Peter Denies Jesus
66 Meanwhile, Peter was in the courtyard below. One of the servant girls who worked for the high priest came by 67 and noticed Peter warming himself at the fire. She looked at him closely and said, "You were one of those with Jesus of Nazareth."
68 But Peter denied it. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said, and he went out into the entryway. Just then, a rooster crowed.
69 When the servant girl saw him standing there, she began telling the others, "This man is definitely one of them!" 70 But Peter denied it again.
A little later some of the other bystanders confronted Peter and said, "You must be one of them, because you are a Galilean."
71 Peter swore, "A curse on me if I'm lying-I don't know this man you're talking about!" 72 And immediately the rooster crowed the second time.
Suddenly, Jesus' words flashed through Peter's mind: "Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me." And he broke down and wept.
While Jesus is being subjected to a mock trial and physical and verbal abuse inside the home of the high priest, Peter is outside in the courtyard. A servant girl recognizes him as one of Jesus' followers, but Peter flatly denies it and moves away from her. The same girl loudly announces that one of Jesus' followers is in their midst, but Peter again denies it. A little later others, too, accuse Peter of being a disciple of Jesus. This time Peter denies it with an oath. Following his third denial, Peter hears a rooster crow, remembers Jesus' prediction, and breaks down in tears.
Peter (Mark 14:66)
This tragic episode in Peter's life is a story of courage mixed with fear. Certainly no one could question Peter's courage. Among the group of twelve, he was always the first to volunteer. And had he not only a short while earlier tried taking on Jesus' captors single-handedly? Peter not only followed Jesus to his trial, but he even remained in the courtyard in order "to see the outcome" (Matthew 26:58, NASB). The vast majority of men would never have made it that far. And even after having been recognized as a follower of Jesus, he refused to leave.1660
But Peter was also afraid. It was safe to be associated with a man who was popular with the people. But it was a dangerous thing indeed to be associated with a man whom the religious leaders of Israel were trying to condemn to death. And so when he was recognized as a disciple of Jesus, Peter panicked1661 and denied it - not once, but three times. With the third denial, Peter could no longer contain the mixture of thoughts and emotions welling up inside him. They came out with a curse equivalent to: "May God strike me dead if I'm lying!"1662
Rooster crowed (Mark 14:68, 71)
There's been some confusion regarding the rooster crowing that Jesus had said would immediately follow Peter's denial. One Bible commentator notes: "The Roman night was divided into four watches from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. At the end of the third watch, at three o'clock in the morning, the guard was changed. When the guard was changed there was a bugle call which was called the gallicinium, which is the Latin for the cockcrow. Most likely what happened was that as Peter spoke his third denial, the clear note of the bugle call rang out over the silent city and smote on Peter's ear. He remembered and his heart broke."1663
I don't know this man (Mark 14:71)
How could Peter deny Christ? Like any heinous sin, Peter's denial involved several downward steps, the end result of which was extreme vulnerability. "First, Peter had confidence in himself (Luke 22:33; Mark 26:35). Second, Peter separated himself from Christ and followed Him only at a distance (Mark 14:54). Third, Peter sat down in the company of Christ's adversaries (Luke 22:55). The cumulative force of these put Peter in a vulnerable position."1664
Peter's shameful conduct offers a negative example of the positive truth found in the very first verse of the book of Psalms: "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!" (Psalms 1:1, NASB). Renowned Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe says of this verse:
We move into sin and disobedience gradually (see Proverbs 4:14-15 and 7:6ff). If you follow the wrong counsel, then you will stand with the wrong companions and finally sit with the wrong crowd. When Jesus was arrested, Peter didn't follow Christ's counsel and flee from the garden (Matthew 26:31; John 16:32; 18:8), but followed and entered the high priest's courtyard. There he stood with the enemy (John 18:15-18) and ultimately sat with them (Luke 22:55). The result was denying Christ three times. The "ungodly" [= "wicked"] are people who are willfully and persistently evil; "sinners" are those who miss the mark of God's standards but who don't care; the "scornful" [= "scoffers"] make light of God's laws and ridicule that which is sacred (see Proverbs 1:22; 3:24; 21:24). When laughing at holy things and disobeying holy laws become entertainment, then people have reached a low level indeed.1665
It is probably worth noting some of the differences between Peter and Judas. Judas sought out the religious leaders; Peter sought to hide from them. Judas voluntarily betrayed Jesus; Peter involuntarily denied Jesus. Judas hanged himself; Peter was restored.
A young soldier of evident breeding and culture had one peculiarity. He would never drink alcoholic beverages with the others. One day the major asked him to take a message to the express agent in town. "Where shall I find him, sir?" he asked. "Just go into Casey's saloon and sit down. He'll show up in the course of the afternoon." The soldier drew back and said, "Beg pardon, sir, but can't I meet him some place else?" "Why, what's the matter with Casey's? Are you afraid to go there?" "Yes, sir, because drink was what made me enlist and leave my family in the first place. I was drunk and didn't know what I was doing." "You may go," said the major curtly. "I'll find a more accommodating and less cowardly man."
From then on this soldier carried a reputation for cowardice because he was realistic enough to avoid danger he knew he was too weak to face. However, the opinion of the battery changed one day when he was one of the seven chosen to fire a cannon salute to a visiting general. One bag of powder failed to discharge, and the sergeant ordered it pulled out. As it fell to the ground, the men were horrified to see that one corner of it ignited. For a breathless moment no one moved. Then this soldier flung himself upon it and with his bare hands smothered the deadly spark. From then on he was the hero of the company. You may depend upon it; the man who is afraid of doing wrong will be brave enough when the occasion calls for it.1666
Peter should have stayed away from that courtyard the night of Jesus' trial. But courageous love mixed with foolish pride would not let him. The end result was a display of cowardice that stayed with him the rest of his days. Having been restored by Jesus, however, Peter again had the opportunity to act courageously - this time depending on God's strength and not his own - when on the day of Pentecost he publicly proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the heart of the very city where Jesus had been put to death. The man who had so fearfully denied Jesus went on to become a faithful pillar of his church.
??? "Before we judge Peter too severely, we need to examine our own lives. How many times have we denied the Lord and lost opportunities to share the Gospel with others? Do we, like Peter, talk when we should listen, argue when we should obey, sleep when we should pray, and fight when we should submit?"1667