This week’s Narrative text begins a 4 week dwelling in the end of Jesus’ life in John’s gospel (chapters 18 and 19).

Working Preacher commentary is here. Text this Week resources are here.

There’s a lot of different places one can focus in this passage. Where are you leaning?

A few weeks ago, we had Jesus as the gate for the sheep in John 10. The words for gate and courtyard are repeated here from that earlier passage (gate and sheepfold). How does the story look different to you if Peter is a sheep in the sheepfold as Jesus takes on the thieves and bandits?

Peter denies Jesus in three different scenes, the final time as the cock crows. After the resurrection, Jesus will give Peter three different chances to positively claim him. Peter is the “all in” disciple–last week he wanted Jesus to wash his head and his feet (ch 13). He races to the empty tomb (ch 20). He dives into the water to swim to the risen Lord (ch 21). He will be the rock on which the church is founded AND he’s the one who denies Jesus.

During Lent, it’s a humbling reminder to us, and maybe an encouraging one too. Denial and fear are part of the human condition, and there is no disciple in scripture, or in the world, who is immune to being human. We acknowledge how we have fallen short. And, like Peter, we keep at it. Peter, the denying sheep, afraid of the thieves and bandits, will be entrusted by Jesus to “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep”.

We still have thieves and bandits. We still have stories of denial, where fear overwhelms our better nature. We also still have lambs in need of tending. May we find hope in the midst of this Lenten journey.

Where is the sermon muse directing you this week? Share your thoughts here.

How will you connect this story to a Children’s Sermon?  Other ideas to share?

Marci Auld Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church and lives with her husband and sons in Boise, Idaho. She is a graduate of Trinity University and Columbia Theological Seminary. She serves on the Clergy Advocacy Board of Planned Parenthood and the Mission Agency Board of the Presbyterian Church USA. Marci blogs at Glass Overflowing and is among the contributors to the RevGals book,There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths).

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8 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: Denial (John 18:12-27)

  1. Thank you, Marci. I am SO taken in this passage by the levels of betrayal, denial, abuse, and false accusations which Jesus experiences from his disciples, from the religious authorities, by the Roman authorities. His physical torture to come is beyond imagination but this emotional, spiritual and relational betrayal is torture also. He is really alone, apart from God.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Peter is often vilified for his “betrayals”…but consider the danger and his courage (unlike all but one of the other disciples) in even going there. Is he under-cover? Is he a spy? If he had confessed Jesus, he too would have gone to a cross. Did he have something up his sleeve, or was it that he & the Beloved Disciple just had to accompany Jesus, even if they were hiding?

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    1. We all betray in different ways. I’m cautious about looking for the “bright spots” in betrayal. The other disciple wasn’t in a situation to betray here because he was already known by the people as Jesus’ follower. He made it through okay.


      1. Yes, betrayal shouldn’t be made light of, Marci, I agree. But I think the same-old, same-old harping on “bad” Peter doesn’t take into account living in an occupation with life-and-death consequences. Colm Toibin’s THE TESTAMENT OF MARY gives a creepy sense of that context (like East Germany before the wall came down, but with crucifixion).


        1. I don’t see Peter as any worse than the rest of us. (Or any better than the rest of us, for that matter). The contrast between Jesus (bound, under attack for speaking truth) and Peter (free, warm by the fire, speaking untruth) is stark in this passage.

          I’ve not read the Testimony of Mary, but will look for it. Thanks for the recommendation!


  3. Jesus has earlier chastised Peter for using his sword against the High Priest’s servant. Violent resistance isn’t an option. Peter is powerless in worldly terms. Jesus has told S.Peter to stand aside and not resist what is going to happen to him (Jesus).. as it is the Father’s will. Jesus has foretold that they will ‘scatter’… I imagine Peter there, in love and fidelity to Jesus, as a witness to what is unfolding… trying to figure out what faithfulness can possibly look like in this vulnerable and confusing situation. How does one make sense of a crucified messiah? Peter is the one who earlier has said, “You are the Christ!”

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