A photo capturing Peter's grief-stricken face moments after his denial of Jesus, revealing the agony of remorse and the weight of betrayal he carries within his eyes.

Who Denied Jesus: Peter Or Judas?

The denial of Jesus Christ is one of the most well-known stories in the Bible. If you’re looking for a quick answer on whether it was Peter or Judas who denied knowing Jesus, the answer is that it was the apostle Peter who denied Jesus three times after his arrest leading up to his crucifixion, not Judas Iscariot.

The Biblical Account of Peter’s Denial of Jesus

Jesus Predicts Peter Will Deny Him

Jesus and his disciples shared the Passover meal together on the night before his crucifixion. Jesus predicted that his disciples would all fall away and leave him that very night (Matthew 26:31). However, Peter insisted that even if all others fell away, he would remain loyal.

Jesus then told Peter specifically: “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times” (Matthew 26:34). Still, Peter maintained his commitment and said he would die before disowning Jesus.

Peter’s Firm Commitment That He Will Not Deny Jesus

During the Last Supper, Jesus foretold that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed the next morning (John 13:38). But Peter stated confidently that he would lay down his life for Jesus and would never disown him. The other disciples agreed that they too would never fall away.

However, Jesus knew their weakness in the face of fear and pressure.

Jesus is Arrested and Taken to the High Priest’s House

After the Last Supper, Jesus went with his disciples to Gethsemane garden to pray. Later that night, Judas brought soldiers and officials to arrest Jesus (John 18:2-12). The disciples fled, but Peter followed the group to the high priest’s courtyard to see what would happen.

There, Peter sat with guards and warmed himself by a fire while Jesus was being interrogated.

Peter Follows at a Distance and Warms Himself at Their Fire

Although Peter had confidence about never denying Jesus, he in fact denied Jesus three times. When Jesus was arrested after the Last Supper, Peter secretly followed along to the courtyard of the high priest’s house where Jesus was taken (Luke 22:54-55).

While waiting for the outcome of Jesus’ interrogation, Peter joined bystanders and guards around a fire to keep warm in the night’s chill air.

First and Second Denials from Peter

As Peter sat by the fire, a servant girl noticed him and asked if he was with Jesus. Peter denied it, saying “woman, I don’t know him” (Luke 22:57). Later, someone else recognized Peter and insisted “you also are one of them.” But Peter denied it saying, “man, I am not!” (Luke 22:58).

These were the first two times that night that Peter denied knowing Jesus.

Peter Denies Jesus a Third Time, Then the Rooster Crows

After Peter denied knowing Jesus once and then again, some people kept pressing him. An hour later, someone else said “certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean” (Luke 22:59). Peter began to curse and swear, saying “man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Just then a rooster crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:60-61). Then he remembered Jesus’ prediction that he would deny him three times before the rooster crowed.

Peter Weeps Bitterly Upon Realizing His Denials

At the moment when the rooster crowed, Jesus turned and looked directly at Peter, which pierced his heart. Peter suddenly recalled Jesus’ prediction, and he went outside the courtyard and wept bitterly over his three denials (Luke 22:61-62).

The arrogant boasting of his commitment to Jesus now gave way to deep remorse. Though he stumbled, Jesus forgave him, restored him, and later had him lead the growing church.

Why Judas Does Not Deny Knowing Jesus

Judas Betrays Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

After the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. While there, Judas arrived with a crowd armed with swords and clubs, intent on arresting Jesus (Matthew 26:47). Judas greeted Jesus, calling him “Rabbi”, and kissed him on the cheek to identify him to the crowd (Matthew 26:49).

This “kiss of betrayal” led to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Clearly, Judas did not deny knowing Jesus at this critical moment, but rather openly identified and betrayed him.

Judas Does Not Make Any Recorded Denials of Jesus

In contrast to Peter, who denied Jesus three times after his arrest (Matthew 26:69-75), there are no records in the Gospels indicating Judas ever denied knowing Jesus after betraying him. While Peter was confronted and denied being associated with Jesus out of fear for his own safety, Judas never had such an opportunity.

After identifying Jesus to the arresting crowd, Judas simply watched as the events unfolded, leading to Jesus’ conviction and execution.

Some key differences between Peter’s denials and Judas’ betrayal:

  • Peter denied Jesus verbally, while Judas identified Jesus with an action (the kiss)
  • Peter denied knowing Jesus due to fear in the face of confrontation, while Judas deliberately betrayed Jesus out of greed (for the 30 pieces of silver)
  • Peter eventually repented, while Judas, overwhelmed with guilt, committed suicide (Matthew 27:3-5)
Disciple Unfaithful Actions Motivations Outcomes
Peter Verbally denied knowing Jesus 3 times Fear for his own safety Repented and went on to lead the early Church
Judas Betrayed Jesus with a kiss Greed for money Committed suicide in guilt and remorse

So in the final analysis, while both disciples were unfaithful to Jesus for a time, Peter denied him verbally while Judas incriminated him through betrayal. Judas tragically ended his life without making any recorded denials, while Peter was forgiven, restored, and charged by Jesus to lead his flock.

The Differences Between Peter’s and Judas’ Roles

Peter Was an Inner Circle Disciple Who Loved Jesus

Peter, originally called Simon, was one of Jesus’ 12 closest disciples and part of his inner circle along with James and John (Mark 5:37). Jesus gave Simon the nickname “Peter” which means “rock,” signifying the leadership role Peter would take after Jesus’ death (John 1:42).

Peter expressed great love for Jesus, once proclaiming, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). When Jesus said all his disciples would fall away, Peter insisted “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matthew 26:33).

So despite his eventual denial of Jesus, Peter deeply loved him.

Judas Betrayed Jesus for Money After Following Him for Years

Judas Iscariot was also one of the 12 disciples who followed Jesus for over three years. But Judas was the treasurer for the group and often stole money from their money bag (John 12:6). Shortly before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, Judas went to the chief priests and struck a deal to hand Jesus over to them in exchange for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16).

His greed and betrayal for material gain showed he did not truly love Jesus in his heart.

Peter’s Denial Was Due to Temporary Weakness and Fear

Peter fervently claimed he would never deny Jesus, even if it meant dying with him. But when Jesus was arrested, Peter followed at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard (Matthew 26:58). There, people repeatedly recognized him as one of Jesus’ disciples which could have meant imprisonment or death.

Out of fear, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. Immediately after his third denial, the rooster crowed and Jesus glanced at Peter. Peter remembered Jesus’ prediction and broke down weeping in regret (Matthew 26:75).

So Peter’s denials were not malicious but a moment of fear and self-preservation that he instantly regretted.

Judas’ Betrayal Was More Intentionally Malicious in Nature

Judas knowingly and willfully went to the chief priests to betray Jesus’ location and identity for his own financial gain – a mere 30 pieces of silver which was the price of a slave. Judas spent years with Jesus witnessing his teachings and miracles.

But overcome by greed, he turned Jesus over to people seeking to kill him. Judas made intentional decisions fully aware it could mean Jesus’ crucifixion. Later when he saw Jesus was condemned to death, he felt remorse but only because of the consequences, not because he sincerely regretted his actions (Matthew 27:3).

Differences Peter Judas
Relationship with Jesus Beloved inner circle disciple Follower motivated by money
Nature of denial/betrayal Fear-based temporary denial Intentional betrayal for greed
Regret? Instantly and tearfully regretted Only regretted consequences, not act

The Meaning for Christians Today

We All Have Moments When Our Commitment Wavers

Even the most dedicated followers of Christ can experience times when their commitment and loyalty wavers. Peter was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, yet he denied knowing Jesus three times when fear and pressure overtook him. This shows us that no one is immune to moments of spiritual weakness.

As humans, we all have times when fatigue, stress, or difficult circumstances temporarily cloud our judgment and resolve.

Peter’s experience reminds Christians to have grace and understanding both for themselves and others when they stumble. Rather than judge, we can acknowledge we all have moments of spiritual weakness. With support and God’s strength, believers can regain their footing and continue walking in faith.

Christ Offers Redemption Even After Our Failures

A key message of Christianity is God’s limitless grace and forgiveness. Despite Peter’s public denial, Jesus later offered Peter redemption and renewed purpose (John 21:15-19). This demonstrates that with true repentance, Christ allows his followers new beginnings after failure.

No matter how far we wander at times, God patiently waits to redeem us when we turn back to him. As long as we draw breath, it is never too late to admit our mistakes and receive Christ’s forgiveness. He specializes in bringing beauty from ashes and transforming stumbling blocks into stepping stones.

With humility and faith, believers can move past failure into deeper relationship with Jesus.

We Should Not Judge Harshly Like Judas Did

While Peter eventually returned to Christ, Judas responded to his own betrayal by judging himself too harshly and losing hope. Overcome with shame and despair, Judas tragically took his own life (Matthew 27:5).

This severe self-judgment prevented him from accepting the gift of redemption that Christ offers all his followers.

Judas’ story serves as a sober reminder for Christians not to judge ourselves or others by standards too lofty for imperfect humans to meet. With humility, we must acknowledge we all make mistakes at times.

Additionally, we are called to have grace and patience both for our own and others’ shortcomings as we travel together on this faith journey.


In the end, Scripture clearly records that Peter denied knowing Jesus three times during Christ’s trial and crucifixion. Judas outright betrayed Jesus by helping arrange his arrest which directly led to his death sentence.

While both men failed Jesus to differing degrees, Peter was forgiven and went on to become a pillar of the early church. His denials serve both as a sober warning and a message of hope about Christ’s mercy in times of failure.

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