Today we look at a story that is not unlike what many go through in their walk of following Christ. The story of Peter’s denial while under pressure and fear should comfort and encourage many who have had the enemy lie to them that they have committed the unforgivable sin. The Holy Spirit directed Luke and the other Gospel writers to focus on a side story away from the central drama of the crucifixion. We are to see that God is full of grace and mercy toward those who have, by their actions, denied Christ and like Peter repented and was forgiven.
It was more than likely past midnight when the soldiers and the temple guards arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. John tells us that they bound Christ before leading Him across the Kidron Brook to the high priest's Palace on the west side of the Temple area. Annas had been the high priest for ten years, and the position was supposed to be for life, but the Roman procurator Gratus had deposed him. The son-in-law of Annas, Caiaphas, held the title of High Priest, but he was more a puppet of Annas (Acts 4:6). Most people still saw Annas as the most influential in much of the political and social life of the nation. Both Annas and Caiaphas lived in the palace compound of the High Priest's residence, with a courtyard separating them. Living lavishly by their various money-making schemes, they were well protected with walls, gates, servants, and guards to protect them. We'll read Luke's account first, and then, to arrive at a complete picture of all the drama, we’ll look at what the other Gospel writers record.
54Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them (Luke 22:54-55).
As well as Luke, both Matthew and Mark note that Peter followed the "large crowd" (Matthew 26:47) at a distance. As stated in our meditations over the last few days, more than 450 Roman soldiers arrested Jesus, plus the temple guards probably brought the number to around 600 people. After Jesus was arrested, the eleven disciples scattered, but two of them found one another on the way while following the large crowd. Luke does not say who the other disciple was, but it was likely the apostle John. In typical fashion for John, he rarely referred to himself in his gospel. He wrote:
15Simon 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, 16but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in. 17"You are not one of his disciples, are you?" the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, "I am not." 18It 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).
There is a progression seen in the two above passages of Scripture. When we follow the Lord at a distance, we should not be surprised to find ourselves warming our hands at the fires of our enemies that oppose the Lord and His kingdom. Paul the apostle wrote prophetically of a time still ahead for the Church, when many will distance themselves and fall away from the faith. Here’s what he wrote:
“Let no one deceive you in any way, for it [The Day of the Lord] will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness—the son of destruction—is revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:3 Emphasis mine).
Other English translations use the words falling away and apostasy to describe this rebellion that will take place on earth. These are crucial days for the Church, for if you, too, are following at a distance when the going gets hard and you must take a stand for Christ, how will you not go along with the rebellion and sit by the fire with the enemies of God? Be careful whose side you are on in this war against the forces of darkness. To keep these meditations short, we’ll continue tomorrow on the theme of Peter’s brokenness. If you can’t wait, you can click the link below. Keith Thomas
Taken from study 61 in Luke: Peter, the Broken Disciple