(408) 779-0697 | info@westhills.org

John 18:15-19, 25-27 Study Guide: The Denial

Community Group Study Guide — The Denial
John 18:15-18, 25-27

Study Information:
There is pressure in our world for belonging to Jesus. In John 15:18 Jesus prepared his disciples that the world will hate them because the world hated Jesus. Many of us do not experience daily physical danger like other Christians around the world, but there is still pressure to push Jesus out of our lives and live like he does not matter. Some of us may work in places where it does not feel safe to be a Christian or we have family members who pressure us for our faith. You may not be in danger of directly denying that you belong to Jesus, but there can be steady pressure to be ashamed of belonging to Christ or to live as if “that church stuff” does not matter. Have you ever felt ashamed of belonging to Jesus or pressure to act like he does not matter to your life? 

In our text of scripture we get to read about the Apostle Peter’s biggest failure and we get a sense of how Jesus will respond to Peter with his grace. This event in Peter’s life gives us hope that God can redeem us even from our greatest failures and we are encouraged that even with all of our failures Jesus is never ashamed of us if we belong to him.

The Ingredients of a Denial: reacting under pressure, self preservation and disappointment with God:
John 18:15-18, 25-27

After Jesus was arrested Peter followed him but kept his distance. Our text opened up with “another disciple” accompanying Peter. This “other disciple” knew the high priest and was able to get into the courtyard to see what was going to happen to Jesus. This “other disciple” was most likely John who has been nameless thus far in the gospel and was a close companion of Peter. Notice how this “other disciple” did not feel the same level of danger or pressure that Peter experienced and it seems known to those in the courtyard that both of them belonged to Jesus. For a variety of reasons, Peter felt incredible pressure to compromise his commitment to Jesus when asked if he belonged to Jesus. 

First, we notice that Peter reacts to the pressure. While he was standing at the gate to the courtyard a servant girl asked him if he was “also” one of Jesus disciples. This is one way we can know that they knew the “other disciple” belonged to Jesus. Jesus called his disciples to count the cost of following him, which means that there will be sacrifice and potential danger and we’d be wise to consider that before the pressure comes. In times of pressure typically what is lying beneath the surface is what comes out. Peter did not stop and consider what the cost of his denial of Jesus would be, instead he reacted with “I am not!” Many of the big sins in our lives are not pre-planned they’re often reactions when pressure hits. We’d do well to think about how we would respond before an event happens instead of reacting to pressure as it comes. 

Second, we all have a self preservation instinct. Peter moved from the entry way to a charcoal fire where people were gathered to get warm (John 18:18). This is a detail that helps us know that this trial took place a night since it would have been warm during the day the fire indicates that it took place at night which was against Jewish law. Gathered around this fire we notice that there was added pressure and danger to Peter. For example, notice that it went from a single person to a crowd questioning Peter when “they said to him…” (John 18:25). And it turns out that one of the crowd was related to the man Peter attacked in the garden and that man recognized him from being there (John 18:26)! Each time Peter was questioned he responded “I am not!” We all have a desire to protect our reputation, money, health and lives. This direct pressure for safety pressed Peter and likely added to his denial.

Finally, disappoint with God. Peter seemed to think that Jesus was bringing about a military and political revolution to take back Israel from Rome and establish God’s kingdom. Peter was quick to declare that he’d die for Jesus and never deny him, likewise he picked up the sword to defend Jesus in the garden. With Jesus bound and arrested it seemed like he was a defeated Messiah and the disciples did not understand how this event would lead to their victory and God’s defeat of sin, death and the devil. It is hard not to see the potential for disappointment in God here. Often we hold onto promises that God never made and are disappointed when he “breaks” them.

What Happens After You Fail?
The Gospel of John uniquely intertwined the story of Peter’s denial with the trial of Jesus. Why? Peter and Jesus were both being questioned and were both on trial. Peter denied Jesus, Jesus stood firm and denied nothing. Peter gave in to save himself, Jesus persevered to save us. When we approach a passage like this we often wonder, do I have what it takes to be courageous and to stand firm? The answer is “no” but there is one who does!  

The book of Acts shows us a changed Peter who became bold and courageous in the face of danger. Church history informs us that he was executed for his faith under emperor Nero. How could he go from denying Jesus to a servant girl to giving up his life for his faith? 

When we come to a place of failure, are we quick to repent and turn to God? His grace is truly amazing and Jesus is able to restore and heal us from any sin. Other gospel accounts tell us that Peter responded by weeping when the rooster crowed. We do not know where he went immediately after this denial, but we do know that Jesus met Peter after his resurrection to lovingly confront Peter’s failure and Peter received forgiveness and restoration (John 21). Repentance is a gift. Are you ready to go to God with your failure or do you think they exclude you from access to God? God graciously helps us as weak people to grow in strength and holiness, but one of the points of this passage is that we all fail and need Jesus, only Jesus could endure the pressure of this trial and he did it for our salvation. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 18:15-18, 25-27

What times in your life have you been most tempted to feel shame about belonging to Jesus or a temptation to hide that from others?

How does Peter change from John 13:36-38 to John 18:25-27? 

What are some of the potential reasons Peter denied knowing Jesus in our text?

We each face various temptations to compromise our faith or to “just be normal” and live as if our faith does not matter practically in our lives. How can a follower of Jesus grow in courage when there is pressure from the world around us?