Mark 14:66-72 66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
The Apostle Peter was the most externally passionate member of the disciples. He was almost always the first to speak. He was willing to act in faith in response to Jesus. When Jesus had walked across the water to the disciples in the midst of a storm Peter also walked on the water in faith to meet Jesus before he began to sink (Matthew 14:22-33). He was the first to respond that Jesus is the Christ when Jesus questioned them about His true identity (Mark 8:27-30). And He was the first to claim that He would be willing to die with Jesus as the reality of Jesus’ death had finally sunk in and the disciples all understood that He would in fact die (Mark 14:31). But here, Peter failed Jesus in dramatic fashion. In spite of the fact that Jesus had just told Peter hours earlier that he would deny Jesus three times, Peter was unable to prevent himself from doing so.
Mark 14:30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”
Why? What was going on in Peter that made him incapable of remembering his relationship with Jesus? Did he get amnesia? Who forgets the one they claim to be fully devoted to and only hours before declared such a devotion that he would be willing to die for Jesus? Peter and the rest of the disciples had given up everything to follow Jesus and now Judas Iscariot had betrayed Jesus to death. Was everything falling apart? Were these men that Jesus had poured Himself into over three years all going to fail Him? Yes. But Jesus would yet restore them.
As Peter denied Jesus he was alone. He could not see the will of God in his situation. He was hopeless and afraid. He could not handle what was going on with Jesus and Peter was in a state of confusion because of his own actions. Jesus had just been arrested. Peter had tried to defend Jesus with a sword but only made the situation worse. Jesus had prevented the disciples from being arrested with Him but surely they would be after Peter for what he had done in cutting off the high priest’s servant’s ear (Mark 14:47). But Peter had to know what was happening with Jesus. He would follow but from a distance. He was compelled to be in the very place where Jesus was. And that place was in the presence of the high priest. Surely the high priest would hear what he had done. Surely the servant of the high priest would condemn Peter even though Jesus had healed his ear. Peter was guilty for coming against the high priest. He had no defense. But it was done in darkness. Did they recognize him?
Peter never should have drawn his sword. It is hard to know the full weight of the guilt that Peter felt in this moment because of his actions with the sword versus his abandonment of Jesus and the powers of darkness that seemed to be victorious over Jesus. But one thing is certain: any time you seek vengeance your conscience will not be clean. You will need to look over your back and your own thoughts of what could happen will consume you. Peter was already in an extremely stressful situation in seeing His Saviour be taken away in chains. But he only added to his despair by drawing the sword.
Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Peter tried the best that he could to hide his true identity. As he watched Jesus in the mock trial before the Jewish council he tried to blend in but he could not. One of the servant girls of the high priest recognized his accent. The people from Galilee in northern Israel had a different accent than those around Jerusalem. Everyone knew that Jesus’ disciples were from Galilee (except for Judas Iscariot who was from Judea). Perhaps the servant girl had seen Peter with Jesus at another time. Irregardless she correctly identified him as a follower of Jesus. Peter’s cover had been blown. He could not be found out. What to do? Peter did what he thought was the only option- to deny Jesus. When challenged three times he gave the same response- that he did not know Jesus and he was so emphatic in his response that he was willing to invoke a curse upon himself by swearing, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” (verse 71).
What was the result of all this? This passionate disciple who claimed that he was willing to die for Jesus had denied any associate with Him. As he heard the rooster crow twice he remembered Jesus’ words and broke down and wept. He had failed. In the next events leading up to the crucifixion and Jesus’ burial, Peter would not be watching closely. He would be in hiding wallowing in shame and despair. But God was not yet done with him for Jesus had declared previously: Mark 14:27-28 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”
Jesus was pruning His disciples in a manner that He had never done before. He was removing the filth and the mire within them as they came to see their sin that they were blind to recognize before. As Jesus was going to the cross He was also purifying His disciples. Jesus would restore Peter. He would become an apostle. But at this point he was brought very low.
Do you have such a devotion to Jesus Christ? Are you willing to follow Him to the cross? No one will do so if they don’t know the love of God or if they have not tasted His redeeming work. Peter had given up everything to follow Jesus. Have you? But once you do, this is only the beginning. You are a new creation. The old must pass away. Jesus Christ will lead you to a place where he will refine you through and through. He will show you what sin remains. He will bring you low but then, when you repent, he will restore your soul. Then, He will raise you up!
Pastor Murray Hack