Under Fire

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Jesus will defend us even when we deny Him.

John(86) (Part of the Believe(74) series)
by Stuart Johns(233) on August 16, 2020 (Sunday Morning(342))

Humility(7), Repentance(17), Salvation(84)


Under Fire

(John 18:12-27)



“Sports fans around the world can rely on one fact about their sport: the home team wins more often than the visiting team. A 2011 Sports Illustrated article concludes: ‘Home field advantage is no myth. Indisputably, it exists …. Across all sports and at all levels, from Japanese baseball to Brazilian soccer to the NFL, the team hosting a game wins more often than not.’ What explains this fact?


A wealth of evidence disputes the most common theories behind home team advantage. For instance, thousands of cheering or jeering fans didn't change a team's performance. On a number of statistics—such as pitch velocity in baseball or free throw percentage in basketball (which over two decades was 75.9 percent for home and visiting teams)—home field advantage didn't make a difference. Their research also eliminated other likely theories based on the rigors of travel for the visiting team or the home team's familiarity with their field, rink, or court.


So what drives home field advantage? According to the authors of the article, ‘Officials’ bias is the most significant contribution to home field advantage.’ In short, the refs don't like to get booed. So when the game gets close, they call fewer fouls or penalties against the home team; or they call more strikes against visiting batters. Larger and louder fans really do influence the calls from the officials. The refs naturally (and often unconsciously) respond to the pressure from the crowd. Then they try to please the angry fans and make the calls that will lessen the pain of crowd disapproval. In the end, the refs’ people-pleasing response can have an impact on the final result of the game.”


Matt Woodley, managing editor of PreachingToday.com; source: Tobias Moskowitz & L. John Wertheim, "What's Really Behind Home Field Advantage," Sports Illustrated (1-17-11).





  • ME

    • Toilet papering a friend’s house


    • Being offered some vodka in high school


  • WE

    • We can all probably think of a time when we have folded under the pressure of family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc.?

    • Perhaps we can all remember a situation when we held our ground when no one else did


After Jesus was found in the garden, He was arrested and taken to Annas for questioning. ​​ He denies nothing during the questioning and stands strong under pressure. ​​ Peter, on the other hand, denies everything when questioned in the courtyard. ​​ Because of Jesus’ great love for Peter and for us, we can trust that . . .


BIG IDEA – Jesus will defend us even when we deny Him.


Let’s pray


  • GOD (John 18:12-27)

    • Jesus holds (vv. 12-14, 19-24)

        • Jesus is arrested

          • Commander of the soldiers

            • The commander was not mentioned until now, probably because it was assumed that there was a commander with the 600 soldiers

            • Judas had led the detachment of soldiers to the garden where Jesus was, but now we see that the commander of the soldiers is in control of leading them back to the Fortress of Antonia

          • The commander and his soldiers, along with the Jewish officials, arrest Jesus

          • They bound Jesus even though they wouldn’t have had to, because Jesus willingly offered Himself in exchange for His disciples

        • Jesus is brought to Annas

          • Who is Annas?

            • He was the Jewish high priest from A.D. 6-15

            • He was appointed to the position by Quirinius

            • The high priest position was a life appointment, just like the United States Supreme Court Justices

            • The Roman Governer, Valerius Gratus deposed him in A.D. 15 (he was the governor right before Pilate)

            • Annas’ five sons had all held the position of high priest and now his son-in-law, Caiaphas, held the position

            • While the Roman Governors kept shifting the position, most Jews would have still considered Annas as the true high priest

            • “Thus Annas enjoyed great power and was the patriarch of an influential priestly family, well known for its wealth, power, and greed.” ​​ [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 493]

          • Side note about Caiaphas

            • John gives us a few important notes about Caiaphas

              • As I already mentioned, he was Annas’ son-in-law

              • He was the “acting” high priest that year

                • This simply means that he was high priest when Jesus was arrested and tried

                • It did not mean that his appointment as high priest only lasted for a year

              • He was the one who spoke more profoundly than he realized

                • John reminds us of Caiaphas’ prophecy about Jesus

                • John 11:49-52, Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! ​​ You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” ​​ He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.

                • Caiaphas did not realize that he was prophesying about God’s redemptive plan

                  • He was only concerned about not losing their political and religious freedoms with the Roman Empire

                  • He was plotting with the other religious leaders to have Jesus killed, so they could protect their status and rights with Rome

                  • God’s redemption plan was to have one man die for the Jews and Gentiles, so they could be reconciled to Him

                  • Romans 5:12-13, Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world. ​​ But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.

                  • We have all sinned, no one is exempt

                  • 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. ​​ For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. ​​ For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

                  • Those who believe in Jesus will have eternal life

                  • 1 John 5:11-12, And this is the testimony: ​​ God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. ​​ He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

                  • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Admit to God that I’m a sinner, believe in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross, and receive Jesus into my life.

            • John transitions to Peter and John following Jesus, but we will look at those verses during our second point

            • There are two story lines happening at the same time and two people who are being questioned

            • We see in verses 19-24 the questioning that Jesus is experiencing from Annas

          • Annas asks about Jesus’ disciples and His teaching

            • Jewish trial

              • “In a formal Jewish trial, the judge never asked direct questions of the accused but rather called forth witnesses whose words determined the outcome. ​​ If two or more agreed with the charges, the verdict was sealed.” ​​ [Burge, 495]

              • Annas would have been aware of this, which could mean that he did not see his questioning as a formal trial

              • Nevertheless, he may have been trying to gather information that could be used against Jesus in a formal trial

              • That seems to be the intent, since Jesus deflects his questions, as we’ll see in a moment

            • Disciples

              • Annas’s questions about Jesus’ disciples probably centered around whether or not they were unified as a group and ready and willing to continue His teachings if He wasn’t in the picture (He would be dead) [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 904]

              • Annas was probably also trying to determine how large Jesus’ following was, so he would know if they were a threat to the Jewish faith [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 583]

              • Annas wasn’t just concerned about Jesus’ disciples, he was also concerned about His doctrine

            • Teaching

              • We know from all the Gospel writers that the Jewish religious leaders did not believe that Jesus came from God or that Jesus was God

              • Annas, and the other religious leaders, were probably concerned that Jesus was leading the Jews and others away from the God of Israel

              • They were concerned that He was just another false prophet

              • The Jews knew the consequences of being a false prophet who tried to lead God’s people away from Him

              • Read Deuteronomy 13:1-11

            • Jesus knows exactly what Annas is trying to accomplish with His questioning, so He answers appropriately

          • Jesus responds to Annas

            • No secrets

              • Jesus wasn’t trying to create a secret cult where He only shared the “greatest truths” with those who had moved through the various levels

                • There were those types of cults in the 1st Century

                • They were called mystery religions and “stressed one’s ability to be joined in a mystic relationship with a deity, secret mystery rites, and frequently a religious enthusiasm or ecstasy.” ​​ [Carson & Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 373]

                • Mystery cults still exist today, but we call them “secret societies”

                  • They have varying levels that each person works through

                  • At each level the initiate is given more history and background about the organization

                  • They seem pretty innocent because they do a lot for the community (community service projects) – ​​ but don’t be fooled, they’re still considered a cult

              • Jesus reminded Annas that He had spoken openly to everyone

                • He had taught in synagogues or at the temple

                • These two places were where the Jews came together to worship and learn

                • He had not said anything in secret

                  • There will be some people who will push back on this idea that Jesus didn’t say anything in secret

                  • They’ll tell us that Jesus did teach His disciples in private, but we have to remember that what He was teaching them in private was nothing more than what He had taught in public

                  • Many times, the disciples were asking for clarification concerning Jesus’ public teachings

                  • He wasn’t sharing secret truths with the disciples, but only what He had already shared with the public

              • Jesus knew Jewish law, which is why He directs Annas back to the fact that he should be questioning witnesses to His ministry and not questioning Him

            • No witnesses

              • Jesus knew that Annas was trying to sneak around the back door of Jewish law by questioning Him privately

                • Burge likens Annas’s questioning to the modern day police interrogation of someone recently arrested

                • We’ve all seen video footage of those interrogations

                • They can last for hours and are designed to get the accused to fold and incriminate themselves

                • The police officers are trying to get a confession

              • Jesus wasn’t going to let Annas get away with it, which is why He asks him why he is questioning Him

              • If Annas wanted to know what Jesus had been teaching and what His theological and doctrinal beliefs were, all he had to do was question those who had witnessed Jesus teachings

              • I like how confident Jesus is in His teachings and in those who had heard Him teach

              • “Jesus is not being uncooperative and evasive, but rather he urges a proper trial in which evidence is established by interrogation of witnesses; the present informal hearing did not meet such qualifications (Morris 1995: 669).” ​​ [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 517]

              • Jesus was going to make sure that Jewish law was followed and in no way was He going to incriminate Himself (He couldn’t have anyway, because He is holy/perfect without sin)

            • No mention of the disciples

              • Before we look at Jesus being struck by one of the high priest’s officials, I want us to recognize that Jesus never mentioned anything about His disciples in His response to Annas

              • This may seem insignificant at first, but it’s not

              • Jesus had already protected the eleven disciples in the garden by instructing the soldiers and temple guards to arrest only Him and let the other men go

              • Jesus continues to defend and protect His disciples

              • He is defending Peter even when He knows what Peter is doing in the courtyard at the same time

              • We can rest in the fact that Jesus defends us even when we deny Him (we’ll continue to develop this big idea when we learn about our second point

            • When confronted with truth, it’s hard to not be defensive and strike back

          • Jesus struck by an official

            • We don’t know if Annas instructed the official to strike Jesus, or if he did this on his own

            • Most likely the official acted on his own, because he accuses Jesus of answering the high priest in a way that doesn’t show respect

              • The official took it on himself to defend Annas against what he felt was Jesus being disrespectful

              • Jesus wasn’t being disrespectful, but rather He was being truthful

              • Henry Rollins is quoted as saying, “Sometimes the truth hurts. ​​ And sometimes it feels real good.” ​​ [https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/henry_rollins_381416]

              • For Annas, the truth hurt, because Jesus had exposed his true intentions

              • It’s likely that the official who struck Jesus was not aware of Annas’s true intentions

            • Jesus was being treated unfairly

              • In order for God’s plan of redemption to be accomplished, Jesus was going to be mistreated and falsely accused

              • PRINCIPLE #1 – Christians should never expect a completely fair trial in the courts of this world.

                • I don’t know if you have experienced this or not, but recently Judy and I shared a video from Facebook to our timelines

                • Within a couple of days, we received a notification that the video had been “fact checked” by an independent organization that considered the information in the video and post to be false

                • A conservative non-profit news organization is currently asking people on Facebook to sign a petition telling Facebook to stop censoring their entire Facebook page. ​​ They have been labeled as a “fake news media outlet” and Facebook is restricting their reach to their own audience.

                • These two examples are not specifically religious, but it shows, how those who don’t agree with the current cultural rhetoric, aren’t treated fairly by the culture

                • As Christians, we see in our culture the push and expectation that we be tolerant of everyone else and their opinions, viewpoints, and passions, but that the truths and values of God’s Word, that we hold to, are not tolerated

                • There are multiple examples of how Christians have been treated unfairly in the court system and the court of public opinion (Baker in Colorado, Florist in Washington, Chick-fil-A in San Antonio, TX)

              • We need to stand firm and hold on to truths and values that are taught in God’s Word, even if it means being treated unfairly by the world

              • We’re in good company when the world persecutes Christians, because that is what they did to Jesus

            • Jesus challenges the official

              • Many times we are prone to strike out at someone who speaks truth, simply because it goes against what we have been holding to or believing about someone or something

                • We want to be right, but when we realize that we aren’t, it takes a great deal of humility to calmly apologize and seek forgiveness

                • Our normal reaction is to strike back

              • Jesus challenges the official to testify about what He said that was wrong

                • The official wasn’t going to be able to testify at all, because Jesus had only spoken truth

                • The official was going to have to explain why He struck Jesus out of ignorance and anger

              • Application

                • It takes incredible humility to admit when we are wrong

                • It takes herculean discipline to not strike back when confronted about something we have said or done that is wrong

                • As followers of Jesus Christ, we have the power of the Holy Spirit living in us to help

                • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Humbly apologize when confronted about something I have said or done that was wrong.

            • Annas knew that what he was attempting to do – ​​ questioning Jesus – was wrong

          • Jesus sent to Caiaphas

            • We see in verse 24 that Annas doesn’t try to continue to question Jesus

            • He doesn’t fight, argue, or strike back at Jesus, but rather, he sends Him to Caiaphas

            • Caiaphas would be able to begin the actual trial of Jesus with members of the Sanhedrin in attendance

              • We know that eventually they had to bring in false witnesses in order to condemn Jesus

              • Had they brought in any other witnesses, it was likely they would have confirmed Jesus’ teachings

        • Jesus held on and didn’t deny anything while being questioned and struck in the face

        • Peter on the other hand was coming under fire

        • “Someone has said that Peter’s ministry career could be summarized in three stages – at the fire, under fire, and on fire.” ​​ [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 333]

    • Peter folds (vv. 15-18, 25-27)

        • Peter and John follow Jesus

          • John tells us that Peter and another disciple were following Jesus as He was being led away by the temple guards and Roman soldiers

            • I don’t know about you, but if Jesus sacrificed Himself for me and cleaned up an impulsive mess that I made by reacting hastily to a situation, I’m not sure that I would be following Him, even at a distance

            • I wouldn’t be pressing my luck by hanging around the Jewish officials and the high priest’s courtyard

          • Unnamed disciple

            • Most scholars agree that the unnamed disciple is probably John the Beloved

            • Peter and John and seen together throughout the Gospels and the book of Acts

            • John was a fisherman, by trade, and some people question how a simple fisherman would have been known by the high priest – their assumption is that John and the high priest were not in the same economic stratus

            • We know that John’s father, Zebedee, had servants, which leads us to believe that he had some wealth and was not on the bottom of the economic scale

            • Perhaps Zebedee’s fish business had a loyal customer in the high priest and his family, so John would have had a working relationship with Annas and Caiaphas

            • It’s also conceivable that it was another disciple of Jesus and not one of the eleven (if that’s the case, then we have no way of knowing who this disciple was and why they were tight with the high priest)

          • Peter did not have the same relationship with the high priest that John or the unnamed disciple had with him, so he had to wait outside the courtyard until the other disciple came to get him

        • Peter’s first denial

          • For the sake of this message, we are going to assume that John is the unnamed disciple

          • He comes back to the gate keeper, who was a girl, spoke to her, and then brought Peter inside the high priest’s courtyard

          • Before he gets inside, the girl at the gate asks him a question

            • “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” (NIV)

            • “We might paraphrase: ‘What’s this? ​​ Not another of this man’s disciples, is it?’ ​​ Or: ‘You couldn’t be another one of this man’s disciples, could you?’” ​​ [Burge, 495]

            • The form of the Greek question implies the answer would be “No!”

            • Peter just follows the implied answer and says, “I am not.”

          • John then gives us a side note about a fire

        • Side note about a fire

          • “Jerusalem is built on a mountain and is on the edge of the desert. ​​ That means when the sun goes down, it gets chilly.” ​​ [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 12-21, 231]

          • Peter joins the other servants and officials around a fire they’ve made to stay warm

          • Perhaps this was a mistake, since he was sharing a fire with those who opposed Jesus and His ministry

        • Peter’s second denial

          • John picks up right where he left off by saying in verse 25, As Simon Peter stood warming himself . . .

          • John was using a good story telling technique to keep his readers engaged – he was combining two story lines at the same time and going back and forth between the two

          • Peter is again asked the same question while standing around the fire

            • “You are not one of his disciples are you?”

            • The form of the Greek sentence again implies a negative response

            • Peter obliges again, “I am not.”

          • While it was easy to deny being Jesus’ disciple the first two times, the third time would not be as easy

        • Peter’s third denial

          • One of the high priest’s servants who had been at the garden challenged Peter

          • He said, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?”

          • This servant was a relative of Malchus, the guy who lost his ear to Peter’s sword

          • While it probably wasn’t as easy to do with this inquiry, Peter denies knowing Jesus

          • Peter had given in to the fear of man three times in a row

        • Application

          • We shouldn’t be too hard on Peter, because we are just as easily swayed by peer pressure to do the same thing

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – Fear of man can cause us to deny knowing Jesus.

            • The social pressures of going to school are already enormous without being a follower of Jesus Christ

              • We want to fit in, be liked, and accepted by the “in” crowd

              • It’s easy to deny knowing Jesus when the people we so desperately want to be accept by, reject Him

              • It’s also difficult when the administration and some teachers pressure us into giving up our freedom to carry our Bible, pray for our meal, etc.

            • Work environments are also filled with social and political pressures and from time-to-time we may give in to the fear of man of deny knowing Jesus

            • Social media is also a hot bed that can cause us to fear man and deny knowing Jesus

            • There is hope!

              • Peter denied Jesus three times in one night and yet Jesus used him as the rock of the early church, because he was repentant

              • In the other Gospels we learn that Peter immediately left the courtyard and wept bitterly

              • Jesus restored Peter after he failed to stand up for Him

              • Jesus will do the same for you when you repent and turn to Him for forgiveness

              • He will empower you to stand strong for Him through the Holy Spirit that lives in you

            • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Confess that I have denied knowing Jesus, because of my fear of man.

            • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Ask the Holy Spirit to help me stand up for Jesus where I work, play, and live.

          • Jesus will defend us even when we deny Him.

        • Jesus’ prediction comes true

          • After Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, a rooster began to crow

          • The Synoptic Gospels tell us that after rooster crowed, Peter remembered Jesus’ words

          • John 13:38, Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? ​​ I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!”


  • YOU

    • Will you humbly apologize when confronted with something you have said or done that is wrong, instead of striking back?

    • Do you need to take time today to confess the times that you have denied knowing Jesus, when pressured by the world?

    • Are you ready to ask the Holy Spirit to give you strength to stand up for Jesus instead of giving in to the fear of man?


  • WE




“I once read a book called The Book of Failures. It was filled with all kinds of failures that people have made. For instance, the book introduces Arthur Pedrick, who patented 162 inventions, but not one of them was ever taken up commercially. These inventions include a car that could be driven from the back seat, a golf ball that could be steered in flight, and a plan to irrigate the deserts of the world by sending a constant supply of snowballs from the polar region through a massive network of giant peashooters. I kid you not.


My favorite story in the book was about an elderly lady in South London who called a group of firefighters to rescue her cat from a tree. They arrived with impressive speed and carefully rescued her cat. The lady was so thankful that she invited them in for tea. So they had tea, received another round of thanks from the woman, and drove off, waving goodbye. And as they backed out of her driveway, they drove right over her cat!”


James Emery White is founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is a consulting editor to Leadership Journal. He is author of Serious Times and A Search for the Spiritual, and blogs at churchandculture.org.