Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Denials in the Courtyard
AFTER abandoning Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and fleeing in fear with the rest of the apostles, Peter and John stop in their flight. Perhaps they catch up with Jesus when he is being taken to the home of Annas. When Annas sends him over to High Priest Caiaphas, Peter and John follow at a good distance, apparently torn between fear for their own lives and their deep concern as to what will happen to their Master.
Arriving at Caiaphas’ spacious residence, John is able to gain entrance into the courtyard, since he is known to the high priest. Peter, however, is left standing outside at the door. But soon John returns and speaks to the doorkeeper, a servant girl, and Peter is permitted to enter.
By now it is cold, and the house attendants and the officers of the high priest have built a charcoal fire. Peter joins them to keep warm while awaiting the outcome of Jesus’ trial. There, in the light of the bright fire, the doorkeeper who had let Peter in gets a better look at him. “You, too, were with Jesus the Galilean!” she exclaims.
Upset at being identified, before all of them Peter denies ever knowing Jesus. “Neither do I know him nor do I understand what you are saying,” he says.
At that, Peter goes out near the gateway. There, another girl notices him and also says to those standing by: “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” Once more, Peter denies it, swearing: “I do not know the man!”
Peter remains in the courtyard, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. Perhaps at this point he is startled by the crowing of a cock in the early morning darkness. In the meantime, Jesus’ trial is in progress, evidently being conducted in a part of the house above the courtyard. Perhaps Peter and the others waiting below see the comings and goings of various witnesses that are brought in to testify.
About an hour has passed since Peter was last identified as an associate of Jesus. Now a number of those standing around come up to him and say: “Certainly you also are one of them, for, in fact, your dialect gives you away.” One of the group is a relative of Malchus, whose ear Peter had cut off. “I saw you in the garden with him, did I not?” he says.
“I do not know the man!” Peter vehemently asserts. In fact, by cursing and swearing to the matter, in effect, calling down evil upon himself if he is not telling the truth, he tries to convince them that all of them are mistaken.
Just as Peter makes this third denial, a cock crows. And at that moment, Jesus, who has apparently come out onto a balcony above the courtyard, turns and looks at him. Immediately, Peter recalls what Jesus said only a few hours earlier in the upper room: “Before a cock crows twice, even you will disown me three times.” Crushed by the weight of his sin, Peter goes outside and weeps bitterly.
How could this happen? After being so certain of his spiritual strength, how could Peter deny his Master three times in quick succession? The circumstances no doubt catch Peter unawares. Truth is being distorted, and Jesus is being depicted as a vile criminal. What is right is being made to appear wrong, the innocent one as guilty. So because of the pressures of the occasion, Peter is thrown off balance. Suddenly his proper sense of loyalty is upset. To his sorrow he is paralyzed by fear of man. May that never happen to us! Matthew 26:57, 58, 69-75; Mark 14:30, 53, 54, 66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18, 25-27.
▪ How do Peter and John gain entrance into the courtyard of the high priest?
▪ While Peter and John are in the courtyard, what is going on in the house?
▪ How many times does a cock crow, and how often does Peter deny knowing Christ?
▪ What does it mean that Peter curses and swears?
▪ What causes Peter to deny that he knows Jesus?