Peter's Horrible Failure…and Ours
Mark 14:26-31; 66-72
26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
27 Then Jesus said to them, "All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:
' I will strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep will be scattered.
28 "But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee."
29 Peter said to Him, "Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be."
30 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."
31 But Peter spoke more vehemently, "If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!"
And they all said likewise.
66 Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came.
67 And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, "You also were with Jesus of Nazareth."
68 But he denied it, saying, "I neither know nor understand what you are saying." And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed.
69 And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, "This is one of them."
70 But he denied it again.
And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, "Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it."[a]
71 Then he began to curse and swear, "I do not know this Man of whom you speak!"
72 A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, "Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times." And when he thought about it, he wept.
A lot of people consider Peter to be their favorite disciple; perhaps because he is so human and transparent. Can you think of anything more embarrassing than for our Lord to pick a series of denials in your life and then put them into the record of His Word, allowing centuries of preaching to work over the details of them?
We'll pick up the scene just after Jesus and His disciples had shared their last meal. They concluded their time together by singing a hymn, and then they went off into the night toward the foot of the Mount of Olives, where Gethsemane was situated. Along the way small talk was exchanged between the men, intermingled with words spoken by Jesus. Please note that all four of the writers of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) recorded the account of Peter's denial, we have chosen Mark's account for today's lesson.
I. Jesus makes a prediction: "you will fall away" Mark 14:27-28 Jesus supported His prediction with words taken from Zechariah the prophet in Zechariah 13:7, quoting the Father: "I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered."—-then, Jesus added these words, "After I have been raised, I will go before you into Galilee." Apparently, Peter missed the part of the prediction regarding the resurrection of Christ, as He had been teaching for the past three years. All he heard was, "you will fall away"….The term used here means "to stumble." In other words, Jesus was saying, "Every one of you is going to turn against Me, depart from Me, leave Me; that is, every one of you will."
II. Peter emphatically refutes the prediction with "I will NOT!!" Mark 14:29 He thought that the prediction could be true of his associates, but certainly never for himself. Although Peter eventually did compromise himself, he was sincere at this point of his intent to remain loyal to his Lord, regardless of the consequences (notice verse 31.)
III. Jesus personalizes His prediction: "You will deny Me times" (Mark 14:30) Basically, Christ made two statements here. "You will deny Me this very night." AND "You will deny Me three separate times" The Lord even mentioned the deadline, "before the cock crows twice" The Romans divided their day into three-hour segments. The night segments were termed "watches," and there were four watches altogether. The watches were identified as follows:
i. The Evening Watch: 6:00PM until 9:00PM
ii. Midnight Watch: 9:00PM until Midnight
iii. Cock Crowing Watch: Midnight until 3:00AM
iv. Morning Watch: 3:00AM until 6:00AM
At the end of each watch was the changing of the guard in Jerusalem. The end of the third watch was signaled by the "crowing of the cock"—this was not the sound of a rooster as is commonly held, but rather that of a trumpet sounded twice by the officer of the guard (this was a trumpet blast sent forth in two different directions). Jesus told His confident disciple that he would deny Him three times before the 3:00AM horn blasts would be heard that night. Little did Peter or his companions know—before that night had passed, they would eat their words and deny Christ—all of them, especially Peter.
IV. Peter fulfills the prediction: "I do not know Him." Mark 14:66-71. Signs of Peter's weakening can be seen even before Christ's abuse at the hands of the high priest and his entourage began.
a. While in the Garden: Verses 32-38. Before leaving His disciples to pray, He instructed Peter (plus James and John) to watch and pray. Upon His return, Christ found them asleep three different times. Christ most notably addressed His reproof to the one disciple who vehemently pledged his loyalty. Peter. During His reproof, Christ addressed Peter by his former name, instead of the new one He had given him, which meant "the rock". Christ called him Simon, which means "vacillating one." His sleeping was a sign of something worse yet to come. —— Careful!! If we are quick to criticize Peter, many of us would do even worse!
b. In the courtyard: verse 66-68. It is here the first denial transpired. Soon after the silence of the garden was broken by the arresting mob, Jesus was led away to this particular place where His disgrace began. He was surrounded by the high priest, chief elders, and scribes. Verse 53. Peter observed them accusing Him of blasphemy, spitting on Him, beating Him, and shoving their fists into His face and flesh. He had mingled with officers associated with Christ's abusive treatment who were warming themselves by the fire in the courtyard. From there, Peter could continue watching the horrible nightmare unfold. He was noticed by the high priest's servant girl, who approached him, commenting, "you, too were with Jesus the Nazarene." His face, highlighted in the night by the flames of the fire, had been detected by someone who recognized him. Then came the denial, "I neither know nor understand what you are talking about." He had knowingly broken his earlier pledges of loyalty. Peter lied, and denied Christ.
c. While on the porch. Verse 68b –71. Peter sought safety after that first encounter. He retreated to an adjacent porch, hoping to preserve his anonymity. Here the second and third denials were uttered. Apparently, he as still in sight range of Jesus. The girl wouldn't back off; she kept probing. In the presence of bystanders, she continued, "this is one of them!" Again, Peter denied he knew Christ. The pressure continued as the persistent girl kept on, "surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean, too!!" His accent had betrayed his identity. He was exposed. This last time, Peter resorted to the common language of the street—he cursed—and swore his denial; "I do not know this man you are talking about."
NOTE: The only thing I find funnier than a true, Southern Accent is a Yankee trying to imitate one! The Southern drawl will give you away every time!!
d. Sudden Occurrences. Verse 72. First, the two-blasted cock crowing was heard. Second, Peter remembered the words of Christ's prediction. Peter wept bitterly. His pain was so severe. He had not…could not keep his word to Christ. He had lied and denied Jesus, his Master and friend.
Painful but Necessary Comparison.
Not a single person can look upon Peter with a judging eye. Though none of us were at the scene in his place, we've been at various scenes of denial that are our own…..at school, at work, in public.
Fearing to appear as spiritual freaks or fanatics, we've kept our mouths shut when it would have been appropriate to talk about Christ and our faith in Him. Many of us betray Christ with our silence. Many of us deny Christ with our words. Either way, we have denied Christ.
But, Peter's story does not end here. After crying bitterly once he realized what he'd done, Peter repented and served Christ wholeheartedly. Peter survived his betrayal because he found forgiveness and restoration in Christ. So can you. I pray you find His peace today.
I was once conducting a meeting with some high school teenagers. I told them that they could ask me any question on any subject, and I would try and answer it. Their questions were typical of ones I had received in similar sessions scores of times before. As the session drew to a close, one girl toward the back, who had not said anything, raised her hand. I nodded, and she said, "The Bible says God loves everybody. Then it says that God sends people to hell. How can a loving God do that?" I gave her my answer, and she came back to me with arguments. I answered her arguments, and she answered my answers. The conversation quickly degenerated into an argument. I did not convince her, nor did she convince me.
After a few more questions I dismissed the session. After the session I approached her and said, "I owe you an apology. I really should not have allowed our discussion to become so argumentative." Then I asked, "May I share something with you?" She said, "Yes." So I took her through a basic presentation of the gospel. When I got to Romans 3:23 and suggested that all of us were sinners she began to cry. It was then that this high school senior admitted she had been having an affair with a married man. The one thing she needed was forgiveness. When I finished the presentation of the gospel, she trusted Christ. The reason she did not believe in hell was because she was going there. In her heart she knew she had sinned. Her conscience condemned her, but rather than face the fact of her guilt, she simply denied any future judgment or future hell. All of us need forgiveness when we fail. God offers just that to you. Right now. You don't have to wait any longer.
You are loved with an everlasting love. God loves you, and has a purpose for your life. Give your life to Him today, won't you? The successes and the failures. He will take them all and bless you in your life. Trust Him today.