THE DENIAL OF PETER FORETOLD
Matt 26:31-35 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of Me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto Him, Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice. Peter said unto Him, Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee. Likewise also said all the disciples. (Also See Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:31-38; John 13:36-38)
This event took place near the close of Jesus' life on earth, and was recorded by all four gospel writers. The records of Matthew and Mark are in close harmony to each other, with John's record being an abbreviated version. Luke records much of the same thoughts with a few more details added. For purposes of this lesson, we will refer primarily to Matthew's record, with references to the others as needed to get the full understanding of Peter's denial of Christ Jesus.
Preceding the lesson text, Jesus told His apostles that He would soon be betrayed into the hands of the Jewish leaders, condemned, and slain. And, according to John's record, He would leave them for a while; a place to which they could not follow Him. Peter asked Him, Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? This question he followed with this statement: I will lay down my life for Thy sake (John 13:37). It seems this bold affirmation brought Jesus' reply as recorded in the lesson text. Jesus began by saying to His apostles, All ye shall be offended because of Me this night, that is, their faith in Him as the promised Messiah would fade this very evening (which began the next Jewish day), and they would be ashamed to call Him their Savior or to be called His followers. Citing the meaning found in Zechariah 13:7, Jesus told His apostles that they would desert Him and be scattered abroad as sheep that had lost their shepherd. But following this distressing message, Jesus gave them hope for the future - a hope that at the present time they did not fully understand. Although they would shortly become offended and forsake their Lord, He assures them that He will not forsake them. He told them that after I am risen again, He would reassume the role of their Shepherd and go before you into Galilee, and there be united once again.
Peter's answer to Jesus was filled with a vain confidence that defined his brash character: Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended. Without any doubt, Peter's reply demonstrated a true, compassionate love for his Master. As long as Peter was in the presence of Jesus, his determination to follow Him was faultless. However, Jesus knew Peter's devotedness would be tested in His absence, his human weaknesses would take command of his actions, and he would fail miserably to remain a faithful follower and continue to obediently follow the doctrine He taught. How true this is of many Christians. In most instances they remain faithful while living with a devoted family or studying and worshipping with a zealous congregation of God's people. But when removed from these relationships, these once faithful Christians often become weak, their spiritual desire fades, and they, like Peter, also fail.
Although Peter voiced his steadfast determination to remain a faithful follower of Him, Jesus recognized Peter's human weakness and said to him: this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice. Although Luke and John agree with this rendering, Mark adds, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice. Mark seems to refer to the usual cock crowing at midnight and at the dawning of the day. The other gospel writers refer only to the cock crowing at daybreak. However, the number of times the cock crew is insignificant; that Peter denied to know and follow Christ is of utmost importance.
Peter, completely ignoring this warning from Jesus, immediately restated his steadfast determination to remain faithful to Him and His doctrine. He even stated that he would make the ultimate sacrifice and die with Him, yet will I not deny thee. Not only did Peter make this statement of faith to Christ Jesus, but likewise also said all the disciples. Yet that very night, before the cock crowed at dawning, Peter, as well as all the disciples forsook Him, and fled (Matt. 26:56). Christians, take heed. Never let one day pass by without faithfully serving and following the Son of God, our Savior and Friend. To do otherwise, is to deny Him.