Bible Study

John Bible Study, Day 33: Three Strikes

Today’s passage: John 18:1–27

Focus verse: Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow. (John 18:27)

Peter has pledged he would die to protect his teacher (John 13:37). I’m sure he meant what he said—at the time. When we’re at our best, I suspect we might say the same thing.

If Jesus is the most important priority in our lives, we can best prove our commitment by dying for his cause.

Yet, when we face pressure and fear confronts us, we waffle. We cave. Our pledge of complete support for Jesus’s mission only goes as far as our comfort level or personal safety.

With gut-wrenching reality, the life of Peter shows this.

Right after the disciple makes his bold pledge of support, Jesus counters his claim, predicting that by daybreak—before the rooster crows at dawn’s first light—Peter will disown Jesus, not once but three times (John 13:38). 

I suspect Peter doesn’t believe his Master. But he should. We all should.

At Jesus’s arrest, Peter does his best to protect his Rabbi. He whips out his sword and slashes at the high priest’s servant. 

Remember, Peter’s a fisherman, not a soldier. Just because he carries a sword doesn’t mean he knows how to use it.

He goes for the head. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a downward stroke at the man’s crown or a sideways slice at his neck, Peter misses. He only gets an ear (John 18:10). 

Though John doesn’t mention it, other biographers do: At this point the disciples scatter, just as Jesus predicted. The bold and boisterous Peter flees too. Protecting themselves is more important than standing with their Messiah.

Afterward, Peter and another disciple (whom I suspect is John) gather enough courage to return. In the high priest’s courtyard, one of the servant girls recognizes Peter as one of Jesus’s disciples. 

“No, I’m not,” he says.

Later in the night, standing by a fire to warm themselves, another person asks Peter if he’s a disciple. Again, Peter denies it. But a relative of the man whose ear Peter sliced off confirms he saw Peter in the garden with Jesus during the arrest.

Peter denies his Master a third time. A rooster crows.

The Bible often repeats things three times for emphasis, to make a point. The most common example is saying that God is “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8).

Here, Peter denies knowing Jesus three times. This isn’t a singular instance. He disowns Jesus threefold. It’s confirmation that he means what he says, as if putting a couple of exclamation points at the end of his denial.


  1. What is the biggest priority in your life? Why?
  2. How willing are you to die for Jesus? 
  3. How willing are you to be arrested and go to jail for him? 
  4. When you fear for your safety, do you fight, freeze, or flee? Why?
  5. Will you stand for him regardless of what it might cost?

Discover more about the gravity of denying Jesus in 2 Timothy 2:12. What insights can you glean from this passage?

Read the next lesson or start at the beginning of this study.

Tips: Check out our tips to use this online Bible study for your church, small group, Sunday school class, or family discussion. It’s also ideal for personal study. Come back each Monday for a new lesson.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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