Every story in the Bible is there for a reason. Every woman included in the Bible serves a purpose. Good or bad, we can learn from them and their interactions with others. Today we look at the servant girls who confronted Peter about his relationship with Jesus.
Each gospel writer had to choose which stories to include in their telling of the life of Jesus. Oftentimes, what was important to one wasn’t included by the others. Today’s story of the servant girls and Peter was deemed important by all four gospel writers. They each share the incident but approach it from a different angle and include different details.
Before His betrayal and arrest, Jesus had told the disciples that each of them would stumble that night because of Him. Peter argued, saying that he would never do such a thing, but Jesus assured him that by the time the rooster crowed that night, he would deny Jesus three times. Each of the gospel writers included their conversation.
Jesus then went to pray at Gethsemane, was betrayed and arrested, and brought before the Sanhedrin. We’re told that all the disciples fled, but Peter and an unnamed disciple, assumed to be John, followed behind at a distance to see what was happening.
John recounts how the unnamed disciple knew the High Priest so he was able to get into the courtyard. Then he talked to the servant girl who stood watch at the door and told her to let Peter in as well.
She looked closely at him in the dark.
“You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?”
He assured her he wasn’t.
A group of servants and officers gathered in the courtyard as they waited to see what would happen to Jesus. It was cold, so they built a fire.
John gives us the most detailed account of the night. He goes back and forth from Peter in the courtyard to Jesus inside.
While Peter warmed himself by the fire, the high priest questioned Jesus. When they didn’t like His answer, an officer struck Him across the face.
I imagine that when Peter heard the slap, he reacted involuntarily. Did one of them notice? Is that why another servant girl asked again if Peter was one of them?
Again, he denied it.
Finally, one of the servants, a relative of the officer whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?”
Peter denied a third time.
And immediately, a rooster crowed.
The Rest of the Story
The gospel accounts vary in their description of the happenings on that fateful night. It only makes sense. So much was happening in such a short time. Nothing made sense. They were all confused and scared. They were scattered.
But the underlying truth is shown in each account. Jesus told the disciples what was about the happen and how they would react. They didn’t believe Him. Though Peter’s words are the only ones recorded, Matthew makes sure we know that Jesus said ALL the disciples would stumble, and All of them denied it.
They all agree that though the disciples all fled, Peter wanted to be near enough to know what was going on with Jesus, so he hung out in the courtyard outside of the High Priest’s home.
Imagine, if you will, the night from the servant girls’ perspective. This was no normal night. After months of planning and scheming, the chief priests, scribes, and elders had their opportunity. The girls watched as the leaders gathered together and called forth armed soldiers to capture and arrest Jesus.
These girls, whose lives were normally quite dull, suddenly found themselves in the midst of excitement and intrigue. They wanted to be a part of the intrigue and seized on the opportunity to be the one to call attention to one of Jesus’ followers standing right there in their midst.
Did they stop to think the impact their words might have? To a certain extent, I’m sure they did. They didn’t care about Peter. He was the enemy. They wanted to see him squirm and maybe even be taken into custody himself. It was all just a game to them, a game where they were on the winning side, at least for the moment.
These servant girls gave no thought to their words. They were merely following the crowd and trying to impress those in control.
Did their feelings change when they saw what happened to Jesus? Did they feel sorry for Him when they saw him hanging on the cross? Were they there when Peter was later crucified? Did they realize it was the same guy?
We’ll never know the answers to these questions. We’ll never know whether or not they intended harm. We do know, however, the impact their words had on Peter. When the cock crowed, and he realized what he’d done, Peter wept bitterly, his heart broken for what he’d done.
Every day we’re faced with choices. What seems like a minor incident can turn into a major event. If we’re not grounded in our faith, if we don’t know scripture and what it teaches, we may find ourselves making foolish decisions that seem right but are wrong.
The servant girls were influenced by men who should have known better. The high priest they worked for knew scripture, but He didn’t understand God’s character. He didn’t get Jesus. He had his own idea of how things should be, and Jesus and His teachings did not go along with his plans. These girls heard the false teaching and assumed it was right.
When it looked like the religious leaders were on the winning side and Jesus and His followers were losing, the servant girls wanted to make sure they were aligned with the winning team.
What about you? Do you have a strong enough grasp of scripture to recognize false teaching? How do you handle when someone teaches something that doesn’t align with the Truth?
Have you ever been guilty of following along with the crowd? Have you gotten caught up in the moment and said things you later regretted? Have you ever tried to get someone else in trouble, just so it would make you feel more important?
We all make mistakes. We all do things we later regret. The good news is that God knows we’re going to slip up. He knew the disciples would falter in their faith, but He loved them anyway. He also knew that once they realized what they’d done, their hearts would break, and they would strive to do better in the future.
It’s ok to mess up. It’s going to happen. But what do we do afterwards? It’s so hard to stand strong in our faith when the world is against us. But we must not be like the servant girls, siding with the world and attacking before we can be attacked.
We must stand with Our Savior. And good news. We know how the story ends, and He’s the Victor. Though it may seem otherwise in the moment, He will be victorious in the end.
Lord God, thank You for Your never-ending patience with us when we mess up and lose faith so easily. Thank You for using those times to grow us and teach us. Lord, help us not to be like the servant girls, siding against You rather than with You. Give us wisdom and discernment so that we can recognize false teachings and not be led astray by those who claim to know best. Lead us always to Your Word so that we might learn directly from You. We love You so very much! In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Tune in next week when we look at Pilate’s Wife, another woman caught up in the drama surrounding Jesus’ last days.
Backstory: Matthew 26:31-35
Her Story: Matthew 26:69-71; Mark 14:66-69; Luke 22:56-59; John 18:16-17
Bible Study Review
- Who did the servant girls work for?
- Describe the set of the scene between them and Peter.
- What did they say to Peter?
Thoughts to Ponder
- Why did the girls confront Peter?
- Did they believe what he said?
- What was the significance of the rooster crowing?
- How are you like these servant girls?
- What would you have done in this situation?
- Have you ever denied your relationship with Jesus?
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