“Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, ‘You also are not one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’”John 18:25
John’s record differs from the other Gospel accounts in the attention it draws to the charcoal fire Peter was standing beside when he denied Jesus. Only John records that the servants and officers were the ones who made the fire and that they did so because they were cold (verse 18).
That little detail—that it was cold—helps us better understand Peter’s situation. Not only was it cold, but it was also dark, and Peter was tired. He was confused. He had been on an emotional rollercoaster. He may literally have had blood on his hands.
He had tried to serve Christ. He had failed. Jesus knew that he would. Jesus also knew that Peter would be restored, and he gave his life to make that possible. When Jesus appeared to Peter after his resurrection and prepared him for his future work, John records that a charcoal fire was once again part of the scene: “When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn” (John 21: 9-11).
There may be a “charcoal fire” in our life that reminds us of our denial of Jesus. That same “fire” should also remind us of his love for us and our redemption that was made possible because of him.