The Narrative Lectionary brings us to the story of Peter’s Denial in John 18:12-27. I have chosen to start in John 18:1 with the scene of Jesus’ arrest. I think it is an important framing for the story. Below are my illustrations. Feel free to use them in your preaching or teaching. Enjoy!
Notice the parallels between this scene and Jesus’ teaching in John 10. He is the gate to the sheepfold. He is the Good Shepherd who would give his life for the sheep. Judas, the betrayer brought a cohort of soldiers. That’s 600 soldiers.
“Whom are you looking for?” Jesus asks. “Jesus of Nazareth,” they say. He answers, “I AM” and they all get knocked on their butts. This is Jesus’ ultimate “I AM” statement.
Jesus fulfills his role as the Good Shepherd by not losing his sheep. They are safe in the garden (the sheepfold).
Peter still thinks Jesus’ kingdom is about military power and conflict. He chops off Malchus’ ear. Isn’t that what we are still tempted to do?
Jesus renounces violence. That is the opposite of his Kingdom.
The term courtyard is the same greek term translated sheepfold. The woman is the gatekeeper (same as the Good Shepherd in John 10) for Annas’ sheepfold. “Are you a disciple?” she asks Peter. This is the ultimate question for all of us. When the going gets tough, do you believe? Are you in relationship with Jesus? Do you stand in his sheepfold? Or, are you like Judas who has completely left the fold. Peter is not in the fold at this moment.
Jesus’ words are significant here. His interrogators ask him to explain the actions of his disciples and his teaching. His response is to note the he has spoken publicly and those who HEARD him KNOW what he is about. The sheep hear his voice and know him, thus they follow him. Jesus’ answer was not well received. He is sent on to Caiaphas.
Peter’s trial continues. Again he is asked the same question as the gatekeeper. “Are you a disciple?” “I AM NOT” Then, a relative of Malchus, the one whose ear Peter severed, recognizes him. Notice his words, “didn’t I see you in the Garden?” The garden is a symbol of the sheepfold and the intimate relationship the disciple has with Jesus.
Peter denies it. The cock crows (see Jesus’ prediction of this in John 13:38).
The charcoal fire is significant. It foreshadows another fire that comes at the end of the story. Peter has withdrawn himself from Jesus in Jesus’ darkest hour. That is true. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jesus meets Peter on the beach and makes a charcoal fire. He cooks him breakfast and invites him back into the loving relationship they once had.
This gives hope for all of us who have denied our relationship with Jesus at one time or another in our journey.
The whole story put together.
Thanks for reading.