54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. 55When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, ‘This man also was with him.’ 57But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’ 58A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, ‘You also are one of them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’ 59Then about an hour later yet another kept insisting, ‘Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.’ 60But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about!’ At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. 61The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’ 62And he went out and wept bitterly.
Peter had been so sure! He would follow Jesus to the death; that was what he had promised, just a few hours earlier. But now – he was frightened, bewildered, confused. The high priest’s servants and soldiers had come to the Garden, the place where Jesus prayed. He had tried to fight back, but Jesus had said no. They had arrested Jesus, taken him away; what would happen now? The others had run away, but he followed the soldiers, at a distance, keeping to the shadows.
When they had taken Jesus into the hall, before the high priest, Peter tried to blend in with the crowd in the courtyard. They built a fire in the courtyard, and Peter sat around the fire with them, warming himself, but trying to stay out of the light. Still, a servant girl spotted him there in the firelight, and staring at him, she said, “This man also was with him.” Perhaps she had been one of those in the crowds who had gone to see Jesus, to hear him speak, and she recognized Peter as one of his disciples. But Peter denied it – “Woman, I do not know him.” A second person noticed him a little later – but again, he denied being one of Jesus’ followers. And then, a third time, someone, realizing from his accent, or his clothes, that he was from Galilee, said, “Surely this man was with him, for he is a Galilean.” And Peter replied, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” He spoke with vehemence; he spoke from fear. At that very moment, the rooster crowed. And Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said at supper, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And Peter went out and wept bitterly.
I feel for Peter at this point; the brash disciple who walked on water is gone. He is frightened and uncertain. At this point he does not know who or what to believe. He had scolded Jesus for saying that he would be arrested and crucified, and Jesus had called him Satan for saying it. But how can the Messiah be arrested and crucified? He could not understand. It would take the resurrection; the knowledge of Jesus’ forgiveness; and the presence of the Holy Spirit with him to restore Peter to the leader of the early church that Jesus had planned he should be. But Peter would never again be the brash, self-righteous disciple he had been; he would always carry with him the knowledge that denial and betrayal were within him, were possible for him, as they are possible for all of us.
Luke not only intends to tell Peter’s story here; he is also pointing out that Jesus was a prophet. Jesus had known Peter’s weaknesses and had pointed them out. He had known what Peter would do, before he did it. He had predicted his own arrest and mistreatment and crucifixion. Those mocking him inside, even as Peter denied him outside, would dare him to prophesy! Jesus was a prophet, but he was more than that!
the ruins of the high priest’s home have been found by archeologists; there is a statue of Peter with the soldiers, the servant girl, and a rooster in the courtyard. And there is a church dedicated to Peter there.