Peter’s Second and Third Denials
John 18:25 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.” 26 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?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.
As Jesus heads to the cross and is brought by the Jewish leaders to the Roman governor, we see up close and personal Jesus' disciple Peter. Peter has many good qualities and loves Jesus dearly, but he always seems to put his foot in his mouth. When Jesus went to wash the disciple's feet Peter said, "Jesus you will never wash my feet". He was unaware of the purpose of Jesus taking the role of a servant, and the example he was setting for him and the rest of the disciples. In today's passage when the soldiers come to detain Jesus, Peter strikes off the right ear of one of the men with his sword. Jesus rebukes Peter and tells him to put his sword away.
Then, as things are looking worse for Jesus, Peter denies him not once, not twice but three times. In another gospel it says Peter "wept bitterly" after his threefold denial. You can only imagine what is going on in Peter's mind, as he goes back and forth from rising up in defense of Jesus, to denying him fervently. Remember too that Peter expected Jesus to be an earthly king, who would restore the nation of Israel. Peter has still not understood the nature of Jesus' mission and what kind of King he was. Even when Jesus came into the world, King Herod made a search for the one they call the "King of the Jews". Now Pilate asks Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus doesn't answer him directly but says, "My kingdom is not of this world, if so my followers would fight to prevent my arrest. But now my kingdom is from another place."
Peter's was looking forward to an earthly kingdom. He had hoped by being one of Jesus' disciples, he would reign with Jesus when he came into power. When Peter learned that this was not Jesus' plan, and that all of sudden his life was in jeopardy, he denied even knowing Jesus. After Jesus' resurrection, he will reinstate Peter as one of the chief leaders of the movement he started. Jesus knew all along this would happen, but he allowed Peter to experience his denial and then later to restore him.
Have you ever denied Jesus? I know I have. It is easy to follow Jesus when things are going well, but when they are not it is more difficult. When following Jesus causes us to go against the prevailing culture and make difficult choices, it is easier to go with the flow. If I were facing imminent persecution would I deny Jesus? Fortunately after the resurrection, Jesus sent Peter the Holy Spirit which gave him the courage, according to tradition, to defend the name of Jesus even unto his death.