Prepared by Dr. John Marshall
John 18:25 (Holman) Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said to him, “You aren’t one of His disciples too, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not!”
Peter warmed himself with the wrong crowd. He would have fared better had he stood off in a cold place alone to himself. Believers who regularly stay in the continual influence of evil doers inevitably grow cold towards good deeds.
A major dilemma for Christ-followers is, how closely should we interact with sinners? Our Master loved them and spent time with them. We must too. The Bible also tells us to come out from among them, and be separate.
How do we balance this seeming paradox? We want to be with them, but if we draw too near Satan’s fireside, we are in danger of Satan’s fire. We must have contact with unbelievers only to the extent we influence them, not vice versa. Blessed is the believer who can balance these two opposites.
It is normal behavior to try to please and impress people we are associating with at a given time. We by nature want people’s approval and praise. This is the danger of evil company. As we choose our friends, we choose the kind of praise we will receive. Try to avoid those we can please only by displeasing God.
This was Peter’s second questioner. Peter, having already denied Jesus once (v. 17), probably thought he had ended the matter, but was now forced to learn a valuable, albeit bitter, lesson. Yielding to one temptation invites another, often stronger than the first. “Oh the tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to deceive” (Sir Walter Scott).
When we begin to give ground spiritually, Satan doubles the attack. Once sin gains a foothold in us, it tries to take over. The devil wants us to think committing only one sin will deliver us from trouble, but it actually causes more entanglement and worse embarrassment. We usually have to cover one sin with another sin in our effort to avoid detection.
Once a person begins sliding down sin’s slippery slope, it is hard to stop till rock bottom is hit. The whole world seems greased for the occasion.
When sin begins, it is hard to keep it from multiplying at will. The least sin has in it an embryo of infinite wickedness. The smallest bit of backsliding can be dangerously close to utter apostasy.
Do not fool yourself by thinking you can tell sin to enter and only go so far. Harold McWhorter well said, sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you there longer than you want to stay, and cost you far more than you want to pay. Sin enters masquerading as a friend, but eventually pounces as a roaring lion.
John 18:26 One of the High Priest’s slaves, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you with Him in the garden?”
The third questioner posed the worst threat to Peter. This accuser, kin to Malchus, had a severed ear to make amends for. He had a personal ground of hostility, which gave him good reason to remember Peter, and gave Peter good reason to dread being recognized by Malchus’ kin.
This hostile crowd relentlessly harassed Peter. They expected an admission of guilt from him, and were surprised at his denials.
Unbelievers expect to see a higher level of conduct in those who have been with Jesus. The uncommitted think a believer should be more moral than they are.
Unbelievers know the Gospel presents a high moral standard. The very charge of inconsistency they bring against believers is in itself homage to the high caliber of the Christian way. May God help us believers to do a better job of representing this exalted Gospel.
John 18:27a Peter then denied it again.
John mercifully spared telling of the oaths and curses his friend used. Only the denial itself was mentioned. This was the low point, the nadir, in Peter’s life.
There had been many zeniths. Peter, the first to say Jesus is Messiah, walked on water, and stood on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter swore loyalty to Jesus at the Last Supper, drew his sword in Gethsemane, followed Jesus to the High Priest’s house, and entered a potentially dangerous courtyard to be near Jesus.
Peter failed because he tried to be courageous for His Lord. At least he tried to be close to Jesus. The others, except John, had fled and were hiding.
Peter’s sin could have been committed only by a person of courage. Peter failed due to trying to be a brave man, not because he was a coward.
Jesus, who knows our hearts, knew it was not the real Peter who denied. The heroic occasions of the past were the true Peter. The remainder of Peter’s life proved Jesus was correct in His high opinion of the Apostle. Have we sinned? Don’t give up. Never quit. The Lord sees more in us than sin only.
Take heart! Jesus forgave Peter. The grievous failure of one this eminent gives encouragement and hope to all who face similar setbacks.
Let this story comfort anyone whose heart is broken over being unfaithful to our Beloved. Every sincerely repentant heart can find consolation in the restoration of Peter.
Legend says people would sometimes taunt Peter by imitating a rooster’s crow when he was near. Jesus never treated Peter this way. Christ loved His Apostle, forgave Peter, and later used him mightily.
Jesus loves us even when we have been overwhelmed by sin. He is ever ready to forgive.
John 18:27b Immediately a rooster crowed.
The most important crowing in all the history of roosterdom. Chickens, first domesticated in Asia, were brought west from Persia by the Greeks. Roman soldiers carried them to Palestine. It was unlawful for Jews to raise chickens in the holy city of Jerusalem. Evidently a Roman soldier had one nearby.
This seemingly incidental event demonstrated the deity of Jesus. He had predicted Peter would deny Him three times before a rooster crowed. This is exactly what happened. Only God could accurately predict beforehand the deeds of a person, and then regulate the habit of a fowl to coincide with them.
This crowing of a rooster meant nothing to others, but to Peter it was the rebuking voice of God. This bird preached to Peter. It was not the first time God used an animal to convey His message: a donkey rebuked Balaam, ravens fed Elijah, bears avenged Elisha, a whale humbled Jonah, now a rooster jolted Peter.
The apostle had shamed himself. It was time to repent with weeping. The crowing occurred at the precise moment it would pierce Peter’s conscience.
If we listen closely to the crowing, we hear a three-point sermon in it for us. One, don’t point fingers. We are all responsible for what happened to Jesus. Our sins caused His death.
Rembrandt, realizing this fact, painted in “The Raising of the Cross” (1633) his own portrait among the faces of those who helped lift the cross of Jesus. He was not merely a spectator, but a prominent participant in the murder. He also painted another man staring directly at us, questioning if we realize Rembrandt was not the only future one there. All the rest of us are part of the tragedy too.
Two, beware pride! Peter thought he could stand before temptation, but fell. John had to record this story. He could not omit it. The event had too valuable a lesson to teach us regarding humility and self-distrust.
Peter’s denial reminds us, even genuine love can be overwhelmed by sudden, strong temptation. We are often unaware that we have inwardly slipped away from the level of spiritual vitality we previously had. Spouses can be untrue to one another on an impulse, friends can betray one another in a moment of weakness, Christians can sin under a tidal wave of temptation.
Hear the rooster’s crow loud and clear. It happened to Peter. It can happen to anyone. “Seest thou such as Peter to make shipwreck? Look well to thy tackling” (Trapp). Never presume. Keep looking unto Jesus moment by moment.
Three, wake up! Spiritual slumber is dangerous. Never let your conscience go to sleep. Stay on guard against evil. Be vigilant to the end.