John chapter 18 deals with the events surrounding the arrest and trial of Jesus. Jesus is arrested after Judas’ betrayal and taken first to Annas, then to Caiaphas and ultimately to Pilate the Roman Governor. It is during his time at the High Priest Caiaphas’ residence that Peter’s betrayal takes place and that’s what I want us to consider today.
Have you ever wondered what caused Peter to betray Jesus?
Especially after Jesus told Peter that it would happen. You would think that Peter would be especially on guard after Jesus warned him that he would betray him three times before the rooster crowed. Yet Peter did exactly what Jesus said he would do. What factors could have created enough fear to have Peter, who just hours earlier had been willing to draw a sword and attempt to kill a man to defend Jesus, to now deny him? Before we get too hard on Peter, let me remind you of what Peter and all the disciples thought was going to happen.
Jews during the time of Jesus had a very particular idea of what the coming Messiah would be. He would be a king, a mighty, warring king. I believe that they all believed that he would be very much like King David, who with God’s help, had conquered all the enemies of Israel and had established them as the greatest nation in that part of the world. The Jewish people thought that he would fill all three roles of prophet, priest, and king. Because they had an erroneous view of what God was, they certainly had an erroneous view of what the Messiah who was to come from God would be.
We see glimpses of that in sections of scripture like Matthew chapter twenty and Mark chapter ten where the mother of James and John asks Jesus to let her sons sit on his left and right when he establishes his kingdom. She’s not asking about heaven, they think that Jesus is going to become the king of Israel. They believe that he’s going to take over from the Romans, expel them from Israel, and become King and High Priest all in one.
With all of that in mind, imagine what it does in Peter’s heart and mind when he sees Jesus arrested. Perhaps he can see Jesus when one of the officials near the high priest strikes Jesus for the way that he responded to one of the high priest’s questions (18:22). Can you imagine the confusion and doubt that begins to eat away at Peter’s faith? Have you ever expected one thing to happen and something totally different happened? Have you ever felt the disappointment of expecting something only to be let down? Of course you have. We all have. Now imagine that this disappointment isn’t just about a single issue, but rather that this disappointment touches everything you hope for now and everything you have ever hoped for. Now you have some sense of what Peter was feeling.
In that moment of doubt and confusion, Peter denied that he was a follower of Jesus. I think I understand. I even think that I might have done exactly the same thing. However, Peter’s story doesn’t end there. If you’ve read the first few chapters of the book of Acts, you know that Jesus picks Peter back up, dusts him off, encourages him, fills him with the Holy Spirit, and uses him to change the entire world!
Even if at times you have doubted who Jesus is and his purpose for your life, be encouraged. Jesus is patient and he knows how we are made. He’ll not only prove himself to you as he did Peter, he’ll use you to change the world as well!