John 18 – Denial

Read John 18

The narratives of the denial of Simon Peter, arguably the “second in command” of Jesus’ disciples, is one that gets little fanfare in the Synoptic Gospels.  Though Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the event, it passes by with no comment and ends with the bitter weeping of Peter when the rooster crows.  It is clear that Peter knows what He has done, the depths to which he has fallen.

There is a purpose for Peter’s threefold denial, though, and it is not just because people wanted to make sure that he meant it the first two times.  In the Semitic language, the way that emotion is truly expressed is through the repetition of words.  When someone says something more than once, it means that there was some passion or emotion behind it.

Think about the narrative of Jesus with Mary and Martha.  Mary is sitting and listening to Jesus while Martha is busy doing housework.  When she confronts Jesus he says, “Martha, Martha.”  There was emotion in Jesus’ voice when He spoke to her.

Another example would be the vision of Isaiah.  The angels around the throne don’t just call God holy, He is Holy, Holy, Holy!  This threefold acclamation of God’s holiness, for the reader, means God is truly holy.

So what about Peter?  Well, the triple denial that He gives communicates the depth of his own self-interest and hypocrisy.  “I will lay down my life for you,” Peter had said only hours earlier.  And now, he is truly alone.  A denial like this would have cost him his position among the disciples and any status he had with the one he followed.

Yet, in John’s Gospel, this isn’t the end of the narrative because there is grace, even for someone as stubborn as Simon Peter.