Peter Denies Knowing Jesus


In John 18:12-14 we find that Jesus was first taken before the powerful Annas, the ex-high priest and the power behind the current one, these verses remind us of the important prophecy made by the current high priest, John 11:49-51, which he had said without realising the truth behind his statement.

While Jesus is on trial, we find Peter is about to deny Jesus three times just as Jesus said he would, Matthew 26:33-35 / Mark 14:29-31 / John 13:37-38.

Peter’s First Denial

‘Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in. ‘You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?’ she asked Peter. He replied, ‘I am not.’ It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.’ John 18:15-18

Here we read about Peter’s first denial, but who is the ‘other disciple’ mentioned in John 18:15? Traditionally this has been accepted as John himself, this would be consistent with John’s habit of not naming himself, John 1:40 / John 13:23-25 / John 19:26 / John 20:2-8 / John 21:20-24. Also, Peter and John appear to have been constant companions, Luke 22:8 / Acts 3:1 / Acts 4:13 / Acts 8:14.

This unnamed disciple ‘was known to the high priest’, which means he was well enough known for the servant girl to admit him. Peter and it appears John follow the group including the Lord to the house of the high priest, it’s most likely that Annas and Caiaphas lived at the same address. John is known at the gate and allowed into the court-yard and seeks permission for Peter to come in also.

The girl at the gate sees Peter and recognises him as one of Jesus followers, she asks him about this and Peter makes that first terrible denial but Peter and John both enter, Peter and John find a fire with people around and go to it to keep warm. It appears as if the other disciples had fled back to ‘his own’, in accordance with Jesus prophecy of John 16:32.

In John 18:17 we see the question asked by the maid is phrased to anticipate a negative answer, ‘you aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?

Remember that the ‘other disciple’ was known to be one of Jesus’ followers, he had openly entered along with Jesus, John 18:15.

‘Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee,’ she said. But he denied it before them all. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he said.’ Luke 26:69-70

How easily Peter fell!

Questioned by a maid, ‘paidiske’, girl, he said, ‘I am not.’ The other disciple was apparently in no danger, why didn’t Peter own up? Perhaps he was taken by surprise when a mere girl challenged him, maybe he was afraid he would be recognized as the one who wounded Malchus, we know that nearby are the ‘officers,’ John 18:18, who had been involved in the arrest of Jesus, John 18:13-14.

A few hours ago, he had said he would die for Jesus, John 13:37 but now, a frightened man, he denies his Master.

Peter’s Second And Third Denial

‘Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So, they asked him, ‘You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?’ He denied it, saying, ‘I am not.’ One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, ‘Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?’ Again, Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.’ John 18:25-27

In John 18:25-27 we see Peter’s second and third denial. It’s difficult to harmonise the accounts of the denials in the Gospels with that of John. This was during Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas, John 18:24-28.

Matthew and Mark relate that before this Peter had gone out to the ‘porch’ or ‘gateway’, Matthew 26:71 / Mark 14:68. Perhaps, deeply ashamed by his first denial, he wanted to slip away unseen, but was unable to escape unobserved.

Matthew and Mark both tell of his being accosted in the porch by a ‘maid’. Accused of having been with Jesus, ‘he denied it with an oath’, Matthew 26:71-72 / Mark 14:69-70.

Peter ‘was standing and warming himself’ at a charcoal fire, John 18:18. This charcoal only mentioned only by John would provide much heat but little light. And he is challenged by bystanders, ‘you aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?’ again he answers, ‘I am not’.

Then he is challenged by a slave of the high priest, who is also a kinsman of Malchus, ‘Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?’ John 18:26.

‘Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ He denied it again, with an oath: ‘I don’t know the man! After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, ‘Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.’ Matthew 26:71-73

The Gospels tell what was said both to and about Peter regarding his speech, Matthew 26:73, the bystanders, ‘certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you’. Mark 14:70, the bystanders, ‘certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ Luke 22:59, another bystander, probably a maid, ‘certainly this man was with him; for he is a Galilean.’

So, we see he was twice challenged about his presence with the Lord. First by a slave girl, one of the most unimportant persons imaginable, her question expected a negative answer and Peter takes the easy way out. Next, by a relative of the servant whose ear Peter had cut off.

Peter again denied any link with Jesus, as he concluded his statement, the crowing began. John’s account is more discreet than the other Gospels, he merely states, ‘Peter again denied it; and at once the cock crowed’.

Alleged Contradiction

‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ Matthew 26:34

‘Then Jesus answered, will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!’ John 13:38

Notice that Matthew and John both say that, ‘before the rooster crows’, Peter will have denied the Lord three times.

‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows TWICE you yourself will disown me three times.’ Mark 14:30

And now notice that Mark says that ‘before the rooster crows ‘twice’, Peter will deny Christ three times. Although some see this as a contradiction, when we actually take a moment to slowly read the text itself, we will soon realise there’s no contradiction.

Notice how Matthew and John don’t expressly state how many times the rooster will crow. They both simply say that Peter will deny Jesus three times, ‘before the rooster crows’, but they don’t tell us how many times it will crow. I believe it’s reasonable to accept that Mark is being a little more specific in terms of how many times the rooster will actually crow.

In fact, if you look at the word, ‘twice’ in Mark 14:10 and Mark 14:72, you will notice that it has a footnote, which tells us that ‘some early manuscripts do not have ‘twice’. In other words, it’s possible that different accounts are due to an early copyist error in Mark, that resulted in the insertion of the word, ‘twice’ in early manuscripts.

Peter Wept Bitterly

‘The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.’ Luke 22:61-62

Luke records in his account that at this moment Jesus was outside, probably on his way from Annas’ quarters to Caiaphas’s and he looked straight at Peter, who broke down and cried, Matthew 26:74-75 / Mark 14:71-72.

We can’t help but sympathise with Peter at this point, as he saw Jesus and then remembered what He prophesied about his denying Him three times. He literally was sobbing his heart out.


This was probably one of the lowest points in his life and it was an event he wasn’t going to forget for the rest of his life. It’s interesting that things seem to happen in threes for Peter from this point on, John 21:15-17 / Acts 10:9-16 / Acts 10:17-19.

What Peter was demonstrating here was genuine godly sorrow, which was the opposite of what Judas was demonstrating, as he went on to hang himself, Matthew 27:5 / 2 Corinthians 7:10.

If we learn anything from Peter, we should learn that he didn’t allow this occasion to affect the rest of his life, he went on to become a powerful apostle for the Lord and became bolder when he spoke more openly about the Christ, Acts 2.

As Christians we too will make many mistakes, some out of fear of being persecuted but we must learn to draw a line under those occasions and move on.