Peter’s Denial of Jesus

PETER’S DENIAL

Mark 14: 27-31, 66-72

27 ‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them, ‘for it is written:

‘“I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.”

But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’

Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’

‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘today – yes, tonight – before the cock crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’

But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the others said the same.

 66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.

‘You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,’ she said.

But he denied it. ‘I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,’ he said, and went out into the entrance.

When the servant-girl saw him there, she said again to those standing round them, ‘This fellow is one of them.’ Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, ‘Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean’.

He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know this man you’re talking about.’

Immediately the cock crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: ‘Before the cock crows twice you will disown me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.

INTRODUCTION

Do you recall when you were a child, refusing to accept responsibility for your actions?

  • Perhaps lying to escape the consequences
  • Or attempting to shift the blame onto your brother/sister
  • Or pretending to know nothing and acting “all innocent”

Your actions may have been driven by fear or an attempt to protect your pride or status.

Maybe you attempted to ‘downplay’ the seriousness in the hope of escaping more severe punishment

Perhaps you didn’t want to lose face in front of your friends or relatives… especially doting grandparents!

DENIAL takes many forms…

It may come about as a result of good intentions… Someone asks you a question and you decide to lie/deceive rather than admit the truth to save others from embarrassment or pain

For example…

a)  A lady asks if a particular dress makes her look fat!

b)  A friend confides that he is suffering from a serious illness but has decided not to tell his wife because she has a heart condition. He asks you to remain silent and you agree. A few days later, you bump into his wife and she expresses concern about her husband and asks if he has said anything to you… How do you answer?

Denial may come about because admitting the problem will require self-sacrifice:

For example…

a)  A drug addict or alcoholic denies that there’s a problem because s/he does not want give up the ‘pleasure’ associated with the practice and face the necessary treatment

b)  A boy denies having trouble with doing maths because the ‘extra maths’ classes after school coincide with football practice … So he copies his friend’s work rather than admit to his difficulties.

Denial may come about because admitting the problem could result in humiliation

For example…

a)  The child denies wetting the bed.

b)  The person suffering from bouts of depression denies that there is a problem and instead seeks comfort through drinking rather than appropriate counsel

Denial can also result from being put on the spot without the resources to deal with it

  • And this is the position in which Simon Peter found himself  (more in a moment)

One way or another, DENIAL is closely related to issues of TRUTHFULNESS and/or to issues of PRIDE…

TRUTHFULNESS

Pilate asked Jesus the question, ‘What is truth?’

  • A strange question to ask of the one who IS the truth!

For the believer in Jesus Christ, there are two elements to truth… (1) Abiding in Jesus (who is the truth)          (2) Being true to ourselves

  • If we are going to avoid lying through denial, we must be sensitive to both of these elements

First, having an awareness that our lives are open before God

  • Wilful denial of something that is patently true is to deny the reality of Christ’s Spirit in our lives

Second, learning to be true to ourselves because we are made in the image of Christ, so our witness to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit is compromised when we are untruthful

Years ago, someone won a poetry competition with a poem called “The Man in the Glass”… Here’s what happened:

The original poem was written by Dale Wimbrow (1895-1954) titled “The Guy in the Glass” and first published in the American Magazine in 1934. The magazine had asked their readers to offer an answer to a young man’s question to the Editor of the magazine as to why he should be honest. Dale Wimbrow’s poem was selected from thousands of responses…

When you get what you want in the struggle for self

And the world makes you king for a day

Just go to the mirror and look at yourself

And see what that man has to say!

For it isn’t your father or mother or wife

Whose judgement upon you must pass—

The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life

Is the one staring back from the glass.

He’s the person to please, never mind all the rest

For he’s with you clear to the end

And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test

If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and pull out a plum

And think you’re a wonderful guy—

But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum

If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years

And get pats on the back as you pass

But your final reward will be heartache and tears

If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

 PRIDE

Denial can derive from personal pride

  • When to accept the truth could diminish our status or might damage our reputation
  • Better to bluff and deny things than to face up to reality

The Bible warns against the dangers of self-pride… (Not pride in others, which is different)

  • In Proverbs 16, we are warned: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall
  • We read in 2 Chronicles that after King Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall.
  • And in Proverbs 8, God says: I hate pride and arrogance, evil behaviour and perverse (deceitful) speech

So what was the cause of Peter’s denial?

  • Was it good intentions or fear of making a sacrifice or being afraid of humiliation?
  • Or was it a case of blatant lying or personal pride?

The answer is NONE OF THEM… or at least, none of them provides a complete explanation of Peter’s denial…

Peter’s denial had its roots in something far more profound… Let’s look again at the exchange with Jesus in verses 27-31…

 ‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them, ‘for it is written:

‘“I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.”

But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’

Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’

 ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘today – yes, tonight – before the cock crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’

But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the others said the same.

There are a number of things to notice from this passage…

  1. 1.  Old Testament prophecies are reliable:

I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.

  • But Peter and the disciples did not take this particular prophecy seriously, even though it was quoted by Jesus himself!
  • How about you and me? How much attention do we pay to the Old Testament and its portrayal of God and the human condition?

2. Jesus’ prophecies are reliable:

But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.

  • Peter knew that Jesus was “the word made flesh”, yet chose to disregard his words!
  • How ironic!
  • But I wonder how much we read Jesus’ words with great care and high expectation?
  • Peter once said to Jesus: “To whom (else) should we go; you have the words of eternal life!
  • Yet here he was, closing his heart and mind to what Jesus was saying.

3. Peter was earnest…but good intentions are not enough

Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not

  • There is little doubt that Peter meant what he said
  • He was a faithful follower and a courageous man… He had no intention of letting Jesus down
  • I don’t think for one moment that he was being boastful… just stating his position with full sincerity
  • But who was it that said, ‘the road to Hell is paved with good intentions’?
  • Good intentions are fine if they are also God’s intentions!

4. We need to listen carefully to what Jesus says to me, even if we don’t like it!

Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘Today – yes, tonight – before the cock crows twice you yourself will disown me three times’

  • Peter should have stopped dead in his tracks!
  • What on earth was Jesus saying to him?
  • Hold your horses, Peter, you must repent and pray that you will not let Jesus down… the prophecy can be revoked if you repent
  • But Peter did not respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit

5. Don’t tell Jesus that He is wrong…

But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you’

  • Oh dear! Peter thought that he knew better than Jesus
  • Big mistake!
  • We can so easily begin to convince ourselves that we can make it on our own
  • Who needs God? I’ll figure this one out for myself.
  • Stand back, God, and watch me take over! I know you’ll be impressed.
  • But Peter had forgotten that Jesus had made it clear that “without me, you can do nothing
  • Letting the Spirit of God take charge is not being weak or apathetic… He often asks us to take steps of faith that we would never have dared to consider if left to our own devices

6. Realise that majority opinion needs to align with the will of God, not contradict it!

Thus: And all the others said the same

  • Many churches make decisions democratically… one person, one vote
  • But that is not God’s usual way… principally because not everyone is walking in step with the Spirit in equal measure…

Peter’s denial was not principally borne of fear… Its roots lay in his negative response to Jesus and his lack of belief in what Jesus said…

  • It meant that Peter was standing on shifting sand and not solid rock when the time of testing came
  • Instead of being able to speak with confidence and assurance, he found himself devoid of power and godly authority
  • His denial was not just about knowing Jesus… but denial of who Jesus was… and who He is

It’s easy to criticise Peter… but he did not posses the spiritual insights that we enjoy…

  • So how about you and me? How much do we accept Jesus’ words and put them into practice?
  • How much do we even read what Jesus said and pray for the wisdom and courage to be a true disciple of Christ

ONE FINAL POINT…

  • Peter’s denial was a set-back… but it was not the end of his usefulness in God’s Kingdom work

Perhaps you have failed to stand up for Jesus or let Him down in some way or another

  • Don’t allow Satan to whisper in your ear that you are finished
  • Our God is the God of second chances and he waits to restore you, stand your feet upon a rock and once again make you a “good and faithful servant”… as Peter eventually proved to be.

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