Read Matthew 26:69-75
Let’s set the scene. Jesus was taken into the home of Annas and Caiaphas, they would have shared a home/property. He was led from one part of the home to the other. There was a courtyard in the center of the expansive home. This is where Peter and John followed the soldiers to. Now John, for reasons we don’t know, was known to the high priests and he had access into his home. John was permitted on the property because he knew Caiaphas. Peter did not know Caiaphas and so he was not welcome on the property.
John went on into the courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside the door. This is all recorded in John 18:15-16. A few moments later John returns to the entrance and speaks to the servant girl who was on duty there. He must have been very persuasive because she allows Peter to enter the courtyard.
While pointing Peter toward the courtyard she looks at him suspiciously and asks, “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” Now, surely she knew John was a disciple of Christ, now she’s putting two and two together. She begins to question Peter and the more he fidgets and the more nervous he looks gives her reason to question him even more.
When I read each of the accounts of Peters denial in each of the gospels, it seems like he was receiving a rapid-fire questioning with a few moments of reprieve intermingled. Peter denied Christ three times just as was prophesied, but he was questioned much more. He wasn’t just asked one question where he caved immediately. He was accused and pressured to answer over and over by several people. From the lowly of lows servant girls to mighty soldiers.
Peter remained in the courtyard because he wanted to see the outcome. He knew Jesus was going to become King and he thought this just might be it.
A servant girl inquires of Peter, “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus.”
Finally, Peter answers, he just wants the girl off his back, he just want’s her to leave him alone, and he surely doesn’t want to draw anymore attention to himself so, Peter responds by denying everything she is accusing him of. While other servants and soldiers sit around the fire warming their hands, they listened intently to Peter’s reply.
“I don’t know or understand what you are talking about.” He’s trying to play dumb. Which is typical, it’s a tactic that people use when they don’t want to lie, and they don’t want to admit the truth. They deflect, play dumb.
What is interesting about “playing dumb” is its considered denial. At first it doesn’t seem like Peter denied knowing Christ, but in verse 72 after the second round of questioning it says, “He denied it again”. In order to do something again, you would have had to do it a first time. With this response, he gets out of there. He tries to remove himself from the line of fire.
While Jesus, handcuffed, is taken from one living quarter to another, via the courtyard Peter would have gotten glimpses of him in passing. The Sanhedrin would be bustling through the courtyard, soldiers in and out, if anyone of them would have caught wind that Peter was a disciple, things could have gotten bad for him. The pressure is really on him to keep his distance to remain undercover.
He leaves the courtyard and stands back at the gated entrance/porch where he is recognized yet again. Another servant girl proclaims loudly to all the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth”, “This fellow is one of them”. Using the city name of Nazareth was derogatory, nothing good ever came out of Nazareth. People from Nazareth or even Galilee were looked down on, this for sure got everyone’s attention which is the exact opposite of what Peter wanted.
“I am not” he said. Vs. 72 says that he denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”. Notice that each denial is escalated. The first denial was just a denial, almost a blow off. This time its more intense because he adds an oath.
Matthew talks about one of Jesus’ teachings on taking an oath. People of God should never swear. We are to let our yes be yes and our no be no. Our words should always be truth. Peter was lying and on top of it he swore, took a personal oath before God on this very lie. In other words, he said something like this. “I swear, I am speaking the truth before God, I do not know this man.” “I swear I am telling the truth.” “So help me God, I do not know this man”.
Verse 73 After a little while. We know that Jesus was in Caiaphas’ quarters for quite a while, it took them a while to find two people to testify against Christ and it took them a little time to beat the snot out Christ before handing him over to the temple guards where they led Jesus out of the upper room and out into the courtyard where the continued to beat him.
And for the final denial, after awhile as Peter tried to stay out of sight, out of sight out of mind, right? Those standing around the courtyard, whispering and talking about Jesus and Peters relationship, go up to Peter and accused Peter yet again. “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” “You are a disciple you are Galilean”. “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?”
As I said Jesus was taken out of the room by the guards, they are leading him out through the courtyard toward the entrance, they are pushing, beating, spitting on and mocking his Lord. Peter can hear the roar of the crowd crying out “blasphemy”, “crucify him”, “kill him”. Peter was extremely confused, he was angry and embarrassed, he was frustrated and he was feeling trapped. How in the world could they possibly think Jesus blasphemed god? How could this be? He is being badgered by this crowd of people to answer, to confess that he knows Jesus and that he is one of his closest disciples.
With the pressure mounting Peter caved, he is not strong enough to handle this on his own. He was separated from Jesus; he didn’t have the strength of Christ to withstand this amount of temptation. Before Jesus was arrested he practically begged Peter to pray that he would not fall into temptation. I wonder how this would have ended if Peter would have just done the last thing Jesus asked him to do. All he had to do was pray, but he didn’t.
I wonder how things would be for you right now if you just would have done the last thing Jesus asked you to do. Where would you be, how different would your situation be right now, if you’d just done the last thing you were asked to do? One little thing and his life could be so different right now. What if you’d just prayed when you felt that urge to pray. What was the last thing God asked you to do? Did you do it?
Peter didn’t and now he has fallen, big time. Peter, the man who walked on water, Peter the man who saw Jesus in his glorified state, Peter the man who could heal people with his shadow, has fallen. Fallen flat on his face. And now the final act of betrayal comes.
With this last round of questioning Peter does the ultimate act of betrayal. Yes, this has escalated even more. Its bad enough that Peter swore before God to be telling the truth. He now answers the accusation by “calling down curses” in addition to swearing to them.
Peter “called down curses” he didn’t curse in the way we are most familiar with. My first thought was, “Oh, Peter is dropping the F bomb.” He is very mad, and he is cussing them out. No, there is more to the story than that. He called down curses, in other words he is putting on himself a “self-curse”. The Greek word for curse is anathema and it means to declare one liable to the severest penalties and can refer to banishing or to excommunicate. Something dedicated to evil.
What Peter was saying was “If I do know Christ, then let me come under a curse.” Or “Let God banish me if I know this man!” “Let me be dedicated to evil if I know this man.” “May God damn me if I am lying.” Luke 22:61 describes this very moment. As Peter was speaking his final, extreme act of denial the rooster crowed, and Jesus, while being beaten, at that moment turned and looked straight at Peter with those piercing, penetrating yet gentle eyes. Then (after all those events) Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him. It wasn’t until he encountered Jesus again that he remembered his words. “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” We have the Holy Spirit, so we can remain in constant contact with our Lord. Peter didn’t have that gift yet. We do, we have Holy Spirit inside us to remind us of our Lords words.
Completely broken, Peter left the house, he stumbled out onto the street where he begins to weep bitterly. And Jesus witnessed his denial firsthand. This denial was worse than the beatings. To be disowned by someone you loved unconditionally, to be disowned by someone you trusted with all your heart. To be disowned by the one person who said they would never treat you that way, they would never betray you, they would always love and support you, had to be worse than the beating Jesus was enduring.
Peter, looking at Jesus and seeing his face covered in spit, with bruises developing, face puffy and swollen, his eyes beginning to swell shut realizes what he has done and begins to weep bitterly.
The gospels don’t tell us where Peter went, they don’t tell us what he did next. And that’s exactly how is should be. Peter left and had a very private moment with God, he pulled away to a secret place and wailed and cried out in guttural moans before his Father. He came to grips with his sin, he poured out repentance to God. No one needed to be there for that, that is something private between Father and child. And when you realize that you too wronged Jesus you can do the same, you should do the same. Pull away and tell him how sorry you are, let him see your broken heart, pour yourself out at the feet of Jesus. All these events took place just so you could have access to Christ. This happened just so you could be forgiven. Its up to you cry out to Jesus, no one needs to lead you to say the right things. You can do this on your own, right here, right now.