Author’s Note: I am a journalist by training, who prefers to stick to the facts rather than wander into a fictional land. Thus, as I write biblical narratives, I take little creative license, trying to carefully indicate when I am surmising about a character’s feelings or the conclusion to a story. Sticking to the biblical text and the research I gather concerning the time and region, I seek to provide an accurate retelling of the events that transpired nearly 2,000 years ago. That said, the Gospel accounts of Peter’s interactions with Caiaphas’ servants differ slightly, mainly in the use of direct quotes. So, in writing this post, I relied primarily on John’s writing, knowing that he was present in the courtyard during Jesus’ trial. Then I used additional details and quotes from Matthew, Mark, and Luke to fill out the story. While narratives are a fun addition to one’s reading stack, I encourage my reader to spend time with the Scripture sections that record this story. Not one minute you spend in God’s Word is wasted time!
By Jaime Sherman
- Matthew 26:57-58, 69-75
- Mark 14:53-54, 66-72
- Luke 22:54-62
- John 18:12-18, 25-27
Malchus, who we met yesterday, wasn’t the only servant mentioned in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ arrest, trials, and sentencing, though he was the only one named. Three bystanders emerge from the midnight shadows of Jesus’ trial before the high priest Caiaphas, sparking Peter’s denials of knowing Jesus.
As Jesus was led to Caiaphas’ home, the young disciple John followed at a distance and gained admittance into the courtyard, for he knew the high priest. Once inside, he beckoned to a servant girl to have Peter brought inside. As she did, her first words to Peter were, “You also are not one of the man’s disciples, are you?”
“I am not,” came Peter’s response as he made for the newly-kindled fire to join John and the guards. These bystanders to all that was happening in the governor’s compound were eager to warm themselves after a chilly, midnight excursion to the Garden of Gethsemane.
In an upper room, the chief priests and the whole council of elders and scribes were listening to false testimony concerning Jesus, desperately seeking to convict Him of blasphemy and put Him to death. As these men, seething with anger, spit in Jesus’ face and attacked him with fits and rods, another servant girl approached Peter in the courtyard below, studying his face by firelight.
“You also were with Jesus the Galilean,” she proclaimed without any question in her mind.
“I do not know what you mean,” Peter replied, rising to distance himself from the gathering.
Then, about an hour later as the trial above them continued, another servant cornered Peter. This one was a relative of Malchus and had been in the garden that night to witness the sword-waving episode.
“Did I not see you in the garden with him?” the servant asked.
Peter’s words intensified as he invoked a curse, saying, “I do not know the man.”
And in that moment, a rooster’s crow echoed through the courtyard, and Peter looked up to see Jesus looking down at him. Jesus’ earlier words came rushing back louder than the morning alarm.
“Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times,” Jesus had said.
Running from the courtyard, Peter wept bitterly, for he had failed the Lord.
We wonder. How did Peter’s denials — and then his tears — impact Caiaphas’ servants who were so certain that this man was a Jesus follower? Did Peter go back to this trio later and confess his fear that night? Did he clarify with them his standing with the One who gave His life for him that day?
From the book of Acts, we sense Peter’s post-resurrection confidence and read his bold words of truth, and we can picture him returning to these servants with words of life and truth — “Yes, I know Jesus, and my life will never be the same again!”
Spend a few minutes considering how you will respond to the question, “You also are not one of the man’s disciples, are you?”
For additional narratives in our Bystanders series, click here.