I have been teaching through the Gospel of Mark in a weekly Bible study with a group of men. We are now in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 14. Today’s lesson is on Peter’s denial of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although the outlook is bleak for Christ and for Peter, there is a ray of hope in this section. The ray of hope is for Peter. As you read, remember, you are Peter and I am Peter. We all have the capability of acting like Peter. The good news is that there is still hope for you and for me. Our text is Mark 14:41-72.
The section begins with the disciples letting Jesus down for the third time.
41 And He came the third time, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough; the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.
42 “Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” (Mark 14)
Jesus had asked Peter and two other disciples to pray for Him while He spent time alone with the Father. Each time, when Jesus returned, He found the disciples asleep, Peter included. Jesus tells Peter that the spirit is willing to do the right thing but, the flesh (our sin nature) is very weak. At that very moment, Jesus is betrayed by one of His trusted disciples.
43 Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.
44 Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.”
45 After coming, Judas immediately went to Him, saying, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him. (Mark 14)
Judas comes and betrays Jesus with a kiss. Jesus is captured by His accusers.
46 They laid hands on Him and seized Him.
47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear.
48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? (Mark 14)
Jesus confronts their actions. He asks them why they are treating Him like a common criminal. Jesus wants to know what He has done wrong.
“Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.” (Mark 14:49)
Jesus goes on to ask His accusers why they came under the cover of night in a secluded place. Jesus wants to know why they never came to capture Him during the middle of the day while He was teaching in public. His accusers have no answer to Jesus questions. Jesus answers for them. He lets His accusers know that what they are doing has already been written in the Old Testament Scriptures.
And they all left Him and fled. (Mark 14:50)
As the accusers lead Jesus away, all of His disciples abandon Him, Peter included. This is a dark moment in human history. An innocent man is being led away as a common criminal. Things get worse.
53 They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes gathered together.
54 Peter had followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire.
55 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any.
56 For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent.
57 Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him, saying,
58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’ ”
59 Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent. (Mark 14)
More accusers come to lie about Jesus. As He stands before the high priest, the accusers begin to contradict themselves in their arguments. They misrepresent what Jesus taught in public. These sound like political tactics that are used today. The text tells us that Jesus stands silent before His accusers.
60 The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?”
61 But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” (Mark 14)
Finally, the high priest asks Jesus directly if He is God. Jesus does not miss a beat in responding saying that YES, He is God. Then He follows that up with two quotes from the Old Testament. The first half of the quote is from Psalm 110:1 and then from Daniel 7:13. Both of those quotes refer to Messianic prophecy. They refer to the Second Coming of the Messiah. All of these events in this text happen during the First Coming of the Messiah. This crucifixion is not the end of the Messiah. The Messiah is going to resurrect and one day return to rule.
63 Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses?
64 “You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.
65 Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers received Him with slaps in the face. (Mark 14)
This sets off the high priest and the religious leaders. They understood exactly what Jesus was saying and they did not like it. They pronounce judgment on Him and then begin to spit on Him and beat Him. Earlier, Jesus mentioned that all the things that were about to happen to Him were already written down in the Old Testament. Jesus’ response to all of these events was foretold. For example, in Isaiah 50:5-7, the fact that Jesus would be beaten, spit upon, and have His beard plucked out was written some 600 years before His actual birth by the prophet. None of this was a surprise to Jesus. He knew that it was all going to happen because He was a student of the Old Testament. Jesus’ accusers were the scholars of their day and they bragged of being experts of the Old Testament yet, they did not realize they were treating the Messiah exactly as the Old Testament had foretold.
In the midst of this terrible situation, let’s turn our focus on Peter. We have much to learn from him because in a sense, we are all Peter.
Peter had been warned that his spirit was willing yet, his flesh was weak. Peter did not let those words sink in. In Luke 22, doctor Luke fills in some details about Peter’s reaction to the news of hearing that his spirit was willing and that his flesh was weak.
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;
32 but I have prayed for you, . . . (Luke 22)
Jesus warns Peter that he is going to be put to the test by the enemy of men’s souls, our adversary, Satan. What would your response be to something like this? Take a look at what Peter says:
But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” (Luke 22:33)
Peter still feels that his flesh is strong just like his spirit. He does not believe what Jesus tells him. He still needs to learn to be humble and admit just how weak his sin nature really is. I need to come to that same conclusion and so do you. There is hope in verse 32 and we will take a look at that hope in the next section. For now, let’s see what Jesus tells Peter.
And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:34)
Jesus tells Peter plainly that he (Peter) is going to deny Him (Jesus) three times during that very night.
66 As Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came,
67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Nazarene.”
68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” And he went out onto the porch. and a rooster crowed.
69 The servant-girl saw him, and began once more to say to the bystanders, “This is one of them!”
70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders were again saying to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too.”
71 But he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this man you are talking about!”
72 Immediately a rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And he began to weep. (Mark 14)
Not only does Peter deny Jesus three times, he actually swears and curses that he does not know Jesus at all. He is vehement in his denial. Doctor Luke adds a detail that Mark leaves out of his account.
The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” (Luke 22:61)
Jesus is close enough to see and hear Peter’s denial. Peter looks into Jesus’ eyes and realizes what he has done and that Jesus saw and heard it all. Peter is devastated. If we were to leave the story here, there would be no hope for Peter. He would be in a similar situation as Judas. But, there is hope for Peter which means that there is hope for you and for me.
III. Hope of redemption
We do not have to read any further in the story of the Gospel to know that there is hope for Peter. Jesus shared that hope with Peter while He was explaining what Peter was going to do. Let’s turn back to doctor Luke for a moment.
but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32)
The first ray of hope is the fact that Jesus is praying for Peter. Jesus is also praying for you and for me if we are His followers. He intercedes on our behalf before God day and night. The second ray of hope for Peter is the fact that Jesus tells him that he will be restored (turned again) after he denies Jesus three times. Not only is Peter going to be restored but, he is also going to strengthen (encourage) the other disciples. Remember, all of the disciples ran away when Jesus was taken captive. They have all failed miserably. They all need hope. They all need to be encouraged and strengthened. Peter is going to be the one to strengthen them and give hope in Christ back to them. That is great news for you and for me. Even when we mess up big time, we can be restored by Christ and then strengthen others who have fallen. Have you experienced the hope that is in Jesus Christ, no matter what you have done? Are you ready and willing to be restored the way that Peter was? Are you ready to strengthen others who have fallen? As long as there is breath in your lungs, you can have hope in Jesus Christ. He can and will restore you. On that same note, do you realize that although your spirit may be willing, your flesh is extremely weak? Don’t try to walk in your own strength. Depend upon the Lord at all times. Christ suffered the agony of the cross for people like Peter, like you, and like I am, so that we may have hope to be restored and then strengthen others who have fallen. May the Lord help us understand this deep truth and walk in the light of it!