Now let’s look at the nature of Peter’s denial. Jesus has told him before that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crows. Peter vehemently denied that would be the case.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you (pl) like wheat; but I have prayed for you (sing), that your (sing) faith may not fail; and you (sing), when once you (sing) have turned again, strengthen your (sing) brothers.” But he said to Him,”Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” And He said, “I say to you (sing), Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you (sing) have denied three times that you (sing) know Me.”Luke 22:31-34
Jesus has made it clear in His statement of what would happen that Peter would deny Him. Peter’s response was, ‘I would never do that.’ “Lord, with You, I am ready to go both to prison and to death.” A very bold statement. I am ready for the ultimate test. Really? Well let’s have a detailed look at what actually happened. One can imagine the threat facing Peter and the other disciples. At least two squads of soldiers from the temple guard armed with swords and a crowd of people armed with clubs have come to arrest Jesus. They clearly mean business. The Sanhedrin are determined to put an end to this Galilean upstart once and for all. This is the moment of reckoning. To make matters worse, one of their own has aligned himself with the enemy. Things are not looking too good. The sifting that Jesus referred to has clearly come upon them. Well at least Peter had been warned. Now is the time to steel his nerve and to remember that Jesus has told him that He Himself was praying for him. That is a huge comfort. So how does Peter fare, this one who was ready to go to prison with Jesus, to die beside Him?
A servant girl comes to Peter and says, “you were one of those with the Galilean”. She is not armed with a sword or club. She is just a servant girl. It is doubtful that she was actually there at the time of the arrest. It is the fact that he is speaking like a Galilean that triggers her response. Matthew and Mark record that she addressed the accusation to Peter himself. Luke however upon researching the stories indicates that she actually made sure the people around her heard it too, those from the group of servants and the temple guard. It is likely she made the comment first to Peter and then let everyone else know the nature of the conversation she had been having with Peter.
Peter’s response to her general claim that he was among those with the Galilean was to say “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” – according to Matthew and Mark. However Luke makes the nature of his response even stronger, “Woman, I don’t EVEN know him.” They are strong words from one who was willing to face prison or death for the One he has been following. Really, Peter? How is your faith in the midst of this testing? It is hardly at the level sufficient to be willing to go to prison or death yet. This is only a servant girl talking to you at this point.
With the second accusation the level of involvement of the crowd has escalated. Oh yes it appears the same girl responds to Peter’s claim that he didn’t know what she was talking about and that He didn’t EVEN know Him, “This man is DEFINITELY one of them.” You MUST be one of them, His band of followers.” To which Peter replies “NO, I am not.” It is at this point that Matthew records what Luke included with the first accusation, I don’t EVEN know the man. This is a very strong retort to the certainty of the girl. Here she is not making any statement of factuality. She is simply coming to her conclusion based on the circumstantial evidence. But by this time her statement has clearly sparked those around Peter to proclaim their certainty about the matter. Remember we are still talking the group of servants, the friends of this maid servant. However there is an element of threat in all of this for Peter, because present in this localized crowd are members of the temple guard. Their statements are growing in number and in certainty. This man is MUST/ DEFINITELY one of the band of Jesus followers.
By the time of the third denial, about an hour later, the certainty has grown with corroborating evidence. Those around him are getting more and more bold and certain in their claims. The bystanders now are no doubt shouting out, “Your Galilean accent gives you away.” Inference, it is for certain that you have come down from Galilee with this Galilean, this Jesus. It is at this point that the relative of Malchus speaks up and says, “Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?” Remember Peter was the one who took the sword after Jesus had made it plain the sword was not the way to deal with this, and had cut off Malchus’ ear. The relative of Malchus speaks up as an eye witness and effectively says ‘Yes it was you who did that to my relative. You were with Him alright, I saw you.’ How could the relative forget the man who did that to Malchus? The plain truth is he couldn’t. The accusations have escalated to the point of certainty. The verb in the case of the man insisting Peter was with Jesus is in the imperfect middle tense which carries the idea of the statements being “insisted on strongly in an ongoing way”. They made these statements and kept saying them. No doubt growing in crescendo as they continued. The group around him are vehement in their certainty of Peter’s involvement.
Peter’s response at this point:
- I don’t know what you are talking about.
- I don’t know this man you are talking about.
- I don’t know the man.
I don’t know what you are talking about is softer and not as condemning as I don’t know who you are talking about. The first is denying a notion, the second is denying a person. I don’t know this man, I have never seen or met Him before. Luke just plainly records “I don’t know the man.” A summary statement of dismissal of the personhood of Jesus. I have heard people preaching in the past that this statement is referring to the intimate knowledge of someone like that of Adam knowing Eve in the garden. That is not the case. The verb used here is [eidō] not [ginoskō]. To be aware of, (have) known (-ledge of), look (on). I have no knowledge of this man.
This denial as recorded by Matthew and Mark is preceded by “A curse be on me if I am lying . . . ” Oh my goodness Peter, what are you doing? Who are you fooling? To make a bold statement like that associated with a curse. Well let’s analyze what you have just said Peter. A curse be on you if you are lying? Were you lying or not Peter? Most definitely – LYING. Maybe it is true you are not intimately connected with Jesus at this moment. You have succumbed to the trial Jesus talked about. But to say that you have no knowledge of Him, you have not seen Him before, you are not aware of the Man. Peter was willing to call down a curse upon himself rather than go to prison or die. In the final analysis that may be a bolder step than dying. Whatever possessed you to say that Peter? Just plain fear! We never know what we will do when the crunch comes.
“. . . And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.
At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know Me.” (Luke 22:60-61)
Three shocking verses. Note the timing of it all. Immediately . . . at the moment . . . while he was still speaking those words “I don’t know the man” Jesus turned and looked at Peter. [Emblepō] means to look at intently. To fix your case on someone. This was no passing glance. This was perhaps that most meaningful look that Jesus ever gave Peter. How devastating! Only Luke records these words. Ponder the moment and let your heart be still before the Lord. Imagine if that look were given to you. Could it be? Would it fit your circumstances at present? At any time? The truth of the matter is that it could happen to anyone of us at any time. Ponder these things in your heart.
“And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.”Luke 22:62
Little wonder. But so sad for the one who claimed he was willing to go to prison or to death. Have you ever been disappointed with yourself or your reaction when you failed a life test of your integrity? The big question now is did Peter’s faith fail? Does this change anything in your thinking? How you view yourself and / or how you treat others?
There is never one moment in your life that God doesn’t love you!Joyce Meyer
Love becomes weak if it’s not strengthened by TRUTH. Truth becomes hard if it’s not softened by love.Nicky Gumbel