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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

PETER DENIES JESUS THREE TIMES

Matt 26:69-75 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the Man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the Man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. (Also See Matt. 26:57-58; Mark 14:53-54, 66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18, 25-27)

This incident, when Peter denies knowing Jesus, is recorded by all four gospel writers in somewhat different sequences. Both Matthew and Mark introduce Peter but his denial is interrupted by a portion of Jesus' trial before the high priest and the Sanhedrin. Luke records the entire denial before presenting Jesus' trial, while John introduces Peter, records his first denial, writes of Jesus' trial, and then tells us of the last two denials of Peter. Matthew's record is used as the lesson text, but all gospels will be referred to from time to time as different views add varying details to the study.

After being identified by Judas, as well as by His own confession, Jesus was bound and taken away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled, that is the Sanhedrin, over which the high priest presided. Peter followed Him afar off, and arriving at the palace court, he went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end (Matt. 26:57-58). As described by John, it seems that Peter entered into the palace grounds, but at first, instead of entering the court, stood at its entrance. Also, omitted by the other three gospels, John also records that another disciple, whom most bible scholars assume to be the apostle John, also followed Jesus. He entered into the court, noticed Peter remaining at the door, persuaded the keeper of the door to allow Peter to enter, came to him and brought in Peter (John 18:15-16).

Exactly where Peter witnessed the trial of Jesus seems to create controversy among bible scholars based on the various accounts of the four gospel writers. Matthew gives us a broader, more understandable view. He wrote that Peter sat without in the palace. In other words, Peter entered into and witnessed the proceedings from an area surrounding the court - an area where various servants of the Jewish leaders waited and watched the trial. The court, and the area surrounding it, although on the palace grounds, must have been partially open and uncovered, because within this area, a fire was made to warm those gathered there (See Mark 14:54).

As Peter sat by the fire witnessing the trial, a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. John tells us that this damsel was the one that kept the door (John 18:17), as noted above. Immediately Peter denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. It was at this point that only Mark writes that the cock crew (Mark 14:68). Leaving that vantage point, Peter goes to another place out into the porch, where he could still witness the trial of Jesus. There he stood and warmed himself (John 18:25), and another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. Once again, for the second time, Peter denied knowing Jesus, and this time, in order to give his answer more creditability, he did so with an oath.

It seems from the readings that afterwards, others that stood by began questioning Peter because of his Galilean speaking accent. Since Jesus was known as a man of Galilee, they concluded that Peter was His follower because of his speech. For the third time Peter denied Jesus, and this time much more vehemently, cursing and swearing at them for accusing him of knowing and following Jesus. And immediately the cock crew, for the second time. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow (twice, Mark 14:72), thou shalt deny Me thrice (See Matt. 26:33-35). And he went out, and wept bitterly. Here we have witnessed a follower of Christ giving into sin because of the pressure of worldly ridicule, but also we learn afterward, that forgiveness of that sin, and sins like it, comes from a repentant, contrite heart.