Fear: A Parent of Lies
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 18:15-16 (Holman) Meanwhile Simon Peter was following Jesus, as was another disciple. That disciple was an acquaintance of the high priest; so he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard. But Peter remained standing outside by the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the girl who was the doorkeeper and brought Peter in.
Simon Peter and another disciple followed the arresting mob to the High Priest’s home. This “other disciple” has traditionally been viewed as our author, John the beloved. He received entrance because the High Priest knew him.
Peter was temporarily left standing at the gate. While there, his courage began to fade. Maybe he began to be alarmed about what might happen to him as a result of his attack on Malchus, the High Priest’s servant.
The more he thought, the more he feared. He would have been better off to stay at the door. “He that will not fall into the ditch, must not walk too near the brim” (Trapp).
When the people of Miltenberg were forbidden, upon pain of death, to meet and talk together about religion, Luther wrote them an encouraging letter. He advised the strong in spirit to do their duty, whatever the consequences. He wisely advised the weak to rejoice secretly in the Lord, and to pray for increased strength.
There’s a time to stand and fight; a time to hide and pray. Blessed is the believer who knows exactly when to do either.
Peter was granted entrance, but the maiden’s kindness would not benefit the disciple. She opened for him a gateway into temptation.
John 18:17 Then the slave girl who was the doorkeeper said to Peter, “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” “I am not!” he said.
As soon as Peter started in the door, he began denying the Lord. At the voice of a maiden, a mighty oak fell. Even among the greatest, strength can quickly fade into smoke which a girl’s breath can easily blow away.
Fear took possession of Peter. Fear is a prolific parent of lies. Other such parents are greed, which fills businesses with its fallacies, vanity, which fills social circles with misrepresentations, and malice, which hatches slander to destroy reputations.
Beware fear! It straightens the pathway to dishonesty. Pray God will give us courage to speak the truth in all situations.
Once the lies began, they were hard to end. The first denial paved the way for two others. Lies beget lies. Liars have to keep on lying to cover their tracks. Dean Swift said, “He who tells a lie is not sensible how great a task he undertakes; for he must be forced to invent twenty more to maintain that one.”
Blessed is the person of truth. Any who overcome lying will overcome a host of other sins at the same time. It is difficult to do anything wrong without having to tell a lie along with it somewhere. Lying is an accomplice to many crimes. Murderers and thieves plan to escape on fake alibis; adulterers ignore the marriage vow. Wickedness slides downward on a way greased with lies.
Lest we be too hard on Peter, let’s recall some ways people still deny the Lord. One, some serve God only one day a week. On Sunday they can say “I am” to the maiden’s question, but follow them into everyday life. Their “I am” becomes a loud and clear “I am not.” Their life is cut into two halves, each denying the other.
Two, some say outright “I am not.” They say it without apology, and absolutely mean it. These people, proud of their outspoken belligerence, give the impression there is virtue in actually being as bad as one claims to be.
As if to say the only sin is hypocrisy, they whine, “At least we don’t profess to be Christians.” But just because a man acknowledges that he has rejected Christ does not absolve him of condemning guilt. Such thinking would release a murderer from guilt just because he never pretended to be a peaceful citizen.
Three, some, like Peter, say “I am not” but really are. Peter was a hypocrite because he tried to pass himself off as a worse man than he was. He loved Jesus. There would be no other reason for Peter to be near the trial. He really cared, but denied in a moment of pressure.
Due to fear of ridicule, people might deny what they really are. In a moment of timidity, one whose soul burns for God can slip into denial.
Some are afraid to be identified with Jesus because they fear they might eventually bring reproach on Jesus. They reason, “If no one knows I’m a Christian, Jesus’ name will never be hurt.” This is equivalent to wanting to be a soldier without wearing a uniform. If everyone did this, there would be no army. Friend, no one expects us to be absolutely perfect. Lay aside fear, say “I am” and then do your best to live for God in the presence of others.
John 18:18 Now the slaves and the temple police had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold. They were standing there warming themselves, and Peter was standing with them, warming himself.
It was a cold night. The servants of the high priest, along with some temple police, gathered around a fire of coals to keep warm.
Peter was also cold. A warm love was fading. He was so cold that it was reaching all the way to his heart. While he warmed himself outside, he cooled inside. His zeal for the Master was about to freeze.
Peter was suddenly standing where Judas had stood earlier, “with them” (v. 5). Peter was mingling with the arresters. Judas had looked out of place earlier; now Peter also looked out of place. He was warming himself near those with whom he was in danger of burning himself.
It should be no surprise Peter fell while mingling with an unholy crowd. Evil company quickly quenches devotion, and makes ill air for zeal to breathe in. It casts a toxic cloud that suffocates spirituality.
Peter felt just as cold as they did, and looked just as indifferent. Wanting to get lost in the crowd, he hoped they would think he was one of them. Having already lied with his words, Peter now lied with his silence.
He must have looked totally unconcerned, but I wonder what thoughts were racing through his mind. What was he trying to hide under his mask of indifference?
Did he think of the day Andrew introduced him to Jesus? Was he recalling when Jesus healed his mother-in-law’s fever? Did the glowing fire bring back vivid scenes of Christ’s transfiguration? Maybe he recalled walking on water.
He may have thought of things he had always wanted to say, but somehow never got around to saying. Maybe he wished he would have gotten down and washed the disciples’ feet, rather than allowing the Master to do it.
What is it we need to do for the Master? If He were to come now, what would we wish a few extra moments to accomplish?
Is there someone you’ve been meaning to help? Someone you need to encourage? Would you need a few extra minutes in which to get saved? It will be too late then. Do what you need to do right now. Do not delay.