Matthew 26:69-74 (Peter’s Denials)

In the very early morning hours on Thursday of passion week Jesus was subjected to an inquisition led by Caiaphas, the high priest.  Having just arrested Him in the middle of the night, they were looking for whatever grounds they could dredge up to deliver Him to the Romans and have Him put to death.  It was essential that He be put to death that day, before the official start of the Passover later that afternoon.  Otherwise the Sabbath rest on Friday for the first day of unleavened bread, followed by the seventh day sabbath rest on Saturday, would allow an intense pressure to build for His release from among His many supporters gathered for the feast, which could easily explode and destroy them and their position of power.  But now, they had obtained the grounds they had sought: Besides the false testimony that He stirred up trouble all over Galilee and Judea, threatened to destroy the temple and magically rebuild it in three days as if a sorcerer, and forbid paying taxes to Caesar, He even confessed to being the Jewish Messiah.  That in itself was the gold they were seeking because the Romans were well-aware of the threat that such Messianic expectations had to stir up rebellion against their rule of the Jews.  Having therefore obtained their desire and being assured of His guilt, they had but to await the break of day for the fulfilment of their wishes, and could even vent some of their fury and exact a little petty vengeance upon such a “criminal” for having wounded their pride through His teaching among the know-nothing rabble; cf. Joh 7:45-49, 9:34.

As all this was happening, what does Matthew record was also happening to Peter just outside in the courtyard of the High Priest’s palace?  See Mat 26:69.  Whose servant-girl was she to whom Matthew refers?  See Mar 14:66.  What was possibly this girl’s job, and how was it that she came to know that Peter was associated with Jesus, since it is quite unlikely that she was with the mob that arrested Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane?  See Joh 18:15-18.  Notice also that while John was known to the high priest and was known by the girl as one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter was not; Joh 18:17.  As Peter seemed to be caught off guard by the girl’s inquiry about whether or not he was also a disciple, why, given the circumstances, might he have not wished to reveal himself as one of Jesus’ disciples?  See Joh 18:10.  And why might he have easily dismissed his denial as an insignificant white lie, especially since it was just a door-maid and nobody very important?  But how did his seemingly innocent denial to this seemingly unimportant person likely result in the girl’s mention of him to others, and actually lead Peter into increasingly deeper denials throughout the evening?  See Mar 14:66-72; cf. Mat 26:73 and consider that Peter’s denial and Galilean dialect would have made the maid suspicious, so that either she herself was the one who later pointed him out to others before the fire, or had mentioned him to another maid who pointed him out.  What does this teach us about the dangers of what we consider to be insignificant white lies or denials of the truth?  Is it not by such seemingly small compromises that Satan leads us into increasingly greater sins?

Consider the apparent role of the servant-girl in pointing out Peter’s association with Jesus to others that night, likely as idle chatter with other workers to pass the time.  Should we be concerned that the descriptions in the different gospels include slightly different details surrounding Peter’s denials?  I.e., Mark says the same servant-girl saw Peter on the porch and identified him to the bystanders (Mar 14:69), while Matthew says another servant-girl said to those who were there that he was with Jesus (Mat 26:71) and Luke implies that it was a man (Luk 22:58).  As it was clearly a topic of conversation among those present that night, is it not conceivable that all are true?

As Peter’s previous denials were perceived as suspicious to the servants and officers gathered in the courtyard so that according to human nature they were drawn as if by a magnet to what they saw as inconsistencies, what does Matthew describe as the circumstances that occasioned his third denial?  See Mat 26:73.  How is this corroborated by Mark and Luke’s account?  See Mar 14:70, Luk 22:59 and think: how did they know he was a Galilean, except by the way he talked?  Who does John point out was among the bystanders pressing Peter at that point?  See Joh 18:26.  How do these details help us to understand how Peter’s denials were not isolated occurrences, but connected events (cf. his initial boasting, failure to pray, and striking with a sword), with one leading to another, like a snowball effect?  Again, what does this teach us about the dangers of how one seemingly small boast or untruth can snowball to even greater deceits that can ensnare us in even darker sins?

What does Matthew record was the even darker sin in which Peter was ensnared by his earlier denials?  See Mat 26:74.  Why was it so hard at that point to tell the truth and not deny Jesus?  What does this remind us about how repentance becomes increasingly difficult as we continue in our sins?  While even admitting to one small sin can be difficult, what if admitting to one also exposes even more, so it becomes evident that we have in fact been living a lie?  How difficult does that become?  Knowing our own sinful nature and what it is like to be caught in such a snare, what can we do to assist another when they are caught in such a situation, perhaps by us?  I.e., how can we communicate empathy but at the same time help restore them by the truth?  Cf. Gal 6:1.

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  • From what, and to what, are we saved? Is it Jesus’ death alone that saves us? What part does His resurrection have in our salvation?
  • Does the justice of God demand the satisfaction of blood before He will forgive, similar to what pagans throughout history have believed?
  • What was the purpose of the Old Testament sacrifices?
  • Does blood alone atone for sin?
  • How does Christ’s death render powerless the devil?
  • To whom was Christ’s life given as a ransom? From what are we ransomed?
  • Why did Jesus not only die, but suffer and die? If all that was necessary was His shed blood, why didn’t God sovereignly ordain a more merciful death for His own dear Son?
  • What is the relationship between a will or testament, and a covenant? What was willed to Jesus as an inheritance from His Father, and what was willed to us through the new testament in His blood?