Peter’s Denial of Jesus

We are meditating on the events surrounding the crucifixion of Christ, looking at Peter’s denial that he knew Jesus. When Peter and John arrived at the palace, it was John who knocked on the outer gate to the courtyard. Because he knew the servants, he gained entrance first and then came back with a servant girl to also let in Peter. The two parted after they gained entrance. We are not told why, but the reason, perhaps, is because Peter would have been afraid to be seen by Malchus, the servant of the high priest whose ear Peter had cut off. John, perhaps, went in to listen to the gathering of leaders over the different court proceedings over the next few hours. Because it was cold that evening, Peter warmed himself by the fire.

56A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” 57But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. 58A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied (Luke 22:56-58).

What had reduced the Apostle Peter to deny being a disciple in front of a servant girl? Could it be that this first denial of Peter was because he was afraid that the young girl would call the soldiers? We cannot tell what fears were in his mind at that moment. Let’s give Peter credit that he chose to stay longer. Luke tells us that he sat down with a group of people warming themselves by a fire after the first denial (Luke 22:55). Apparently, the young girl did not believe Peter’s first denial and came up close to see his face in the light of the fire. Matthew tells us that the fireside denial was before a number of people:

69Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 70But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said (Matthew 26:69-70).

Luke tells us that the servant girl looked closely at him seated in front of the fire, and she accused him before the other people sitting around the fire, saying, “this man was also with him” (Luke 22:56). His denial to those around the fire constituted his second denial. This is often the way temptation comes to us. We give the enemy an inch, and he takes a foot. We give him a foot, and he takes a yard. We give a yard, and he takes a mile. We must be aware not to compromise an inch of our lives to the enemy of our souls. It seems that Peter was now afraid that his cover was blown, and he needed to get away from the fire in the courtyard. Matthew tells us that he moved to the gateway, trying to find an exit:

71Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:71-72).

There is nothing to tell us that the household servants would have done anything to Peter. He had been reduced to his denials out of his own fear. Luke tells us that an hour went by between the second denial and the third and last. About the time of the last denial, John gives us a bit more information, perhaps, because he was also in the courtyard and recognized the one challenging Jesus as a relative of Malchus. Those around the fire now had a witness that made Peter completely lose his composure. John tells us:

One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” (John 18:26).

The picture we should get is that of several people suspiciously looking at Peter. The pressure of the witness, together with a few of the servants around him, made him call down curses on himself, wishing himself a violent death at God’s hand if he was lying about knowing Jesus. How sad this strikes us, but many of us have had instances where we have denied our Lord, maybe not with words but with our sinful actions. If you are one of those, know that the forgiveness of the Lord is for you. There is grace to cover our sin. Cry out to Christ for Him to forgive you and He will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:7). We will share what happened at Peter’s third denial tomorrow.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 61, Peter, the Broken Disciple (Luke 22:54-62). Keith Thomas

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