Peter’s Denial of Christ and Our Denial

Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times. (Mark 14:30 NKJV)

“While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said. But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway. When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.” (Mark 14:66-72 NKJV)

At this point in Mark’s Gospel Jesus has been betrayed by his erstwhile disciple Judas, been abandoned by the rest of the twelve, and been judged by the Jewish Sanhedrin court. All of this happened in a single terrible night, a night of the worst tragedies. Betrayal, abandonment, injustice at the hand of the courts, and physical abuse all visit Christ our Lord on this night. Was he deserving of it? Absolutely not, but this was his burden to bear for the sake of his people. Having eaten the last Passover with his disciples, and having declared that he would “no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when [he] drink[s] it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25), Jesus will have no more joy, but only tragedies, leading up to his crucifixion.

Despite the immense tragedy happening to Jesus up above, in Mark 14:66-72 the focus shifts to Peter down below. The disciples had fled from Jesus, just as he said they would (Mark 14:27), but where did they go? Did they go home to Gallilee, trying to forget all that they’ve experienced for the last 3 years? No, that would be impossible! Even if the shepherd is struck, the sheep never wander far. Peter sticks close, warming himself by a fire just below in the courtyard of the Sanhedrin’s council chambers where Jesus is being abused (Mark 14:66a).

Only the night before he boldly declared to Jesus that “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be” (Mark 14:29). Despite his initial boldness, it was not to be, he too fell away. Indeed, he wasn’t even able to “watch and pray” that he might not fall into temptation just like Jesus asked him to in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:37). When Jesus was taken, Peter stood in his own strength and failed to keep the faith.

A servant girl of the high priest walks by, and noticing him, she says that he was with Jesus. Here Peter has a chance to reassert his faith in his Lord. A servant girl is hardly a threat, but nevertheless, he caves and denies understanding what the girl is talking about. Moving on, he overhears the girl discussing Peter with the others around. Without even being spoken to, Peter takes it upon himself to reassert his ignorance rather than his faith in his Lord. Again, a third and final time, the little band bystanders ask him if he was with Jesus, pointing out that he’s a Galilean. At this point, tragically, Peter takes the final step: he denies his Lord for the third time and invokes curses upon himself. When this happens, the rooster crows the second time, and Peter realizes what he’s done. He breaks down and weeps.

It’s tragic to see those who once stood strong in the faith deny the God they once claimed. Far too often we have seen young people fail to persevere in their profession of faith. However, let’s consider ourselves. Do we deny the Lord? Christ said in Matthew 10:33: “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” Are our denials of our Lord as dramatic as Peter’s? Certainly not, though they are often equally as tragic.

Take for example the temptation to downplay our faith in the public sphere. Whether before our neighbors or coworkers, the temptation is to minimize the appearance of our faith. Nobody wants to be “that guy”, the guy who won’t laugh at the jokes, listen to blasphemy, engage in the sin; that reluctance puts a target on our back for mockery and ridicule. We reason that it’s far better to keep our faith hidden to avoid trouble. Peter was confronted by a servant girl: what power did she have over him? She could gloat over the Master’s death if she was so inclined, but beyond that, she had no power. What power do our coworkers and neighbors have over us? Nothing. The tragedy is that we so often fold for peasants rather than kings.

What about our failure to evangelize as we know we ought? We know we do this. How many times have we come away from the Scriptures impressed with the need to evangelize, make plans and intentions to reach out to so-and-so, and see said desires wither away when confronted with the person in question? “Maybe next time, when the time is right.” There will never be a right time! In the end, we intend much but do little, and in so doing deny our Lord who bids us speak of him.

Peter was given a wide-open door to talk to this servant girl and the bystanders about Christ. They were the ones to ask about Christ. He very well could have relayed to them all that Christ had taught him, instead he minimized Christ to try and save his hide from those who posed no real threat to him. That is the tragedy of this passage. Like Esau, Peter sold his inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven for a bowl of lentils, and in the end, they left him broken and weeping.

It is of the utmost necessity that we take seriously our Lord’s words: “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” In the end, by sheer grace, our Lord restored Peter. Denying Christ may be forgiven. Right after telling us that “if we deny Him, He also will deny us”, Paul says that “If we are faithless, He remains faithful” (2 Timothy 2:12-13). After all, at the time of Peter’s final denial of Christ, Christ was on his way to the cross where he would pay for all the sins of Peter, even the denial he was at that time enacting. There is grace for the penitent sinner, however, we must never allow it to become a license to sin.

Published by ClogTheology

23 y/o, in between a B.Th and M.Div

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: