John 18:1-18 – The book of John is primarily written to proclaim the deity of Yeshua. As we have been reading, we have seen the threads that John weaves throughout the narrative, connecting Yeshua with G-d. Today’s reading continues in that vein, as Yeshua is finally arrested by the religious authorities, who believe they now have an airtight case against him with their star witness, Judas, and then turned over to the civil authorities, the Romans.
These religious/legal maneuverings are crucial to John’s narrative establishing Yeshua’s deity, which ultimately is the reason the religious leaders pursue a capital charge against him. The threat to their power comes to a head here in this chapter and they finally make a move to quash this man who has gained such an enormous following in Judea. John writes that Yeshua is taken to a courtyard to be questioned and accused by the high priest and other religious leaders. This is the climax of the story, where they make their final case against Yeshua and turn him over to be put to death.
Here John glosses over a very personal moment of this most important evening. The predicted denial of Yeshua (John 13:38) by his most vocal and passionate disciple, Peter, is given merely a few lines: “Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.” (John 18:27)
But the other gospel narratives are much more descriptive of this moment. The account in Luke is gut wrenching: “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:61-62)
As he is being questioned and accused by the high priest, Yeshua looks at Peter at the moment the rooster crows. This probably wasn’t even noticed by those surrounding Yeshua, but for Peter, the whole world narrows down to that one moment. He had failed his Messiah.
Our best intentions, proclamations of loyalty, and zealous fervor can come crumbling down in one moment. G-d already knows the many ways and times that we will fall short. Our weaknesses are not news to him. In each of these moments, we are painfully aware of our shortcomings, confronted with our failures, and utterly disappointed in ourselves. This is what reminds us that we are but dust – created beings not worthy to be in the presence of a holy G-d.
The beautiful part of this heart-wrenching moment is that, as Yeshua was walking out the hours and minutes that were leading to his death, he never once had second thoughts. There was never a moment that he considered us unworthy of his sacrifice. Peter’s failure was not a disappointment, but the very reason that Yeshua willingly gave his life to be the sacrifice for our sins.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Messiah died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but G-d shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Messiah died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
That night, Peter was not alone. We were all there with him. His shame and the very raw recognition that he was unworthy to be in the presence of a holy G-d – that is all of us at some point in our lives. Even the best of us have fallen short of G-d’s standards of righteousness. On our best day we do not deserve what Yeshua did for us when he gave his life so we may gain eternity with G-d. But he already knows that. And he did it anyway.