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

What Was the Horror that Jesus Faced in the Garden?

We are continuing our meditation of the drama that went on in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before Jesus was crucified (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation). The second thing that was seen as a cup that Jesus had to drink was the temptation to walk away from what He faced. What was before Him was more than humiliation at the hands of evil men, and more than being crucified. Let us consider His temptation. When we struggle against sin, the temptation that comes to us is to seek for holiness from our sinful thoughts and actions. As Christians, our fight is against sin in three different battlefields all at the same time. The world system we live in, our own sinful nature, and our adversary, the devil and his demons. The writer to the Hebrews spoke of the temptation that we all face, saying that however hard we fight, it is nowhere near the unseen fight that Jesus faced in the garden that night:

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (Hebrews 12:4).

Our struggle is to be holy when our natural tendency, our default nature, is toward sin. It was totally different, though, for the Lord Jesus. He had never known sin. He has always been Holy. He was born of a virgin and by the Holy Spirit. Christ was not conceived in the normal way, and, therefore, did not take on a sinful nature. He remained free from sin all His life, in order that he would die as an innocent Lamb for us and as us. The apostle Peter had been around Him for more than three years, yet he said about Christ: “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). As a Holy being, Christ’s struggle that day in the garden was to put on sin and be the living embodiment of sin. His striving was not against sin, but to be sin when every fiber of His Holy being cried out against sin. Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You cannot look on wickedness with favor” (Habakkuk 1:13). His default nature, every impulse of His diving being, was to abhor sin, and yet He had to put on sin to make us holy. How wonderful is His love! “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The temptation He faced was to abandon His holiness and embrace sin, and not just sin, but all sin, of all time, and for the whole human race.

Perhaps one would say that Jesus wasn’t tempted for He was holy, but in fact, He was tempted much worse than us in order that He might be able to feel what we feel when we are tempted:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).

What was distinctly different was that Christ would be separated from His Father for a time. When Christ hung on the cross, the sins of the world were laid upon Him, and the Father, who cannot look upon sin, left Christ for a time. The perfect character of Christ would be stained by sins of the blackest sort, every sin that you and I have ever committed were laid on Him. Not only sins committed in the present, but also those of the past and future. That is why He cried out from the cross; “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Those who believe that there are many ways to God, do not have an answer as to why the Father refused to take any other option other than His Son must drink the dregs of the cup. There was no other way. If there had been another way, God would have taken it, rather than see His Son suffer for the sins of man.

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 60, Jesus at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-53). Keith Thomas

Judas, the Greedy Thief

We are continuing our meditation of the days before the crucifixion of Christ, looking especially at the person of Judas, thinking through what it could have been that prompted him to betray the Lord Jesus (Scroll further down for additional thoughts on Judas). Perhaps, it was the love of money that motivated Judas. He oversaw the finances for the party of disciples. When Mary, the sister of Lazarus, honored Jesus by pouring out her treasure (i.e. a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume) on his feet and wiping them with her hair, Judas was incensed at the “waste:”

4But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (John 12:4-8).

This event had happened just a few days before the crucifixion of Christ (John 12:1). Perhaps, the gentle rebuke added additional motivation as to why Judas would sell out Christ. There could have been some bitterness at the gentle rebuke, and the fact that he couldn’t get his hands on a year’s wages. He could see no value in someone’s treasure being poured out on the Lord’s feet.

Think of it. If one of your friends was just about to part with a year’s wages on some person’s feet, wouldn’t you see that as a bit excessive? It wouldn’t be if it was believed that this man was God in the flesh, which Mary did. The longer Judas was exposed to the truth about Christ and yet remained hard-hearted and unresponsive, the darker his heart became (Proverbs 29:1). How could Judas have seen Christ move in a gift of revelatory knowledge in knowing the name of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:5) and yet think that Christ would not be aware of his stealing out of the money bag?

Now, we return to our original questions about the responsibility and the intent of Judas.

What we have learned is that Judas was an unbeliever. A Christian has spiritual armor that is given to him that protects him against demonic attack and control (Ephesians 6:10-18), but someone who is not yet a believer can be used as a pawn in the enemy’s hands. Sometimes, even believers are not mature enough to deflect enemy thoughts and cast them down (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). An immature believer can be the mouthpiece of demonic attack on another. Jesus Himself had to confront Satan working through Peter. After the Lord told the disciples that He would be killed but would rise again, Peter took Jesus aside from the others for a chat:

32He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:32-33).

Satan could not enter Peter’s life as he did with Judas. He had merely cast a thought into Peter’s mind, and the ever impulsive Peter had acted on the thought, and spoke those words to Christ. Jesus immediately recognized that Peter was being used by Satan to deter Him from carrying out the Father’s plan. He rebuked the enemy for using Peter as a mouthpiece, much to the surprise of Peter. The enemy looks for every opportunity to cause disunity, and he certainly does not steer clear of churches. He joins them! Satan does more harm against God’s people by sowing weeds in the midst of the wheat (Matthew 13:25). Satan whispered into Judas’ ear and he obeyed him.

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 58. (Luke 22:1-6). The Betrayal of Jesus. Keith Thomas