“I told him I would never leave him, John, and I don’t intend to.” Peter was rather cocky in his pronouncement, even more so than usual.
“I don’t intend to either, but he knows something we don’t,” John answered. “He said we would all fall away. I know how you feel, and so does he, but sometimes the best way to support someone is from the shadows. Just wait here near the entrance, but don’t make yourself look obvious.”
John walked up to the gate where the servant girl quickly recognized him and let him into the high priest’s courtyard. He wanted to survey the situation before he went back out to bring in Peter. Peter bided his time outside, looking anxiously down the road in the hope that he would appear to be waiting to escort someone in at the gate. In time, John returned from behind Peter, startled him, ended his charade, and said, “Now, one more time, promise me that you will not create a disturbance, and I will help you get inside.”
Peter gave the requisite answer.
John hoped, rather than believed, he was sincere and said, “Let’s go.”
Peter did not intend to cause a disturbance, but those words haunted him: “…before the rooster crows, you will disown my three times.” He was determined that if he ran into a high official he would not shrink back. If Jesus was falsely accused, he would stand up in defense. In fact, it was his hope that by following Jesus into enemy territory he might be able to show his mettle by standing up to the high priest himself, and Jesus would be there to hear it. However, he first had to gain entrance to the courtyard.
As they approached the gate, Peter fixed his mind on his ultimate goal, much the same as he had seen Jesus resolve to head toward Jerusalem a few weeks earlier. Meanwhile, John made the necessary introductions, and the servant girl asked Peter, “You are not one of his disciples are you?”
There was only one answer that would satisfy such a question and gain entrance to the courtyard. At the time, it seemed to Peter a demonstration of his devotion to speak counter to the truth and his character, so he said to the girl, “I am not.” It served to strengthen his resolve, to increase his drive. He was crossing over more than the threshold of the courtyard; in Peter’s estimation, he was now well on his way to proving himself to the Lord before the high priest.
Once they had entered, John was intent on keeping Peter in check. “Go to the fire and warm yourself. Maybe it will help calm you.”
The warmth of the fire was a stark contrast to the rest of his night. Peter had grown gradually colder with the events of the evening. The rebuke at dinner, falling asleep in the garden, the arrest of Jesus, and the ensuing separation from the Lord had all left him cold. Even the excitement of cutting off a man’s ear was chilled by the admonition to put away his sword. This heat was a welcome jolt to Peter’s system and awoke him to himself and his mission.
However, Peter was not alone at the fire, nor was he alone in gaining an awareness of himself. Before he noticed the stares of the others, one man blurted out the question, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?”
Startled, and afraid of losing his cover, Peter repeated his earlier answer, “I am not.”
But another man accused him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?”
Peter was desperate to preserve his chance of defending Jesus before the officials, so he vehemently denied knowing Jesus for a third time. At that moment a rooster crowed and these words flew to the front of his mind: “…before the rooster crows, you will disown my three times.” The reality of what he had done rushed over him, and he ran out and wept.
He had wanted Jesus to hear him make a grand proclamation of his devotion. He would have gladly died defending his name in front of the high priest or other authorities, but he had failed to claim him in the less glorified moments. John had been right. Peter was not content to support Jesus from the shadows, but only in grand ways. That would have to change, and it would.
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