Welcome to Wednesday’s podcast. Our reading today is John 18:19-40 but today I will focus on verse 26
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?’
Have you ever had that feeling that you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Years ago I went to see watch Hull City play Sheffield United in an FA cup game. I went with a former STC legend, Ben Doolan. We couldn’t sit with the Hull fans and instead turned up on the day and sat with the home side. To keep our cover Ben removed his Hull scarf and we sat among the Blades.
We’d decided to try and sit as close to the Hull fans as possible, which turned out to be a monumental mistake. We sat in the middle of loads of empty seats and seconds before the game started they filled very quickly. The atmosphere changed. We had sat by total accident in a place which was clearly reserved (unofficially) for a particular group of supporters who had a reputation for winding up (putting it politely) the opposing team.
We were sat in the middle of them.
Well into the game it looked as though Hull could score and Ben in a nano second went to his feet and I held him firmly in his seat.
We were in the wrong place. At the wrong time.
In today’s passage Peter finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and it has devastating consequences.
Peter is a fascinating character. He’s tough and strong and of all of Jesus’ followers he has pledged (often first and most passionately) his allegiance to Jesus more than once. He’s the kind of guy you want on your side! For example, when Jesus is arrested the strong, tough minded Peter steps in to defend Jesus with force, and strikes the High Priest’s servant and cuts off his ear. In the face of conflict & threat – Peter’s loyalty kicks in!
We have the advantage of knowing the whole story. We know at this stage of his apprenticeship with Jesus that one of Peter’s defining qualities is his strength. In John chapter 13 he’s told Jesus that he’ll lay down his life – it’s not an issue. It’s strange then that Jesus brings a very strong challenge and prophesies that he will do the very opposite and in fact he’ll deny Jesus three times. Why three times? In Jewish culture there’s a Hebrew idiom – if something is done 3 times then it’s ratified. Jesus knows that there is a limit to Peter’s strength – that he like us will fall.
The truth is, while Peter is strong and loyal and tough and loving, his weakness is his self reliance. If we look at the whole of Peter’s life we see that his denial, his failing becomes the breaking in his life that means when Jesus restores him in John 21 (incidentally Jesus asks him 3 times – this breaks the ratification) – Peter now embraces grace, God’s power and begins to walk aware of his own limitations but trust more in God’s power.
So, where and why does Peter fall down?
Firstly his own pride – his strength fails him… why?
In verses 25-27 while Jesus is under interrogation Peter is warming himself by a fire in the courtyard. He is in a really dangerous place – he’s surrounded by people who are not good news – Roman Soldiers and servants alike warm by the fire and Peter is with them.
As they’re standing around talking in the darkness – the conversation flows and when asked Peter denies Jesus 3 times.
People influence us. The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:33 ‘Bad Company corrupts good character’. Who we spend time with will have a deep influence upon us. Psychologists call it Social Facilitation.
Somebody once said that temptation is most likely to strike when we’re HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. We don’t know Peter’s emotions but he would have ticked some of those boxes. Despite our best intentions we are influenced for good or otherwise by the company we keep. Pressure to do stuff or be accepted both with people will be excerpted.
What can we learn?
That’s why we bang on about community so much. If you’re part of STC – journey with other people – choose to get plugged into community – join others who have trodden the path before you and seek their wisdom and guidance.
Thank you for Lord for community. Thank you for this church and I pray that you might add to our communities and deepen them in Jesus’ name. Amen.
READING: John 18:19-40
Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
‘I have spoken openly to the world,’ Jesus replied. ‘I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.’
When Jesus said this, one of the officials near by slapped him in the face. ‘Is this the way you answer the high priest?’ he demanded.
‘If I said something wrong,’ Jesus replied, ‘testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?’ Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
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 cock began to crow.
Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, ‘What charges are you bringing against this man?’
‘If he were not a criminal,’ they replied, ‘we would not have handed him over to you.’
Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.’
‘But we have no right to execute anyone,’ they objected. This took place to fulfil what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’
‘Is that your own idea,’ Jesus asked, ‘or did others talk to you about me?’
‘Am I a Jew?’ Pilate replied. ‘Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?’
Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’
‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate.
Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’
‘What is truth?’ retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release “the king of the Jews”?’
They shouted back, ‘No, not him! Give us Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.