Matt 26:69-75 Peter’s Denial CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
This is one of those passages in the Bible that must be studied in all of the gospels simultaneously in order to understand what is really going on. Otherwise, it would appear that there are contradictions in each of the gospels and such is not the case. The gospels are complimentary. So, in addition to reading this text, read Mk 14:66-72; Lk 22:55-62 and Jn 18:16-18, 25-27.
First of all, there are five reasons why it was obvious that Peter knew Jesus. John brought him into the hall (Jn 18:16). The disciples had been seen in and around Jerusalem for a week before the crucifixion (when Jesus cleared the Temple, when he made his triumphal entry, when they kept the Passover, etc.). Malchus’ kinsman saw him in the garden (Jn 18:26). He was Galilaean (Lk 22:59). His speech gave him away (Mk 14:70).
In this part of the lesson, we are going to simply describe how each episode of the denial took place. Keep in mind that each time Peter denied the Lord, the sequence of events was the same. Someone asked him directly a question about his association with Jesus, which he denied. Someone commented to the group around him about his association with Jesus, which he denied. Someone commented directly to him about his association with Jesus, which he also denied.
In the first denial, John invited Peter in and the door keeper spotted him (Jn 18:16). At this point, he was “without” in the palace (Matt 26:69), in the hall (Lk 22:55) that is “beneath” (Mk 14:66). He was sitting around a fire with a group (Lk 22:55-56) when the damsel at the door asked him if he were Jesus’ disciple (Jn 18:17). He replied, “I am not.” So, she took a closer look (Lk 22:56) and told the group that he was ALSO with him [also, in addition to John] (Lk 22:56). He denied this statement saying, “Woman, I know him not,” (Lk 22:57). So, she told him directly, “Thou also wast…” (Matt 26:69; Mk 14:67). And he said basically, “I don’t know what you are talking about,” (Matt 26:70; Mk 14:68).
In the second denial, Peter left the fire in the hall and went out onto the porch (Matt 26:71). When he first got out there, he heard the cock crow the first time (Mk 14:68) like a warning. Servants and officers were standing out there and Peter stood with them (Jn 18:18). He was spotted by another maid who told the group, “This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth,” (Matt 26:71). He swore that he didn’t know him (Matt 26:72). So, they asked him, “Art not thou also one of his disciples?” and he replied, “I am not,” (Jn 18:25). But a man responded and said to him directly, “Thou art also of them,” to which he replied “Man, I am not,” (Lk 22:58).
About an hour later (Lk 22:59), he denied the Lord a third time. This time a man said to the group that Peter was with him for he was a Galilaean. But Peter denied it saying, “Man, I know not what thou sayest,” (Lk 22:59). Then Malchus’ kinsman asked him, “Did not I see thee in the garden with him [a positive identification]?” And Peter denied again (Jn 18:26-27). Following this the group said to him, “Surely thou art one of them…” and Peter cursed and swore his response, “I know not the man,” (Matt 26:73-74; Mk 14:70-71).
Following this last denial, the cock crew (Matt, Luke, John) the second time (Mk 14:72). And if that were not bad enough, the Lord turned and looked at Peter (Lk 22:61) resulting in Peter going out and weeping bitterly (Matt, Mark, Luke).
There are probably two reasons that Peter denied the Lord and neither of them have anything to do with Peter being afraid to die (Matt 26:35). One of the reasons is that Jesus could have stopped the arrest in the garden of Gethsemane and set up his kingdom. But he wouldn’t do it (Matt 26:53; Jn 18:36). The second and more likely reason is that Peter was offended over the episode with the sword. Jesus had told the disciples to arm themselves (Lk 22:36-38). So, they did. Then when Peter had the opportunity to use the sword, Jesus rebuked him for using it (Matt 26:51-54; Jn 18:10-11). That was too much for Peter to handle.