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Luke 22.54-62 Notes

JW Commentary-Peter's Denial (Luke 22:54-62)

BACKGROUND: Jesus has just been arrested by temple troops in the Garden of Gethsemane and his disciples have fled for their lives. Peter, who cut an ear off the high priest's representative, has violently resisted. And troops try to seize a young man with Jesus' party -- who escapes naked into the night, his garment left in the hands of his captors (Mark 14:52). It is a fearful and dangerous night, unsafe for Jesus and his disciples.

The High Priest's House (Luke 22:54a)

"Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest." (Luke 22:54a)

The high priest's temple troops have accomplished the arrest and the high priest wants a chance to interrogate the prisoner. The Apostle John, who knows some members of the high priest's family, fills us in on some details:  "They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year." (John 18:12b-13).  John's mention of "the high priest that year" gives us a clue about the state of the high priesthood. Rather than being selected for life as before, since Herod the Great, secular rulers have taken upon themselves the prerogative of selecting the high priest who serves for a year at a time. Generally, these are selected from a small group of highly placed priestly families from the party of the Sadducees. Annas, who had been high priest from 7 to 15 AD, holds the real power, son-in-law Caiaphas, only the title.1073 Only after Annas interrogates Jesus (Jn. 18:19-23), does he send him off to Caiaphas (John 18:24).

Following at a Distance (Luke 22:54b)

"Peter followed at a distance."

In the word "followed," Luke uses the characteristic Greek word akoloutheō, "to follow as a disciple." The verb is in the imperfect tense, suggesting that Peter continues to follow at a distance as Jesus was marched to the high priest's house. Peter puts himself in danger because he is a disciple. He has been following Jesus for three years and he isn't stopping now.

But that "following" is qualified. The adverb translated "at a distance" (NIV) or "afar off" (KJV) is the Greek adverb makrothen, "from far away, from a distance."1074 Yes, he follows, but he doesn't follow up close for fear of arrest. For the moment he is a "closet disciple," afraid to disclose his true identity.

Sound familiar? Not a few Christians do such a good job at blending into their surroundings that their co-workers and friends may not know that they are believers for months or years. They follow, but at a distance.

Peter in the High Priest's Courtyard (Luke 22:55)

"But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them." (Luke 22:55)

The pronouns "they" and "them" in verse 55 probably refer to the temple soldiers who have just arrested Jesus. Presumably, the elders and chief priest's officers have gone inside where the interrogation is going on.

The word translated "courtyard" (NIV) or "hall" (KJV) is the Greek noun aulē, "an area open to the sky, frequently surrounded by buildings, and in some cases partially by walls, enclosed open space, courtyard."1075

We know from John's Gospel that the courtyard is not open to the public. Entrance is restricted by a gatekeeper.

"Simon 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, but 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." (John 18:15-16)

There in the high priest's courtyard, surrounded by temple soldiers, Peter sits. The verb in Luke's account is in the imperfect tense, suggesting continued action in the past. Peter is sitting with them for some time. That in itself is a courageous act. If he is recognized as a disciple -- particularly, as the disciple who has drawn blood resisting them in the Garden -- he is likely to be arrested. It is a precarious place in which to be.

Peter is courageous and bold-he really wants to be near his Lord in his hour of need. But Peter he's terrified, too.  He's in real danger and knows it.  And as he sits near the fire, he begins to wonder what might happen. As long shadows dance in the firelight, Peter's fears continue to grow. What if I'm recognized? How can I hide when it becomes light? What should I do if I'm identified by someone who was there?

The Denials (Luke 22:56-60a)

56 And a slave woman, seeing him as he sat in the firelight, and staring at him, said, "This man was with Him as well." 57 But he denied it, saying, "I do not know Him, woman!" 58 And a little later, another person saw him and said, "You are one of them too!" But Peter said, "Man, I am not!" 59 And after about an hour had passed, some other man began to insist, saying, "Certainly this man also was with Him, for he, too, is a Galilean." 60 But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are talking about!"

First Denial:  The word rendered "servant girl" (NIV) or "slave" (NASB) is the Greek noun paidiskē, a diminutive of pais, "girl," and in the New Testament is always used of the slave class, "female slave."1076 The girl is looking curiously at him, and Peter can feel her stare. The phrase "looked closely" (NIV) or "earnestly looked" (KJV) is the Greek verb atenizō, "look intently at, stare at."1077 The girl accuses Peter, "This man was with him." Here again, the verb "was" is in the imperfect tense, meaning that Peter had been an habitual associate of Jesus'.
        Immediately, Peter blurts out a denial. The word "denied" is Greek arneomai, "to state that something is not true, deny," and merges into the related meaning, "to disclaim association with a person or event, deny, repudiate, disown."1078 When Peter says, "I don't know him," it is expressed by the Greek verb which can cover all kinds of knowledge, from information to understanding to intimate acquaintance. Here is seems to be used in the sense of "be intimately acquainted with or stand in close relation to."1079

Second Denial:  Some time elapses, and it seems like this long night will never end. Then a man accuses Peter of being "one of" them. This translates the Greek preposition ek, in the sense of "belong to someone or something."1080 Again, Peter-"Man I am not!"-denies it.

Third Denial:  Along about morning, when the horizon starts to become light, another man says the same thing. Certainly this man also was with Him, for he, too, is a Galilean." Peter's hillbilly Galilean accent can't be hidden. The verb used in the man's accusation for "certainly" (NASB) is the Greek adverb diischurizomai, "to be emphatic or resolute about something, insist, maintain firmly,"1081 used here and in Acts 12:15; 15:2.

So, in the scope of a few hours, the brave spokesman who had promised Jesus he will go to prison and death with him (Luke 22:33), is reduced to denying any relationship with the man he has followed for three years. He is in the vicinity of the Master, following "at a distance," but he has been compromised. He has been unfaithful to his closest friend.

The Ways of Denying:  Why does the story of Peter's denial strike such a chord in us? Why can we relate so easily to Peter? Probably because each of us has in some way been false to our friendship with Christ.

  1. By disassociating ourselves from our allegiance to Christ in the presence of belligerent unbelievers or vocal critics -- sometimes by open disavowal, but too often by our silence.
  2. By professing Jesus with our mouths, but excusing ourselves when we do things we know are contrary to Jesus' teachings. It is this kind of dual life that gives unbelievers the "hypocrite" excuse, and, like David with Bathsheba, "you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt" (2 Samuel 12:14).

The Holy Spirit within us is grieved, we feel guilty (so long as our conscience is not utterly calloused by repeated, flagrant sin), we are ashamed. When we are in this condition, we are out of fellowship with God and are subject to (1) the pounding of the enemy and (2) beating ourselves up. If Satan can't destroy our faith, he tries to destroy fellowship, joy, and hope, so that we live in misery, are ineffective, and are neutralized so far as furthering the Kingdom of God and diminishing Satan's sphere of influence.

Jesus Looks Straight at Peter (22:60b-61)

And immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. 61 And then the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, "Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times." 62 And he went out and wept bitterly. 

But Jesus intervenes:  The Greek contains a word which the KJV version translates as "immediately," the adverb parachrēma, "pertaining to a point of time that is immediately subsequent to an action, at once, immediately."1082 While Peter is still mouthing his adamant denial, the rooster begins to crow1083 to herald the advent of morning. Cock-a-doodle-do!

At that moment Jesus is visible, turns (Greek strephō), and makes eye contact with Peter. The word translated "looked straight at" (NIV) or "looked upon" (KJV) is the Greek verb emblepō, "to look at something directly and therefore intently, look at, gaze on."1084

Peter is struck by the knowledge that Jesus knows what he has done. Jesus is aware -- Jesus who has predicted this very lapse. Instantly Peter remembers. The word "remembered" is Greek verb hypomimneskō, "to recollect for oneself, remember, think of."1085

Jesus had told him, "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times," and now it has happened, just as he said it would. The word used for "disown" (NIV) or "deny" (KJV) in verse 61 is slightly different than the word used in verse 57. Here the verb is prefixed by a preposition, aparneomai, and means "to refuse to recognize/acknowledge, deny."1086

Weeping Bitterly (22:62)

62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

The result in Peter's heart is overwhelming grief.  He goes to the gate, it is opened for him, and quietly he slips away.  Away from Jesus' gaze.  Away from the hour of shaking and sifting and temptation.  Away.  The word translated "wept" is the common Greek verb klaiō, "to cry."1087 Peter weeps intensely. The word "bitterly" is the Greek adverb pikros. The adjective pikros originally meant "pointed, sharp," so the word carries the idea of overwhelming sharpness, pain, and severity.1088

Lessons for Disciples

This short scene in the high priest's courtyard offers a number of lessons for perceptive disciples:

  1. We must remain humble, not boastful, for the line between courage and cowardice can be a very thin line. Paul cautions us, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12).
  2. Without the spiritual preparation of prayer, we are no match for the devil's sifting. We must live in constant prayer, depending upon the Lord for strength.
  3. Fear and faith cannot easily co-exist. When we start to give into our fears, we become subject to the deceiver, who would undermine our faith with his lies.
  4. Jesus looks upon his disciples when they fall into sin. And at that moment, we see in his eyes disappointment, rebuke, and love.

I've learned over the years that guilt can be a terrible taskmaster. But guilt itself cannot help us conquer sin. Guilt is the burglar alarm of our conscience, and while it can ring incessantly, it cannot heal.

Only the love of Jesus for us and our love for Jesus can heal us. A desire not to disappoint him and let him down is stronger than the fear of guilt. This is what the Apostle John meant when he said,

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18)

As Jesus looks at Peter, he sees afresh the necessity of the cross that lies before him. His love determines to redeem from sin the Peters among his worldwide band of disciples -- by forgiving our offenses, taking our penalty, healing our sin-damaged souls, and restoring us to fellowship with God.

Jesus looks at Peter and knows that his life's work lies just ahead. His hour has come.


Father, I look at Peter and see myself. How I have failed you! How I have disappointed you! How I have grieved you -- not just once but again and again. Thank you for the costly cross. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your love for me and for the whole world. Thank you for Jesus. In his holy and precious name, I pray. Amen.


Luke 22:54-62 - Peter Denies Jesus


Ask your group members why they think Peter denied knowing Jesus. What do they know about Peter and his time spent as a disciple of Christ? Although Peter is seen as the primary leader among the disciples, there are several times through Christ's ministry where Peter had lapses in judgment; however, his commitment to Christ rarely waned until this moment. Discuss with your group possible reasons why he cowered under the pressure from Jewish leaders and what made these circumstances so different from the other times he faced danger while following Christ.  In today's passage, we see how Christ's prophetic words earlier in the chapter come to fruition with Peter's disowning of Christ during his trial before the high priest. 


Synopsis: The strongest disciple of Jesus can fall prey to Satan's temptation and deny him, but such denial brings bitter sorrow and guilt.

Peter's denial is recorded in all four Gospels. Differences within these accounts should not detract from their great unanimity. All four accounts point out that Peter denied his Lord three times on the night of Jesus' betrayal in the courtyard of the high priest, that a maid questioned Peter, and that a cock crowed "immediately" after the third denial.


  • Peter, isolated from the other disciples, fulfills Jesus's prediction that Peter would disown him before daybreak.
  • After denying association with Jesus three times, Peter laments over his failure to stand by Christ.


READ Luke 22:54-62 and answer the questions below:

Where did they take Jesus after he was arrested in the Garden? 

Who was following Jesus at a distance? What did he do when they arrived at the high priest's house?

Who spoke to Peter while he was by the fire?

How much time elapsed between the second and third accusation against Peter?

What happened after Peter denied Christ for the third time?

How did Peter react after he realized he had disowned Christ before the rooster crowed?

Jesus was taken into the house of the high priest, who was Caiaphas (Matt. 26:57; John 18:13). But Jesus first was taken to Caiaphas' influential father-in-law, Annas (John 18:13). Peter, remaining true to his word up to this point (Luke 22:33), followed the Lord even though it could have meant death for him.

Within several hours Peter denied Jesus three times, as He had foretold (v. 34). Peter's denials got progressively more vehement (vv. 57-58, 60). After the rooster crowed, Jesus turned and looked straight at Peter. The combination of events along with Jesus' look caused Peter to remember the words Jesus spoke earlier in the evening. Peter realized what he had done. His bitter weeping showed he was heartbroken over the fact he had denied Jesus.


Use the information from the text and the commentary notes below to help discern responses to the following questions. 

  • Why do you think Peter followed Christ to the high priest's house?
  • Why do you think Peter was afraid to be associated with Christ?  
  • Why do you think Peter was so remorseful after he realized he had denied knowing Christ, as predicted?

The account of Peter's denial again exemplifies Jesus' knowledge of the future. God's Son had known all the time what would happen. Nothing had caught him unprepared. All were taking place as he foretold (22:31-34). This should have given Luke's readers confidence in the truth both of Jesus' Christological claims as well as his teachings.

Although Luke did not record Peter's swearing and cursing, he did record Peter's threefold failure in his temptation. Satan indeed has violently sifted him (22:31). Because Peter did not arm himself with prayer (22:40, 46), he found himself denying his Lord. Yet Luke wanted his readers to know that Jesus had prayed for Peter (22:32), and because of his failure would not lead to a complete disavowal of Jesus. He did not "deny Jesus," but rather he denied "knowing Jesus." His bitter weeping (22:62), however, revealed that Jesus' prayer for him would lead to his turning and strengthening his brothers (22:32). Luke's readers should have resolved not to be caught as unprepared as Peter but by prayer and endurance to bring forth fruit (8:15; 21:19).


What does this passage teach about denial? Why do you think people are afraid/ashamed to be associated with Christ/Christianity? 

What does this passage teach us about fear? What can we learn from Peter's testimony and find redemption in our mistakes? 

Take some time to think about a time in your life when you denied being a Christian or were afraid to openly profess your faith? How did you feel after you failed to do the right thing? How can we be encouragers, instead of criticizers, of others when they make the same mistakes as Peter made?

How can your group pray for God to give you the strength to overcome these fears and worries? 



22:54 Then seizing him. Since this term (syllabontes) is a technical term for making an arrest, it is best to translate this, Then arresting him. We know, however, that Jesus allowed himself to be arrested. Jesus' arrest is also referred to in Acts (1:16), where Luke showed how Peter (12:3) and Paul (23:27) followed in their Lord's footsteps and also were arrested. Took him into the house of the high priest. Matthew 26:57 names the high priest-Caiaphas. He would not have been present among the chief priests at the arrest (Luke 22:52). In John 18:13-27 Jesus is brought to the house of Annas, the high priest, before he is brought to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. The meeting at Annas's home may have been to allow time for the Sanhedrin to meet at the home of Caiaphas. For the existence of more than one high priest, see comments on 3:2. Whereas Mark 14:53, 55 and Matt 26:57, 59 both mention the presence of the Sanhedrin, Luke did not. Peter followed. Luke did not say "why" Peter followed, only "that" he did. Compare Matt 26:58, where Peter's actions were due to his desire to see the "outcome" (NIV) or "end" (RSV).

22:55 Kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard. Mark 14:67 and John 18:18 state that Peter sought to warm himself by the fire.

22:56 A servant girl. The Synoptic Gospels all state that the first person questioning Peter was a maid. John (18:25) did not specify. This man was with him. In what way (on the Mount of Olives when Jesus was arrested? during his ministry? in the temple?) was not specified.

22:57 He denied it. That is, Peter denied he was with Jesus. Woman, I don't know him. Peter refused to acknowledge his association with Jesus and thus fulfilled Jesus' prophecy.

22:58 Someone else saw him. In Mark 14:69; Matt 26:71 it is another maid, but in Luke it is a "man." You also are one of them. Here the charge is that Peter belonged to the group of Jesus' disciples. The "you" is emphatic. Man, I am not! Peter denied his association with the disciples. Luke dropped the reference to Peter's "denying" Jesus as found in Mark 14:70 and especially Matt 26:72.

22:59 About an hour later. In John 18:26 the third accusation comes from a servant of the high priest who was a relative of Malchus, the servant whose ear was cut off. Certainly this fellow was with him. This man was sure of Peter's association with Jesus and the disciples. For he is a Galilean. The NIV omits also: literally for he also is a Galilean (just like Jesus [23:6] and the other disciples). Matthew 26:73 states that Peter's accent gave him away.

22:60 Man, I don't know what you're talking about! Luke omitted the reference to Peter's cursing and swearing found in Mark and Matthew. Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. As Jesus predicted in 22:34, the rooster crowed.

22:61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered. Ellis notes, "No phrase in the Gospels is more charged with feeling than [this]."

22:62 He went outside and wept bitterly. Luke agreed with Matt 26:75 in his wording against Mark 14:72. Possibly both were completing the story with traditional material with which they were familiar and which they preferred over Mark. Luke expected his readers to see in this not just remorse but Peter's "turning back" to the Lord (Luke 22:32).