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Peter Denies The Lord

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MATTHEW 26:75  

The poignancy of Peter’s disloyalty to Jesus is deepened by the placement of this narrative between the account of Jesus before Caiaphas and the Jewish authorities and that of his appearance before Pilate.

§         The contrast of Peter’s denial with Jesus’ own confession [26:64] is deliberate.

  1. THE PROFILE

1.        The Disciple

a.        The Fisherman

Peter was the brother of Simon: “saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother…” [4:18].  

§         Peter was a Galilean: “walking by the sea of Galilee…” [4:18].

§         Peter was a fisherman: “for they were fishermen” [4:18].

b.        The Calling

Peter was called by Jesus: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” [4:19].

§         δεῦτε - “follow me” [4:19], ‘come’;

§         ὀπίσω μου - “me” [4:19], ‘behind me’;

§         ἁλιεῖς - “fishers” [4:19], ‘fisherman’;

§         εὐθέως - “straightway” [4:20], ‘immediately’; ‘at once’;

§         ἀφέντες - “left” [4:20], ‘dismiss’; ‘depart from’; ‘divorce’;

§         ἠκολούθησαν – “followed him” [4:20], ‘to be a follower, disciple’;

i.        The Status  

Peter is the first to be called to follow Jesus: “the first, Simon, who is called Peter…” [10:2].

§         πρῶτος - “first” [10:2], ‘first in a series’; ‘prominent, most important’;

§         Peter, along with his brother Andrew, is the “first” to respond to Jesus’ call.

§         Peter was not just a representative disciple in Matthew, and he was not just the first disciple to be called.

§         He was the pre-eminent apostle, which meant he held significance and authority the other disciples did not hold.

c.        The Character

Peter’s behaviour is impetuous, spontaneous and sometimes reckless:

§         In the storm: “Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water” [14:28].

§         On the mountain: “Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles…” [17:4].

Application

2.        Peter’s Faith

a.        The Messiahship of Jesus

The disciples were caught up in the Jewish understanding of the Messiah

§         Political messiahship: “will you at this time restore again the kingdom unto Israel” [Acts 1:6].

§         The disciples expected Jesus to contest the authority of Rome, and they were willing to die with him: “though I should die with you…” [26:35].

§         This is evident from Peter’s behaviour at the arrest of Jesus: “one of them drew a sword and struck a servant of the high priest…” [26:51; Joh.18:10].

b.        The Death of Jesus

Peter’s weakness in this area is evident in the face of Jesus’ teaching:

§         Jesus’ teaching: “Jesus began to show his disciples how he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things…be killed and be raised again on the third day” [16:21].

§         Peter’s response: “Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” [16:22];

§         Jesus’ reply: “But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me” [16:23].

3.        The New Name 

a.        The Confession 

Jesus poses the great question: “whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” [16:13].

§         Peter’s confession: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” [16:16].

§         Revelation: “flesh and blood has not revealed that unto you…” [16:17].

b.        The New Name

The new name: “you are Peter…” [16:18].  

§         Πέτρος – “Peter” [16:18], ‘a stone’; ‘a piece or fragment of a rock’;

§         πέτρᾳ - “rock” [16:18], ‘a mass of live rock’ as distinct from Πέτρος, ‘a detached stone or boulder’;

i.        The Person of Christ

The “rock” refers to the teaching of Jesus: “whosoever hears these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” [7:24].

§         This holds with the idea that Jesus himself is the rock: “that rock was Christ” [1Cor.10:4].

§         In Jewish tradition the giving of a new name could mark an important event or change in someone’s status. Examples include the meaning of Abraham [Gen.17:5], Jacob [Gen.32:8].

§         This verse is as much a declaration about Peter as v.16 was a declaration about Jesus: “Thou art the Christ…” [16:16].

Application

The high point in Matthew’s portrayal of Peter is Peter’s great confession in Ch.16.

§         In the context of close association with Jesus and in a relatively danger-free environment, Peter oozes self-confidence.

  1. THE MINISTRY OF JESUS

1.        The Disciples & The Prediction  

a.        The Warning

Jesus’ words of prophecy: “all you shall be offended because of me…” [26:31].

§         σκανδαλισθήσεσθε - “offended” [26:31], ‘to cause to stumble and to fall’; ‘to put a snare in the way’;

§         ἐν τῇ νυκτὶ ταύτῃ - “night” [26:31], ‘the hour of darkness’; “night in which he was betrayed” [1Cor.11:23].

b.        The Prophetic Word

i.        The Arrest & Death of Jesus  

The prophetic occasion: “I will smite the shepherd…” [26:31].

§         πατάξω - “smite” [26:31], ‘to strike a blow’; ‘to slay’;

§         ποιμένα - “shepherd” [26:31], ‘one who cares for flocks’;

ii.      The Followers of Jesus

The prophetic description: “the sheep of the flock…” [26:31].

§         ποίμνης - “flock” [26:31], ‘flock of sheep’; ‘group of spiritual people’; ‘followers’;

§         διασκορπισθήσονται - “scattered abroad” [26:31], from diá, an intensive or denoting ‘separation’, and skorpízō, ‘to dissipate’; ‘to scatter abroad, disperse’; used of chaff being scattered to the wind on the threshing floor, meaning ‘to winnow’;

2.        Peter & The Prediction  

a.        Response 1

Peter’s confidence in himself above others: “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” [26:33].

§         πάντες - “all men” [26:33], ‘each individual in a class’;

§         οὐδέποτε - “never” [26:33], from oudé, ‘not even’, and poté, ‘ever’; ‘not ever, never’;

b.        The Denial Foretold

The denial foretold: “this night, before the cock crows, you shall deny me thrice” [26:34].

§         ἀλέκτορα - “cock” [26:34], ‘rooster’; ‘male chicken’;

§         φωνῆσαι - “crows” [26:34], ‘to cry out’; ‘to make a sound’;

§         ἀπαρνήσῃ - “deny me” [26:34], from apó, ‘from’, and arnéomai, ‘to deny, refuse’;

i.        The Definition

The definition of “deny” rests on the presence of a previous relationship: t

§         Implies a previous relationship of obedience and fidelity. It can take place only where there has first been acknowledgment and commitment;

§         It is ‘the failure to meet concretely the claim of Jesus Christ for a confession of discipleship’.  

§         It is now ‘to claim no knowledge or relationship’ with a Person.  

c.        Response 2

Peter’s sincerity: “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee…” [26:35].

§         δέῃ με - “should” [26:35], ‘necessity’; ‘necessary for me’;

§         σὺν σοὶ ἀποθανεῖν - “die with you” [26:33], ‘physical death’;

Application

3.        The Counsel

a.        Peter & The Disciples

i.        The Willingness

The willingness of the heart: “the spirit indeed is willing…” [26:41].

§         πνεῦμα - “spirit” [26:41], ‘inner being’;

§         πρόθυμον - “willing” [26:41], ‘ready, eager’;

ii.      The Weakness

The temptation: “the flesh is weak…” [26:41].

§         σὰρξ - “flesh” [26:41], ‘physical body’; ‘human nature’;

§         ἀσθενής - “weak” [26:41], ‘unable, pertaining to a state of limited capacity’;

Jesus points to the tension between the inner person, the centre of volition, and the outer person, the bodily flesh with its more obvious inherent weakness.

b.        The Counsel 

The focus of Jesus’ command to pray at this stage is for vigilance: “watch and pray lest you enter…” [26:41].

§         γρηγορεῖτε - “watch” [26:41], present active imperative, ‘be alert, vigilant’; ‘keep watch’; ‘figuratively, “to keep zealous watch over,” of men and lurking beasts and also of Yahweh’;

§         Eschatological connotations: “watch therefore, for you know not what hour your Lord doth come” [24:42].

§         προσεύχεσθε - “pray” [26:41], present middle or passive imperative, ‘from the preposition prós, ‘to’, and eúchomai, ‘to wish, pray’; ‘to pray to God, offer prayer’;

Application

Spiritual wakefulness and prayer in full dependence upon divine help provide the only adequate preparation for crisis.

  1. FROM PUBLIC CONFESSION TO THE DENIAL

1.        Peter & The Enemies of Jesus

a.        The Assembly

Jesus is led away: “led Jesus away to Caiaphas the high priest…” [26:57].

§         ἀπήγαγον – “led away” [26:57], from apó, ‘from’, and ágō, ‘to carry, lead’; ‘to lead away’;

§         Καϊάφαν - “Caiaphas” [26:57],

§         ἀρχιερέα - “high priest” [26:57], ‘principle priest among the chief priests’;

§         συνήχθησαν - “assembled” [26:57], ‘to lead together’; ‘to bring together in one place’;

i.        Caiaphas

Caiaphas was appointed by Valerius Gratus, the predecessor of Pilate, around a.d. 26, and deposed by Vitellius in a.d. 35.

§        Annas, the father–in–law of Caiaphas [Joh.18:13], had been high priest [Luk.3:2], and several of his sons succeeded him for a short period. Though Caiaphas held the office of high priest, Annas was still a sort of “high priest emeritus.”

§        Caiaphas [Joh.11:41–53] declared that it would be better for Jesus to die than the nation to be destroyed.

§        The Lord Jesus was brought first to the house of Annas where He underwent His initial trial [Joh.18:12–23]. Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas before whom the trial continued [Joh.18:24–27].

§        After that, He was delivered to Pilate because the Jews could not legally execute Him

b.        Peter

i.        The Distance

Peter follows at a distance: “Peter followed him afar off…” [26:58].

§          ἠκολούθει - “followed” [26:58], ‘to come behind’; ‘to follow as a disciple’;

§         ἀπὸ μακρόθεν - “afar off” [26:58], from makrós, ‘far, long’; ‘from a distance’;

ii.      The Location

Peter enters the courtyard:  “unto the high priest’s palace…” [26:58].

§        αὐλῆς - “palace” [26:58], ‘courtyard’; ‘the exterior courtyard before a dwelling or edifice’; ‘an unroofed enclosure surrounded by walls or rooms around which a more affluent house was constructed’.

§         εἰσελθὼν - “went in” [26:58], ‘to enter’; ‘to move into’;

§         ἐκάθητο - “sat” [26:58], ‘to be seated’;

§         ὑπηρετῶν - “servants” [26:58], from hupó, ‘under, beneath’, and erétēs, ‘a rower’; ‘an under-rower, hence a servant’;

§         ἰδεῖν - “see” [26:58], ‘to observe, pay attention to’;

§         τέλος - “end” [26:58], ‘end result’; ‘outcome’;

iii.    The Position

Peter sits with the crowd: “Peter sat without in the palace…” [26:69].

§         ἐκάθητο – “sat” [26;69], ‘to be seated’;

§         ἔξω - “without” [26:69], ‘outside’; ‘apart from’;

§         αὐλῇ - “palace” [26:69], ‘courtyard’;

§         In this case, at a lower level than the main rooms: “as Peter was below in the courtyard…” [Mar.14:66]

iv.      Peter & John

John entered the hall first: “Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest” [Jn.18:15].

§         John went out for Peter: “But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spoke unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter” [Jn.18:15-16].

§         John seems to have been known and gains ready access for himself: “he spoke unto her that kept the door” [18:16].

§         We can assume that John follows Jesus into the ‘inner assembly’ where Jesus had been led.

Application

There is a ‘distance’ in the discipleship of Peter.

§         The distance already ‘foreshadows’ the oncoming events.

§         Peter is found where he should not be found: “Peter was warming himself…” [14:67].

§         Self-confidence; prayerlessness; going astray.

§         Peter has ‘forsaken a discipleship of costly following [8:34] for one of safe observation.

2.        From Confidence to Cowardice  

The pericope consists of three charges and three escalating denials.

a.        The First Denial

i.        The Challenge

The first charge: “a damsel came unto him…” [26:69].

§         παιδίσκη - “damsel” [26:69], ‘young girl’; ‘maiden’;

§         ἦσθα - “were” [26:69], imperfect indicative middle, ‘to be, exist’;

§         σὺ μετὰ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ Γαλιλαίου - “with Jesus of Galilee” [26:69], ‘in the company of’;

ii.      The Public Denial 

The denial: “he denied before them all…” [26:70].

§         ἠρνήσατο - “denied” [26:70], from apó, ‘from’, and arnéomai, ‘to deny, refuse’;

§         ἔμπροσθεν - “before” [26:70], ‘in front of’;

§         πάντων - “all” [26:70], ‘each one in a class’;

§         οὐκ οἶδα - “know not” [26:70], ‘to have seen and perceived and hence know’;

§         τί λέγεις - “what” [26:70], interrogative, ‘who, what’;

Application

The charges made involved the implicit threat that Peter too might be apprehended and suffer the same fate as that of Jesus.

§         A private matter is turned into a public affair: “before all...” [26:70].

§         The temptation was not great in view of the fact that the questioner was a female slave.

§         Peter, in the grip of fear, denies even knowing about the matter, let alone being personally associated with Jesus.

§         The denial anticipates the problem of persecution and apostasy in the later church; Peter illustrates the damning denial: “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” [10:33].

§         Whatever danger Peter is in, he is trying to save his life which means he is risking losing it: “whosoever shall save his life shall lose it…” [16:25].

§         Peter, instead of confessing Jesus, denies him – like those who will be denied by Jesus at the last judgement: “him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” [10:33].

b.        The Second Denial

Peter, apparently sensing imminent personal threat and wishing to avoid any further questioning, begins to leave the courtyard: “when he was gone out of the porch…” [26:70].

§         ἐξελθόντα - “gone out” [26:70], ‘to come or go out’;

§         πυλῶνα - “porch” [26:70], ‘door, gate, entrance, vestibule’;

§         ἄλλη - “another” [26:70], ‘another of the same kind’;

i.        The Challenge

The second charge is addressed to the other bystanders: “she said unto them that were there…” [26:70].

§         τοῖς ἐκεῖ - “them that were there” [26:70], ‘them’ and ‘there, in that place’;

§         οὗτος - “this” [26:70],

§         ἦν – “was also” [26:70], imperfect active indicative, ‘to be, exist’;

§         μετὰ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ Ναζωραίου - “with Jesus of Galilee” [26:70],

ii.      The Denial & Dissociation

The denial: “again he denied with an oath…” [26:72].

§         ἠρνήσατο - “denied” [26:72], from apó, ‘from’, and arnéomai, ‘to deny, refuse’;

§         ὅρκου - “oath” [26:72], ‘usually an oath is taken by the gods, who are invoked as witnesses to the truth of the statement’; the oath is primarily self-cursing should one not be speaking the truth’; the oath is used ‘in order to emphasise a statement’;

§         οὐκ οἶδα τὸν ἄνθρωπον - “do not know” [26:72], ‘to have seen and perceived and hence know’;

Application

§         The reader cannot miss the deliberately impersonal “the man” [26:72].

§         The Son of man has become to the first disciple an anonymous “the man” [26:72].

c.        The Third Denial

i.        The Challenge

The third charge comes from other standing by, now men, and thus more seriously threatening than the charges of the women:: “after a while came unto him…” [26:73].

§         μικρὸν - “while” [26:73], ‘small, little’;

§         οἱ ἑστῶτες - “stood by” [26:73], perfect active participle masculine, ‘to make to stand, to stand’;

§         ἀληθῶς - “surely” [26:73], ‘truth, certainty’;

§         σὺ ἐξ αὐτῶν εἶ - “one of them” [26:73],

§         λαλιά σου - “your speech” [26:73], ‘accent, idiom, dialect’;

§         δῆλόν σε ποιεῖ - “betrays” [26:73], ‘makes you evident, clear, or plain’;

§         the Galilean dialect sounded different to the language of Judea.

ii.      The Denial & Dissociation

The denial: “then he began to curse and swear…” [26:74].

§         καταθεματίζειν - “curse” [26:74], ‘to bring under the ἀνάθεμα, ‘to curse’; ‘to invoke a curse’; ‘is here intentionally left without object to denote both that he curses himself if he lies and also the people if they make out that he is a disciple’;

§         Jesus is the object of the first verb; as persecuted Christian were later on asked to curse Jesus and so dissociate themselves from their religion, so Peter here curses Jesus in an attempt to prove he is not a disciple.

§         ὀμνύειν - “swear” [26:74], ‘to swear an oath’;

§         οὐκ οἶδα - “know not” [26:74], ‘to have seen and perceived and hence know’;

Application

The pericope is constructed with an excellent progression and dramatic climax.

§         Personal security: ‘In order to save his skin Peter howls with the wolf-pack’.

§         Peter conciliates ‘his enemies by allying himself with them against Jesus; he treats Jesus as they want and in front of them, exactly as they themselves treat him.

§         The problem of human weakness must always be realistically faced, especially in cases where it is magnified by fear.

§         Peter retreats from his promise [26:35] and denies the Lord. When confronted by the crowd in a context of hostility the brave Peter is reduced to being a coward.

§         The repetition of denials ‘reflects resolution’;

  1. THE AFTERMATH

1.        The Account in Matthew

a.        The Alarm

The alarm: “immediately the cock crew” [26:74].

§         εὐθέως - “immediately” [26:74], ‘at once’;

§         ἐφώνησεν - “crew” [26:74], ‘to call out’; ‘to make a sound’;

b.        The Prediction

Jesus’ prediction: “Peter remembered the word of Jesus…” [26:75].

§         ἐμνήσθη - “remembered” [26:75], ‘to recall’; ‘to remind oneself’;

§         ἐξελθὼν - “went out” [26:75], ‘to go or come out’;

c.        The Outcome

The outcome: “he went out and wept bitterly” [26:75].

§         ἔκλαυσεν - “wept” [26:75], ‘to cry or wail’; ‘in certain contexts as a ritual mourning’;

§         πικρῶς - “bitterly” [26:75], ‘with agony’; ‘with mental suffering’;

2.        The Presence of Jesus

a.        The Presence

Annas and Caiaphas lived in separate parts of the same house. Access from one part of the house to the other was via the courtyard or ‘overlooking the courtyard’.

§         Jesus before Annas: “led him away to Annas first; for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas…” [Jn.18:13].

§         Jesus before Caiaphas: “Annas had sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest” [Jn.18:24].

b.        The Action

The passing action of Jesus: “the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord…” [Lk.22:61].

§         στραφεὶς - “turned” [22:61], aorist passive participle, ‘to turn around’; ‘turn about’;

§         ἐνέβλεψεν - “looked” [22:61], aorist indicative active, from en, ‘in or on’, and blépō, ‘to look’; ‘to look in the face, fix the eyes upon, stare at’; ‘to look closely at’; ‘to gaze at’;

§         ὑπεμνήσθη - “remembered” [22:61], aorist active indicative, ‘to call to mind’; ‘to recall’;

§         Also ‘put one’s mind on’; ‘think seriously about’. The idea of the ‘flooding back into his mind the whole account of Jesus in [26:31-35].

Application

Peter had faced the challenge of “taking up his cross”  [16:24-25] and had failed miserably.

§         Peter does not ‘rend his garments’ but he ‘rends his heart’.

§         If failure occurs, there is also the prospect of forgiveness and restoration; but that is for another day! for the present, Peter has failed his Lord despite his boastful claims.

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