by his enemies.
Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”
When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.
“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.—18:19-24
Earlier in the Gospel, Jesus had been challenged by the Jewish rulers regarding his identity, but now they asked about his teaching. Jesus redirected their focus from the disciples and said that he taught publicly for all to hear. One of the officials felt Jesus was demonstrating disrespect to the former high priest. He slapped Jesus in the face, further evidence of the rulers’ failure to recognize the truth. The scene concludes with Annas sending Jesus to Caiaphas. John does not describe any interactions between Jesus and Caiaphas. Perhaps because he knew that his readers were well informed of Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. Or more probably because the results of the trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin were a forgone conclusion.
Now let’s turn our attention to the differences between Jesus and Peter. In the opening act of this scene we saw Peter confronted by his enemies. And what does Peter do. He vehemently denies that knows Jesus. But at the same time as Peter is denying the he knows Jesus, what is Jesus doing? Jesus is boldly confronting his enemies with the truth and defending and protecting his disciples. In other words, Jesus responds to this interrogation in the completely opposite than the way Peter responded. Which is how the second act of this scene ends, and that then takes us into the third and final scene of this act, where we see Peter not only deny Jesus once but twice.
Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”
He denied it, saying, “I am not.”
One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.—18:25-27
The earlier scene concerning Peter’s identity is repeated. John narrates Peter’s second and third denials. Before and after the accounts of Jesus’ interrogations are Peter’s denials. John wants to draw a stark contrast between Jesus’ bravery and Peter’s cowardice. Those standing by the fire questioned Peter about being one of Jesus’ disciples, but he firmly denied it. Then a relative of Malchus asked Peter if he had been in the garden when Jesus was arrested. The third confrontation escalates the drama. As Peter denied Jesus a third time, a rooster crowed. Did Jesus’ prophetic word about Peter’s denial cross Peter’s mind in that moment? Though Peter loved Jesus, he was not prepared for the intensity of this spiritual battle. Peter’s cowardice in the courtyard should be contrasted with his bravery recounted in the early chapters of Acts. The power of the resurrection can be seen in this dramatic transformation. And we will pick up from tomorrow as we move into the third scene of John’s passion story of Jesus.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
2 Kings 4:18-5:27, Acts 15:1-35, Psalm 141:1-10 and Proverbs 17:23
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