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Basic Bible: Trials and Denials

John 18:15-27

All four gospels present an account of Peter’s denying Christ three times and the crow of the rooster that followed his third denial. All four gospels record words which Jesus spoke at His trial. The gospel of John, however, records words of Jesus different from those reported by Matthew, Mark and Luke. The words which John recorded were spoken in a different portion of the trial than which Matthew, Mark and Luke reported. The words recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke were spoken by Jesus near the close of proceedings, immediately prior to the high priest’s announcement that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy.

When Jesus was taken captive at Gethsemane, He was first taken to appear before Annas (see Jn. 18:13). It would seem that Peter’s first denial (v. 15-18) occurred during the period in which Jesus stood before Annas. Peter’s second and third denials most definitely occurred when Jesus stood before Caiaphas (see v. 24). The timing of Peter’s denials is found in Luke 22:58-59. Peter’s first and second denials were separated by “a little while.” His second and third denials were separated by about one hour. The words spoken by Jesus to Annas in verses 20 and 21 and to the officer in verse 23 appear to have been said at about the same time that Peter first denied Jesus.

“And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple . . .” (v. 15). John, alone, makes mention of the presence of a disciple other than Peter. The only things which we know of this disciple are that he was known by the high priest and that he went into the courtyard of the high priest before Peter entered and spoke to the female doorkeeper (v. 16). It would seem reasonable to conclude that access to the courtyard was limited and that Peter’s admission was obtained through the disciple whom the high priest (and the doorkeeper) knew. Peter’s initial denial of Jesus was upon his entry into the courtyard (v. 17).

Caiaphas was the official high priest at this time but it is Annas, the former high priest, Caiaphas’ father-in-law, who is calling the shots. It is Annas who asked Jesus of his disciples and of His doctrine.

Jesus answered, “I spake openly to the world . . .” (v. 20). Jesus most certainly had spoken openly. He had made His doctrine known from the beginning of His ministry. Speaking to the great multitude present at the Sermon upon the Mount, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). Jesus could have answered Annas by stating all that which is recorded in Matthew 5:3-7:27. Instead, Jesus asked the question, “Why askest thou me?”

Jesus knew why Annas questioned Him. Annas wanted Jesus to confess that He had come as a king who would make the Jews free from Roman rule. Annas sought cause to have the Romans execute Him. Jesus was a threat to the power which Annas and Caiaphas and the other religious leaders wielded over the people.

Jesus followed His unanswered question with a suggestion which reads as a directive. Jesus said, “ . . . ask them which heard me” (v. 21). With these words, Jesus instructed Annas to do the very thing which the law of Moses requires. Deuteronomy 17:6 specifies that one should not be put to death except that his guilt be established by a minimum of two witnesses. Jesus, in His answer to Annas, directed him to comply with the law of Moses.

John does not report that Annas spoke. John focuses upon the response of one of the officers present. The officer struck Jesus because Jesus had spoken to the high priest in the manner in which He did. Jesus said, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil” (v. 23). In the eye of the officer, Jesus had done evil. Jesus had challenged the high priest. Believers know that Jesus had directed the high priest to keep the law — the law which He had come to fulfill.

In His last words to the officer, Jesus asked “why smitest thou me?” The scene ends without an answer and Jesus is brought before Caiaphas.

Jesus knew that which was to follow. Jesus knew all things. Jesus knew the manner in which He should die. He knew that that which is recorded in Psalm 22:14-16 should soon pass.

Jesus knew every detail. We know that Jesus knew all because all that He said should happen, happened. Peter denied Him three times. John reports Peter’s second and third denials in verses 25 and 27.

In verse 25, Peter is asked if he is a disciple of Jesus. John states that Peter answered, “I am not.” The gospel of Matthew quotes Peter as saying, “I know not the man.” Both John and Matthew say the same thing but “I am not” is a more powerful denial. “I am not” states “I AM” is not. Peter, in denying Jesus, denied God the Father, God the Son. Jesus was “I AM” manifest in the flesh. John has recorded that which he recorded such that we might know Jesus as he (John) knew Jesus.
Might all men know Jesus.

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