John 18:15
Now Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he also went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest.
Jesus Before CaiaphasAlexander MaclarenJohn 18:15
Ardent Affection and Timorous FalsehoodJ.R. Thomson John 18:15-17
Once Denied, Thrice DeniedF. Jacox, B. A.John 18:15-18
Peter's Denial of ChristM. Braithwaite.John 18:15-18
The Fall of PeterT. Whitelaw, D. D.John 18:15-18
The Temporary Failure of True CourageD. Thomas, D. D.John 18:15-18
The inconsistency of which human nature is capable is proverbial. In the conduct of Peter we have a very striking instance of this characteristic quality of man. In Peter we have extremes meeting. None of Christ's disciples showed a quicker and clearer appreciation of the Master's claims; none showed a more fervent attachment to the Master himself. Yet, strange to say, Peter was conspicuous above the rest for his faint-heartedness in the time of trial and of danger. The two dispositions are equally apparent upon occasion of the incident recorded in this passage.

I. ARDENT AFFECTION. The sincerity and strength of Peter's love for Jesus cannot be questioned.

1. It was this which had impelled him to draw the sword in his Master's defense.

2. It was this which impelled him to follow Jesus when his colleagues and companions had fled.

3. It was this which urged him to accompany John without having the guarantee of safety which John possessed.

4. It was this which led him to dare the risk attaching to the neighborhood of the court and high priest's dwelling. No motive save the pure motive of affection could have induced Peter to act as he did.


1. This was apparently upon a slight occasion and inappreciable danger. The charge brought by a maid who kept the door was enough to throw off his guard the boldest and chief of the apostles.

2. It was in contrast with his previous confessions. None of the twelve had been more forward to apprehend and to acknowledge the claims of Jesus to Messiahship and to Divinity than had Peter.

3. It was a poor recompense for the distinguishing favor which had been shown to Peter in common with two other of the twelve. He who had been on the mount and in the garden with Jesus now denied him.

4. It was the occasion of bitter remorse and true repentance on the part of the offender against conscience and against Christ.

5. It became a recollection, which in his after-ministry stimulated Peter to watchfulness and to prayer.

LESSON. The narrative is a warning against relying too much upon religious feeling. Peter felt deeply and warmly towards Christ; yet he fell. Many Christians think that they are secure because the gospel touches their emotions. The counsel of Jesus himself must not be forgotten: "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation!" - T.

And Simon Peter followed Jesus.
I. FOREANNOUNCED (John 13:38). Three surprises.

1. The person concerned. Peter the man of rock, whose faith had appeared the brightest (John 6:68; Matthew 16:16). Whose zeal had seemed the greatest (John 13:37), and whose courage had been accounted the boldest (Matthew 14:28). Had it been Thomas the desponding (John 11:16), the wonder would have been less; had it been John the beloved, it could hardly have been more. Let it teach —(1) That no man knows himself or his fellows as Christ does.(2) That they who seem the least assailable are often the soonest overcome.(3) That no saint, however large his capacities or high his attainments, is beyond the possibility of a fall.

2. The time indicated. That might of the Paschal feast, &c., when Peter would have said that his faith was strongest and his love warmest. This too has lessons.(1) That times of highest spiritual excitement are often seasons of greatest danger.(2) That there are moments when Christ's followers need most to be on their guard.

3. The sin predicted. Desertion would have caused a shock: it staggers one to read of denial. It discloses.(1) How near the best of saints are to the abysses of sin.(2) How suddenly and swiftly one may be hurled from a pinnacle of moral goodness to the lowest deep of guilt and shame.(3) How close even in renewed hearts lie the extremes of godliness and wickedness.(4) How needful it is for him who thinketh he standeth, to take heed lest he fall.


1. The first denial (ver. 17).(1) The place — the court of the high priest, beside a fire.(2) The time — shortly after Peter had been admitted.(3) The questioner — the maid who kept the door.(4) The question — variously reported because variously given, first to Peter and then to the bystanders, but every time insisting on the fact that Peter was one of Christ's disciples.(5) The denial — spluttered forth in various forms, because of the uneasiness Peter felt, in all forms repudiating his discipleship, and telling a direct lie — "I am not"(6) The result — restless and unhappy: Peter with-drew from the fire, and sauntered out into the porch (Matthew 26:71; Mark 14:68). While there a cock crew. If Peter's ears heard, his conscience did not.

2. The second denial (ver. 25).(1) The place — first in the porch and afterwards by the fire.(2) The time — "after a while."(3) The questioner — in the porch the maid, who was perhaps joined by another female domestic; by the fire the maid and the officers.(4) The question — still insisting on the fact of His discipleship.(5) The denial — to the maids, with an oath he denies all knowledge of Christ, to the officers he curtly denies his discipleship.

3. The third denial (ver. 27).(1) The place — the court (probably).(2) The time — a little after, when Christ's trial before Caiaphas was drawing to a close.(3) The questioner — the bystanders, among whom was a kinsman of Malchus.(4) The question — first the bystanders remark that he speaks like a Galilean, and must be a disciple; then one in particular maintains this vehemently; finally Malchus's kinsman identifies him with one whom he had noticed in the garden.(5) The denial — with cursing and swearing. Oh! Peter, how are the mighty fallen!

III. EXPLAINED. By three things.

1. Peter's over-confidence in the upper room (John 13:3; Matthew 26:33). "Pride goeth before destruction" (Proverbs 16:18).

2. Peter's over-rashness in the garden (ver. 10). His lawlessness upon the sward made him timid in the palace. His foolish sword-practice wrought less damage to Malchus than to himself.

3. Peter's over-forgetfulness in the palace. If Peter forgot his own sin, he should not have forgotten Christ's Fords. A good memory would probably have averted his fall.

IV. BEWAILED (Matthew 26:75). Learn —

1. That Christ accurately gauges the characters and foresees the histories of His people.

2. That Divine foreknowledge destroys not human responsibility, while Divine foreannouncement increases it.

3. That overweening confidence in oneself is no mark of grace or stability, but rather of the opposite.

4. That it requires little to lead a good man, left to himself, into sin, and once started on the downward path none can predict when he will stop.

5. That Christ knows, if the world does not, when Christians deny Him, and that no greater indignity can be put upon Him than to be disowned by such as bear His name.

6. That if a child of God sins He must and will be brought to repentance, perhaps suddenly and painfully, but always with tears.

7. That those who have truly sorrowed for sin will sorrow on every remembrance of it; yet not so as to hinder, but rather increase, their joy in God and in His mercy and grace.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

A grievous sin. The disciple disowned his Master, the servant his Lord.


1. Falsehood.

2. Cowardice.

3. Profanity.

4. Persistence.


1. His close connection with Christ.

2. The repeated warnings.

3. Strong professions of devotion.

4. The imperative demands of the time and place.


1. Sudden.

2. Brief.

3. Never repeated.


1. Self-confidence.

2. Blindness to near danger.

3. Negligence of precautions.

4. Fear of derision.

(M. Braithwaite.)

Here is true courage —

I. NOBLY DISPLAYED (ver. 15). To follow One who was being dragged by Roman ruffians to undergo a mock trial, and who in a few hours would undergo a terrible crucifixion, revealed bravery of heart of no mean character.

II. TEMPORARILY FAILING (ver 16). It would seem that at this stage Peter's courage began to fail, for he halted at the door, so that John had to go and take him in. As he entered he was recognized by the portress (ver. 17).

1. Here is fear seeking to protect itself by falsehood (ver. 18). Fear had taken possession of Peter, and to protect himself he halted by the fire, mingling with the people who stood there, desiring, it may be, to be regarded as one of them. Fear, perhaps, is the most prolific parent of lies. Greed is one — it fills the market with its fallacies; vanity is another — it fills social circles with misrepresentations; malice is a third — it hatches the slanders that destroy reputations and break hearts; but fear is the most fruitful.

2. But this fear was only temporary; his failing courage was soon restored. The look of Christ rallied the drooping forces of his moral manhood, and ever after he appears as a hero among heroes.Conclusion: Learn —

1. The liability of good men to moral reactions.

2. Whatever the moral reactions, the good element will ultimately prevail.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Lie engenders lie. Once committed, the liar has to go on in his course of lying. It is the penalty of his transgression. To the habitual liar, bronzed and hardened in the custom, till the custom becomes second nature, the penalty may seem no terrible price to pay. To him, on the other hand, who, without deliberate intent, and against his innermost will, is overtaken with such a fault, the generative power of a first lie to beget others, the necessity of supporting the first by a second and a third, is a retribution keenly to be felt, while penitently owned to be most just. Dean Swift says: "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;" and F. W. Robertson: "One step necessitates many others. The soul gravitates downwards beneath its burden. It was profound knowledge which prophetically refused to limit Peter's sin to one." Mr. Froude shows us Queen Elizabeth stooping to "a deliberate lie." At times "she seemed to struggle with her ignominy, but it was only to flounder deeper into distraction and dishonour." Nobody ever did anything wrong without having to tell one or more falsehoods to begin with: the embryo murderer has to tell a lie about the pistol or dagger, the would-be suicide about the poison. "The ways down which the bad ship Wickedness slides to a shoreless ocean must be greased with lies."

(F. Jacox, B. A.)

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