In the Lukan order of events Peter’s denial and his repentance come first. Jesus is arrested and brought to the high priest’s house. Peter followed at a distance to the courtyard and there sat down at the fire (Lk 22: 54-55). These introductory verses set the stage for the story of Peter’s denials. Three denials are recounted thus showing the fulfilment if Jesus’ prediction in Luke 22: 34. Peter is challenged first by a servant girl (Lk 22: 56), and then by the others (Lk 22: 58-59). The accusations are directed to the bystanders in the case of the first and the third, and to Peter himself in the second case. The three accusations (identifications) of Peter and Peter’s denials run as follows:
“This man also was with him” – Luke 22: 56
Peter: “Woman, I do not know him” – Luke 22: 57
“You also are one of them” – Luke 22: 58
Peter: “Man, I am not” – Luke 22: 58
“Certainly this man also was with him for he is a Galilean” – Luke 22: 59
Peter: “Man, I do not know what you are saying” – Luke 22: 60
The three accusations are almost identical and they concern Peter’s discipleship of Jesus. “To be with Jesus” is a synonym for discipleship. “To be one of them” means to belong to the group of disciples. In response to the words of the maid that he is Jesus’ disciple Peter denies any knowledge of Jesus: “Woman, I do not know him” (Lk 22: 57). To the second accusation Peter responds by denying his own identity as a disciple: “Man, I am not” (Lk 22: 58); similarly also to the third accusation. But here Peter’s answer is evasive: “Man, I do not know what you are saying” (Lk 22: 60). According to Luke, Peter does not deny Jesus, but only his knowledge of Jesus (cf. Lk 22: 34). Luke thus mellows down the vehemence of Peter’s denial. He does not mention any cursing and swearing by Peter (cf. Mk 14: 71). And Luke reports that the Lord turned and looked at Peter who then remembered the Lord’s prediction and wept bitterly (Lk 22: 62-63). The transforming “look” of Jesus effected Peter’s conversion. Jesus had prayed for Peter and that prayer was efficacious and therefore Peter’s faith did not fail (cf. Lk 22: 32).
In the Lukan account Peter’s denial is less serious than in the Markan narrative, where Peter’s denial reaches a crescendo, as it is strengthened with an oath and a curse (cf. Mk 14: 71). Furthermore, the fact that in gospel of Mark Peter denies Jesus immediately after Jesus has clearly affirmed his Messiahship (Mk 14: 61-62). This increases Peter’s culpability. Again in Mark Peter’s denial (Mk 14: 66ff) follows the mistreatment of Jesus (Mk 14: 65) and this sequence seems to set Peter on the side of those who mocked Jesus. In gospel of Luke, however, Peter’s denials and repentance are recounted before the Sanhedrin trial and before Jesus is mocked by the guards. This shows that it is a repentant Peter who is going to witness the events of Jesus’ passion, according to gospel of Luke.
The Lukan narrative of Peter’s denials of Jesus seems to be meant also as a warning to the Christian readers, all the disciples of Jesus. The temptation to disown the Lord is there even for a faithful disciple. But God’s mercy and forgiveness will always be there for everyone who is truly repentant of his sins and denials.